Archive for September, 2019

By Jered Weber-Johnson

Compline has been a regular part of our practice of praying the Daily Office for over five years. While the customary has shifted and changed some each year, the consistency of observing the Daily Office, whether in the morning, at noon, or in the evening, has strengthened our life of Common Prayer in this faith community. Thanks to a generous gift from John Graham to create a Compline Fund, sustained by the support of additional donors, we have been able to offer weekly Compline each Thursday evening during the program year.

Over those years we have also seen different leaders: Keely Morgan, Craig Lemming, Kim Sueoka, and, most recently, Monte Mason. This past year as Richard Gray assumed the responsibilities as our first full-time Director of Music, Monte graciously stayed on as our Compline Coordinator, arranging musicians, scheduling
vergers, and seeing to the important details that a liturgy of this caliber requires. Now that Richard has a year under his belt, these duties are passing to him and a new season of Compline leadership begins. I am immensely grateful to the calm and patient leadership of Monte, his good humor, and wisdom. As the program moves into this new year, I know Richard will inherit a well-tended and thoughtful liturgy.

As the year begins, we look forward to Compline and some of the ways that this service can help us see and notice things in our life of faith, with new eyes.

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

Read Full Post »

Children’s Choir & Music Education
by Ellie Watkins

Richard Gray, our Director of Music, and Haley Olson, our new Assistant to the Director of Music, are both feeling excited and energetic about the Children’s Choir programming beginning this fall.

“We want an organized structure for Sunday mornings,” Richard explains. “We want to be clear to children and parents what their options are.”

For those children ages 5 to grade 5 who want to participate in the Children’s Choir, rehearsals will occur every Sunday at 9am in the Music Room. Haley will lead the kids in ear training, music theory, and other building blocks of music education. The children’s music program will use the internationally acclaimed Royal School of Church Music Curriculum, adapted to make sure that the choir rehearsals are accessible for all kids, even those who have never had any musical experience before.  The program will be very developmental, giving kids a strong foundation that they can continue to build upon as they grow. Richard shares a quote that resonates with him: “If we don’t have good children’s choirs, we won’t have strong adult choirs.”

For Richard, it’s important that these young vocalists know they’re being taken seriously, and that they regularly get to be a part of worship, musically and liturgically. In this initial season of Fall 2019, he plans to have the children’s choir sing at several services. But he also stresses that a big point of the children’s music ministry is not the events they prepare for, but the rehearsals themselves. “They are regular meetings that provide education and also let kids build relationships with each other as peers and then as friends. They’re more likely to stick with it longer if they’re doing it together with their friends.”

The Liturgy Commission and the Music Commission are both taking a role in helping with the faith formation of these choristers. “We’ll be talking about things like, ‘Why is my family Episcopalian? What does that mean?’ What is music? What is liturgy? Ultimately by the end of the first year we want them to be able to answer those two questions.”

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

Read Full Post »


Most of us dread getting lost, losing our bearings, our reference points, and the sight of familiar people and landmarks.

The cliché is that men don’t like asking for directions but women have no problem with it. Not taking a position here. Actually today, virtually no one asks for directions anyway!

As someone who has a negative sense of direction, I consider the GPS one of the Ten Greatest inventions of All Time, ranking right up there with electricity. Of course I also use MapQuest before a drive to places unknown, just in case the GPS doesn’t work. I also have a “key finder” and am a prolific list-maker so I don’t lose track of – well, anything. You can’t be too careful if you’re directionally challenged. Or scared of losing your way.

The Gospel for Sunday is about getting lost – and then being found. It’s a popular parable referencing lost sheep and missing coins. It has led me to consider a variety of connected topics, like loneliness. Loneliness is a form of lost-ness.

The studies are unanimous that loneliness is a rampant problem in the America of 2019. Since it should be so much easier for people to connect with each other, you wonder why so many people suffer with isolation.

I drive through several college campuses in my neighborhood and notice that the vast majority of students are walking alone, many of them on their phones. I see very few students having impassioned conversations or having any conversations at all. The same in my neighborhood. I’ve been there for twelve years and know a couple of people – but certainly not well. I can’t help but remember my parents’ neighborhood (they DID live there for 60 years but still) where neighbors were their best friends, almost like family members.

Some say that you should challenge yourself periodically by intentionally risk getting lost so as to open yourself to new experiences and people. What comes to mind is one of my favorite documentaries by my hero Ken Burns: “Lewis and Clark, The Journey of the Corps of Discovery.”

In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson sent four dozen men in two oversized canoes up the Missouri River to encounter the “new land” and the people who lived there. They got lost many times, were rescued by the native inhabitants, and pushed on to the Pacific.

For Lewis and Clark, getting lost provided amazing gifts: the beauty of the land, the extent of its resources, the kindness of the people who lived there, and undiscovered resources within themselves.

And us?

“I once was lost, and now am found…. “

It is amazing grace that challenges us, saves us, and leads us home.

And it is ours.

See you in church.


