Father Harrison's Letter for 10/31/15
November 1st is All Saints' Day, and this year it's a Sunday. And as the first Sunday in November, this Sunday also signals the end of Daylight Savings Time and the return to Standard Time. So, please remember to set your clocks back one hour before you go to bed Saturday evening!.
Sunday morning, we will wake up in Eastern Standard Time and to one of the great celebrations of the Christian Year. On All Saints' Day, we celebrate our participation in the fellowship of the whole fellowship of the saints: those we know, those who share this moment in history with us, and that great fellowship "which no one can count" of all those who, having gone before us, now live."in a brighter light, and on another shore." As our Communion prayers begin, we will name those dear to us who died this past year and were gathered to the great banquet table of the Kingdom. Later, and as we do every Sunday, we will acknowledge that we are praying "...with all the company of heaven..."
And we will add to "the household of God," by baptizing two people into the fellowship of all the saints. Yes, there are the heroes and heroines of the Christian faith whom we see in stained glass windows -- sometimes called those through whom the light shines; but, as one of our hymns puts it, "...the saints of God are [also] just folk like me,..." These ".. joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will," make the world bright, and through the waters of baptism, we'll make it brighter still.*
Our "membership" in the household of God begins with baptism. So, our Sunday School is hosting a special Coffee Hour, inviting us all to bring a photo and recollections of our baptisms. As children of God by adoption and grace, we will celebrate where and when we were grafted onto God's family tree.
As we renew our Baptismal Covenant, we first promise "...to continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers[.]" (BCP, p.304) And so it is that we continue to gather as a fellowship, sharing the apostles' teaching about the resurrection of Jesus, breaking the bread of the Holy Communion, and praying for one another, the Church, and the world. In "Glad Tidings Online," there's more about how I see our baptismal promises informing our fellowship. But you may want to look at GTO for news about our Daytime and Evening ECWs, Concertato, a new Cookbook, a Report from the Treasurer, and introductions to -- and terrific photos of -- our newest acolytes. Many thanks to copy editor Diane Barker, photographer Susan Shackford, and website guru Jane Ferrall for this latest on-line innovation.
In addition, GTO has more information about our "God's Call to Us" Home Gatherings for the fellowship of the saints we know as Christ Church, Guilford. These are being organized right now. Thanks to all who have responded. If you haven't, there's still time to complete a "What Options Work for You?" form. Emailed versions were sent out last week; print copies are available in the the church and rectory. Please bring them with you Sunday, drop them off, or respond via email. Your participation is important!
In faith and hope,
* "I sing a song of the saints of God,"(#293) is just one of the great hymns for All Saints' Day we will sing on Sunday.
p.s. At 5p.m. Sunday, the Eve of All Souls' Day, we'll offer our Recollection of All the Faithful Departed. This is an opportunity for prayers, stories and quiet to affirm our abiding fellowship with those "we love but see no longer," especially those who died in the past year.
Newcomers Committee: Diana Stovall, our able Chair, along with Mardee Moore, Annie Rae and I enjoy the ministry of welcoming new faces and families into our church. It is a very scary adventure to walk into a new place and worship for the first, second or even the third time, so we greet these folks and ask them to sign the register. Hopefully we don't overwhelm them, and approximately once a year we hold a Sunday brunch at the Rectory for everyone who is able to attend. Our home cooked, and lovingly prepared, food is usually a hit and we provide pizza for the younger newcomers!! It is a time for fellowship, sharing our stories and talking of Christ Church. Harrison and the Sr. and Jr. Wardens (if possible) attend and all share in the ministry of making the newcomer feel most welcome. So you if wish to get involved, please introduce yourself to a newcomer. You will be pleased and it will make all the difference to the new worshipper!
Kay D Claiborn
Reflections on Gilbert Baker, 10/23/15
Gilbert Baker: Missionary in China, Rector in Guilford, and Bishop in Hong Kong.
Ministry in Guilford is full of surprises: such as a call from a librarian at Yale, asking about the papers of the Rt. Rev. Gilbert Baker, who served as rector of Christ Church 1953-55, and as a Bishop of Hong Kong, 1966-81. She was trying to assist the research of the Rev. Philip Wickeri, a priest, theologian and historian for the Diocese of Hong Kong. Although I couldn't help him with documents from that era, I could introduce him to some people who remember Gilbert Baker fondly, and give him a tour of the place where Baker had served.
