As I write this to you, my class time in the Advanced Degree Program of the School of Theology in Sewanee: The University of the South is coming to a close. Not sure that I have ever read so many poems and short stories, heard so many sermons (4 a day this week!), or thought so much about the use of metaphor and symbol in ministry as I have these three weeks! And there are out-of-class assignments on these topics to be done in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, your sabbatical continues as well. I hope you are enjoying your respite from my approach to things, and will take advantage this Sunday and next, June 26 and July 3, of the insights of the Rev. Kent Smith. Of course, Kent+ is a friend of Christ Church; he and Margaret live in Guilford, are active in our community, and sometimes join us for Sunday worship. As active participants in the life and witness of Christ Church, New Haven, they also have a different perspective to share.
Our new Sunday School Director, Laurie Varley, has posted an announcement and on-line sign-up for Vacation Bible School. You can find it here; just scroll down to the bottom of the page. Called "Deep Sea Discovery: God is With Us Wherever We Go," this looks like a great approach to learning, crafts, games, fun...and oh yes, the all important snacks!
Please consider signing up to serve "Lemonade Under the Balcony," following the 10a.m. service. As the name implies, this is a simple opportunity for conversation over lemonade, or whatever cool beverage the hosts choose to serve, and maybe a plate of simple treats, served on a card table under the choir loft. Thanks to the Marks Family who are hosting on June 26.
The July 4th weekend holds special significance for the family of Barbara Letts; so they chose July 3rd as the date to gather with friends to give thanks for Barbara's life and witness. The service will be at 10:30 a.m. in Christ Church, followed by committal in Alderbrook Cemetery. It seemed to Barbara's family and to me that she had a hand in arranging my schedule so that I could officiate, and of course, I will be honored, as always, to do so.
With love and prayers from Tennessee,
p.s. The latest issue of GTO: Glad Tidings Online is available by clicking here. It includes details about parish leadership in June and July while I am on study-leave and vacation.
What a joy and privilege to share the good news: Laurie Varley has accepted our call to serve as our new Sunday School Director! Yesterday was her first official day. She has already spent hours with her predecessor Lisa Ste. Marie (thank you, Lisa!) and has begun planning for Vacation Bible School, August 22-26, and the next year of Sunday School.
Laurie comes to us from the First Congregational Church, UCC, of Guilford, where she and her family are members. At First Church, Laurie has taught Sunday School, helped plan and lead their Vacation Bible School, served on their Children's Education Board, and helped initiate a mixed-ages summer Sunday morning program. During a period of staff transitions at First Church, Laurie served as "Bridge," or interim, Coordinator for the church-wide family activities that she had previously supported as a volunteer.
Some parents and children may be acquainted with Laurie through her work as a paraprofessional at Adams Middle School. Laurie, her husband and daughter, live in Gulford.
A native of North Carolina, Laurie served as staff youth director for a Baptist church, and was entrusted with increasing levels of leadership and responsibilities over her many years of involvement in the North Carolina Baptist Assembly.
Laurie was looking for a "next opportunity" where she could serve God's children with her gifts for faithful creativity. So God has led her down the Green to us! Her glowing references were convinced she would be a very good for us at Christ Church. And I am so grateful!
I am also grateful to our Sunday School teachers who helped craft a new announcement for the position, and who knew where to post it so it was seen. We received at least 12 serious inquiries, 10 resumes, and conducted five interviews. I'm especially grateful to Donna Lafata and Lisa Ste. Marie for their help with this last task.
Children and parents can look forward to getting well-acquainted with Laurie at Vacation Bible School, August 22-26. Please get those dates on your family calendar!
Now, onto a sad subject: Orlando. How horrible that "Orlando," now joins, "Sandy Hook," "San Bernadino," "Roseburg," "Charleston," and "Columbine" among sites of mass shootings; we have only to hear these locations, and the death of innocents comes to mind. As it happens, I had to preach on Monday for one of my classes at Sewanee's School of Theology; the assignment specified only the inclusion of a poem we had read in class and ten-minute length. But there was no getting around Orlando. Jane Ferrall has kindly posted that sermon on our website with a very evocative image. [It's the blog post immediately below this one.]
On the Episcopal Church in Connecticut's website you can find information about a Vigil that will be offered at our Cathedral in Hartford this evening, at 7 p.m. ( If you read my sermon, you'll know that if I were in Connecticut, I'd be there.) That's the opening image (the first button) on the homepage. The next button has a link to a joint statement from our Bishops, +Ian Douglas and +Laura Ahrens; I commend it to you. It's hard to find any "Good News" amidst such devastating sadness; but my colleague Alex Dyer+, now interim at Old St. Andrew's in Bloomfield, recalled this observation by Craig Koester: "from an earthly perspective, evil can seem so persuasive and even unstoppable. But from a heavenly perspective – evil and darkness – rages on earth not because they are so powerful but because they know they have already lost."
