Feeds:
Posts
Comments

By the Rev. Barbara Mraz

As her name was announced and she stepped up to receive her college diploma, the school choir burst forth with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, an enthusiastic acknowledgment of a remarkable accomplishment and a dream realized.

Her journey brought her from war-torn Liberia to Morris Brown University in Atlanta and in 2004 to the Twin Cities. Today she is a mother of two impressive young daughters, a mental health practitioner and also a member of St. John’s. Hers is a story of personal and family strength, steadfast commitment, and the saving power of community.

 

UNDER ONE ROOF

She grew up in Robertsport, a small city in Liberia that was densely populated by Muslims. It was a close community; everyone knew one another including the kids. Her father was a traveling judge, and eventually an associate justice on the Supreme Court of Liberia. An older brother became a professor at the University of Liberia.

Her father loved his church, St. John’s Irving Memorial Episcopal Church, founded by Baptist missionaries from the U.S. He held virtually every position in his parish including senior warden, and was also chair of the Diocesan Council and Chancellor of the Diocese. Her mother was a practicing Muslim. Wuyah explains, “My siblings and I knew what Ramadan was and not to interrupt my mother when she was praying, but she also woke us up in the morning to go to church. She was there for all of our activities and reminded us when it was time to go to choir practice.” (Wuyah sang in the church choir from age seven until she came to America). “My mother held me when I was baptized and was present later when I was confirmed at age 12. Christians and Muslims got along fine in my community so I was confused and then shocked when I came to the U.S, and saw so much discord, intolerance and prejudice.”

 

WAR

In the early Nineties when Wuyah was thirteen, civil war broke out in Liberia. The family was forced to leave their home and city and flee to the west coast near Sierra Leone. Three years later, they returned to find their city in ruins. The roof had been blown off the school (although they still resumed classes there, without the roof). Her farther had lost his law practice and the family‘s finances were decimated. Wuyah lost two brothers during the war and a host of friends and relatives. After her brother Matthew was shot by a Nigerian soldier at a check point, Wuyah rushed to the scene and witnessed his lifeless body dragged and thrown into the back of a truck. Instantly, her world changed: She would leave her country and somehow go to college in America.

Her father had earned a Master’s degree himself at the State University of Illinois and had taught her: “Education is the key that will unlock the doors.” She believed him.

 

“I THINK I CAN SING”

Immediately, Wuyah went to the American Embassy and applied for a visa. One requirement was to have a support system in America—relatives, friends, someone who could help provide financial support. She had none of these but told the interviewer ,”I can’t live in this country any more.” She related the murders of family members and the death of her brother. She was told to come back the next day.

When she did, the interviewer said, “I believe in you and God bless you.” She handed Wuyah her passport. Inside was her visa.

Immediately she began researching schools and sent out numerous applications. She had decided that that the first school to accept her would be where she would go. That school was Morris Brown College in Atlanta, an historically-black school originally affiliated with the African-American Episcopal Church.

She arrived at Morris Brown in 1997 and started attending classes, not knowing she was not officially registered. After a month she went to the registrar’s office and admitted she had no money, no scholarship, and no obvious means of support. When asked about her interests she said, “I think I can sing.”

She met with the head of the Music Department and formed a lasting friendship with the woman who would become her mentor. She cleaned houses, she slept on people’s couches, and along the way she received scholarships to help her. She graduated with a degree in Business Management and Accounting and a 3.8 grade average, Magna Cum Laude.

 

“THEY EMBRACED ME”

In Atlanta, Wuyah had two children, Geegbey and Hawah Sharon, “named for my African and American mothers.” (Hawah was her mother’s name; Sharon was the name of the music director at Morris Brown.)

With her daughters in tow, Wuyah came to Minnesota in 2004 because she found she had cousins here. “I didn’t realize it would be so cold,” she admits.

Wuyah remembers: “For a time I was really struggling; my girls were ages three and under one. I stayed with a cousin, I stayed with a friend, I had no job and no transportation. However, I befriended a woman in the Liberian community who then introduced me to some other women about my mother’s age. There were nine of them and they embraced me; they babysat for me every day so that I could find a job and go to work.”