Read Full Post »

By Ellie Watkins

Katie Madsen, our new Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, is taking on her responsibilities with energy, thoughtfulness, and her sunny and welcoming demeanor that makes you feel valued as soon as you start talking to her.

I got the chance to discuss upcoming programming with her as we sorted through books for the CYF Center (also known as the Gathering Space, newly revamped for an extra focus on children’s ministry). Occasionally she stopped to comment on her favorite books—Old Turtle, The Tale of Three Trees—and in between, she outlined what’s coming up this fall:

Nursery care from birth through age 4

Going forward, Nursery Coordinator Tracy Johnson and her team will be part of Katie’s department. As in previous years, the nursery will be open starting at 8:45am every Sunday. It will close immediately after 10am worship, so parents are encouraged to pick up their kids right away as they head to the gym for coffee hour.

During coffee hour, the gym will have both a “soft space” and an “open play” area so that kids of all ages can relax or run around.

Parents and caregivers of 4-year-olds who will be “aging out” of the nursery into Godly Play during the church year are encouraged to talk to Katie and Tracy about ways to help with the transition.


Children’s Ministry for age 5 through Grade 5

From 9:00-9:45am on Sunday mornings, kids who are not participating in choir can enjoy “open time” in the Gathering Space with comfy seating, books, craft project, and loving adults to supervise.

When 10am worship begins, children attending Godly Play will process together behind the verger, carrying a banner, before heading to their classrooms. They will return to the nave to join their parents before the service ends.

God calls us to see, notice, and welcome our youngest parishioners into our life as a parish. “For a long time, kids were not seen in worship,” Katie observes. “It’s so important to make sure that kids feel like they’re part of the community. When they are seen and heard, they retain their engagement  with their faith.”

“We at St. John’s pride ourselves on being welcoming, but sometimes we are so focused on newcomers that we forget it also means being welcoming to those who are already here—listening to what they want and need, and welcoming in a new way. Changing the Godly Play rooms, for instance, is a new way to welcome those who are already here.”


Youth Ministry for Grade 6 through Grade 12

Katie has already been helping out with the Youth Group for two years. “They love being together, and love spending time together. They’ve created relationships with each other that have lasted through international travel and many other trials, and come out the other side.”

“I remember being a teenager,” she says, recalling how meaningful it was for her to share in youth ministry with other kids her age. “There was something that bonded us more than math and science, and it was rare and special.”

Now, she’s excited to work with St. John’s youth and listen to them as they reimagine the youth program together and create something that will be very meaningful and formative for these teens. On Wednesday evenings, the gym will be open beginning at 5:30pm for open gym time; then they’ll have dinner at 6:30pm, and discussions and programming at 7pm.

Katie is looking forward to working with the youth. As they grow, “they become really cool adults and it’s fantastic to get to walk with them.”

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

Read Full Post »

Finance First Friday – September 2019

By Sarah Dull

Jesus shared several parables about the different ways our tendencies towards money can take us away from our relationships with God, with each other, and with our true selves:


  • The Parable of the Rich Fool: Luke 12:16-21 (“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.”)
  • The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant: Matthew 18:23-33 (“I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?”)
  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-32 (“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”)


In her book, Integrating Money and Meaning, Maggie Kulyk encourages us to look at our history with money and identify the beliefs and behaviors we have formed along the way that make up our current tendencies towards money.

We’re all on a spiritual path, whether we choose to recognize it or not. And I’d say that money has been on that path too – leading the way for some, hanging around the shadows for others, or being dragged behind like a lead weight. It is critical to look back at the path on which we’ve been traveling – money and all – and be honest and compassionate with ourselves about what the path included. Only by taking stock of the past can we move on in a healthy way to the present and the future.

In this month’s Finance First Fridays we offer a summary of the 3 exercises, recommended by Kulyk, for examining our financial past. We encourage you to do these exercises without judgment or fear. “The point is not to criticize anyone – ourselves or those who parented us – but to raise our consciousness so we know what we are dealing with.” We are simply taking stock. A grocer who takes stock needs to know what she has in her inventory; she does not criticize herself for running low on items or try to figure out who to blame for what is on the shelves. Approach these exercises with compassion for yourself, and with clear-eyed honesty. 


  • Track Your Money Memories


Set aside some quiet time and grab something to write on. Settle yourself. Take three deep breaths. 

Scan your memories from early childhood to the present. Write down your recollections about money; a brief description of the memory, how old you were, any feelings you recall having about that experience. Keep going, record any significant money memories you can recall, including those pertaining to family and friends. Include how these experiences affected you and your feelings associated with each memory. 

When finished you may want to put your memories in order, creating your financial autobiography. Looking at your journey with money can be enlightening and influence your next steps.


  • Family Mirror


Set aside some quiet time and grab something to write on. Settle yourself. Take three deep breaths. 

One at a time, visualize your caregiving figures (parents, grandparents, guardians). For the first person, make a list of the words that describe the qualities, characteristics, and energy that you attribute to them, especially in regards to money. Do not censor or analyze this information; be completely honest about your feelings and experiences. Allow the words to flow until you feel complete and have nothing more to add. Repeat this process for at least one more significant caregiver. 

