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Archive for October, 2019

“Weird Preacher”

We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.”

John Wesley.

Really?

I saw this on an online site called “The Weird Preacher.”  Usually there is good stuff here but this gave me pause.  It’s certainly not the prevailing wisdom of the day. Now we are encouraged to try and feel good about ourselves, have more confidence, and celebrate our accomplishments.

At least that’s the word for women who are often too hard on themselves. Yet I also don’t know many men who are “rigorous in judging themselves.” Certainly not our federal leadership!

However, this is the message of Sunday’s Gospel. The Tax Collector has no mercy for himself (well, he is a real swindler) while the Pharisee sings his own praises in healthy 21stcentury style, yet Jesus is very displeased with him.

Of course, there’s more to the story than this but I know that in this story the Pharisee is my guy (as Elisha was Craig’s “guy” two weeks ago).  Scripturally incorrect, but there it is.

Society is relentless in demanding we prove ourselves and often we all take the bait.  Hard to believe we don’t have to.

More on Sunday as we talk about the quaint, antique idea of “humility.”

See you in church.

Barbara

 

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By Lea Anne Schmidt,
Coordinator of Growth & Member Engagement

Each week we have the privilege of worshipping with an average of 3 to 6 first-time visitors. And during the last program year, St. John’s welcomed over 25 new members! This fall you will surely see some faces of fellow parishioners whom you recognize but haven’t had the opportunity to meet. Our parish is growing and with that, we multiply the opportunities to cultivate new relationships and friendships through worship, ministry, and prayer.

This program year, St. John’s has adopted a theme of Seeing through God’s eyes, Noticing each of God’s beloved, and Welcoming with God’s love. The joy of noticing and welcoming our new members belongs to each person in the parish. To name just a few examples: You may hear new voices in the choir this fall with the addition of Courtney Veszi and Beth Rhodes. If you attend a weekday morning prayer service, you will be praying alongside Jayan Nair, the primary morning prayer officiant. And when stopping by the office on a Tuesday afternoon, Marjorie Rapp will most likely be the one to greet you. All of these members have been profiled in The Evangelist in the past, and in this issue we are introducing you to two more households who joined the church in May.

Our newest members have courageously jumped into life at St. John’s with both feet. Please meet their enthusiasm by noticing new faces and taking a moment to introduce yourself. Ask them what they love about the ministry they serve or the liturgy they attend, and let them know we appreciate the energy, presence, prayers, and voices that they bring to our faith community.

Andrew Fox

Andrew grew up in Hastings; his family goes back six generations in Dakota County. At Augsburg College, he majored in Medieval Studies and Religion. He first attended St. John’s at a Compline service a few years ago. The rich liturgy, music, and welcoming atmosphere have made him feel very much at home here. He’s grateful to have been recently confirmed and now be a “full-fledged Episcopalian!”

He loves visiting museums, especially the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the American Swedish Institute. He works for the Minnesota Historical Society and has a great fondness for historic houses.

Phillip & Julia Takemura Sears

Julia grew up in Japan and Iowa, while Phillip (having a father who worked on army bases) moved around a lot. They were actually both born in Maryland, but didn’t meet until attending Iowa State University together.

Julia, a digital archivist, loves to sing, dance, draw, paint, do voice acting, and roller skate. Phillip loves telling stories with friends.

Phillip first came to St. John’s as a staff singer. He says, “As a singer for church services, I have sung in many congregations of which I was not formally a part of.  Julia and I decided that we wanted to sing and also join the church we sing for.” Julia adds, “I ended up joining the choir and have kept coming ever since. I also keep coming back because this church seems to be about open-minded thinking and universal love.”

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

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By Jered Weber-Johnson

Most of you know that I absolutely love Luke’s resurrection story when Jesus shows up on the road to Emmaus, and how the disciples didn’t recognize him until he broke the bread at dinner with them.

