4th Sunday of Advent: Angels-under-the-Balcony; Christmas Preparations & Celebrations! Mitten Tree Gathering Continues
December 22, 2018
"Once more the Advent candles burn," as Bill Flanders wrote in his Advent hymn we have been singing this season. On this fourth Sunday, we will light the fourth candle, and on Christmas we will light the Christ Candle (in the center of the wreath) for that light which "the darkness [has] not overcome it." This is what we'll be about in the coming days: dealing with the darkness, preparing for the promised light, and celebrating the light born in our midst.
Two instances of the darkness which seeks to overwhelm us, are the deaths of parishioners John Lelas and Peter Johnson. John, a former parish treasurer and Vestry Member, was part of the 8 o'clock congregation. We gave thanks for John's life and witness Saturday morning at the Guilford Funeral Home.
One way to deal with the darkness brought by Peter's death would be to participate in hosting the reception that will follow our service for him, on Saturday, December 29 at 11a.m. in the church. There will be sign-ups and more information about reception plans on Sunday morning, and in the coming week.
Another way to counter darkness is to respond to winter's chill by supporting our Angels-Under-the-Balcony appeal for the Town's Heating Assistance Program. This program actually began at Christ Church when Guilford was a much smaller town, and the Rector could know all the "widows of good character" -- the program's original beneficiaries. Although the program now serves the whole town and gifts are welcome at any time, we will have our official ingathering on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 23rd.
Our Choir and Sunday School were dealing with the darkness each in their own way Saturday morning: they rehearsed their anthems, and songs. In addition to rehearsing music, the Sunday School rehearsed their Nativity Pageant; their rehearsal of songs and speaking parts will continue during their class-time on Sunday morning.
You may notice that the Mitten Tree is now mostly bare, Except for a few items still in the Rectory, the mittens, gloves, scarves, caps, and other items that once totally covered the tree, were delivered to the Chapel-on-the-Green in New Haven on Friday; Organizers were putting together gifts bags for the Chapel's Sunday congregation of folks who live on the margins of New Haven's plenty..
Our Outreach Group has another challenge to put before us: To do something we haven't done before. To host a winter-time Chapel-on-the-Green Sunday worship service and lunch! The Outreach Group, which includes any interested folks, is thinking in terms of providing a warm and hearty "crockpot" soup lunch, and providing another 100-120 pairs of mittens or gloves for the regular worshipers. Our winter Sunday, will be January 27, 2019. There'll be more information in the weeks to come.
Remember last year when we were still in Advent on Sunday morning, December 24th, and Christmas Eve began at dusk that evening? This year we have more than an afternoon to move from Advent preparations to Christmas celebrations. Our schedule will follow a familiar the pattern:
Christmas Eve: Monday, December 24th
4:30 p.m. Pageant Service: Our Sunday School proclaims the story of Jesus’ birth. Music by Children & Youth Ensemble; we celebrate with communion and Silent Night.
10 p.m. Festal Service: Full Choir, harp, organ, and strings lead the music in a service rich with candlelight tradition, including communion and Silent Night.
Christmas Day: Tuesday, December 25th
10 a.m. Holy Eucharist: Celebrate with organ, carols and soloist.
I look forward to completing our Advent preparations, and beginning our Christmas celebrations with you.
In faith and hope,
December 18, 2018
With a heavy heart, I write to share with you the shocking news of the death of Peter Johnson. Peter sustained a serious injury in a work-related accident yesterday, and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Those caring for him, were unable to revive him.
This happened just the day after Peter and Gabrielle and brother-in-law Dennis Burke sang a particularly splendid Advent Evening Service with the rest of our Choir. Today, Peter sings with the choir of saints and angels in light. And we are left in our sorrow to care for those who mourn. I was with Gabrielle and son Robin, at the Johnsons' home while she made very difficult calls to family members; her dear friends and colleagues Susan Oakley and Chris Jones came to be with them; and Dennis brought them dinner. Other family members will begin arriving today.
Chris has created an online sign-up for those who would like to provide the family a meal. This "Meal Train" site is quite comprehensive. be sure to click on the "Review All Instructions" gold box for important details. Here's thelink. Chris's reference to "any donations" refers to gift cards that you purchase in person. You can bring them to the office, or leave them in the mailbox which I'll check regularly. Once decisions are made about other arrangements, those will be passed along as well.
Wise counsel from Rabbi Offner came back to me yesterday: She spoke about the importance of sitting with our grief before we take action. The time for action will come, and there will be ways we can be helpful. But first, it is important to grieve. She didn't say this, but I will add -- there is no way around "the valley of the shadow of death;" attempts to escape that valley of sorrow, will only cause us problems later.