 

TWO FULL-TIME JOBS

Wuyah got a job at Wells Fargo in the mortgage department and a second job at a human services agency, two full-time jobs. Her daily schedule would be to get up and be on her way by 5:00am and drop off the kids so as to be at work by 6:00. She finished her second job at 10:00pm, picked up the kids at 10:30 and then went home to make lunches and get ready for the next day. She slept four hours a night. She did this for five years.

She says she often wondered where she got the strength, why she didn’t break down. She says,” I believe in the concept of parental blessing. I believe my parents were praying for me. I believe you have to honor your parents and every word that comes out of their mouths. My father taught me that to whom much is given, much is required. He believed in high standards, in respect for elders.”

Wuyah’s culture require her to take care of her parents, siblings and other family members. She is the bread winner for her family. For the past twenty years, she has consistently shared her monthly earnings with siblings, parents, nieces, nephews and others. She has paid tuition for over fifty family members. She is responsible for medical bills and emergencies for her family, not only in Liberia but also in Ghana.

She had subsequent jobs working with the elderly and this led her to a Master’s degree in Health and Human Services at St. Mary’s University; she is about to receive a second Master’s there in Human Resources Management. She managed a Traumatic Brain Injury program and now is a social worker working in the field of mental health. (“There is not one mental health agency in Liberia,” she notes.) She and her daughters live in Maple Grove.

Wuyah looked at churches in the Twin Cities for a long time before coming to St John’s. It was the choir and the warmth of the welcome that convinced her to stay. Now she is a mentor for a Hearts to Homes family and notes, “It would cost people a lot of money to get these services and they are provided free. The fact that St. John’s does this is a very big deal.”

 

TRAGEDY RESURFACES

In 2014 she was struck by yet another tragedy. The Ebola outbreak in Liberia took the lives of her older sister and a niece; a total of 14 family members died in less than two weeks. Yet Wuyah says, “Despite experiences of 13 years of civil conflict, hardships and tragedies, I am not bitter but remain grateful because God has never failed me.”

 

Wuyah’s personal strength and steadfast belief continue to have positive effects, large and small, on those around her. One day her daughters rushed by another young girl in the apartment lobby. Wuyah insisted that they come back and introduce themselves to each other. Now they walk home from school together.

“Hallelujah” indeed.

 

Originally published in the January-February 2018 Evangelist.

By Bette Ashcroft

“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.”
-Dr. Parker J. Palmer

Who in the world are you?                          

What in heavens name are you doing? 

These are some serious spiritual questions. Have you ever experienced a yearning to discover the real purpose of your life? To learn how to recognize and respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the “ordinary”?

Life in 2018 is full of noise and distraction. So many tools that exist to make our lives simple and efficient have instead burdened us with ever more demands on our time and attention. Amid all these distractions, I invite you to pause: to take some time to consider what special and specific ministry God intends for you.

Every individual is blessed with gifts, interests, and experiences that allow us to participate in the ongoing renewal and reconciliation of God’s creation. Those of us who are not ordained priests and deacons (the “laity”) are meant “to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” (BCP p. 855)

This means we can do more than simply “fill in” the gaps which exist in the life of our parish community. Finding the shape of our gifts goes beyond volunteering for any ministry that needs helpers. It means finding the true meaning and purpose that God has shaped us for. This is a process that requires, above all, prayerful attention.

Once we discover our true shape for ministry, our lives will be enriched rather than diminished, we’ll be energized rather than exhausted. We will see how we may fit into the bigger picture of God’s design. We may need to let go of some things in order to make space for others.

You may feel you have already tried, and perhaps failed, to discover your spiritual gifts. What should you do next? What will allow you to fully engage in the ministry we have been created to embody?

Here at St. John’s, we have two new resources to assist you in answering these questions.

On Saturday, November 10, a workshop called “Finding Your Fit: You are SHAPED for Ministry” will be held from 9am-1pm in the Fireside Room. First you will explore your own unique passion, gifts, personal style, and experience. This is followed by a one-hour meeting with a trained consultant who will focus on your personal profile and how it might fit with opportunities to serve at St. John’s or in the wider community. Finally, you will be encouraged to serve in the ministry you have identified. You will not be “drafted” into serving. The purpose of SHAPE is to assist, not push, you into ministry that is life giving rather than energy draining. There is no cost for the workshop, and lunch is served. RSVP to Lea Anne Schmidt at leaanne.schmidt@stjohnsstpaul.org.

