First some sad news: Yesterday afternoon, death came as a friend to Joanne Kyle Francis with husband Scott by her side, just as he has been throughout the years of illness.
May she rest in peace, and rise in glory!
As part of my responsibilities with Christ Church in Guilford, I serve in the "councils" of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. In particular, it is my privilege to serve on the Deacons' Council chaired by Bishop Laura Ahrens; this Council works to support those called to this iconic servant ministry under the direction of their bishops. This is on my mind because this morning I attended the ordination of three new deacons at our Cathedral in Hartford. In this beautiful two-plus hour service, these new deacons were ordained to represent and interpret Christ and the Church to the world, and to interpret the needs of the world to the Church.
The order of deacons was created in the earliest days of the Church, when the apostles needed help serving those in need in Jerusalem. After describing how the effective ministry of the first seven deacons added greatly to the number of disciples (followers of Jesus), comes a bit that always make me smile: "... and a great many of the priests become obedient to the faith."(Acts 6:7) Now these priests were members of the Temple priesthood, not Christian priests -- that ministry had not yet been created; nonetheless, I can't help but smile! The order of Christian priests developed in post-biblical times when bishops, the successors of the first apostles, needed help in their ministry of preaching, baptizing and celebrating the Eucharist in the quickly growing communities of Christians around the Mediterranean.
When a deacon or deacons are present at a Eucharistic celebration, the Prayer Book underscores their ministry by designating them to proclaim the Gospel, to lead the Prayers of the People, to assist in the distribution of Communion, and to dismiss the congregation to "... love and serve the Lord (by serving the Lord's people)." The primary ministry of deacons, however, is not in worship, but in leading ministries of service to those on the margins. Two of today's new deacons lead ministries with the homeless, and with those who are estranged from their families and the Church; they were raised up and formed through a diocesan training program. One of today's deacons serves a parish community, and is considered a "transitional deacon;" she has a seminary education and will likely be ordained to the priesthood within the year.
Today's ordinations were particularly poignant for me. After being ordained a transitional deacon, I was ordained to the priesthood twenty-five years ago today. (I only realized this yesterday evening in conversation with a colleague.) The ordination service was in the parish that I was serving in Portland, Oregon; the next day I celebrated the Eucharist for the first time, in the parish that had sent me to seminary. Today's preacher recalled a question she was asked in one of the required interviews before her ordination: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" She reported that she had responded that she had "No Idea" where she would be or how God's call to her would unfold, but she was willing to respond. That certainly echoes my experience of these twenty-five years! I had no idea where or how God would call me to serve; absolutely no idea that I would be with you all in Guilford all these years later. I'm just grateful that I was given the grace to respond and say, "Yes" to the adventure!
The Prayer Book reminds us that all Christians are called "... to follow Christ, to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray and give for the spread of the kingdom of God."(p.856) And I'm the lucky fool who gets to do that with all of you! Our Annual Parish Meeting is coming up, and I look forward to how God will call us to continue serving together in the years ahead.
In faith and hope,
Here's an afternoon weather report from the Green: It's snowing so hard, that almost the only vehicles out have plows. And, I just saw someone go by cross-country skiing -- which looks like a lot of fun! The snow storm began as predicted, and the forecast for its conclusion also seems a safe bet. So, I expect our Sunday worship will proceed more or less as scheduled. I'm certain I'll be able to get safely across the driveway to the church! Our ever-dependable sexton, Sheward Hagerty assures me he'll be here early in the morning to clear the overnight accumulation.
But how about you? What will the conditions be on your driveway and in your neighborhood in the morning? Please be careful, and heed the warnings and instructions of public safety officials.
Similarly, I expect our 4 p.m. Epiphany Evensong and Roast Beef Supper will proceed more or less as planned.
The readings for tomorrow's worship services may be a bit dis-orienting: In the morning, we join the rest of the Church in celebrating the Baptism of Our Lord; in this story, Jesus is an adult. In the afternoon, we will recall the visit of the Wise Watchers of the Stars to the Holy Family in Bethlehem; in this story, Jesus is still a baby. In both services, we celebrate the Incarnation: that in Jesus, God came to dwell with us, that he was baptized just like us, and was recognized from birth as king, priest and sacrifice for the people of every nation.