When you have at least two lists, ask yourself:

    • Who do I most resemble?
    • Which aspects of my relatives’ relationships to money come up in my life?
    • What perceptions do I have about my relatives in regard to money?
    • Which aspects do I openly embrace and which do I deny?
    • Are there aspects of my relative’s behavior I have completely rebelled against? Has this rebellion been beneficial?
    • What feelings came up for me while I was doing this exercise?
    • Did I notice any tendencies about myself I might want to change?

It’s okay if you don’t like your answers. Try not to judge them. Awareness of these trends and patterns is the first step to a new path.

  • Money Energies

After identifying our history with money, it’s time to look at where we are today. What are our unconscious tendencies around money? What energies arise in us around financial matters? 

If you like online quizzes, Deborah Price, author of Money Magic, offers a free, quick assessment that can get you started: http://moneycoachinginstitute.com/understanding-money-types/. Kulyk cautions us not to take the results too literally. “Such designations are simply tools for awareness; they are not written in stone, and they can and will morph over time.” Think of the results as a temperature check; this is how you are reacting at this moment. When we take our temperature, it is important to look at other symptoms before making any diagnosis. Similarly, we recommend reading the attributes of each money type and note the ones you think are strong in you. How have these attributes manifested in your money life? 

Whether you do the quiz or not, set an intention to notice what energies arise when you engage in the monetary world: when you pay bills, make donations to charity, go over your budget, loan or borrow money, give or receive gifts, look at financial statements, charge for a service, leave a tip, make plans for retirement, talk to someone about money, etc. Ask yourself:

    • Which tasks do you truly enjoy?
    • Which tasks leave you feeling stuck, fearful, ashamed, or angry?
    • Can you embrace the feelings they bring up and recognize where they are coming from?
    • If negative feelings surface, is there something you can do differently to align these tasks in a new direction?

We hope these exercises help you find some insight and meaning regarding your current tendencies towards money. Having both an awareness of our attributes and an openness to change sets us on a spiritual path towards connection and wholeness. From here we can begin to restore our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with God. 

We would love to hear your feedback and ideas for future Finance First Fridays posts. If you’d like to share your money stories, tips, and resources, please contact the church office.

Read Full Post »

Dear friends in Christ,

It will come as no surprise that one of my new obsessions is a punchy little show on PBS called Broken Bread. The host is food truck icon and LA celebrity chef Roy Choi, who takes you deep into his hometown of Los Angeles to neighborhoods like Watts and Compton: place names that are synonymous with inequality and poverty. There he explores the intersections of food and race, sustainability, the environment, and identity.

What I love about this show (besides the focus on food) is the way Choi sometimes sounds like a prophet and a pastor, righteous yet humble, zealous but clear-eyed. This is a smart show that walks a fine line between telling stories and preaching. What sets it apart from other shows is the way Roy Choi tells stories of places and people on the margins—refusing to let Watts and Compton be known only as a byword, as plot points in the story of America’s struggle with racism, violence, and inequality. He goes to the margins and helps us see and notice how much fullness, life, goodness, and humanity are there. “You have to go to the margins,” he says. “You have to care and invest with those that no one else wants to work with.”

His stories are not all about triumph, either. The heroes of his stories are often like the heroes of our biblical narrative: people who have seen much sorrow, whose lives are riddled with mistakes and tragedy and struggle. Social entrepreneurship fails more than it succeeds. The planet is irreversibly damaged by global warming. In his clear-eyed telling, we celebrate the lives saved, but we do not pretend that lives haven’t been lost.

In each story, food is the medium through which lives are being transformed and beloved community is being created. In this way, Choi is celebrating the way food becomes sacramental. As the show’s title Broken Bread implies, Roy believes in food as a means toward restoration and reconciliation. In the opening credits to each show you hear him say:

I want this show to be about the power of us as humans to come together again. Let’s not make assumptions. Let’s not make stereotypes. And from there we can talk about these things and maybe understand each other. Whether your beliefs differ from mine—we’re breaking bread!

This fall, our Formation Commission will host a series of discussions where we’ll see and notice how Eucharist shows up in popular culture. It happens all of the time, from shows like this one to movies like Babette’s Feast and Tortilla Soup, and so many other ways. Eucharist is our sacrament of thanksgiving, a place where we see and notice the grace of God poured out through earthy stuff like bread and wine. And it’s a place where all our stories, especially the stories of broken people and broken places, stories from the margins, are brought together and reconciled at a common table.

Broken Bread is encouraging me to take special care, to see and notice the stories I might otherwise pass by—stories that require showing up at First Nations Kitchen and Hallie Q. Brown, and maybe even at coffee hour, where a loaf of bread, a bowl of soup, or a cup of coffee and a cookie become the meeting ground of precious stories and honest sharing.

I hope you will join me in seeing and noticing where Eucharist is showing up in popular culture, on the margins, and in your own lives.

I will see you in worship!



Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

Read Full Post »