"…who see Christ in all persons…"
This is the second in a series of occasional reflections on God's Vision for St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Christmastide is the season of the hidden God. Or, at best, for the God incognito. Just as the triumphant Lord had first concealed his Kingdom behind the mask of death atop Calvary, so the fantastic ramifications of his Incarnation were veiled by the vulnerability of a baby in Bethlehem.
God hides, it seems to us, or at best dons a disguise impenetrable by every eye except the eye of faith. And so the golden strand tying together all the Scriptures, the drama unfolding throughout all of human history, is this: who - and where - is God? This is why most of the New Testament is simply the story of those who saw God behind the improbable masks - the baby, the carpenter's son, the crucified criminal, the Samaritan - and those who did not (or could or would not).
Recognizing God is no less a problem today, both for the Jew and the Christian as well as for anyone else seeking relationship with the divine. If we are to be completely honest we have to admit that the invisibility of God is not a divine but a human conspiracy. Jews living in the Middle East 2000 years ago had trouble seeing Jesus as the Messiah not because God tried to trick them, but because they found the manner in which he revealed himself unacceptable. He was not a king but a servant and, in Roman eyes, a criminal. The problem of the Jews of that era was not that they were Jewish, but that they were human. When I am unable to see God in the world it is usually because he does not conform to my expectations concerning appropriate divine behavior. Like a spiritual Oedipus, I have plucked out my eyes of faith
"He was in the world . . . yet the world knew him not" (John 1:10). The "world" was too busy looking for a god made in its own image to know its own Creator. And if it is hard enough to surrender our expectations of how God should act in our lives, it is even harder to see him at work in the lives (and especially through the lives) of others. Not only must God perform in a manner deemed acceptable by me, but so must his servants. I am all too willing to point out how somebody else is not behaving in a manner appropriate to a good Christian man or woman. In my imagination I carry about the secret formula for the ideal follower of Christ, a model of perfect piety. Perhaps I feel that he or she should be "nice" (whatever this is), should smile a lot, and be kind to children. The more detailed my description of my ideal becomes, the more, I fear, do I eliminate larger and larger segments of Christendom. The more rigid my expectations of what a "good Christian" should be like, the more I limit my vision; and hence the more complacent I become. Cataracts of piety have clouded my eyes of faith. "Nothing that she does or says should be taken seriously (certainly not taken as Christian truth!), because she is obviously not a Christian: she does not smile when she sings hymns, she is not well educated, she is unattractive, she has no money, she has a nasty disposition, and she dresses inappropriately."
How tragic, and how we cheat ourselves, when we apply such rigid and narrow criteria to God's activity in his creation and through his servants. No one set of rules will suffice in discerning the hand (or will) of God; no one person's style of religious expression can exhaust the variety of valid kinds of spirituality expressed in our race. The Almighty only seems to wear a disguise because our vision is so narrow. "He was in the world, yet the world knew him not." May we be as vise as the Magi and as broad in vision as the Christ himself as we seek the advent of the Lord.
A Word from the Senior Warden…
We are one people of God…
Over the years, the face of St. Paul's has changed significantly. Just looking around our nave, on any given Sunday, I see as many wonderful "new" faces as old familiar ones. This growth, this change, is a sometimes bittersweet kind of renewal, but one our worship family has embraced wholeheartedly, as we lean, expectantly, into the future.
What I believe has not changed here, is the heart of this faith community, this family.
Our heart, for me, is manifested in the many shinning examples of leadership we witness here. Leaders who have helped us see a clearer vision for shaping, nurturing and growing our ministries. Committed leaders, who roll up their sleeves and tirelessly support the work of parish life. Leaders who, in countless ways, dedicate themselves to ensuring St. Paul's will continue to thrive and grow and will be able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, as we are striving to meet the needs of our greater community.