So, on Thursday, October 8, Philip and his wife Janice came to Guilford. In addition to getting a tour, they met Jane & Gene Bishop who shared photos from their wedding at which Baker had officiated. Cynthia Dwyer shared photos of the junior choir in which she had sung with the Baker children; and Cindy Smith recalled that she had been baptized by him. As part of a series of books on Anglicanism in China, Wickeri is working on a biography of Bishop Baker. His ministry in Hong Kong was beginning, when “+Gilbert” as he referred to him, was concluding his. He reported that Bishop Baker’s three children had been very generous with family letters. Those gathered for the ECW meeting asked about +Gilbert Baker's ministry before and after Guilford.
* +Gilbert served as a missionary in China for 20 years until all missionaries were expelled by the People’s Republic; he was fluent in Cantonese and had a grasp of Mandarin;
* he and his family had been in New York on a fellowship at Union Seminary for six months, immediately prior to their coming to Guilford;
* although Mrs. Baker was a native of Ohio, the family moved to England in 1955, where Gilbert served London parishes, and an early version of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), a gathering of bishops, clergy and laity from provinces of the Anglican Communion;
* after a period of service in England, Gilbert was called to ministry in the Diocese of Hong Kong, where he became very popular with Chinese Anglicans;
* in 1966, after the withdrawal of a candidate (who didn't know Chinese), Baker was elected Bishop of Hong Kong, becoming the first bishop elected by the diocese – his predecessors had been appointed by the Church of England;
* Jane Bishop recalls that on one of the Bakers' subsequent visits to Guilford, he said to her, "Now, I'm a Bishop, too!", and,
* although, during World War II, his predecessor ordained the Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi to the priesthood, the first so ordained in the entire Anglican Communion, it was Bishop Baker who ordained the second, third and fourth women to the priesthood in the early 1970's, predating such ordinations in the Episcopal Church, and he did so with the approval of the ACC.
* Bishop Baker retired in 1981, and died in 1986. Before the Wickeris left Guilford, I extracted a promise to let us know when his biography of Bishop Baker will be published. Philip is hoping for 2017. The photograph above is from the website of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Hong Kong Anglican Church. We have a photograph of him as a younger man, in the hallway outside the Guild Room.
USHERING: To me, ushering is a very lovely and wonderful ministry. We have a very friendly group who does their best to welcome all who attend Christ Church. The ushers arrive 20 minutes early on their designated Sunday each month. They welcome guests, distribute programs, ring the bell, and assist anyone needing special assistance during the service. A couple is invited to take the elements to the altar. The ushers are responsible for the offerings and direct the communion. Any interest? Please contact me! Thank you!
Annie Rae's Ministry Minute, 10/11/15
A little over five years ago, my husband, Jim, and I moved to Guilford. We bought a small historic home on the Green. We have five children, four grandchildren, three dogs, an occasional orphan bunny and two frogs. We have a veggie garden and feed many friends, neighbors and visitors!
For me and many others in churches all over the world, Pastoral Care serves as a ministry to attempt to ensure that "no one walks alone." A person who is trained and willing to commit to this calling will provide confidential emotional and spiritual support for the church community. This small core group also reaches to the outer community to share and experience the Peace of God with others.
I was taught that Jesus fed the five thousand by having his disciples ("the Twelve") take the prepared loaves and fishes directly to the people. So in short, they delivered, they got around!
I was born into service, it was infused in me.
My Father served his country in the Army Corps of Engineers, my mother spent many hours volunteering to remake eyeglasses for "New Eyes for the Needy." When our grandparents came to live with us, they were not well. We took care of them until the end. Sometimes it was not fun, but we took good care of them. As a little girl, a bit of a tomboy who liked dolls, I joined a Brownie Troop, Girl Scout Troop, I was a Candy Striper in a hospital, a volunteer in a children's orphanage.
So this "infusion" is poured into us, and sometimes can be a voice that cannot be quieted!
Our pastoral team at Christ Church is ready, willing and able.
The three things I was told by a hospice nurse that cheer people who are having difficulties are music, a child's laughter and a DOG. We have all of these. My grandchildren go on calls with me frequently. I have my ukelele, Sheward has his flute, Tony has a lovely voice, and the rest have many needed ingredients to share.
Speaking of ingredients, our signature "meat loaf" is something that has been a bit of a success. At least 56 meat loaf meals have been delivered this past year. And for me, the lay Eucharistic minister, the meal "taken to" is small... the wafer and the wine. "The cup of salvation, the bread of heaven." This quiet sacred time is sometimes the "a-ha moment" we all look for when serving. There is such joy in seeing a smile, or hearing a sigh, even from the very weak.
So there you have it, in a Christ Church minute: Pastoral Care is for you!
Will you pray for our ministry?
Thank you so much for listening to my story!
