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Archive for May, 2020

 


by The Rev. Barbara Mraz

Was it all bad dream?

I wake up to the sunlight on the green hillside, filtering through the lace curtains in my bedroom.  How do I reconcile this beauty with the horror of the two hours I watched on television last night, the city burning? 

It seems a cruel paradox that just as we most need to reach out to each other to listen, to understand, to console and be consoled, we are more physically-restrained than ever from doing this because of the raging pandemic. Here is one historical/Scriptural perspective (with a little music for your soul) on living with…. Well, on living day to day. The work that needs to be done in countless ways is staggering, and this is a long view.

The setting is Babylon (now Iraq) 2500 years ago. The Jews have lost everything and are now the slaves of the Babylonians. Psalm 137:

1 By the waters of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?


Jeremiah writes to them:

This is what the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles who were carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

Build houses and settle down.
Plant gardens and eat their produce.
Take wives and have sons and daughters.
Take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.
Multiply there; do not decrease.…


Fr. Cargill Thompson writes: “Despite the awfulness – adversity was the mother of creativity. Much of what people in the time of Jesus took for granted about their faith was developed during that awfulness 600 years earlier when people had no choice but to do things differently. Much of the Old Testament was written down for the first time. Poems and Prophecies and songs and stories and sayings that for generations had circulated orally now had to be written down to make sure they were not lost under the yoke of the Babylonian oppressor. Synagogues were invented – if you could not go to the Temple to offer sacrifice at least you had to have somewhere to pray. The Sabbath and keeping kosher became extra important – clinging to the details became a way of marking yourself out as God’s people when you were surrounded by people who thought nothing of your God.”


Or as Leonard Bernstein puts it in his musical Candide:

You’ve been a fool
And so have I,
But come and be my wife.
And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow
And make our garden grow…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DROkQJc_F0

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Dear friends in Christ,

Things are not alright in our cities. If we’ve been listening to our black and brown brothers and sisters, things have not been alright in our city or nation for decades and indeed back to our founding. The sin of racism infects the soul of our country, and the death of George Floyd is but the latest manifestation of that infection. It is in our schools, our justice system, our homes, and even our churches.
In order to respond faithfully, like all sin, we in the church must be ready to confess it. Last night, in an impromptu prayer vigil following our weekly Compline service, we did just that, praying the whole Great Litany, and bidding prayers for the repose of the soul of George Floyd. Now we must go beyond confession and begin wrestling with how to root out racism in our communities, churches, and individual lives. As the late great theologian James Cone once said, “White American Christians want to do Christian theology, but they don’t want to talk about race. Now, how in the hell are you going to do Christian theology in a world that is defined by racism, that is defined by colonialism”. He might as well have asked, not only how we “do Christian theology”, but, how do we DO Christian faith at all without addressing racism?
 
On Tuesday evening, in response to the anger that was even then bubbling up all over the city, I posted this to our parish Facebook page:
 
Let your anger smolder. Let it drive the engine that causes you to write to our leaders, to give generously to organizations fighting racial injustice, to teach your children about white privilege and how systems of injustice work. Let your anger cause you to pen letters to the editor, to ruthlessly search your interior life for where racism has a toehold and confess it. Let your anger keep you awake to injustice and galvanize you for the work of solidarity and advocacy.”
 
Since Tuesday we’ve been posting ways (herehere, & here) that you can take action. In the letter last night from our Bishop and Bishop-elect, you will find even more practical steps we can take. I urge you to read their letter and take action. In the days ahead, we’ll keep posting an action per day to our Facebook page as well as an invitation to join in the essential work of anti-racism dialogue and education. We confess, we repent, and we act. 

Lastly, if you missed our prayers last night, join us again, next Wednesday evening at 7PM (the service link will be shared on Monday with information about how to join) for another service of prayer and repentance.
Continue to pray for our city, for those who are hurting, for our African American neighbors and friends, for businesses and neighborhoods that now need to rebuild, and for all affected by the sin of racism and injustice in our city and nation.
Faithfully,
Jered+

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During this time of quarantine and self-isolating, I decided to take some time and explore some of the great things that Minnesota has to offer (from a distance, of course). Even though the city streets aren’t packed with people nowadays, I’ve always thought it was neat how we can be within the hustle and bustle of a city and then 5 minutes later find ourselves standing near a lake looking at gorgeous scenery. Lately, I’ve taken some walks near the Mississippi River in St. Paul, gone over to the Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, and hiked around Minnehaha Falls. It’s beautiful and the views are second to none. 