Who are these amazing leaders? Look at the folks around you in church on Sunday… (Don't forget, your neighbors are looking back at you!) ..…. Each one of us has all the raw materials necessary to be just such leaders!! The kind of leadership I'm talking about isn't only defined as clergy, vestry member, chair of a committee or director of a program. This leadership, this personal ministry, is woven through our life together here. It's manifested in the wide variety of ways we nurture and share our faith, it's revealed in our commitment to the hard work of growing the Body of Christ, and we see it in the consistent way we endeavor to live into our shared vision of tomorrow.
When we say St. Paul's Vision Statement together on Sunday mornings, we remember where we've been, we acknowledge the business we're about today and we plan our journey together into the future. In those few words, we remind ourselves of the work waiting to be done and who it is, exactly, that's called to do it!
Many of us, myself included, struggle with the notion of being called "leader." Many of us, myself included, don't always believe we have a significant piece of the whole to contribute. The words on the inside of the cover of this newsletter are an excerpt from Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural address. If you find truth in them, please let them inspire you, as they have me, to step up and grow your ministry as a leader from St. Paul's. You can make a difference.
Let your Christ Light shine!
Myra Battin, Senior Warden
Diocesan Convention 2003
This year's convention was, for me, a more "low key" event, with the notable exception being the presence of the Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, than in other years I've witnessed. Resolutions were passed, or not, with some interesting but less than impassioned debate, elections of the various officers was accomplished in one ballot (a first in convention history I'm told!) the budget deficit was discussed with hope, rather than fear, and we ran ahead of schedule a lot of the time. All that being said, it was a Spirit filled time and I'm very grateful to have been there.
Bishop Warner's address was heartfelt and timely. He spoke of the schism growing in our greater church. He asked that love, reconciliation and forgiveness be our motivators as we attempt to bridge that gap. He offered, if we commit to focusing our common ground, we can't help but recognize the face of Christ in one another.
I was surprised at how unassuming Presiding Bishop Griswold appeared to me. He seemed a quiet man with a gentle soul. His homily at the Eucharist on Saturday contained a message of healing and his hopes for each of us to take our own responsibility in helping the church remain unified and focused on God's love during these challenging times.
Looking around the hall, I was at times overwhelmed by the commitment to our individual faith communities and to the greater church represented by those dedicated people gathered there. Each person was willing to give of their time, energy and resources, at convention, at home and in the world, to be about the business of ensuring the work of our church will continue. We worshiped and sang together, we listened to one another through laughter and tears and we offered our honest discernment over the business brought before us. We were truly one body. Because I believe the people I saw were representative of those communities from which they came, I left convention with great trust in the future of our church.
Delegate to Convention
Editor's Note: Delegates representing St. Paul's at the convention included Randy, Deacon Cece, Marilyn Pantano, John & Myra Battin. Many thanks go deservedly to Myra Battin and Richard Horn who served as Chalice Bearers. Over 1000+ folks shared in the Holy Eucharist on Saturday morning.
The Bishop Suffragan Search Committee is asking for folks to share their thoughts and concerns related to the search process. You can mail your comments to: Diocese of Olympia, c/o Bishop Suffragan Search Committee, PO Box 12126, Seattle, WA 98102. Comments may remain anonymous. For more information about the process visit the Diocesan Web site at: www.ecww.org. - AMH
Episcopal Church Controversy Mirrors World Opinion
The Episcopal Church of the U.S. has installed the first openly gay person, a man living in a long-term relationship with another man, as Bishop in New Hampshire. What this may mean to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion (a worldwide association of churches which trace their roots to the Church of England) is being played out in the world press.
First let us examine a bit of history about the Episcopal Church of the U.S.
The American church has traditionally taught that its foundation has three pillars: history and tradition, Biblical sources, and intellect. When approached equally, governance within the Church is calm. However, when widely divergent views emphasize one or two pillars over the others, intense conflict can result, as we are now witnessing in the American Church and throughout the Anglican Communion. In considering the present case it is useful to look at the last fifty years.
In this brief span of time there have been at least three major crises in the Church. The first of these was over the implementation of the revised Book of Common Prayer (the Episcopal equivalent to the Roman church's Missal), which brought the language into more contemporary usage. The next was the approval of women as priests and Bishops. The Church of England and other national churches are still struggling with this issue, as is the Roman Church.