Sometimes it's hard to see the light amidst the darkness, but that's a glimpse for me!
I had a nice message from +Jane Stickney; she felt warmly welcomed last Sunday! I'm not surprised, but I am grateful. You have a second opportunity to worship with her this Sunday, June 19.
With love and prayers from Tennessee,
p.s. Here's an announcement from Rose Robinson: Cookbook rewriting party. Do you have good handwriting? If so, please join Rose for a small re-writing and assembling recipes gathering on Thursday, June 23rd, at 6:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall – refreshments will be served.
The May/June issue of GTO: Glad Tidings Online is now available by clicking here. It includes details about parish leadership in June and July while I am on study-leave and vacation.
A reading from the Gospel according to Luke.Jesus said,49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
The Word of the Lord.
(Luke 12:49-56 NRSV)
A Sermon for Monday, June 13, 2016 byR. Harrison West forHOML 611: The Art in PreachingThe Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor
Gospel for Proper 15C: Luke 12:49-56
It was a bad weekend in Orlando:
On Friday, Christina Grimmie, a promising young singer, was shot as she signed autographs for fans.
Then, very early Sunday morning it got worse: Shortly after 2 a.m., just before last call at Orlando’s popular Pulse nightclub, shots were heard; the DJ thought perhaps firecrackers were going off; he turned down the music; and then he saw people falling and blood flying. A man with an assault-style rifle had entered the club and opened fire. Before the gunfire finally stopped 103 people were shot, 50 of them died.
Friday’s murder was bad enough; the scale of Sunday’s carnage, shocking beyond words. Orlando now becomes the latest and deadliest addition to the American litany of slaughter: Aurora, Binghamton, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Washington Navy Yard, Roseburg, Chattanooga, and Charleston. We hear of these places – this catalog of death, and we experience anew the compounding trauma of mass killings over the last decade in the United States.
The setting and the timing of the Orlando shootings seem to have been chosen to terrorize us – to undermine, what seems to me, to most of us I assume, as progress. Since the uprising against police oppression by the patrons of the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969, June has become a season of Pride celebrations for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and allies. At the end of last June, there was another cause for celebration when a Supreme Court decision made Equality of Civil Marriage the law of the land. Orlando’s Pulse nightclub celebrated and encouraged that progress; Pulse, and clubs like it, have long served as safe harbors for solidarity and renewal in the ongoing struggle for full participation in society; like the Stonewall Inn, Pulse and other clubs, also serve as a refuge from bullying and gay bashing.
Whether it is the massacre of 50, the murder of one, or the 91 victims of gun violence on average on any given day in this country, I believe [a cliché, I don’t care, I believe] that God’s heart is the first to break for every one of these deaths. God became incarnate in Jesus that his human creatures might have life and have it in abundance. So why would Jesus say something as seemingly heartless as, “I came to bring fire to the earth … Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” He said it, because his proclamation of God’s reign drawing near, was creating violent opposition. Folks had been out to be rid of him since he was a baby, and from his first sermon in Nazareth. Religious authorities did not welcome his easy way with the accepted standards of righteous behavior and proper conduct. He did not scorn the outcasts who turned to him for help, did not ridicule women who were abused and rejected; instead he ate with “sinners and publicans,” – fun people like those at Pulse.
Jesus came to heal the lost sheep of Israel, and when Gentiles also wanted to meet him, he perceived that his time was drawing near. The time for his baptism by fire, his death on the cross, was approaching. Religious and political powers were going to kill him for preaching peace, healing the sick, welcoming those on the outside, for challenging their understanding of the good and the right, and upsetting the delicate balance by which they maintained their privilege and place. All that proclamation, challenge and upset was going to exact a deadly price from Jesus, and he was willing to pay it. The Body of Christ has continued and continues to pay that price. Families are divided; religious councils are divided.
Suffering and death have also been the lot of the LGBT community; but not willingly. Again, families are divided; religious councils are divided. Yet such opposition and division should not be unexpected; those who “know how to interpret the present time” will understand that any movement recognizing the dignity of every human being will face opposition – sometimes violently so.
That the patrons at Pulse could be happy, living their lives openly and freely, not cowering on the margins, not being treated as sick and diseased, is unthinkable to some. The shooter did not know what to do with so much happiness; so he tried to kill as much of it as he could. We may never know for sure what prompted him, but he phoned-in his loyalty to the so-called Islamic State, and we know – because it cynically brags about its brutalities – that ISIS cruelly stones and hurls to their death people accused of homosexual behavior. Sunday morning’s massacre in Orlando was surely intended to terrorize the movement to openly and fully include LGBT people in the human family, and to terrorize a society that has only recently begun welcoming sexual minorities to openly and fully participate in civic responsibilities and benefits.