Usually, I like to listen to music when I take walks and visit the nature around me, but lately I’ve decided to take in the sounds of nature themselves as my walking soundtracks instead. When doing this, I found that I was drawn back to one of my favorite organist-composers, Olivier Messiaen. This 20th century French composer has greatly inspired my work as an organist through his use of tonal color, rhythmic complexity and birdsong. Yes, in addition to being a composer and organist, Messiaen was also an ornithologist. One of his famous quotes is this: “My faith is the grand drama of my life. I’m a believer, so I sing words of God to those who have no faith. I give bird songs to those who dwell in cities and have never heard them, make rhythms for those who know only military marches or jazz, and paint colors for those who see none.” 

As Pentecost is approaching this Sunday, I would like to introduce you to Messiaen’s Messe de la Pentecôte (Pentecost Mass) written for solo organ. Composed in 1950, it takes the form of the mass in 5 movements: Introit, Offertory, Consecration, Communion and Recessional. For my graduate organ recital, I had the pleasure of studying and performing this work and continually fell in love with it each time I brought it to the practice room, church, and concert hall.

Today, I share with you my own recording of movement 4, Communion: Les oiseaux et les sources (the birds and the springs). You’ll hear three different birdsong within the piece: the cuckoo, the nightingale, and the blackbird. The text associated with this movement comes from the Prayer of Azariah 1:38, 58, “O all ye waters that be above heaven, bless ye the Lord: O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord.” I finally learned how to properly use iMovie on my laptop, so I paired the music with some photos from my nature walks around the area. Hope you enjoy.

Blessings,

Richard Gray, Director of Music

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I don’t know about all of you but I expected my summer to look a little different than the one I am currently facing. This summer was going to be filled with trips and adventures, time with friends and family, and showing off our new home to everyone one we know.

This summer will also be different than the one I had envisioned for our children, youth and families at St. John’s. I had wild dreams of spending my summer throwing water balloons, painting birdhouses, walking around our neighborhood and truly spending quality time with our families. It was going to be the perfect summer. I had it all planned out, from the movies we would watch in the Holly Street Garden to the ice cream we would eat at Grand Ole Creamery.

Like many others I am mourning that loss. The loss of certainty and the loss of preconceived plans has been weighing on me especially as spring begins and the events written on my calendar begin to pass by.

However, I like to consider myself an optimist, a glass half full kind-of gal. So I am taking my disappointments and channeling them in to new and crazy ideas that truly wouldn’t work as well if we were all together. This summer will be full of challenges just as our spring was. Many of us have grown tired of the uncertainty that lies ahead, weary of staying at home, desperate for physical connection with others. Our Children, Youth and Family Ministry is going to attempt to use this time apart to truly connect. We have a chance this summer to go “Old School” and I’m going to take it.

If my grandmother taught me anything it is that nothing is better than a handwritten note. Putting pen or marker or crayon to paper and reaching out to others is a small and simple gesture that people hold on to. As John and I began to unpack our new house I found a box, a whole box, filled to the brim with hand written letters, notes and doodles from family and friends throughout the years. I’ve never been able to part with them, they are meaningful and when things are hard I routinely go back and read through them again and again.

Back to our summer plans – Letter writing. This is where we will start. Some of our OWLs have agreed to write to our parents and families, offering support and prayers as they keep their children at home with them this summer. Our children/youth will be writing/drawing back connecting with some members they have never met, but who share a common community in St. Johns. The children will also be writing/drawing to each other. Even over the last year I have seen so many wonderful relationships bloom within our Godly Play classrooms, our nursery and our youth group. It is important that we maintain those connections. Our love for each other is the reason we are keeping our distance.

If you would like to join us in our letter writing you are welcome. Old, young, new to the community, well known to the community, college student, young adult, retired, single, married, parent, childless, LGTQ+, it doesn’t matter. Join us as we stay connected this summer.

