There will be an interfaith Thanksgiving service on November 19th, 2018, at 7:00 p.m., hosted by the First Baptist Church, in Gloucester. Interfaith clergy from Cape Ann and members of our various congregations will lead the worship. Music is by John Hicks. Please join us for this time of prayer and song.
Dear Friends, our Stewardship theme this year is Here I Am–Send Me! Each week we’ve been talking about different ways we show up for God, our neighbors, near and far, and the ways we have changed when we have shown up. On the link below is a sermon by one of our ELCA Youth Gathering leaders: Cynthia Carney. Cynthia has been taking youth to the last three triennial gatherings; she loves it, and below is her sermon on her experience. She offered it on Reformation Sunday, October 28th, 2018.
No doubt you are as dismayed and broken-hearted as I am about the recent shooting in Pittsburgh, on Shabbat in the Tree of Life of Synagogue. We have learned that 11 persons have died. These losses are unspeakably tragic. I ask your prayers for the victims’ families, those who were wounded, and for the entire congregation and community of the Tree of Life. I ask your prayers for the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. We opened the church last evening for prayer and mourning in solidarity with them, and with the Jewish community there, here, and around the world. One of my colleagues, the Rev. Maren Tirabassi, a UCC pastor and writer, wrote a beautiful prayer for Pittsburgh based on Psalm 61.
Here is her prayer.
Prayer for Pittsburgh
God, we ask your presence
among the death at the Tree of Life –
for those shocked and mourning —
for the wounded — healers,
for the fearful who shelter in place —
the fragile presence
of phone and internet support,
for those active in policing
in emergency care,
and gathering to offer
emotional support and counseling —
deep strength within themselves.
For we ask, with the psalmist,
that you set them on the rock
that is higher than fear,
become a refuge within and without,
a strong tower, enfolding tent,
and a shelter under your wings
for the aftermath of loss
and the crying to come. amen
Here are some of the verses from the Psalm:
Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth I call to you,
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I;
3 for you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
4 Let me abide in your tent forever,
find refuge under the shelter of your wings.Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name…
8 So I will always sing praises to your name,
as I pay my vows day after day.
On this Reformation Sunday, perhaps you might also join me in prayers for a reformation of action to change the climate of hatred we find ourselves living in, including the reform of gun laws.
Here is an article from The New York Times, with more on those who died.
September 16th is Rally Day, 9:00 a.m. begins our annual registration and kick-off morning for the Sunday School. We have a terrific team of teachers ready to welcome children to classes, fun, and fellowship this year. We offer classes from lower primary to upper primary, with a confirmation/youth class for middle school.
Please join us for our wonderful annual yard sale! A community tradition. Treasures old and new! Food, fun, fellowship! Great bargains.
The palms and procession are over. We are mid-week in Holy Week, the day before the Triduum begins, the Great Three Days. Wednesday in Holy Week, at least for me, feels something like Holy Saturday, a day of waiting, knowing that the rest of this week will be lived within the great drama of the Passion of Jesus, and the Resurrection. I usually have at least one sleepless night in Holy Week, and tonight is that night.
This summer, I had the privilege of taking a 30 day silent retreat at Eastern Point Retreat House. The retreat was based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Each week of the 30-day Ignatian retreat is spent on different aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus. The final days are spent on the The Passion of Christ and the Resurrection. Part of the structure of the 30-day retreat is meeting every day with a spiritual director as we contemplated and prayed through the life of Christ. As we approached the Holy Week and Easter portions of the retreat, our directors encouraged us to stay with each movement of the Passion. They suggested, as Ignatius does, that we accompany Jesus as the disciples did, as the people around him did. Try to envision the events from different perspectives, perhaps as a specific disciple, like Peter or John, or as Mary, Jesus’ mother; or even as some great poets and artists have done, imagine and participate as a less visible or unknown witness, perhaps even as the creatures who may have been present, a bird on a rooftop, a donkey lifting his dusty feet. We put ourselves in the stories as Jesus travels from Bethany to Jerusalem, entering the city. Much as we do in the services of Holy Week, we prayed through the events of the Last Supper, the night in the garden of Gethsemane, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion, the aftermath for the followers of Jesus, the time between taking him down from the Cross, laying him in the tomb. Then came that Holy Saturday pause before the Resurrection.
I’ve been meditating through the events of the Passion for many years, as I’m sure many people have. And every year, there comes a pull, a temptation, if you will, sometime in Holy Week, to flee the power of the story in some way, simply because of its power. Fleeing can take many forms, it can appear as avoidance, as distractions, as numbness, or dullness, as fatigue, as a refusal of the tasks, or the people one encounters. In Holy Week, fleeing can look like the disciples who were frightened or angry, or simply too tired to stay awake with Jesus in the garden as he prayed. During the retreat, when we approached the Holy Week scriptures and meditations, our directors encouraged us as we moved through the events. Over and over, quietly and gently, they reminded us to try and stay close to it. Jesus gave beautiful words for that kind of attentiveness: he asks us to abide with him, to remain with him through the movement of the days at the end of his life. The invitation is the same as it was in Advent, when Jesus told the disciples to be ready and prepared, to “keep awake.” Attending a death is much like attending a birth. At one point, as we waited for the Resurrection, my wonderful director, a nun from the Bronx, said a marvelous thing that I want to pass on to anyone who might be reading this: as you wait for the Resurrection, pray with it, contemplate it, and wait for it, don’t rush Easter–wait until you experience that moment that Jesus has risen for you. Wait until Christ is Risen for you. You’ll know it when it comes, she said. And she was right.
