On Memorial Day, the Guilford High School Voices will offer a joint choral concert with the select choirs of Ledyard High School at 4 p.m.. Given the excellent acoustics of Christ Church, Voices' director Kevin Buno said our nave was the first choice for this event. Several Christ Church young people are among the Voices, including a graduating senior or two; so this Memorial Day concert is a special opportunity to hear some great ensemble singing.
A profound bow of gratitude to our Sunday School children, youth readers and their directors, Miss Laurie and Mr. Sullivan, on last Sunday's effective telling ot the Pentecost story.. The children sang their parts with spirited conviction; the readers did not balk on the challenges of place names like Cappadocia, Pamphylia and Phrygia, and the congregation sounded off the concerns of those who gathered in Jerusalem on that first day of Pentecost -- "What does this mean?" and, "They are filled with new wine!" -- with the appointed gestures. It was a day to dream dreams and see visions again, just as St. Peter said, all those years ago.
As part of our observance of the Pentecost weekend, Jennifer Huebner and I were honored to present Christ Church's candidates for Confirmation at Camp Washington on Saturday, May 19. As you may recall, it was a damp and foggy day, but all nine of our candidates, and their family members, joined the other 46 candidates and their families from other parishes for the service in Kenyon Hall. In a message to the newly confirmed and their families, I wrote, "You adapted creatively to the situation; a sure sign of letting the Holy Spirit take charge. I hope you’ll hold onto what Bishop Laura had to say about breathing in God’s Spirit, and then breathing it out to share God’s love in tangible ways in your daily lives. Also hope you remember the experience of Bishop Laura’s hands on your heads as she prayed for each of you:
Strengthen, O Lord, your servant, …, with your Holy Spirit,
empower them for your service; and
sustain them all the days of their lives. Amen.
Please join me in thanking Jennifer Huebner for her assistance in leading our Monday evening confirmation discussions, and chaperoning youth participation in Chapel on the Green, The Big Sleep Out, Nightwatch/NYC Overnight, and Dinner with our Bishops! I think Jennifer was as proud of Alex, Hannah, Lauren, Keelyn, Matthew, Megan, Michael, Olivia, and Sabrina as any of the proud parents!
As appropriate for Pentecost, we received an update on what the Holy Spirit is up to in Malawi during Coffee Hour. Seminarian Derek Stefanovsky returned with news about the mission and work of St. Peter's School and Anglican Cathedral on Likoma Island in Lake Malawi, and challenges of providing education, health care and spiritual care in the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi. As requested, Derek has developed a secure and accountable means of putting gifts to their appointed use. Please look on the Ushers' Table and in the Parish Hal for the description sheets he provided.
Many conversations this week included favorite moments from last Saturday's Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle in St. George's Chapel, Windsor. There were certainly many such for me, but right up there with the look of open-mouthed delight on the face of one of the Mulroney twins at the sound of the herald trumpet, was the sermon by +Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal News Service has provided two ways to watch the sermon, as well as its text here. Bishop Michael's inspiring message about the unselfish, sacrificial "Way of Love" to redeem and transform "this tired old world" seemed to catch many by surprise. Many of us who have heard him preach before were thrilled, but not surprised. He certainly made the rounds of morning television. Here he is on ABC, the View, and NBC. One of the breakout moments in any interview, surely came from +Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he threw up his hands to a question about the wedding being unconventional: "There's nothing conventional about Christianity!" replied the Archbishop. That was part of a SKY news interview following the wedding; you can see it here.
Wherever you are this Memorial Day weekend, let us all take time to remember and give thanks "for those who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy..." (For Heroic Service, BCP, p. 839) On Sunday, we will sing of
"...heroes proved in liberating strife,
who more than self, their country loved,
and mercy more than life!"
In faith, hope and love,
Our Sunday School children and youth will lead our celebration of Pentecost at 10 a.m. So, we've re-ordered the first part of the service to focus on the Pentecost story-telling. The youngsters will use word and song to convey Sunday's reading from Acts -- about the coming of the Holy Spirit upon a fearful crew gathered in an Upper Room, and the startled reaction of folks in Jerusalem from many nations who heard the disciples proclaiming "God's deeds of power" in their own languages.
Sunday School Parents: Although your children have been rehearsing their songs for weeks now, they have an important opportunity to rehearse their presentation in the church at 10 a.m., on Saturday, May 19.
To support the children, and join the Pentecost celebration, please wear red! Actually, any flame color will do; we're recalling the "divided tongues, as of fire" that rested upon those early disciples.
As appropriate for Pentecost, we'll get an update on what the Holy Spirit is up to in Malawi during Coffee Hour. Seminarian Derek Stefanovsky will return with news about the mission and work of St. Peter's School and Anglican Cathedral on Likoma Island in Lake Malawi. As a further enticement, the Outreach Committee will host the Coffee Hour.