Blessings always,

Katie Madsen

For more information please reachout to Katie at katie.madsen@stjohnsstpaul.org or 651-249-5290

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by The Rev. Craig Lemming

“[The Holy Spirit] is present as a whole to each and wholly present everywhere. He is portioned out impassably and participated in as a whole. He is like a sunbeam whose grace is present to the one who enjoys him as if he were present to such a one alone, and still he illuminates land and sea and is mixed with the air. Just so, indeed, the Spirit is present to each one who is fit to receive him, as if he were present to him alone, and still he sends out his grace that is complete and sufficient for all.”
– excerpt from St. Basil of Caesarea’s treatise ‘On the Holy Spirit’ (374 CE)

Orthodox Icon of Saint Basil of Caesarea

Last week’s Google Doodle celebrated the Mbira: the ancient musical instrument of Zimbabwe. What was even more enjoyable than playing the four Shona songs on the Doodle’s virtual mbira was journeying vicariously to my homeland thanks to this excellent “Behind the Doodle” short:

“To me it’s a cross between water and air.”
“It is uplifting, it is spiritual.”
“It tells a story. It fulfills something in you.”

These evocative descriptions of the unique timbre of the mbira and the meanings of its intangible music reminded me of a rudimentary lesson every postulant learns in their first year of seminary. Due to the limitations of human language, we have to use metaphors or symbols to make meaning of our ineffable experiences of God.

Symbols of the Holy Spirit have been on my mind this week as we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost. What metaphors or symbols adequately describe the indescribable?

I took Patristics classes at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity several summers ago. One unforgettable day, seated in a shaft of sunlight in the Archbishop Ireland Memorial Library, I was overcome by the sublime beauty of the ninth chapter of Saint Basil of Caesarea’s treatise On the Holy Spirit. A classmate came over to see if I was alright. All I could do, as I choked back tears, was to point to Basil’s famous rhapsody on the Holy Spirit being like a sunbeam. My colleague read the passage, smiled, handed the book back to me, sighed, and nodded. “That’s just… I mean it’s… it’s just so…” “True?” I interjected. “Yes. True. You’re lucky you got Basil. I got Tertullian.” I sympathized and then we chuckled after I wished him luck with “grumpy-guts.”

What happened between me and Saint Basil’s treatise On the Holy Spirit that summer is depicted perfectly by Alan Bennett in The History Boys:

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”

Words certainly do this. So does the language of music. In his landmark book, The Soul of Mbira: Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe, musicologist Paul F. Berliner describes the role of mbira music in the Shona people’s bira ceremony for communing with ancestors in the spiritual realm:

“the bira is a communal affair; its music is the sum total of the contributions of all the members of the village who choose to participate. The mbira usually provide the nucleus of the music. A well-known mbira player who performed for a powerful medium told me, ‘The mbira is not just an instrument to us. It is like your Bible… It is a way in which we pray to God.’ In the context of the bira, the people believe the mbira to have the power to project its sound into the heavens, bridging the world of the living and the world of the spirits.”

The same is true for me when singing my favorite Pentecost hymn – “Come Down, O Love Divine” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. A quintessentially Anglican hymn that harmonizes Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience in Words and Music that make meaning of the Holy Spirit. Sing it with me (and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge) as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. The hymn text is included below the video.

Pentecost Blessings,
Craig+

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

Words: Bianco da Siena (d. 1434?); tr. Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890)
Music: DOWN AMPNEY, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

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Margaret Thor, Deacon

Jesus said, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13: 14-15)

How do we do that in our current pandemic? How should we serve one another? How do we put our faith into action and still be safe? This is a tough question for me to answer.  Fortunately, with the input of our committed Faith-in-Action ministry leaders, we have come with some creative ideas.  The “lead” from each ministry (Hearts to Homes, Fields to Families, Kayoro, etc.) put forward these suggestions.  I’ve included their name and email address if you want to contact them directly for more information. 

You will notice two primary ways for you to serve. One through prayer.  If you have not viewed Jered’s video on “Praying on the Run”, I encourage you to do so. It will awaken in you a call to prayer.  I read an article in the Christian Century about prayer. In it the author suggests that “[t]urning our attention to God and to our suffering neighbor…requires a willingness to be present to them, without turning either God or neighbor into a commodity or ‘an occasion for doing good.’ It is to be fully present even to what is invisible to us, to remain turned toward love even in the midst of our neighbor’s affliction and our own.”

