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Adapted from something I wrote four years ago:

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t just an impromptu, spontaneous procession that Sunday outside of Jerusalem in the year 30 where the supporters and fans of Jesus seated him on a donkey, cried “Hosanna,” and spread palm branches in his path as children cheered.

No, Jesus had planned it in advance, using the Jewish book of Jeremiah as his guide. Here it says that a king would be coming to Jerusalem “humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” It was to be a peaceful, procession, since Jeremiah also says that the king riding on a donkey will banish war from the land – no more chariots, war-horses, or bows.

Even more surprising is that there was a second procession that same day, at the same time, far different from that of the peaceful procession of Jesus and his enthuiastic supporters. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan tell us: “On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Ideuma, Judea, and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. It was the custom of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the major Jewish festival such as Passover, in case there was trouble.

They go on: “Imagine the imperial procession’s arrival in the city: A visual barrage of imperial power; cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun gleaming on metal and gold… The sounds of the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. The swirling of dust. Pilate’s procession was not only about Roman power but also Roman theology, wherein the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God.”

So Jesus entered the city from the east, on a donkey, Pilate from the west, in a golden chariot. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession, brandishing all of the might and power of the Roman Empire. The confrontation between these two powers continues through the last week of Jesus’ life. Holy Week is the story of this confrontation.

We, too, are conflicted, torn. The pull of the world and its obligations, along with the power of structures that hold us fast – commitments we must keep, appointments we cannot break, obligations we must honor — challenges the invitation to walk through this week with Jesus, step by step. The confrontation of powers, of authority, of loyalties, plays out in the hearts and lives of us all.

This Sunday we will carry our palms and process from the the undercroft, upstairs and outside and down Kent Street to mighty Summit Avenue, and then back to church, identifying ourselves to everyone who sees us as followers of Jesus. And then back to church where we will hear the full story…

See you there.
Barbara

The Poet Thinks About the Donkey

by Mary Oliver

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

Please note that the March 22 meeting originally mentioned in this post has been cancelled.

 

by Diane Wallace-Reid, originally published in the Mar-Apr 2018 Evangelist

 

In February our participation in Project Home and our bitter Minnesota temperatures focused us on the homeless in our community. One evening spent at Project Home playing with the children and listening to each family’s story reveals the day-to- day fragility of their lives and the strength and energy they need to survive.

Soon two members of our St. John’s community will begin a one year journey “walking with” two families who have just emerged from homelessness and are beginning their journey towards a hopefully more secure future.

For the families mentored by Hearts to Homes, homelessness is a recent memory, Some have been weeks in a shelter, or lived in their car, or “camped out” with relatives and friends.

The members of Hearts to Homes have been discussing ways in which we can better understand and serve the families we mentor by being more sensitive to the circumstances and needs of the homeless in our community.  Whether it be by assembling packets of useful items to give to those in need we meet on the street, by better understanding the extent of homelessness in our community, by becoming more aware of resources and organizations that serve the homeless, or by working to help eradicate homelessness, we invite you to share in this ministry with your presence, prayers and insights. Contact Margaret Thor at margaretcthor@gmail.com if you wish to learn more or be connected to a member of this ministry who would be glad to share more Hearts to Homes stories.

 

Many describe the Welsh poet and priest R.S. Thomas as a “poet of the cross,” and his poems often include the stark image of an empty cross – or an “untenanted” one, in his words. His untenanted cross no longer bears death, however, but witnesses life. There is nothing kind or warm about a cross. […]

via Poets of the Cross — Notes for a New Day

Originally published in the Mar-Apr 2018 Evangelist.

 

Saint John the Evangelist was one of 146 congregations across the country and only six in Minnesota, to receive the prestigious Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal grants in 2017.

Last summer, over a period of four months, Jered, along with six parishioners representing a diverse cross-section of Saint John’s (Joan Potter, Judy Stack, Terry Dinovo, Linda Lindeke, Elaine James, and the Rev. Ernie Ashcroft), collaborated to send in one of hundreds of applications.

According to Lilly, the grants are to enable congregations to “honor their pastors” with an extended period of leave and rest. As such, the application team created both a program of renewal for Jered as our rector and for the whole congregation. The Lilly Endowment says that “renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.”

But, perhaps this brings up more questions than it answers. Don’t worry, we’ve got some answers below!

 

So, what is a sabbatical?