On the day before Pentecost, May 19, we will be celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit among our Youth Confirmation Group. We will join folks from other parishes at Camp Washington in Lakeside, CT, for a Service of Confirmation led by Bishop Laura Ahrens. Please keep our confirmands Alex, Hannah, Lauren, Keelyn, Matthew, Megan, Michael, Olivia, and Sabrina in your prayers; Bishop Laura's prayer for them begins,
"Strengthen, O Lord, your servants with your Holy Spirit;
empower them for your service....
Thank you for your prayers for the Group's May 11-12 travel to NYC for Nightwatch at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and visit to the 9-11 Memorial & Museum. You'll be proud to know that our group won Nightwatch's Scavenger Hunt/Wheel of Fortune game by being the first to identify the biblical quotation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." The Museum experience was as powerful as ever; the Memorial, now free of cyclone-fencing, quite moving. The Group readily found the "Survivor Tree."
For those otherwise uninterested in Saturday's Royal Wedding in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, the invited preacher will surely provide sufficient reason to set your alarm (or TV recorder) for the early morning hour. The preacher will be our own Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev.. Michael Curry! After expressing his delight in the couple's invitation to Bishop Curry, the Archbishop of Canterbury, +Justin Welby, described him as, "a brilliant pastor, stunning preacher and someone with a great gift for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ."
I hope to see you (in flame colors) on Pentecost!
In faith, hope and love,
p.s. As part of this week's Clergy Conference, the clergy of the Episcopal Church in CT descended upon the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. I'm embarrassed to report this was a first visit for me; after my eye-opening experience, I will certainly be returning.
Although Guilford students will be in class for another seven weeks(!), for our seminary-intern Graham Marsh, classes have concluded and final exams begun at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Accordingly, on this Sunday, May 6, Graham will conclude his time with us, During his internship, Graham has been a faithful participant in worship with our 8a.m. congregation, rotating through chalice bearer, intercessor and lector roles, and likewise assisting at 10a.m. as his commitment to our high school youth allowed. Leading high school gathering has been Graham's primary role at 10a.m. Sunday mornings.
Along the way, Graham has preached as his schedule permitted; and, I think we would all agree, he has grown wonderfully as a preacher. All this, while he completed the massive amount of written work required to earn Yale's Master of Sacred Theology degree (S.T.M.). Graham will receive his degree later in May and be ordained a deacon, God willing, on June 9th in Trenton, NJ. Graham is in discernment with the Bishop of New Jersey about opportunities to serve.as a transitional deacon, and in due course, as a priest. If you would like to participate in a "Godspeed" purse for Graham, please put his name on the memo line of a check or envelope to Christ Church. Gifts may be placed in the offering plate or delivered to the parish office.
Later this Sunday, May 6, Christ Church will host an introduction to "Rhythms of Grace," a worship and fellowship experience for the whole family, specifically attuned to children with special needs. Linda Snyder, one of the founders of Rhythms of Grace, will be with us at 4p.m. to lead us through a typical service, discussing the design as she proceeds. Our Outreach Committee encourages interested parishioners to participate in this introduction and in the next-step in discerning whether this might be a service Christ Church could offer to the larger community.
Having participated in one of Linda's Rhythms of Grace services myself, I can attest that this is hands-on worship -- with Sunday School crafts and songs rolled into worship. It occurs to me that a monthly (the typical pattern) Rhythms of Grace service might provide Christ Church with an opportunity for service as well as another opportunity for worship for those whose school or sport commitments keep them away on Sunday mornings.
Eight Christ Church folk attended the Episcopal Churchwomen of Connecticut's Annual Meeting on Thursday. Attendance was up, and I think that was because the Rev, Becca Stevens, was the speaker. No one was disappointed! Becca+ is an author, social entrepreneur, Episcopal priest and the founder of Thistle Farms which "offers women hope and healing through a holistic residential program, employment with one of our social enterprises, and a growing national and global network dedicated to changing a culture that allows human beings to be bought and sold."
Becca+ told the gathering that she learned from Episcopal Church Women what she needed to know to lead a multi-million dollar company, particularly from ECW bazaars! She learned about making products by hand that people enjoy, and selling those handiworks to support good works. Thistle Farms' natural beauty and bath products are made by the women who participate in Thistle Farms' residential program, and the proceeds support that program. Becca introduces Thistle Farms here.
Speaking of the work of the ECW: Last Saturday's fine lunch of delicious homemade soups raised almost $600 to support our Evening ECW's Parish Hall projects. And our daytime ECW's "Roses for Mother" is still receiving names and contributions; look on the Ushers' table for announcements and envelopes to honor and remember women who have been important in your life.
As one of the seven Christ Church folk who participated in The Big Sleep Out last Saturday night and stayed until the rain began early Sunday morning, I learned a lot -- both from the presentations and from the experience of sleeping on the Guilford Green: Homelessness begins with trauma and/or disease; one often leads to the other, as a spiral leads further beyond an individual's control. No one chooses to be homeless; but we can choose to come alongside those who are, and help through agencies like Columbus House.
I hope to see you this Sunday as we bid Graham, Godspeed; and as we learn about Rhythms of Grace.
In faith, hope and love,
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!