A second important way for you to serve your neighbor is through donations.  Organizations, particularly those feeding the hungry, really know how to stretch dollars to meet the needs of the people they serve.  It may not feel like you are doing much, but the organizations are extremely grateful for the donations.  If you would like to give now, Click here and select a fund or the Mustard Seed.  Or send a check to St John’s with a note in the memo line as to where you want your donations directed.

Finally, you can advocate. There are numerous organizations, like Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, ISAIAH, and beyond that are encouraging us to use this time when we cannot physically gather or personally help the poor and those on the margins, to lift our voices. Write a letter to your elected official, start a fierce conversation about an issue that affects the poor and the hungry with your neighbors, join a calling campaign to raise awareness about voter rights. 

Farmer’s Market

  • Volunteer to monitor traffic at the market  (Click here to sign up)
  • Shop the market and tell your friends
  • Donate to fields to family program to support a weekly delivery of produce to First Nations Kitchen, Hallie Q. Brown, and El Santo Nino Jesus  
  • Place a farmer’s market sign outside near your house Sunday morning.

Cammie Beattie (cbeattie96@gmail.com)

Hearts to Home

  • Pray for our family, our mentor and all those facing homelessness in our city.
  • Support our partner. https://www.ywcastpaul.org/housing/ This website explains all of their housing programs and has a donate button on the top.
  • Advocate for the poor and homeless through such programs as ISAIAH, MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing), Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative and many others.

Diane Wallace-Reid (diane.wallacereid@gmail.com)

Hallie Q Brown

  • Contribute funds for food purchases to meet the skyrocketing need of our neighbors affected by unemployment and school closures 
  • Contribute non-perishable food items to Hallie Brown at 270 N Kent Street, St Paul. Mark the bags ‘from St. John’s’ and leave just inside the door
  • Pray for all who are suffering from food insecurity at this time
  • Pray for the staff at Hallie Q. and volunteers that they remain safe while helping others

Colleen Swope (ccswope50@gmail.com)

Creation Care

  • Pray for the restoration of the Earth, our home.
  • Advocate by joining and giving to our partner, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL.org), the Nature Conservancy, and others and asking, pleading (and voting) for life respecting leadership.
  • Reduce impact on the environment. Conserve energy and reduce consumption and waste.

Eric Odney (ericodney@icloud.com)

Kayoro Clinic Committee

  • Donate to our partner organization, Give Us Wings, so that they may continue serving in Uganda 
  • Join the Kayoro committee
  • Sew masks for Days for Girls organization 
  • Pray for the staff at St John’s Clinic in Kayoro and for all they serve in the area

Sue MacIntosh (suemac94@me.com)

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By Jayan Koshy —

“Wow, Christianity is metal as f**k!” The text message from an old friend made me laugh so hard that my reply “LOL” actually reflected reality (not a given in my generation!).

In answer to a question about why I was going to church on a Thursday night, I had just finished a long-winded retelling of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bare facts of the story were not new to this friend; he’d been raised in enough of a Christian milieu that he knew the general outline of the tale. But for some reason, this time he found it strikingly beautiful (“metal” was an aesthetic response, if you couldn’t tell).

I share this story not as an anecdote of evangelistic triumph—the exchange hardly had my friend running to find the nearest Episcopal Church—but because it points to a truth that we need to hold onto if we want to be able to give any sort of compelling account of our faith (1 Peter 3:15). Our faith—and I mean the substance of our faith, not just the trappings—is dazzlingly beautiful. And the healthy, non-coercive evangelism that we’re called to only happens when we communicate that beauty.

A couple weeks ago, Dr. Mark McInroy shared with us the final installment of his lecture series on theology and beauty, which I’d encourage you to go watch it in full. One of the themes he touched on was the role of aesthetics in apologetics and evangelism, especially in the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar. This is a deep and complicated field, but even without delving too far into it we can grasp a simple idea: the compelling power of our faith is first and most effectively conveyed through its beauty.