It is based on the idea of sabbath (shabbat) a day set apart —  a day made holy by God for rest, worship, and renewal. In one of the Creation accounts in Genesis, God works for six days, and, we are told, on the seventh day God rested.

In his book The Sabbath, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel describes how humanity uses both time and space for constant acquisitiveness, always searching for more. Setting apart time, not for doing, but for being, is an act of sanctifying time and making it sacred.

For Episcopalians and for many Christian denominations, it is becoming common in the letter of agreement between clergy and congregation, to recommend that after the sixth year of ministry together provision be made for a period of three to four months of renewal leave. This is considered a “sabbatical.”

 

I’ve heard of colleges and universities offering sabbatical leave so professors can study or write. Why do churches offer sabbaticals?

The Lilly Foundation explains: “Pastors serve a variety of roles in their privileged position at the center of congregational life: preacher, teacher, spiritual guide, pastoral visitor…The responsibilities are continual, and the pace and demands of parish life can be relentless, often leaving even the most dedicated pastors recognizing the need to replenish their own spiritual reservoirs to regain energy and strength for their ministry.”

Moreover, by emphasizing the need and importance of sabbatical with their clergy, congregations hope to encourage parishioners to practice sabbath in their own lives.

It is important that pastors find rest and renewal, and it is important that congregations lift up the centrality of sabbath keeping as a key spiritual practice for all God’s people.

 

What exactly is “a renewal program” for both Jered and us?

The renewal program is four months (June 1, 2018 – October 1, 2018).  It was designed specifically to prepare St. John’s and Jered for our next season of engaged ministry together. Continuing this year’s theme of “Eat Together, Share Stories, Listen Deeply, Change the world,” our hope for this time is that we will continue to share meals and listen to one another’s stories to discern God’s call for our next steps in ministry.

The program will provide these things to Jered:

  • The opportunity for him to break bread with friends and family and reconnect with his own story by traveling to his childhood home in Alaska and also visiting his mother’s birthplace in India.
  • Time to discern how best to enter into the next chapter of his ministry with us.
  • Specific times of rest and prayer, reflecting on the first six years of our ministry together.

The program will provide these things to St. John’s:

  • Gatherings of small groups of parishioners around meals and stories.
  • Ample opportunity to continue to deepen the work of shared ministry.
  • A homecoming party or meal and other opportunities to share with Jered what we learned about shared ministry and about our shared stories.
  • A chance to hear from Jered what his time of discernment and renewal taught him about how to engage in ministry with us as we move forward.

 

How will Jered’s absence impact the everyday functioning of our faith community? Who will be covering his duties and responsibilities while he is away?

While clergy play a central role in the life of a faith community, the work of the church, especially in a large and growing place such as our own, is shared by many people. St. John’s is blessed to have an incredibly robust and highly competent staff. We also have a very strong representation of lay (and ordained) volunteer leaders. Staff and volunteer leaders will continue to support and sustain our ministry as they always do: in the building and in their offices, on Sunday mornings and during the week, shouldering many responsibilities and keeping everything running smoothly.

Jered, the parish staff, vestry, and key leaders are dividing duties and responsibilities and planning ahead for things that do need Jered’s input or decisions. Due to St. John’s budget capacity and the renewal grant, we will be able to pay for some supply clergy to cover sacramental and preaching duties in Jered’s absence.

The associate rector search is ongoing, and should be filled by the time of Jered’s departure. That person, along with the Reverend Susan Moss, will cover many of the requisite duties that Jered attends to as rector.

St. John’s is already building a shared ministry approach that will enable us to continue to grow. As you heard in the Annual Meeting, we have several new lay pastoral care providers through our Community of Hope International team. These leaders are carrying an ever greater load of pastoral visiting and Eucharistic ministry for the homebound, those in the hospital, and those recovering from illness. This sabbatical provides us a very unique opportunity to live into this vision of shared ministry.

 

Would anything bring Jered back from his sabbatical leave prematurely?

Barring a major disaster, crisis, or emergency in the life of St. John’s, Jered will be away for four months. All sacramental duties, including summer baptisms, weddings, funerals, and other services will be covered by the Reverend Susan Moss, our new Associate Rector, and visiting clergy.

 

I have heard that clergy often leave their congregations soon after a sabbatical. Should we be worried that Jered is leaving us?