I have loved singing in the choir since the days I sang with my father as a child. I've been a part of a few choirs over the years, and have been especially grateful for this choir at Christ Church Guilford. I'm probably the most amateur singer, but I have learned a great deal under the direction of our Yale students, Zach Hemenway, Adam Pajan, Frank Dodd, and now Mark Sullivan. Mark is one of the nicest people I have met. Mark is building us up in every way as he prepares us for powerful and lovely music, recruits singers to join our ranks, and even feeds us. Yesterday during rehearsal he fed us with two different soufflés. My favorite so far is his bread pudding with bourbon sauce. He's even turned us into recruiters with our Christ Church Choir t-shirts which advertise "Singers wanted/ especially tenors!"
As Bishop Douglas told us last week, more than the number of choir members and the quality of the music, we are becoming a body. When we sound good, we are feeling good, because we are listening to each other and making a sound together in praise of God.
A Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost at
Christ Episcopal Church, Guilford, CT
Proper 22: Job 1.1, 2:1-10; Mark 10:2-16
Every Saturday afternoon Garrison Keillor shares the latest “News from Lake Woebegone,” to the radio audience of “A Prairie Home Companion.” Lake Woebegone is that Minnesota town where “the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are all above average.” Sounds a lot like Guilford?! Along with reports of events at the Sidetrack Tap, the Chatterbox Café and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery are updates from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility. Some years ago, Garrison reported that Father Emil had preached his annual sermon opposing birth control which he summed up by quoting one line, “If you didn’t want to go to Minneapolis, why did you get on the train?” Apparently, Fr. Emil didn’t understand that even from Lake Woebegone, trains had more than one possible destination. I thought of Fr. Emil’s sermon as it came time to prepare Father Harrison’s triennial sermon on Marriage and Divorce.
Once every three years, our lectionary presents us with today’s text from Mark, and for 18 years, the rectors with whom I served assigned me to preach on this Sunday. Once, in jest, I asked why I – the bachelor -- got the assignment to preach on marriage and divorce, I was told it was because I was the one whose stomach wouldn’t be churning. You see the marriages of my colleagues were either in trouble, or they were separated, or newly divorced or newly re-married – one for a second time, and another for a third.
Marriages are not static; some flourish and deepen, but some do fail. Sometimes, the ground seems to shift under a marriage, and “what God has joined together,” is indeed rent asunder; we humans are very good at separating what God has put together. So, marital partners find themselves unable to adapt to changes in the other’s life course; or perhaps one or both look for fulfillment through the inappropriate use of money or sex; or perhaps deceit, fraud or abuse destroy the trust and affection the partners once had for each other; or, a tragedy occurs within the marriage, and the couple grows apart and not together.
That would seem to be what’s happening in our first reading today, as Job and his wife respond in different and separate ways to the tragedies in their lives. Job is afflicted with hideous sores from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. Will he continue to trust in God’s goodness, his wife asks Job. And then she says, Curse God and die! From her, we hear not a word of concern or sympathy, or even wanting to offer a soothing balm. And Job’s behavior is no better; even though her life is falling apart as well, he calls her a foolish woman! Not one of their better days.
This is the first of four weeks we’ll read from Job; we’ll see in the coming weeks that they are able to stick it out together. Many, however, find that their marriages fail. It will be interesting to see in the days to come if the synod meeting in the Vatican is able to come to terms with this reality. The Roman Catholic Church has boxed itself into a theological corner by stipulating the indissolubility of marriage. We will see if they can find a pastoral way out of it.
In our reading from the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus says Moses provided divorce because of hardened human hearts. Some Pharisees have asked Jesus if the Torah, the Teaching of Moses, allows for divorce. Of course they know the answer, but they may want to see if Jesus agrees with a community of Jews who lived apart from others near the Dead Sea. This ascetic movement did not approve of divorce. To the Pharisees, Jesus replies that marriage is rooted in the good order of God’s Creation; and later, to his disciples, Jesus calls remarriage after divorce, adultery. What Jesus appears to be doing is something the Pharisees would appreciate, given their devotion to the Torah: Jesus is setting up a barrier around the commandment against committing adultery. He is putting the Creation stories of Genesis in tension with the teaching of Moses in Deuteronomy, and saying what God intended in Genesis trumps what Moses provided in Deuteronomy.