We also recommend Dr. Parker J. Palmer’s short book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation as a wonderful way to prepare for this discernment. Dr. Palmer draws from the Quaker tradition of deep listening. Several volumes are available in the Library; please borrow a copy and return it when you have finished so that others may enjoy.

Together, let us pause to listen and discover who God has shaped us to be and to do.

 

 

Originally published in the November-December 2018 Evangelist.

by The Rev. Craig Lemming, Associate Rector

Sometimes, our minds wander during worship. Perhaps it’s because we are so familiar with the words that our minds switch to “auto-pilot” and we don’t really think about what we are saying when we recite the Creeds. At Evensong on Sunday, we chanted The Apostles’ Creed and we affirmed our belief in “the communion of saints.Thankfully, my mind was fully engaged, and our chanting of this phrase in the Apostles’ Creed reminded me of my favorite portion of our Catechism, found on page 862 in The Book of Common Prayer:

Q.

What is the communion of saints?

A.

The communion of saints is the whole family of God,
the living and the dead, those whom we love and those
whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament,
prayer, and praise.

 

 

Q.

What do we mean by everlasting life?

A.

By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we
are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully
knowing and loving God and each other.

 

 

Q.

What, then, is our assurance as Christians?

A.

Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even
death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


I am deeply comforted by these three responses which conclude our Catechism. As we approach the Feast of All Saints on November 1st and the Feast of All Souls on November 2nd, may we come to know this Truth again: that every person is indeed a member of “the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt,” and that all of our relationships – broken or whole; mended or un-mended – are indeed “bound together in Christ.”

On the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, when we pause to remember “those whom we love and those whom we hurt,” we oftentimes do not know where to bring our complex feelings of joy and celebration comingled with feelings of grief and loss. I would like to offer two rituals I participate in – one sacred and public, the other secular and private – which help me to embrace and bless these intense and intricate sentiments.

For the Feast of All Saints, in lieu of Sung Compline, we will celebrate Holy Eucharist at St. John’s on Thursday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m. We will be blessed to have the exquisite musicians of LUMINA women’s ensemble who will offer anthems and sing the Ordinary of the Mass by composers spanning the centuries from the Medieval and Renaissance eras to contemporary masters to celebrate this Holy Feast Day. In the “beauty of Holiness” I can bring the bitter-sweet emotions All Saints’ Day evokes in me, and together with members of my faith community, celebrate and partake in Holy Eucharist. I hope you will join us on the evening of All Saints’ Day to “be filled with God’s grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Christ, that God may dwell in us, and we in God.

The secular and private ritual I find deeply comforting, is to meditate with the German art song, Allerseelen or “All Souls’ Day” by Richard Strauss. I invite you to join me in this ritual on All Souls’ Day: make a list of all your loved ones who are now deceased; speak their names silently in your hearts or aloud on lips; cherish a fond memory of each of them; and then, listen to this exquisite performance of Richard Strauss’s Allerseelen linked below, following along with the English translation. As you do all of this, remember, “By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other,” and that “nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

Poem by Hermann von Gilm

Stell auf den Tisch die duftenden Reseden,
Die letzten roten Astern trag herbei,
Und laß uns wieder von der Liebe reden,
Wie einst im Mai.

Gib mir die Hand, daß ich sie heimlich drücke,
Und wenn man’s sieht, mir ist es einerlei,
Gib mir nur einen deiner süßen Blicke,
Wie einst im Mai.

Es blüht und duftet heut auf jedem Grabe,
Ein Tag im Jahr ist ja den Toten frei,
Komm am mein Herz, daß ich dich wieder habe,
Wie einst im Mai.

All Souls’ Day
English Translation by Richard Stokes

Set on the table the fragrant mignonettes,
Bring in the last red asters,
And let us talk of love again
As once in May.

Give me your hand to press in secret,
And if people see, I do not care,
Give me but one of your sweet glances
As once in May.

Each grave today has flowers and is fragrant,
One day each year is devoted to the dead;
Come to my heart and so be mine again,
As once in May.