I think our discomfort with the “E word” in the Episcopal Church might actually stem part from seeing this dynamic in the negative. The word “evangelism” conjures images of fundamentalist, street-corner preachers bludgeoning passersby with prooftexts and (more or less) reasoned arguments. Not only is this “facts-first” approach largely ineffective at sparking love for God, but its futility inflicts grave violence along the way. It’s quite understandable that a practice with that much baggage would be suspect for Episcopalians, many of whom see open-mindedness and politeness as central to their identities.

But the facts aren’t what’s missing for people. The world doesn’t spurn the healing of the Gospel because it doesn’t know the story. At least in America, you’re still likely to find more people who know the rough sketch of Christianity than don’t. No, what’s missing is a reason to care, a reason to desire this medicine rather than the others on offer. We can argue facts and proofs until we’re blue in the face, but unless something about the Gospel sparks a desire to know God more, it’s foolish for us to think what we’re doing has anything to do with real evangelism. And it is beauty, not bare facts, that most powerfully kindles desire.

Earlier today, you shared with me pictures of dogs and gardens and lakeshores that fill you with gratitude, joy, and longing. Each one of those glimpses of beauty tugged at my heart making it want more. And it’s no different with God. The Psalms talk about love of God in terms of reveling in gold, silver, honey, and finery (Psalm 19). It is God’s beauty that draws the Psalmist into deeper relationship with him. And this is precisely what true evangelism is: rediscovering just how “metal” this beauty can be and learning to communicate that intensity to others.

The commission we received from Christ before he ascended isn’t to march out with our well-crafted arguments and clobber people into belief. Our call is to remember the beauty of what we have seen and learn how to share it, so that little by little, the world will want to come back for more.

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by The Rev. Craig Lemming, Associate Rector

Chagall IsaiahArtwork: The Prophet Isaiah by Marc Chagall

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He hath anointed me to
preach the gospel to the poor;
He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to preach deliverance to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord;
to give unto them that mourn
a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise
for the spirit of heaviness;
That they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.

For as the earth bringeth forth her bud,
and as the garden causeth the
things that are sown in it to spring forth;
So the Lord God will cause
righteousness and praise to
spring forth before all the nations.
– Isaiah 61 vv. 1–3, 11

These seven sublime minutes shuffled through my “dog-walk soundtrack” during yesterday’s stroll with Penelope. Elgar’s setting of Isaiah’s words intersected perfectly with the sermons that trees, shrubs, flowers, birds, and neighbors were preaching mellifluously yesterday afternoon. The lump in my throat – brought on by the astonishing beauty of Elgar’s setting of the words “For as the earth bringeth forth her bud” – prompted me to share this video on social media with the words, “This reminded me why we exist today.”

Why did I do that? Perhaps the answer confirms what Dr. Mark McInroy teaches in the culmination of his superb four-part series on The Beauty of God. Beauty converts and inspires us to be evangelists. My impulse to share the ecstatic encounter I had with God in witnessing the marriage of Creation, Isaiah’s words, and Elgar’s music ignited a holy desire for others to experience this revelation of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness with me, regardless of whether they “liked” it or not.

In his recent article that went viral, Julio Vincent Gambuto warns us that marketers are already working hard to “gaslight” the very real, painful, and revelatory truths we are experiencing in this COVID-19 crisis. By manipulating our traumatized hearts and minds into believing that what we are seeing, feeling, and grieving didn’t really happen, media campaigns will strategically coax us back into overworking, underthinking, and overspending our way back into feeling “normal” again. Gambuto writes, “Business and government are about to band together to knock us unconscious again.”

George Orwell’s spine-chilling words from his novel 1984 come to mind:

“But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its own nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.”

So, what does the sharing of my numinous Creation-Isaiah-Elgar experience have to do with the comprehensive gaslighting campaign that is on the dystopian horizon?

Stay conscious. Preserve the sacred memories of what is actually happening right now. Share the encounters that you are having with beauty that are helping you to fully embrace the very real grief, pain, and suffering that you and others are feeling by creatively memorializing those experiences as an evangelist of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

Share words, your own words, or the language of writers who preach Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in the face of lies, ugliness, and sin. Record the sacred stories that you and others will turn back to five, ten, or a hundred years from now to remember the realities we are actually experiencing today. Share art, films, photographs, recipes, music, and tell others why they are sustaining, challenging, affirming, comforting, or inspiring you to persevere through this global catastrophe. As MacArthur genius Ocean Vuong asks in his recent reflections with Krista Tippett on Noah’s Ark: “when the apocalypse comes, what will you put into the vessel for the future?”