Jesus quotes Genesis Chapter 1, “God created them male and female,” and then moves to Chapter 2, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Recalling part of the story, Jesus expects his hearers – including us -- to remember the whole of it: After forming a creature from the dust of the ground and breathing life into this ‘adam, God decides, It is not good for the earth creature, the ‘adam, to be alone. I will create for him a fit helper, a companion. After failing to find a proper companion for the ‘adam among all other creatures, whether beasts of the field, or birds of the air, God causes a sleep to overcome the earth creature, and from the one ‘adam God creates two creatures of earth. These are two equal earth creatures; not one a servant or subservient to the other, but two equal bone-of-my-bone-flesh-of-my-flesh companions. From the beginning, God’s destination in Creation is that his human creatures have equal companions.
For Episcopalians, our understanding of God’s destination -- God’s purposes -- for marriage are set out in our Book of Common Prayer. Today’s Gospel reading is one of the suggested readings for weddings – of course without the verses that relate to divorce. The exhortation at the beginning of the Celebration & Blessing of a Marriage concisely states the Episcopal Church’s teaching:
“The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity, and when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.”(p.423) God’s intended destinations for equal companions are threefold: #1) mutual joy – that all the intimacies and delights they find with each other will lead to profound and shared joy; #2) out of the fullness of their mutual joy, fit helpers will have the capacity to look after and care for one another “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health;” and then #3, out of their capacity to care for one another, they may also have the capacity to care for and nurture children. (Reverse order in R.C. Church)
Over 50 years ago now, The Episcopal Church learned that by God’s Grace divorced persons were finding equal companions with whom to fulfill God’s purposes for marriage; whether or not the Church approved, the Holy Spirit could be at work in these subsequent relationships. To paraphrase Karl Barth on another subject, it was as if The Episcopal Church were asked, Do you believe God’s grace can work in subsequent marriages of the previously divorced? And the Church responded, Believe it? We’ve seen it! Will the Roman Catholic Church be open to this learning as well? We’ll see.
More recently, The Episcopal Church has also been open to learning about God’s Grace at work in the lives of same-sex couples. How the Church should, could and ought to support the committed relationships of two persons of the same gender has gotten a lot of prayerful and pastoral attention in the Church. I’m embarrassed to admit that in all those sermons on marriage, I never directly addressed equal marriage. With the actions this summer by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church allowing for equal marriage, that’s about to change.
Following Jesus back to a story of Creation, can two men be equal companions for one another, can two women be fit helpers for one another? Can God’s destination, God’s purposes for marriage be fulfilled in their lives together? Will they find together mutual joy, help and comfort in adversity and prosperity, and the capacity to care for and nurture children in the knowledge and love of the Lord? The willingness of Gay couples to share their experience of God’s grace in their lives, is showing the Church they are fit helpers, equal companions, fulfilling God’s destination for marriage. Believe it? In its General Convention, the Church said, "We’ve seen it."
Recall with me the British romantic comedy, “Four Weddings & a Funeral.” It follows a group of young friends over a period of years as they find love, lose love, marry the wrong people and finally commit to their fit helper/companions. Matthew and Gareth are among the friends at the first three weddings; at the third wedding’s reception Gareth, suddenly, grandly and dramatically dies. It turns out that Matthew and Gareth were “particular friends;” theirs was the stable, mature, settled relationship within their circle. They were indeed equal companions. At Gareth’s funeral, Matthew, expresses his feelings for his beloved by reciting W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues;” it begins “Stop All the Clocks; cut off the telephone.” And later,
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
It is obvious to all the characters, and to the audience, that this relationship was the real deal. Now, I realize this is only a movie, and from the title, it is obvious that there is going to be a funeral for someone. Nonetheless, it seems telling that the only way to include a romance between two men in a movie in general release was for one of them to die. The same observation could be made of “Brokeback Mountain,” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
That was Hollywood’s issue, but there was a parallel one in the Church. As with Matthew and Gareth, until recently the only occasion to celebrate, or even acknowledge a same-gender relationship in the Church, was at a funeral for one of the companions. I have been to those funerals; I have officiated at those funerals. That landscape changed this summer, when the Episcopal Church’s General Convention removed all gender references in the Church’s marriage regulations, bringing Equal Marriage into the witness of the Episcopal Church. When the Church is asked today, “Will you… do all in your power to uphold these two persons [these two equal companions] in their marriage?” The Church can now respond, “We will!” without regard to whether they are of the same or opposite gender.
My friends Joe and Tom both work for the Washington National Cathedral; Joe is head of horticulture and Tom keeps all the Cathedral’s computers running. They met on the job, 22 years ago; five years ago, under the “pastoral discretion” then allowed, they were the first same-gendered couple to marry at the Cathedral’s high altar. It was a happy, joyful day, to be sure; but no more extraordinary than for every other couple married there before or since.