English Translation: Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

At first I thought I had won the October Lectionary Lottery.

Two weeks ago, the Gospel presented the topic of divorce. Last week Jesus said that to follow him you need to give away all that you have. This week I drew “humility.”

In comparison, how hard can that be?

Oh wait…..

Could there be a less relevant topic in our self-esteem-obsessed, arrogant culture? All you have to do is watch the wrenching political ads that play repeatedly and relentlessly on television and you know that humility isn’t much in our political or national vocabulary. The highest leaders in our land can’t seem to admit their mistakes and hurl insults at half the population on a regular basis.

It can be exhausting and depressing, more so if you are on social media where your friends post regularly about their justifiable anguish. It also just makes me sad, discouraged.

Maybe we have to look elsewhere for examples of humility, those who are secure in who they are and yet have no need to attack others in the process.

Like Big Bird, whose puppeteer Carrol Finney, retired this week at age 84.

‘On July 2, 1990, Big Bird appeared at Jim Henson’s memorial service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, singing Kermit the Frog’s signature song, “Bein’ Green”. Performer Spinney nearly broke down several times during the deeply touching performance, which was later described by Life as “an epic and almost unbearably moving event.’” (Wikipedia)

See you in church, where Jesus calls us to service, and God gives a heart-stopping reprimand to Job and to all of us. In the meantime, take a break and watch an 8-foot tall yellow bird show you what humility look like.

Barbara

by the Rev. Julie Luna, Curate

I’ve been pondering our journey together this past year as I’ve served at St. John’s both as a Transitional Deacon and as Curate, and how so many of my experiences have been ones of building Beloved Community.

The Episcopal Church, with the guidance of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, uses the promises found in our Baptismal Covenant as a guide to building Beloved Community.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will persevere in resisting evil, and when we fall into sin, we will repent and return to the Lord.

 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43)

Each week I witnessed and participated in the St. John’s community coming together to proclaim our faith by listening to Scripture, confessing our sins, receiving forgiveness, and sharing a Holy Communion meal to remind us that we are part of the body of Christ.

Food is a really important part of my life and that of my family’s life.  I was pleased that St. John’s offered so many opportunities to eat together and to eat really good food together at the New Member lunch, the Chili Cook Off, the Christmas gathering, and the Sabbath dinner meals.  My favorite food gathering was the sabbatical ice cream social in the parking lot with the farmer’s market!  Gathering for a meal is an act of reconciliation as we leave our grudges at the door and enter into the sharing of food in Christ’s name.  It is a time to reconnect and re-learn why we love and our community and in that act we forgive one another and we again become the one body of Christ.  We practiced this each week as we shared the Holy Communion meal, and St. John’s shared with me the art of extending that Sunday meal to other times in the year when we could be a reconciling and loving community through sharing a good meal.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.  (Matthew 26:12-13)

St. John’s is a living example of the good news, modeling by example the Good News of God in Christ.  Each Wednesday morning, I arrived at the church and headed to my office in the Gathering Space.  Twice a month, I was pleased to be welcomed by the prayer shawl knitting group.  One morning I had the honor of blessing a prayer shawl that our pastoral care team would take to a person in need of the prayers lovingly knitted into each stitch of the beautiful creation.  I liked to imagine that when a person draped themselves with the carefully crafted and blessed shawl they were experiencing the same feeling of love and compassion that Christ did when the woman anointed his head with oil.  That each shawl was like oil flowing with the love and prayers of our St. John’s community.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

I arrived at church each Sunday about 7:00 am to set the altar for the 8:00 service, make sure the readings and prayers were in the binder, and check on last minute details.   Each week, I was not alone.  There were others there with me to serve Christ in all the people of our community, and to love them as Christ.  Two consistent souls came early to make coffee—a much-appreciated gift for clergy and lay leaders as they began their day.  The altar guild faithfully appeared to clean up the 8:00 service and set up for the 10:00 service.  Many of these important tasks may go unnoticed and yet they are acts of love and service to our neighbor.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

…learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

In the warmer months when I arrived at church Sunday mornings, the farmers were already setting up the Farmer’s Market.  I was excited when I saw them and couldn’t wait to see what seasonal fruits, vegetables, and flowers with which they would surprise me.  I often wandered out there between our Sunday services and bought fruits and vegetables for my weekly menu (the one I made up based on what I bought!).