This summer over 130 members of our faith community gathered in one another’s homes to break bread and share stories, and in so doing, we began to notice and see the presence of something holy. Simple hospitality, laughter, learning each other’s names and backgrounds, full bellies and hearts: these were just some of the ways we described our experience of these Connect Meals over the past three months.

Thanks to our hosts and thanks to all who were courageous enough to show up not knowing who’d be there or what exactly to expect.

Here’s what you noticed, experienced, and took away from these meals:

Even though I knew who the other guests were, several were people whom I had never talked to before that evening. I guess that is what is supposed to happen at these gatherings!
—Cynthia Bertheau

Living alone, I enjoy having a meal with others and, frankly, checking out their homes to see what they collect and cherish. I’m already looking forward to next year’s gatherings.
—Karen Mosso

I enjoyed the chance to see my hosts in the natural environments of their homes. I love seeing what they have around them, the colors, the artwork, the gardens, the pets (especially the pets!). I appreciate the effort my hosts put into their meals and love it a lot when someone cooks for me!
—Barbara Mraz

Having interviewed thousands of people I’m reasonably good at reading body language, eye contact, and voice inflections. What was wonderful for me was not what happened, though that was nice enough, but what didn’t happen. Nobody so much as batted an eyelash when I arrived being different. People approximately in my age range (72), who might  hypothetically have had more conservative reactions to me, didn’t skip a beat. Everyone was wonderfully and reflexively hospitable.
—Jennifer Tianen

We were amazed at the many life stories shared at our Connect Meal and appreciated the opportunity to hear how life can hold so many opportunities for growth and change.
—Ed Stieve and Otto Paier

Conversations that would not otherwise happen took place that will lead to new understanding and relationships.
—Linda Lindeke

We loved the meals we attended. So fun for the kids to all play, and for the parents to hang out with each other!
—Jessica Berry

I was surprised to learn that more than one of the youth knew me from my participation in cross-generational Lenten meetings. They notice and remember. Those times are invaluable.
—Roger Wilson

To have the Rector prepare and serve me food in his home was humbling. It was also a gift to get to know Erin better—that is, beyond how I know her as a spouse and mother.

An added joy was the sound of kids playing in the basement and the occasional appearance of a happily excited child. The parents were calm and amused by the scene.
—Sally Sand

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

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By Ellie Watkins

Every time we meet someone new, we give them information on how we’d like to be seen and addressed. We tell them if we have a nickname that we prefer. We tell them if we are a Dr. or a Miss or a Ms. We might encourage them to be less formal and call us by our first name. We’re revealing to this new acquaintance a part of who we are, and we want them to truly see that part and respect it.

Another part of the introduction process that’s becoming more common is to tell the other person your name and your pronouns. For example, I’d say, “My name is Ellie, and my pronouns are she/her.” Jered Weber-Johnson’s pronouns are he/him; he cooks great eggplant. Margaret Thor’s pronouns are she/her; her leadership is invaluable. Some people identify as they/them. (Grammarians may bristle at using a plural pronoun to refer to a single person, but we already do that with the word “you” and we still understand each other!)

Why is this something that we, as Christians in community, benefit from integrating into our own lives? Sharing pronouns is a way for transgender and gender-nonconforming people to ask: Do you accept me? Do you see me? What can I expect from you going forward? Using their correct pronouns tells them that we want to know their true selves, not something constructed for someone else’s comfort. For people whose gender identity matches the one they grew up with, sharing pronouns is a way to normalize that part of introductions so that everyone feels comfortable doing it. It can also help prevent someone with a name common to men and women (like Jess or Dale) or a less familiar name (like Wei or Elif) from having their gender misidentified.

Beginning on Gathering Sunday, we’ll have stickers available for you to put on your nametag so that people can notice your name and your gender identity.
In this way, we can truly see and welcome each other with God’s love.

If you have any questions, please feel free to speak to Ellie Watkins in the office, or any of the clergy.