One of the stipulations of the Lilly Renewal Grants is that both clergy and congregation commit to staying in pastoral relationship for a minimum of one year after the sabbatical ends. This is to ensure that the focus of the sabbatical is not for the clergy to begin searching for new calls, but instead how to use that time for renewal so as to return and serve their current congregation. Jered affirmed to the vestry and his sabbatical application team, that he envisions this to be a time of true renewal, to reconnect with his faith story, with family and friends and more deeply with God and God’s call on his life, and a time of gathering up energy and inspiration for the next big project or phase of ministry at St. John’s.

One of my favorite hymns to teach young choristers in years past has been Hymn 140 in The Hymnal 1982, and I urge you to take a few minutes to listen to this gorgeous recording. With its plaintive 17th century tune and text by John Donne it was seemingly far beyond their years, and yet somehow […]

via Undone by Donne — Notes for a New Day

Originally printed in the March-April 2018 Evangelist.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Of all the liturgies the Episcopal Church has to offer, I am grateful that the Prayerbook includes Compline. It holds a cadence and rhythm of grace and rest that is so needed at the end of a long day. One of the Compline prayers within I have come to cherish most is this:

Be present, O merciful God,
and protect us through the hours of this night,
so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life
may rest in your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I often find myself ruminating on this prayer at the end of a particularly difficult day. Change and chance are indeed wearying, but they are ever-present companions on the road of life.

We certainly experienced change and chance at St. John’s last year: staff transitions, the loss of some longtime members, and the joining of many newcomers. And in the coming year we will attempting further changes for the betterment of ourselves and our communities.

Because we can grow so “wearied” by change, I wanted to tell you about how we are addressing some of our upcoming transitions at St. John’s with planning and care:

The Associate Rector application deadline was February 5, and many well-qualified, gifted, and passionate priests applied. I will pull together a small advisory team to interview finalists, and together we will discern who our next associate rector will be, hopefully no later than Easter.

The Music Director search team has been assembled. They are finalizing a job description that will be posted by the time you read this letter. We are hopeful that there will be a wonderful slate of candidates to interview, so a finalist can be selected before I depart on sabbatical.

Presently we are blessed to have the Reverend Julie Luna with us as transitional deacon and seminarian intern. She has been faithfully tending our liturgy team, and she has been serving and learning in a variety of contexts under the guidance of a lay committee and her colleagues on staff. Julie’s time with us will end in May as she prepares to graduate. In June, God willing and the Bishop consenting, she’ll be ordained to the sacred order of priests. We are planning for that transition, and looking forward to celebrating the work she has done in our midst.

New vestry members and wardens were elected; now plans are coming together for our annual vestry retreat, where we’ll focus on vision and mission. This includes the work you heard about at Annual Meeting: begun by our Building Committee in collaboration with an architectural firm, and now discerning with the congregation where we want to go with our 1950’s parish house (the part of our physical plant that contains offices, classrooms, the gym, and adjacent rooms). They’ll be exploring whether a major renovation is in store, and whether other projects in our building are needed to better enable us to meet God’s mission in the decades to come.

And, as I said at our Annual Meeting, we are a growing faith community. Growth is by nature challenging. It requires adaptability and flexibility. It requires us to move over, create space, and welcome others with new ideas and new personalities.

To meet change faithfully requires us to work at our own transformation, and that can be wearying. As people of faith, we have to trust that the changeless One is always and ever in our midst. It is that Spirit that empowers us to work and serve in the midst of change. It is that same God in whose changeless presence we are given rest. And our essential selves share in that changelessness. For, if we are made in the image and likeness of God, then there is some unchangeable part of us that is colored by the Divine.

I’d like you to join me in the work of transformation at St. John’s in three concrete ways in the next several months:

  1. Pray for our search processes and for the people leading them and those discerning their call to come be our next Director of Music and Associate Rector.
  2. Spend time inviting the Holy Spirit to stir and inspire you to imagine what St. John’s could be. Share your imaginings and inspirations with your vestry and staff and one another.
  3. Welcome a visitor. Get to know them. Listen to their story. Tell them about St. John’s and about yourself. Invite someone you don’t yet know out for coffee or lunch.

I continue to be amazed by St. John’s ability to adapt, grow, reach out, rise to challenges, show up, and give for the transformation of the world. I am grateful for this place and its heart that is always seeking to be faithful. I am grateful for the ways in which you all help create community that nurtures, feeds, serves, and loves. That is something I hope never changes.

 

Faithfully,
Jered+