Recently, I returned from a visit to my granddaughter in California. Coming back to Lanesville, I was greeted by some neighbors early one morning, who offered their congratulations about our church building project. They stopped me in the Plum Cove Grind, our local coffee and pastry shop, and expressed enthusiastic praise for the way the building is beginning to look.
While I was gone, walls have been raised, and windows cut in them, so now the construction really does look like a church is being built. I told the work crew about the praise the neighborhood had heaped on them. The crew was pleased in a quiet way, and looking forward to the day the roof goes on. They have been working in inclement weather, and it will be a pleasant change to have something over their heads when the snow flies.
We’re preparing for Lent, in these last days of Epiphany. Christmas, of course, was delightful, the Christmas pageant the best ever. The children sang beautifully, the church was packed despite snow, and we had a wonderful time. Then, all of a sudden, the season passed, and we entered Epiphany and the heart of winter. As I drive around Cape Ann, though, I notice many people haven’t yet taken down the Christmas decorations.
Epiphany calls me, at least, in powerful ways. There are so many wonderful words to roll around in during Epiphany: light, shining, wisdom, water, majesty, glory, beauty, transcendance, delight. And, too, Epiphany always carries the solemn knowledge and remembrance in the scripture lessons of those who turn away from light. Epiphany in New England always involves snowstorms. We’ve had several on the weekends in January and February, but despite bad weather, people came to church. One morning in January, we had no power in the sanctuary, so we met downstairs, all jumbled together in one- half of Fellowship Hall. We plunked out hymns on the old out-of-tune-piano. It was a lovely, intimate service. Children sat in their parents laps. The close proximity thawed out our chilled bodies, warming our hearts. Later, one of our members said, “we should do that more often, just for the fun of it.”
Another Sunday in January, two children were baptized. They were members of the fourth generation of one of our families. One was a young boy named Austin. He was thrilled to receive a candle, and even more thrilled to carry it up and down the central aisle while we sang a baptismal hymn. We should have taken a picture of his face–it was bright and shining; his huge smile was lit up by the candle, an Epiphany moment if there ever was one. Last week, as Austin was leaving the church, he ran back in from the parking lot and pulled on my robe: “I loved getting baptized” and laughed up at me again. And then dashed off to join his family.
Now the season is moving more toward spring. We’ve had a February thaw this week, and mist rose in the woods from the melting snows. It was warm enough to rain, and the thermometer hit 50 degrees at least. In the angle of light and the lengthening day, we sense the change coming. For two days, we took off our mittens and muffs, our heavy coats and scarves. Everyone said hello on the streets, as if we hadn’t seen each other for ages. We’ve been too bundled up to recognize each other. Then the winds began to blow, the temperature dropped, puddles froze once more to an icy slick. But there was enough of spring to get us through the last weeks of winter.
In about two weeks, we observe Ash Wednesday. Our theme for this year’s Lent is “going green,” a shorthand term for thinking about mending our relationship with creation. The teens are planning a Pancake Supper for Mardi Gras, and we’re searching for healthy recipes for toppings, instead of just buying sugary confections. Real maple syrup, for example, instead of corn-syrup based ones, organic milk, eggs, and pancake mix. During Lent, we’re asking the Sunday School children to pay attention to how they use water and electricity at home, or oil and gas, to notice where their food comes from.
In worship, we’re going to try a paperless service. Although we’ve already ordered all the Celebrates for the season, we won’t be using a bulletin. We’ll keep track of how much paper we save. I’m hoping that lack of a bulletin will help us become even more familiar with our new Red books.
We are continuing to collect bottles and cans for a fund drive for a well in the South Sudan for Wunlang village. We’ll keep on developing our relationship with Lutheran World Relief through quilts and coffee, and other Fair Trade products. We are already a fairly thrifty church, thanks to our members who are conscious of wise spending, and who remember to turn down the heat, close doors, and turn off lights.
A new ministry is unfolding in one of the colleges in our community. Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, who teaches at Montserrat, recently became a member of the Campus Ministry Committee for the New England Synod, along with a talented young artist, Montserrat student Kristine Williams. Both are working with the New England Lutheran Student Movement to plan and implement a Faith in Art retreat at Montserrat on February 21st. Please keep this retreat in your prayers. There’s been an enthusiastic response from students.
On February 28th, our Mission Area Assembly will be held at St. Paul Lutheran in Arlington, Massachusetts. There will be presentations and workshops on several ministries in which we are involved, including Book of Faith, the Wunlang School, Campus Ministry, and Habitat for Humanity. Lutherans in the Northeast Conference and the Boston Metro Conference will be attending, representing about 35 churches. This is a lay organized and lay led event to continue to build partner relationships with each other. Last year’s Mission area Assembly was a success. St. Paul Lutheran Church, Gloucester sent 5 members, and organized worship for the event. It’s a good venue for learning about each other’s ministries, and connecting with friends across Boston and the North Shore. ALD