Yesterday’s Creation-Isaiah-Elgar revelation reminded me that just as the earth brings forth her buds, as creatures of clay, sweat, and starlight we too are gardens causing the things that are sown in us to spring forth for generations hence. Isaiah’s words recorded 700 years before the birth of Jesus and Elgar’s setting of those words to music 2,600 years later preached new life to me yesterday in 2020. Each of us can sow good news, healing, liberation, enlightenment, forgiveness, and consolation today, so that God’s Beauty, Truth, and Goodness shall continue to spring forth for all nations eternally.

Be who you are. Be truthful, beautiful, and good.

Faithfully,
Craig+

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SPIRITED

     by Barbara Mraz

      All the pets I’ve ever owned have had voices and distinct personalities. In a household with children, pets can voice things that aren’t comfortably said by humans. “Dolly says she’s scared,” said four-year-old Emily when the thunderstorm started. “Cindy says she feels a little sick,” comes from six-year-old Anna. “Silas says he doesn’t want to have company today.”
      I am even more of an animal lover now than I was earlier. Living alone during the quarantine, my cat Finley is company, comfort and companionship. She also can be entertainment. Last time I preached, she interjected some needed drama by swooping across the screen and loudly knocking over a full glass of ice water on the desk. She is someone to hug, someone to talk to, someone in-house to love. I talk to her as soon as I come in the door, and sometime even when she’s not in the room (don’t judge). I would have a dog or four dogs (Golden Retrievers, like Oprah) if I could but that’s not my life now.
     I watch a lot of animal videos, and rarely dislike any of them. Dogs, otters, llamas, elephants, hummingbirds –bring it on!

      I clipped this out off the newspaper recently, neglecting to include the source but here it is: “Above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us all they have seen, all the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.”

     Dogs know a lot more than we think (the jury may be out on cats). Behind those always-beautiful eyes is a presence and a sensibility that is immense. I can’t prove it but I just know.
     Sunday’s Gospel is kind of like that. It’s about the Holy Spirit. Most of us would rather talk about the Creator or Jesus but that’s not what we have on Sunday. I’ll give it a shot though, and supplement it with a movie selection – as Craig and Jered have done earlier (I guess we have another series going). I won’t mention the way the rector blatantly stole my chosen ”artist” for the music series even though I had told him that Prince is mine. There will be payback on Sunday as I claim the film that is the personal favorite of both of us (hard to believe but true!). Look: the rector now has not one but two dogs. No need to feel sorry for him when justice is dispensed.
    Heh heh.
     You’ll see me in virtual church. Maybe the cat, too.
     Barbara

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The Mail

Once a week I grab my hand sanitizer and face mask and head to the post office to pick up St. John’s mail. It’s an awkward affair; maintaining 6 feet of distance from my neighbors while navigating buildings and society not designed for such expansive expressions of love; resisting urges to constantly adjust my mask so my breath doesn’t fog up my glasses; fumbling to open each piece of mail while wearing sweaty, plastic gloves. And yet, it is one of the most heart-warming events of my week.

Amongst the bills and junk mail are checks from you. It takes my breath away that, at this difficult time, you still make sure to pay your pledges, fund the mustard seed, and entrust our rector to meet the financial needs of the parish. Your commitment to our faith community and our mission is inspiring. To further hearten the staff, the checks are often accompanied by personal notes, simple but profound messages. These let us know you are thinking of us, missing us, appreciating us, and encouraging us.

There is one note I want to share with you.

Even though they have had to find alternative ways to convene, several of the groups that used to meet in our building have chosen to continue making donations to St. John’s. I thought you should know what St. John’s means to many in our community and, just as we have chosen to support neighborhood groups, they are choosing to support us.

Nothing is fine right now; life is awkward, lonely, and scary. I do not know what our future holds, but I do know that God is with us and we are surrounded by love. We truly are all in this together and we will get through this together.

Yours in Christ,

Sarah Dull
Executive Administrator

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
– Matthew 28:20

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