Also, about twenty-one years ago, the Episcopal Church approved a program that would encourage and support church activism in the mission of serving marginalized and underserved communities around the world. This program is called Jubilee Ministry.
St. Paul's in Bremerton has recently been recognized as a Jubilee Center for its support of the GLBTQ community, the Lord's Neighborhood Diner, Olympic College Early Head Start program, and programs for substance abuse, etc. When the Jubilee program was introduced and approved in the early 1980's the Presiding Bishop of the U.S. received death threats. In convention in Texas at the time he was protected by armed guards. Feelings ran very high as to what role the church should take in the world. Now nearly every Diocese in the Episcopal Church has Jubilee Centers.
And now we are in the midst of controversy over the approval and installation of the first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson, whose story is being played out in the glare of the international press. The Archbishop of Canterbury called a gathering of worldwide archbishops to discuss the American church's appointment of a gay Bishop, as well as the Episcopal Church's approval of the blessing of the committed relationships of gay and lesbian couples, has set many religious communities on their ears. Dire predictions of the breakup of the Anglican Communion or expulsion of the Episcopal Church from that organization have been rampant in the media.
One thing is certain: there will be change in the Episcopal Church. How that will play out is still to be seen.
In the U.S., we will probably see some parishes and dioceses withdraw from the American branch of the church and ask to become affiliated with one of the more conservative branches outside the U.S. What is not clear is how many will complete this process. Some years ago, after the General Convention approved the ordination of women, the Episcopal Church experienced a near schism. As a result, the Church changed church law that would make if more difficult for parishes and dioceses to withdraw and take tangible assets with them. This may slow the process, thus allowing for more dialogue.
Here in Western Washington, there is a broad range of responses to Bishop Robinson's election and the blessing of same-sex unions, from outright approval to outright condemnation. Here in Kitsap County, with its numerous Episcopal parishes, the full range of opinions is represented. As occurred during earlier Church crises, some people will leave the Episcopal Church, and some will reduce their support but nominally stay members. A few parishes may attempt to dissolve their association with the U.S. Episcopal Church and become part of an overseas province of African or Asian Churches. On the other hand the actions taken in Minneapolis and New Hampshire may attract new members who are looking for more progressive religious settings.
This perhaps is where the future lies. The religious conservatism that one sees in Christian societies and Islamic countries may be reaching its peak. More moderate voices will perhaps now have a chance of being heard and offering alternative and reconciling points of view.
In the GLBTQ community there are many ways in which people of faith can step up and support churches that are welcoming and affirming. One can join the church of your choice and work within for change, supporting their programs that aid our community. One can write letters, send money, vote, and participate in civic affairs to work for a more tolerant community and society. The one thing that we should not do is sit back and be silent.
Editor's Note: Stan is a member of the OUTKitsap board of directors and has been a longtime member of St. Paul's where he serves as a Chalice Bearer and lector at 8:00 a.m. As a charter member of our Jubilee Council, Stan represented St. Paul's at the national Jubilee Council meeting last spring on the East Coast. He originally wrote this article for the OUTKitsap December newsletter and has graciously agreed to share it with his church family. Many thanks Stan. - AMH
Christ with Us
Where might Christ be born this night…
Not in a stable, that I know.
Perhaps in a downtown shelter though
Where row on row of lumpy cots
Hold God's lost creatures, bearing lots
Of aches and pains and broken hearts.
Are siren wails the angel's song….
Sounding right amidst the wrongs…
Are those shepherds gathered round
In yellow helmets bright as crowns…
Must Christ be born so far apart
From love that harbors in my heart….
Dottie Belle Cairns
Editor's Note: This poem was first published in the Good Word in December 2002 and is being reprinted with permission. Especially in these times her words speak volumes… Thank you, Dottie Belle for your willingness to share your thoughts with your church family. - AMH
Liturgy and Arts Committee Report
We met October 25 to review plans for Christmas liturgies, several questions about liturgical practices, and some "arts" projects. Of note to the congregation is that Cindy Holland will be introducing a special processional piece during Advent that will be sung by the Congregation on Christmas Eve. Get ready to practice. The Greening of the Church will take place on Dec. 21. A different look is planned. Members of the congregation are invited to stay after the 10:15 service and help out.