And in our grief, we can pray:
Rest eternal grant to your servant, Peter, O Lord,
and may light perpetual shine upon him.
Grant to Gabrielle, their family, and all who mourn,
the grace to lift their hearts to you, O God,
and know your abiding presence and the consolation of your love.
God's Peace be with you all,
Light in the Midst of Darkness, Thanks for Support of Chili Supper, Cookie & Wreath Sales, Pilgrimage Podcast
December 8, 2018
As I write this letter to you, the sky to the west has become partly overcast, and the bright sunshine of earlier today appears only through the cloud breaks. It's the middle of the afternoon, and I'm going to have to turn on the table lamps! However, seven lights are burning on the menorah on the Green -- six for the six days of Hanukah so far and one for the central shamash -- "helper" or "servant" -- used to light the others. At dusk, the seventh day will begin, and another light will be lit. At that time, electric candles will be also be coming on in windows around the Green, and the tree first illuminated a week ago will come on in all its glory.
And why does all this matter? Because whether Jewish, Christian or none-of-the-above, we live in hope that darkness will not prevail, and we choose to make the light of compassion and hospitality mark our life together. We recall with our Jewish neighbors, the story of how the light that signaled God's abiding presence in the Jerusalem Temple was miraculously sustained For the same reason, we keep a sanctuary lamp burning in our chancel as a sign of Jesus' abiding presence with us; this "sign" points to Jesus' sacramental presence in the blessed bread and wine reserved in the tabernacle. For all of us, this season of increasing darkness has its limits, and new light, additional light, will appear.
Even before Hanukah or the season of Advent officially began, Christ Church supported the Town's November 30th Tree-Lighting. Hats off all around to those whose efforts made our participation so successful. Chili Supper chief organizer Jennifer Huebner, counted 56 people helping with the setting up, preparing, serving and cleaning up for the Chili Supper! Thanks to one and all; and special thanks to Jennifer, and chefs David Jones and Peter Johnson. Those involved in serving were kept busy as the evening progressed; only three precious and modestly-sized containers of chili remained for Sunday's silent auction. The cole slaw and cornbread were history! David estimates around 200 guests were fed, and I'm told the net proceeds for Guilford Interfaith Volunteers’ Meals-on-Wheels program approached $1,000.
Thanks also to all those who baked such delicious cookies for the ECW's Cookie Sale. Some cookies were bought for dessert, but most to take home for holiday entertaining. Again, almost the entire inventory was sold out.
The Wreath Sale was a total sell-out. The wreath on the the driveway door to the rectory is one of the 50-some decorated by our young people. (The wreath on the rectory front door is courtesy of the Guilford Garden Club with special thanks to Alicia Bacon!)
As part of our Advent preparations, we decorate the Mitten Tree and become Angels-Under-the-Balcony. The Tree's mittens, caps, gloves, and scarves, plus toiletries and candy, are for our neighbors served by New Haven's Chapel-on-the-Green -- to help keep warm folks who live on the margins of plenty. The "Angels" hanging under-the-Balcony are visible reminders of Christ Church's historic ministry to help keep our neighbors warm by helping with their heating expenses through the Town's Heating Assistance Program.
Our Sunday School's Advent observance began by making Advent wreaths for use at home, and continues with preparations for this year's Nativity Pageant. There's still room around the manger for angels and friendly creatures -- both human and animal!
"Coffee Hour at the Commons" is a podcast hosted by Karin Hamilton and Alli Huggins, communications staff for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT). They interviewed Bishop Laura Ahrens and me about the upcoming ECCT Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, June 9-19. We talk about what a pilgrimage is, where we will be staying, some of what we will be visiting, and some basic stuff about travel to the Holy Land. I hope you'll give the podcast a listen, and perhaps consider joining this journey. You can find it here; click on Episode 26 --2019 Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The Pilgrimage will be the subject of conversation for this Sunday's Rectory Forum. We'll watch the video on the information page (preview it here), listen to the podcast, and then I'll do my best to respond to questions and pick up some loose ends.
Watching rebroadcasts of the ceremonies in Texas and Washington, DC, in which the country gave thanks for the life and witness of President George H.W. Bush, consumed my evenings Tuesday-Thursday. Here's a statement from our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who was one of the presiders at Wednesday's State Funeral in Washington National Cathedral.
In faith and hope,
p.s. We will gather with Sheila Bruce's family to give thanks for her life and witness in a service on Saturday, January 12 beginning at 11:30a.m..
p.s. #2: Just so everyone's on the same page: An angiogram on Monday of this week confirmed that an issue which slowed me down last month, has been resolved by an adjustment to my meds. Thanks for your patience, prayers and good wishes!
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!