The terrorists will be disappointed; their evil will not prevail. As distraught and furious as people were and remain, they/we refuse to be terrorized. Instead we were doing the very things Naomi Shihab Nye writes about in “So Much Happiness.”
With sadness there is something to rub against,
A wound to tend with lotion and cloth;
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
Something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
So yesterday with the world falling-in, people gathered in solidarity on-line and in person. In Orlando they massed at blood donation centers, and brought water and snacks for the blood donors. While doctors and nurses tended to the wounded with lotion and cloth, people gathered again outside the Stonewall Inn to rub against history. Participants in yesterday evening’s Tony Awards traded their ticket stubs for silver ribbons of solidarity. My hunch is that Gay bars across the country did an incredible business yesterday evening; people wanted to hold onto something, to pick up the pieces together. Vigils, organized and unorganized, sprang up all over the country; I trust you have read or heard there’ll be one this evening at 6 pm in All Saints Chapel. Perhaps I’ll see you there.
There were several helpful quotations from William Temple here on the board last week. Here’s another, a favorite of mine, for a day like today:
“Prayer adds to the sum total of love in the world.”
Sunday, June 12, will provide opportunities to celebrate our Choir during and after the 10a.m. service: The Choir chose to offer special anthems and to host the Coffee Hour! This has been another year of significant commitment and contributions by the Choir that enrich our worship life. At their Wednesday evening rehearsals, Music Director Mark Sullivan coaches the Choir through a series of exercises to help each member develop their gift for choral singing; and only then do they begin rehearsing anthems for coming Sundays. On Sunday mornings, the Choir arrives early to warm-up, review their anthem, and the hymns and service music for the day. This is a major commitment, and our Choir members are very faithful. The rest of us, the congregation, benefit from their labor of love.
Because they are such a gregarious group, the Choir will host the Coffee Hour this Sunday. Please enjoy the refreshments they provide and join me in thanking them for their inspired musical leadership. On page 819, The Prayer Book includes a wonderful prayer, "For Church Musicians and Artists:"
O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven; Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Recalling last Sunday's wonderful offerings by our Youth String Ensemble, I'm repeating the prayer for them! Indeed, thanks to all who made last Sunday such a delight: Baptizing little Marc Anthony was a joy; we thanked our Sunday School teachers and mentors for their persevering commitment to our children; greeted our five newly confirmed and one newly received members; and we didn't let the rain clouds keep us from enjoying a terrific Parish Picnic indoors! Special thanks to the master of the grill,David Jones and his helpmate, Kathleen Jones; they kept the hamburgers and hot dogs coming! Thanks to everyone else, we enjoyed delicious side dishes, salads and desserts.
During the Parish Picnic, our ECW presented their "Pearl of Great Price" Awards to Gene Bishop and Jeanette Konczfor giving so generously of themselves for the ministries of Christ Church. The ECW also presented me with a framed photo of a brick at Guilford's new Dog Park inscribed in love and memory of my dog, Boone. I was speachless! Know that I'm very grateful for this gracious and generous remembrance.
On Sundays June 12 and 19, please welcome the Rev.Jane Stickney as our preacher and celebrant. Many will remember Jane+ from her service at St. John's Church, in north Guilford. Jane+ went on to coordinate the Annand Center for Spiritual Formation at Berkeley Divinity School within Yale. Her presence at Christ Church offers you an opportunity to benefit from a spiritual friend to generations of clergy. In addition, Jane+ creates her own vestments; those interested in fabric arts will have that to discuss with her as well.
This letter comes to you from Sewanee: The University of the South, in Tennessee, where I am up to my eyeballs in assignments for the School of Theology's Advanced Degree Program. Since classes meet four hours a day and require another eight for preparation, you will understand why I am off the radar!
However, one task has continued: we are just signatures away from being able to introduce our new Sunday School Director!
Returning to music in worship: Please take advantage of Music Director Mark Sullivan's two sign-up sheets: one for those willing to share a song or instrumental gift sometime this summer; and the other to suggest a favorite hymn.
In faith and hope,
p.s. The May/June issue of GTO: Glad Tidings Online is now available by clicking here. It includes details about parish leadership in June and July while I am on study-leave and vacation. Also, Vestry Highlights, lots of news from our Episcopal Church Women, and a buildings and grounds up-date from the Junior Warden. There's also a link to the renderings for the improvements to the Parish Hall proposed by the Evening ECW.
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!