A number of Christmas Carols actually focus on the Epiphany -- the revelation of Jesus' mission and identity, and we'll sing six of them during Evensong. Our celebration will continue with an Epiphany Party and Rector's Roast Beef Dinner. There will be a special Mac & Cheese for those who prefer. Please bring an appetizer or dessert to share, and any adult beverage you would like to offer your table. It would be great to have a "King's Cake" or two.
Please also consider helping with the set-up for, serving during, or clean-up after the dinner.
Weather permitting, Sunday School, Children's Chapel Time, Middle School Forum, the Young Adult Program and the Rectory Forum will all meet at their usual times this Sunday. However, parish education gatherings will not meet the following Sunday, January 15, due to the Martin Luther King Holiday.
Look for the Nursery on the Sunday School hallway beginning this Sunday. Following Safe Church guidelines, we are consolidating all Sunday morning child care in one area. Our Sunday School Director will now be able to supervise classroom activities and the Nursery.
Thanks to the Choir! In addition to leading us in singing God's praise during the 10a.m. service, as an experiment, our Choir will also set up the coffee makers for Fellowship Time following our worship. This should lighten the burden for hosting Coffee Hour. Please consider signing up, perhaps with another household or group, to host. As a matter of fact, please consider helping out this Sunday or sometime soon!
Also during Coffee Hour this Sunday, look for Rose Robinson, and purchase the new Christ Church Cookbook! And while you're there, be sure to thank Rose for compiling the cookbook! Thanks also to David Moore for the cover illustration, and to all who provided such a great array of recipes.
In faith and hope,
P.S. Please keep Ken Link, and the Link-Patino family in your prayers, as Ken's mortal life draws to a close surrounded by love and prayers.
Our Celebrations of the birth of Jesus, the Christ child continue! During these Twelve Days of Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus occurs on a Sunday. This day, perhaps better known as New Year's Day, is always the eighth day of Christmas -- the day when a Jewish baby boy would be officially named. So our services of Christmas readings (and carols at 10 a.m.), will celebrate that this child was named, "God Saves," -- Yehoshua in Hebrew, and Jesus in Greek.
Please bring a treat to share for a potluck Coffee Hour. The last bit of a dip or spread would be great!
Not only do we get to enjoy different dimensions of the Christmas story, and sing more Christmas carols, we get to gather amidst the Christmas flowers, candles and greenery! Many thanks to all of you whose memorial and thanksgiving gifts helped provide all that made our house of worship look so splendid! Thanks also to Marsha Brown who spent most of the week getting everything in place! Thanks also to Erik and Harold Mastalerz for cleaning the carpets!
When folks arrived for our Nativity Pageant service on Christmas Eve, they were greeted by music provided by our Youth Ensemble of strings, clarinet and saxophone, all under the direction of Suky Bryan. Thanks to Suky and to all our young musicians -- including returning collegian Bronwyn Reeve!
Then came the Pageant itself! Thanks to the parents and grandparents who got their little sheep, shepherds, angels, kings, Holy Family members, and not-so-little narrators to the morning rehearsal and the service itself! Special thanks go to Donna Lafata, Becky Patino, Stephanie Hutchison, and Marybeth Clarke. Sunday School Director Laurie Varley had everything in readiness for the pageant players; and Music Director Mark Sullivan led them in sharing the Nativity Story in song with youthful enthusiasm. A special good-guy award goes to Anthony Lafata for humoring YFNR's notion about rehanging the "Bethlehem" backdrop; thanks Anthony, it really did look terrific!
Our Choir and special musicians led the music for the later Festal Candlelight service; and they did so splendidly! We are all profoundly grateful!! As with all of our Christmas services, many visitors found "room in the inn" with us. Thanks to all of you for welcoming them so graciously. We "... may have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)
In his Christmas message, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry connects the life-changing event of the birth of every child to the birth of Jesus -- a birth that continues to change lives. I hope you will take time to read and/or hear it; the closest thing to a "sermon" you'll get from me this weekend. You can find it HERE.
Happy New Year!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Rector
P.S. The New Christ Church Cookbook will be available again beginning Sunday in the Rectory entry hall. The book is filled with fellow parishioners' favorite recipes, and has David Moore's handsome watercolor image of our building on the cover. It's a great New Year's hostess gift!
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!