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

 

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By Gil Lautenshlager

MY STORY

I have been a member of St. John’s for approximately two-and-a-half years.

Ten years ago, I retired from a job where I had been able to secure excellent health coverage for myself, my partners, and my employees. I became an independent consultant.  At the same time, I went on Medicare, but I wanted to have more complete coverage, via a Medicare supplement policy.

For 30 years, I had been involved in buying group medical insurance for the companies that I worked for.  That didn’t make me an expert, but I did feel that I was at least knowledgeable about medical insurance.  WRONG!  The broad range of policies was overwhelming.

Fortunately, I still had contacts in the insurance industry, and they guided me through it.  I was fortunate to have these resources, but I was ashamed to ask for their help.  I took a deep breath and contacted the insurance people I knew.  Everything fell into place.   But I wondered how people who had to secure insurance for themselves managed to make good decisions.  And I realized that asking for help in financial matters can be embarrassing.  In our society, discussing our financial difficulties is a “no-no.”

All was great with my insurance, until about a year ago.  Changes in the Medicare regulations no longer allowed insurance companies to issue the kind of prescription drug policy that I previously enjoyed.  By spring of this year, I realized that I had a serious problem with my drug coverage.  I have significant health issues and I depend on prescription drug coverage.  It became obvious that I would have a major shortfall from what I had previously experienced.  I was blessed with a financial situation that enabled me to absorb the unexpected expense, but I wondered what other people who are not so fortunate do.  I knew I would be demoralized to ask for outside help.

At St. John’s, there are more and more instances of our members dealing with unexpected (large) medical bills.  This is particularly prevalent amongst seniors.  It can be quite unnerving to receive such a surprise.  Our executive administrator Sarah Dull asked me to research this and provide a resource that might help.  Follow this link to the advice of an expert:  https://www.moneyunder30.com/5-ways-to-handle-a-surprise-medical-bill

You should always research medical assistance programs available from local government (city, county, state) bodies.  We checked the Ramsey and Hennepin County websites.  Medical Assistance (Medicaid) is available to defined classes of people who have difficulties qualifying for and/or affording other medical coverage.  We spoke with a Minnesota licensed social worker.  He confirmed that this is the case.  But that doesn’t help when surprises rear their ugly heads after the fact  or when you don’t qualify for Medical Assistance.

My best advice is to make sure you understand your medical insurance coverage.  Be a pest to your human resources department or insurance broker.  If you can identify potential holes in your coverage, you can react to or plan for them before they become a crisis.  If you handle your own medical insurance, never purchase insurance directly from an insurer.  A trusted broker can help you navigate the wide range of coverages that are available.  And no matter what anybody tells you, it IS NOT more expensive to go through a broker.

KEEP FAITH IN YOUR FINANCIAL ACTIVITIES

There have been many times when I have surveyed my financial affairs and found them to be in disarray.  Surprise expenses or unwise spending put me in a position that seemed impossible to work my way out of.  This was particularly prevalent when I was younger, less disciplined, and void of significant backup savings.  I’d just walk away and say a silent prayer.  Almost every time, I’d come back to it a few days later, and everything worked out.  It was almost is if God had deposited money into my bank account.

A more recent example, occurred a few years ago when I was contemplating “full-time retirement” from the company in which I was part owner.  I had counted on the sale of my shares back to the company as a significant part of my retirement well-being.  I had prayed regularly that the Lord would get that sell-back accomplished.  It just never happened.  I had nowhere to turn; I was ashamed to seek outside assistance and I really didn’t know where to go for help.

I finally came to the point where health and other factors made it obvious that I needed to retire immediately.  I was most concerned that I would not be able to support myself on my social security and IRA.  God said no to my sale of my company stock, at least for the time being.  I was panicked!  But at the same time, He showed me a way to retire—not necessarily the way I wanted to, but enough to survive.

