Bishop Hazelwood’s Visit–November 10th

On November 10th, Bishop Hazelwood joined us for worship, luncheon, and a book signing. He was delightful as always. He introduced the congregation to his new book Everyday Spirituality, beginning his sermon with a story of his own struggle to find spiritual practices meaningful to him. Traditional spiritual practices did not come naturally to him. He is a seeker, he says, for spirituality that has meaning for him everyday, that isn’t set apart from his daily existence or daily tasks. In the introduction, he writes:

“This is a book about everyday life. In living an everyday ordinary, seemingly routine life, we are living out a spirituality. Not the kind of spirituality that’s set apart. Not the kind where you go off to a retreat center for silence and good food and walks in nature. I’ve got nothing against that, and in fact, I enjoy those retreats myself. But I need a spirituality that is real for me on Mondays at 6 a.m. when the alarm goes off, and Thursday during dinner with my kids, and Fridays between the grocery store and the gym. This is a book that connects the stuff we do every day, every week or every so often with God.”

He has developed a card game to go with the book to use in small groups or at home or with friends or the congregation, as we did during the sermon on Sunday. Each card has a question on it inviting a conversation about our own experiences, or something important to us. For example, what are three things you’d like to be remembered for after you die, or one I liked very much: “Once, this really weird thing happened to me…Tell us about it.”

After the service, during the lunch, I heard snippets of conversation as I walked around tables or greeted people with their coffee. I could tell the Bishop had connected with the congregation, because people were talking about their own spirituality. One person talk about being in the woods in northern Minnesota, “that’s my spirituality, he said.” Another person told me about his experiences sailing as a crew member of a historic Gloucester ship, the camaraderie. Someone else talked about her photography. It was exciting for me to see the conversation from the worship service continue when we went downstairs for lunch. The thing you want most, as a pastor, or at least what I what most as a pastor is that faith be alive, a “living, busy, active, mighty thing” Luther called it. It’s always wonderful to see that in people’s lives, and I saw it on Sunday. After he finished his corn chowder and salad, Bishop Hazelwood stayed at his table with us in the middle of the room; people came to get their books signed, then sat down and began to talk with him about their experiences. He’s an inviting, personable man, and we connected with him, and with his book. Most of all, we connected with what is holy in our lives, with God in our everyday lives. All in all, a wonderful morning.

From the Everyday Spirituality cards.

Late Summer Update

Dear Friends,

It has been a busy summer at St. Paul. In addition to our usual summer activities, we began a construction renovation project on the education wing in July. This is a major overhaul of the building which we have been planning for the last several years. If you haven’t been by the church to see the new windows, new siding going up, scraping and painting of the whole church, please come by. It’s wonderful to see what is happening. The new windows let in much more light, and they are easy to use!

Robin Carlo, our new Assistant for Family Ministry and Outreach, has been working and planning this summer. We are excited to announce that Rally Day will be on September 15th. In a departure from past years, we are meeting at 9:15 a.m. on Sundays. Our theme this fall is Creation. Many churches have begun using these lovely autumn Sundays as a time to focus on creation in their classes and worship.

The Yard Sale was lovely and successful, even in the midst of our construction project. It was smaller in terms of items for sale, as we did not have rummage sales this year. But the crowd was delightful, a steady stream of shoppers, who enjoyed delicious food, found bargains, and chatted with neighborhood friends and visitors. Our thanks to Yard Sale organizers.

This spring, we decided to form a new peace and justice group. We’ve had one in the past, focused on racism from 2015-2018. The group wanted to study Pope Francis’ Laudato Si this summer, and met on the beach, when the weather permitted to read and discuss the Pope’s powerful encyclical on the climate crisis and our response as followers of Jesus. The group will continue to meet this fall, focused on care for creation and climate change.

We have a new organizer for our Open Door/Cape Ann Food Pantry commitment to provide meals four times a year. One of the evenings was in late July, and as always, our beef stew was a hit. Thank you to all who made that possible.

In late August, I participated in an annual ecumenical and interfaith arts camp, Cape Ann Arts Alive, held at St. John’s Episcopal Church. This year our theme was the 400th anniversary of Gloucester, which is coming in 2023. The children come from all over Cape Ann, some as far away as Cambridge. The program is funded by grants from the Episcopal Diocese, and other cultural associations.

Much more has happened of course. These are some of the highlights. We look forward to worship returning to 10:00 a.m. next week, September 1st. There is a month left of summer–and we hope you enjoy it.

Pastor Anne

A Sweet Surprise from the Twitterverse

A sweet surprise: This morning, as I visited social media, one of the ways I keep up with the church around the world, friends and world news (don’t worry, I check sources), I came across a beautiful question by a young Episcopal priest asking people to reflect on their experiences of Holy Communion. For those of you who use twitter, please visit our Twitter page, as I posted her question and the over 100 people’s responses to it. Reading it was like reading a litany of joy. They are short answers, so it won’t take you more than 10 minutes to read them if you want to. Writers reflected on the way receiving communion dissolved barriers, the way it moved their hearts, what it felt like to walk forward with open hands, what it is like to look into someone’s eyes as they receive, what it is like to hear one’s name in communion, what it is like to sit down afterward and take in the holiness of the moment, the profound reality that Christ is really and truly present in the elements. There were so many, I can’t reproduce them here. But here is question:

“Instead of getting too bogged down in the negativity, I’d like to start a thread in which we share our extremely meaningful experiences of the Eucharist, regardless of our denomination. ”

They are worth reading, prayers of gratitude for what we have received.


The writer is an Episcopal priest and writer The Rev. Erin Jean Warde @erinjeanwarde (on Twitter), if you want to follow her. Here is an article she wrote recently for the Mockingbird, an on-line journal on religion and all kinds of other things. https://www.mbird.com/2019/06/sobriety-broke-me-to-pour-me-out/

Special Congregational Meeting June 23rd

On June 23rd, immediately following our 10:00 a.m. worship, we will hold a Special Congregational Meeting on the Education Wing Renovation project, and funding. We will be voting on the project and proposal. If you are a voting member, please attend. If you have questions, please send an email to office@stpaulcapeann.org and we will forward to the appropriate person to answer your question.

Holy Week and Easter Services 2019

Holy Week and Easter Services

Wednesday: Healing Service, 7:00 p.m. 

Maundy Thursday: Holy Communion and Foot-Washing, 7:00 p.m.

Good Friday Tenebrae, 7:00 p.m.

Holy Saturday: Open Prayer, 9:00-5:00 p.m.

Easter Sunday Worship: 10:00 a.m.

Here I Am–#YouthGathering2018–Cynthia Carney’s Wonderful Sermon

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.

10-28 Show Up sermon

Prayers for Tree of Life Synagogue

Dear Friends,

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 —
find comfort-givers,
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
(Ps 61)

Here are some of the verses from the Psalm:

 Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.
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;
for you are my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me abide in your tent forever,
    find refuge under the shelter of your wings.Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name…

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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/us/pittsburgh-shooting-victims.html

Lent Begins in Grief

 

 

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

Church resources:

http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/COB_Pastoral_Letter_On_Violence.pdf

 

Epiphany Halfway

 

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:

“He has told you,
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.

fishandfeet

See you Sunday! 9:00 a.m. for Sunday School; 10:00 a.m. for Worship, and 11:30 for the Annual Meeting.