I also had the opportunity to visit Hallie Q. Brown and learn about its programs.  My family and I spent an evening with several Project Home families.  My favorite memories are that of three little girls combing and styling my daughter’s long hair, and my son running and playing with other children while they played ball with our family dog.

St. John’s is filled with compassionate people supporting one another, and the broader with its many local and international ministries.  Each of these ministries helps build justice and peace and respect the dignity of all God’s people.

I am grateful for the love I have received from the St. John’s community and the ways in which we have engaged in and fostered Beloved Community.  And now, it is time for me to take what I have learned and spread my wings in a new faith community and learn to live into Beloved Community with new people and new challenges.  I take you with me and know that the love I’ve received from St. John’s will always reside in my heart and guide me in the ways of Beloved Community.  Peace and Love to All of You.

The men and women of the Bible held the Sabbath so dear that they made it the Fourth Commandmentplacing it above the injunction against murder…

Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World

 

By the Rev. Barbara Mraz

When our rector and his family return from their sabbatical, we will hear all about it: the experiences, the adventures, the insights. They will also hear about what happened at St. John’s in their absence.

Here are some preliminary responses, preceded by a personal reflection on the challenging, persistent command to observe the Sabbath, even after summer ends.

Sabbatical and Sabbath

Both demand a break from the ordinary, the routine, the unnoticed, business as usual. The Scriptural mandate that the seventh day of the week “belongs to God,” has been replaced today by seeing Sunday as the last day of the weekend, perhaps interchangeable with Saturday. In fact, for many it often looks identical to Saturday, with the same tasks calling and the same schedule in place.

As Judith Shulevitz writes, “God stopped creating after six days to show us that what we create becomes meaningful only once we stop creating it and start remembering why it was worth creating in the first place.  …We could let the world wind us up and set us to working like dolls that go until they fall over because they have no way of stopping.  But that would make us less than human.  We have to remember to stop, because we have to stop to remember.”

I admit I have been sloppy about Sundays. While I almost always go to church, from noon on can be catch-up time: laundry, grocery shopping, yard work, house stuff. My grandsons have soccer practice and games virtually seven days a week some times. Weekly “family dinners” must be scheduled weeks ahead.

How, then, to “keep the Sabbath”? Remember, Sabbath can be observed whether you live alone or with a family or any other group that gathers on a regular basis and on any day of the week.

The major idea is to start small, remembering that the larger culture will rarely support you in your efforts. Overall, Americans are no longer a Sabbath people.

Sabbath and Community

The writer quoted above says this about the collective aspect of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath can easily be reconfigured as a twelve-step program for forging community spirit.”

I think that has happened this summer. We are socializing more often, hearing more diverse ideas from the pulpit, and have had the Sunday pressure and intensity reduced. This, in spite of the fact that during eight days at the end of July, we had three funerals!

More opportunities to give your thoughts and reactions will be coming soon.

Reflections on the Summer So Far

“I have loved the women power in the pulpit and at the altar! I hope it continues!”

“I like having the altar closer and distribution of Communion standing up and the chance for new service music.”

“We have dined and coffeed informally more this summer — not with sabbatical intentions— but with church people whom we have gotten to know. Perhaps the encouragement of the Sabbath dinners has helped this, or maybe just because we have felt closer to people.”

“The sermons from non-clergy provided us with insight that we may view as outside of the norm; I enjoy them during Holy week and again now.”

“The Sabbatical dinners are a blast! We all seem to let our guard down and really talk about ourselves and REALLY listen to each other.”

“I like Susan’s calm demeanor during the services.”

“I never knew how many supply clergy we had at SJE; we are really blessed! “

“As an 8 o’clock regular, I heard from people preaching who I never met; it caused me to listen harder, reflect on why they should impact me. The new made me work harder; more discussions at home, as well. The biggest point for me – I realize how lazy I’ve become, going by rote. Now it’s more like: Wait? What was said? What was referenced? I don’t remember that Eucharistic prayer at 8. Who is this? Why is ‘Hallelujah’ being sung before that sermon? I’ve woken up these last two Sundays, to go back and read 2 Samuel again and beyond. Is it odd that I feel ‘bring it on’ is in order? I am looking forward to seriously attending adult formation in the fall. I’ve never committed to that before.”