Today, in the Episcopal Church, we pray, without exception, for all married couples …
“Make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair … Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads. … may they so love, honor and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace.” (pp. 429-31)
Before getting started on this weekend's happenings, some thanks related to the amazing last one: Hats off to everyone who made possible last Saturday's All-ParishTag Sale, and last Sunday's "Opening the Doors" celebration! Whether you provided goods to be sold, helped set up, staffed, helped clean up, and/or came to shop, THANK YOU! Word on the street is that something like $3,300 was raised for the Evening ECW's project to further enhance the Parish Hall [editor note: actually, just a shade under $3500 was raised!]. And, I have heard "when we do this next year, ..." so often, that I think the Evening ECW may have started a new annual tradition.
No sooner was the Tag Sale over, than the Parish Hall was cleared, and preparations began for Sunday's Episcopal Visitation and "Opening the Doors" Celebration! Sunday morning, Bishop Ian Douglas arrived as scheduled to bless the 8 a.m. congregation, have a lively Q&A with the Rectory Forum (I had to drag him away!), meet with the YAP (high school class), preach and celebrate for the 10 a.m. service, and then help us celebrate our 'Opening the Doors" campaign. In his sermon and in his remarks, Bishop Douglas clearly "got" what we were attempting to do: Make Christ Church an obvious sign of God's Welcome to all. But he also challenged us to open our doors into the community around us, go through our doors, and join what God is doing in the world!
Among the morning's highlights were Bishop Douglas' time with the children as he talked to them about his staff, mitre, ring and cross, and how each one signifies part of a bishop's ministry. He invited the kids to hold the staff and act like being a shepherd, and to try on the mitre. One "big kid," i.e. Charlie Koncz, also looked pretty good in the mitre. Another highlight was when Campaign Chair (and Senior Warden) Pat Daunic presented Bishop Douglas with a larger-than-life Campaign check for $9,305.40 paying off our outstanding balance on a loan from the Diocese's Missionary Fund. To do some necessary projects, the parish needed to incur almost $200K in debt six years ago, we are now debt free, and have improved our heating systems, revitalized interiors, and renewed how we present Christ Church to the world! Thanks be to God! And, thanks also to all who worked so hard on the Campaign, and all who contributed and continue to contribute to the Campaign. And oh yes, how about that splendid, celebratory meal! Thanks to La Rosticcerria and Debbie & Antonio Greco for the wonderfully prepared entrees, and to all who shopped, prepared, set-up and cleaned up for the appetizers, salads, beverages and desserts, and for the kids pizza lunch (thanks to Donna Lafata for the movie and supervised play time!).
A special Thanks-be-to-God, and to the Committee on Weather, who provided us with such beautiful weather for both the Tag Sale and the Visitation! Do you suppose some ECW members who now live in a brighter light and on another shore, pulled some strings?!
Right now, with Hurricane Joaquin apparently headed out to sea, it seems that showers are the good news for this weekend's weather. Nonetheless, we can't let some drizzle dampen our Blessing of the Animals in Honor of St. Francis! So if the Green is as soggy as predicted, our friends from St. George and First Churches will join us inside Christ Church at 11 a.m. to bless our pets. Following St. Francis' teaching, we will give thanks for all God's creatures, especially those who share our daily lives, blessing those who are a blessing to us. Please bring Fido and KitKat on leashes or in appropriate carriers.
This Sunday's "Coffee Talk," will feature Jane Ferrall and Mark Sullivan presenting our new Christ Church website. They will talk about its primary audience -- seekers, i.e. folks looking for a congenial house of worship. The web site is also designed to grow to serve parishioners. Your ideas will help that happen. Join the conversation after the 10 a.m. service, this Sunday, October 4.
On Sunday afternoon, the CROP Walk will go forward rain or shine. The CROP Walk raises funds to support Church World Service efforts to address hunger locally and abroad; such important work cannot be overwhelmed by a few showers! You can participate in the 4-mile walk and/or sponsor a walker(s). So, if a four-mile walk on the sidewalks of Guilford doesn't appeal to you, please help by sponsoring one of our young walkers (or YFNR). Forms are available in the church. Registration for the walk begins at 1 p.m., and the walk steps off from the Green at 1:30 p.m. We gather and walk with our neighbors from the churches of Guilford, North Branford and Madison.
I look forward to another great weekend, responding with you to what God's already doing with other creatures and people!
In faith and hope,
p.s.: We learned this week that the Kashona Family, a refugee family "adopted" by Christ Church in the 2000's, will move this month to Kansas City, MO, to be near other family members. We hope to have a chance to say, "fare forward, voyagers" before they depart.
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!