A few years later, God caused the sale to go through.  I’ve always thought there was a clear message, from heaven to me: “I’m going to bail you out one more time, but before I do, you’re going to have to learn to manage your finances more responsibly.”  Good advice!

 

Finance First Fridays is a pastoral initiative here at St. John’s. Discussing finances can be difficult and bring up feelings of worry and shame. However, money is a real factor in all of our lives and an important topic to address. If you have a personal story you’d like to tell or a financial resource or article you’d like to share in a future Finance First Fridays post, please contact executive administrator Sarah Dull.

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By Richard Gray, Director of Music

When I think about Compline, I think of a peaceful ending to a long day. This service, the final office of the day, is an opportunity for faithful worshippers to gather and reflect.

My first experience with Compline was actually assisting to officiate it. Two years ago, I was the organ scholar at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, learning about the Anglican services. I finished choir rehearsal and then headed to a 9pm service of Compline. Some questions went through my head: “Is this like an Evensong? Is there a bulletin? Wait, was I supposed to prepare organ voluntaries??” I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how calm and beautifully simple this service was. It reminded me of my Catholic upbringing and how we used to “keep watch” throughout the night-long adoration in the chapel.

I am excited to continue our wonderful tradition of offering Compline weekly at St. John’s. A goal of mine is to keep with the practice of faithful participation by the congregation and also explore additional meditative and contemplative components. I look forward to welcoming back the Mirandola and Lumina ensembles from right here in the Twin Cities, as well as introducing a new quartet, The St. John’s Compline Choir, that will lead a few times each semester.

I am eager for Compline to have an even greater presence in, not only the musical life of St. John’s, but the entire faith community.

By Keith Davis

What first drew me to Compline was curiosity. I’ve had a lifelong interest in Gregorian Chant, and I had prayed with the monks at St. John’s College. This new way of worship enthralled me and left me humbled, excited, and scared all at once.

When I first began attending, the Rev. Craig Lemming was leading the services. What a perfect voice! His chanting, and the meditative and contemplative experience, made my week.

I’m an incurable romantic, and being in the Compline service always takes me back to that monastic time. But it also connects me with the spiritual traditions of other communities today.

I see our welcome in the service because any and all are invited. We have a core group of Compline attendees, and not all of them are from St. John’s. Some are members of other churches or live in the neighborhood. People unaffiliated with any church come here to listen. You never know what people are bringing to Compline or wanting or needing. As my grandmother used to say, “Your blues may not be like mine, but they are blue.” We’re all at Sung Compline for a reason, and we all share in the bonding experience. We all let go of what we did or did not do that day.

The word “Compline” comes from Latin meaning “completion” because, as the last of the Daily Offices, it completes the day. Compline means completion, and it is completion.

 

By Sister Julian Smith-Boyer

I pray all the Daily Offices with my dispersed religious order by way of a customized computer application that joins us across different time zones.  These times of prayer are integral and essential to my everyday life and spiritual growth.

I feel especially blessed to be able to be part of St. John’s weekly Compline service while sitting among people who I can see face-to-face in our choir space— lit with soft lighting and candles and enhanced by some incense (which I enjoy even though I am sensitive to it). I am transported with this “intentional” community of neighbors and fellow parishioners to a time of quiet and a sense of being in the presence of the Divine Mystery

Our voices are led in ever-improving harmony by a small choir who help even those non-singers like me believe I can sing.  On occasion, the service is followed by contemplation-inspiring music.

Given the nature of this service, there is little conversation, but there is a knowing and welcoming exchange of smiles and nodding heads. Throughout and after the service, we look out for one another—for example, by sharing a bulletin, walking to the parking space in the dark together, or by offering a ride home.

Sung Compline is among the offerings by St. John’s that I am most grateful for.  It centers my week and helps to end my Thursdays with a feeling that “all shall be well.” It completes the day, and in some ways I feel it also completes me.

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

 

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