“It has been good to think about Jered and his family getting this time away together. Being the center of a church must be exhausting physically and emotionally and I imagine that this time will rejuvenate their family. When there are glitches on Sundays, it makes me smile and realize that everyone at SJE is pitching in to make the sabbatical work. The glitches have not been a negative but a positive.”

“I have really enjoyed the visiting preachers and the whole sermon series. New perspectives and new topics to consider.”

“Highlights for me have been the sermon series and dinners.”

“I’m not sure if it’s summer or the sabbatical but I feel less attached to the church and that there’s a little less of Jesus or God orientation in my life. It’s more guided by the fun activities of summer. I miss the structure. The ‘breaking bread and sharing stories’ dinners [that] were part of the sabbatical, these were positive.”

“Sunday attendance has seemed really good! I liked knowing who was coming up as a preacher and reading a little about them in the service sheet.”

“I have seen God through the smiles and positive feedback from folks who hosted and attended the dinners and ice cream social. I think our parish has needed the encouragement to JUST BE WITH each other. So many folks express the desire to get to know others but don’t always know how to go about it. This was a way in for people.”

 

 

What’s in the Room?

by the Rev. Susan Moss

Back in mid-May, the Sabbatical Season of Renewal was about to begin for our rector Jered, his family, the staff, and congregation. We were all preparing to head out into unknown territory. (Wagons Ho!) I asked, in a homily, one of my favorite questions: “What’s in the room?

As I write today, we are heading into the final month of the Sabbatical Season.

In the midst of another glorious, always too short summer, there have been new faces at the altar and new voices in the pulpit, a pilgrimage, two weddings and an ordination. We gathered as a community of faith to mourn the deaths and support the families of Dick Lyman, Jeanne Gilbertson, and Cooper Olson.

An ice cream social, sabbatical dinners, a rousing Thursday Book group, young adult and young family gatherings and the picnic with Holy Apostles are deepening relationships among us. We will bid farewell and thanks to Monte Mason as Interim Music Director though he will continue as Compline Coordinator.

What’s “in the room?” these days?

In September a mix of familiar and new faces will literally be in the room on Sundays. Margaret Thor is back in the deacon’s post. Associate Rector Craig Lemming will join Julie, Barbara, and me at the altar and in the pulpit. Music Director Richard Gray will be on the organist bench, and with the choir’s return, we will resume the use of the high altar.

As we prepare now to welcome and celebrate Jered and his family’s return, I urge you to take time to reflect on these Sabbatical months.  One of the ways to do this is by practicing The Examen. For centuries prayerful people have found direction by setting aside time to ask two questions: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? One of the aims of the St. John’s Sabbatical is to increase connection with one another. So you might also ask:  When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, to others, to God and the universe? When did I have the least sense of belonging?*  Your reflections can lead to insights and direction on what to maintain and what to leave behind when the Sabbatical Season ends.

Father Greg Boyle is founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles: one of the world’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry programs. Boyle’s call to practice “kinship across lines of difference” inspired and gave shape to the founding of  ECMN’s chapter of The Episcopal Service Corps, now beginning it’s third year. Craig Lemming, founding Program Director, named ECMN’s service corps Circle of the Beloved, reflecting MLK, Jr.’s  vision of a society based on justice, love, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human being.

Boyle’s new book Barking to the Choir: Power of Radical Kinship was on my summer reading list. His stories of kinship with gang members have bearing on those who seek to increase deeper human connections that matter.

It is true enough, Boyle writes, that we could make the world more just, equal, and peaceful, but something holds us back, in all our complicated fear and human hesitation. It’s sometimes just plain hard to locate the will to be in kinship—even though, at the same time, it’s our deepest longing. So no matter how singularly focused we may be on our worthy goals of peace, justice, and equality, they actually can’t happen without an undergirding sense that we belong to each other. Seek first the kinship of God, then watch what happens.

In gratitude for the kinship you have shared with me,
Susan Moss
Sabbatical Priest in Charge

 

*Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. Denis, Sheila, Matthew Linn Paulist Press

 

Originally published in the September-October 2018 Evangelist.