As we move into the Great Three Days, in anticipation of the Resurrection, as we wait and pray, may we abide with Christ, keeping awake with him, attending him through these last moments. May we experience the dawn of Easter, when each of us hears Jesus call us by name. May we know freshly, uniquely and truly, that Christ has risen indeed, for all of creation, for all of us, for me, for you.
Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. during Lent, we hold a mid-week contemplative worship service at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. This year, we are sharing stories, poems, art, songs, that speak to us of our experience of God’s love.
Palm Sunday: March 25th, 10:00 a.m. with procession of the palms.
Wednesday: March 28th: 7:00 p.m. Holy Week Healing Service in the sanctuary.
Maundy Thursday: March 29th, 6:00 p.m. Maundy Thursday Dinner Church. A family friendly vegetarian meal, during which we share the Lord’s Supper, Maundy Thursday scriptures, songs, and reflect together on the Great Commandment: “love one another as I have loved you.”
Good Friday Tenebrae Service: March 30, 7:00 p.m. A solemn, prayerful service commemorating the events of Jesus’ death, with the Seven Last Words, and Veneration of the Cross.
Holy Saturday: From 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. The church will be open for prayer.
EASTER SUNDAY: 6:15 a.m. at Good Harbor Beach, Ecumenical Sunrise Service.
EASTER AT ST. PAUL–10:00 a.m. Festive Eucharist, with special music, flowers, a marvelous joyful morning, with an Easter Egg Hunt after the service.
On Ash Wednesday, which coincided with Valentine’s Day, as all of us know, by now, there was another school shooting in Florida, in which 17 persons died. Our Ash Wednesday service in the evening was heavy with the knowledge, grief and anger in the wake of the shooting. It was good to put ashes on our foreheads, as a symbol of collective mourning, and also as a confession of our frailty, an acknowledgement of the brokenness so many of us feel regarding the culture of gun violence in our country. I know many of us felt wordless with shock; I certainly did, and in that helplessness, the words of an ancient prophet came as help:
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
There were children at the service, on Wednesday night, and I was so very grateful they were there, to be gathered in the arms of prayer that evening. The next morning, a parent in the neighborhood wrote me to say her child was afraid of going to school. She was able to calm her son down enough, and she called the school to find out what the teachers and guidance counselors might be doing for him and other children. She, too, felt frightened by what can happen in the halls of school.
If we want to change gun violence in this country, prayers and thoughts are not enough. Lent calls us to fight evil with good. Gun violence is a clear and present danger to our communities; we are not helpless to change it. It is an evil we can fight with prayer AND action. If you are looking for a way to use Lent as a time of healing and life-giving activities, consider taking action about gun violence, even if it is something as straightforward as calling your national Representatives and Senators, or perhaps registering people to vote. Gun lobbyists get people to vote. Peacemakers better be able to do that, too. Educate, advocate, vote, and get your friends to vote. The church has a public responsibility to speak and act in the matter of preventing gun violence in this country. If you doubt that, please check the Sermon on the Mount. We are Christ in this world, and I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t get behind assault rifles.
If you are interested in getting involved with and helping to work for change, then there are several organizations through which you can do that. Moms Demand Action is one I like; it’s a secular organization, https://momsdemandaction.org, but we have great resources within the church, too. I’ve listed them below with a pastoral letter from our bishops, written in 2013, and sadly, still needed.
Here’s a local organization started in Massachusetts by a MA resident and gun violence activist, John Rosenthal: http://www.stophandgunviolence.org
- “Community Violence,” a social message http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Community_ViolenceSM.pdf? _ga=1.130333711.1614659498.1391546494
- “The Body of Christ and Mental Illness,” a social message
- “Hearing the Cries: Faith and Criminal Justice,” 2013 social statement
- “For Peace in God’s World,” a 1995 social statement
- “Ban of Military-Style Semi-Automatic Weapons,” 1989 social policy resolution
- “Community Violence – Gun Control,” 1993 social policy resolution
This Sunday, January 28th, we will hold our Annual Meeting immediately following the 10:00 a.m. Worship Service. If you are available to help set-up and clean up, provide food, or other assistance, please call the church office 978-283-6550, or write us, email@example.com and let us know! Set-up is Saturday morning! Annual Reports are available in the church office. Thanks everyone for a wonderful year!
This week, on Sunday, January 28th, we will be holding our Annual Meeting, immediately following the 10:00 a.m. worship service. As I wrote the Pastor’s Annual Report, I found myself once more plunged into gratitude for this community. It is no surprise that Annual Reports can become Epiphanies in their own right, a window into the ways God is working among us. As I read through it, I found myself chuckling, rejoicing, praying, remembering, celebrating, planning, thinking, but most of all, thanking God for all of you, who are this Body of Christ. Annual Reports are available at the church office, should you need one. If you see Carol Gray, our Parish Administrator, please say thank you to her for her devoted work last week to edit and produce it. Thanks to all who contributed their reports and for all that we have been this year. Jenn Klopotoski designed the outstanding cover page, basing the illustration on a project she did with the children. (Above). The art is based on the verse from Micah 6:8 so many of us love:
O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Last week, the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, the children worked on another creation based on Jesus’ call of the disciples when they were mending their nets: Mark 1: 14-22. Between the two of those art projects, the Sunday School has expressed something of the core of our self-understanding as a congregation, as disciples. The caption reads: Walking the Way of Jesus, We are Schooled in the Light of Christ.
See you Sunday! 9:00 a.m. for Sunday School; 10:00 a.m. for Worship, and 11:30 for the Annual Meeting.