The Prayers of the People are going to be a little different. Deacon Cece Morris has provided a book, Intercessions for the Christian People, which provides a number of different prayers and follows the lectionary. It uses more inclusive language. This means you will be hearing and saying something different each Sunday. We don't want to lose the time for people to voice their own intercessions in Sunday worship and will be working to ensure space and appropriate responses to make that happen. The names of people and programs to be prayed for will continue to be listed in full in the Bulletin. Let the Committee know what you think about this change.
Cece will be initiating a period and place for prayers of healing and support to be given for people seeking some personal prayer time with another member of the Congregation following each service. She will be recruiting a series of teams to support this ministry and will provide more information to you about it.
Discussions continue about how to enhance the worship experience at St. Paul's through liturgical practices and creating a sacred space through visual expressions of the arts. Along that line, the Stations of the Cross have been retouched by the original artist and will be "re-matted". A sample of possible colors to be used is being prepared.
The next meeting of L & A is set for Sunday, January 11, 2004. If you are interested in attending, or have ideas for liturgy and/or art projects, please contact Sandy Stutey or Randy.
All Saints' Day Celebration
In celebration of the lives of the many saints who have touched each of us, members of St. Paul's participated in a month-long parish project of folding paper cranes, using the Japanese art of Origami. The cranes have been symbols of peace for centuries in Japan, and each crane contains the name of someone the folder wishes to remember as part of the parish All Saints' celebration.
Later that day, folks gathered for a wonderful potluck lunch that the Vestry hosted. It gave people a chance to visit with friends and hear information about the various ministries at St. Paul's.
The cranes will be flying in the Nave until the first Sunday in Advent.
Many thanks to Sandy Stutey and her team for all their hard work in creating this joyful way to remember the saints who have come before us…
As the church continues to live more and more into our God's vision for us, there are lots of opportunities for people to try out new ministries and share their gifts.
The Christmas Story
Randy will offer a special two part adult faith formation class about the nativity stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke on the first two nights of December (the 3rd and 10th) from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. in the Library. Childcare is available with notice given no later than the preceding Sundays.
We will be using incense at the 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service on December 24. We use a very fine grade of frankincense that doesn't seem to cause respiratory irritation in many people. The incense will only be used for the procession at the beginning of the Eucharist. The rest of the time during the service the incense will be removed from the nave. We only use incense a few times each year at special services in keeping with the rich traditions of our Church.
Going, Going, Gone….
Do your family and friends really need any more gadgets and knick-knacks for Christmas this year??? On December 7 and 14, the annual African Team Ministries Craft and Jewelry sale will be held in the Narthex. The monies from these sales help to support African Team Ministries as they attempt to make the difference in the lives of children in many third-world countries. Give a gift that helps out a needy family somewhere else on the globe.
An Art Sale sponsored by North Star Design of Seattle on December 7 will yield proceeds that will support St. Paul's various programs. The framed and matted prints include works by Monet, Ansel Adams, Picasso and Juarez Machato to just name a few. They are being sold at 80 % off the regular retail price. Come and chose a beautifully framed print at a great price for your home, office or to give as a gift for your favorite relative and get your Christmas shopping done early!
The Altar Guild will have 2004 Episcopal Calendars on sale December 7. There is a limited number of these special calendars available that display the liturgical seasons.
Take the opportunity to sign up for 2004 Altar Flowers and Sanctuary lamps to be given in memory of or thanksgiving for the people and events who are special to you during the year…. sign up early to make sure that you are able to get the date that is important to you.
There will be forms available for Christmas Altar Flowers thank offerings and memorials… remember that the deadline for signing up for these is Monday, December 15.
With the Christmas holidays approaching there will be no Christian Formation classes on Sunday, December 28. Classes will resume on January 4, 2003.
The Annual Meeting will be held on Sunday, January 11, 2004. There will be a combined worship service at 9:00 a.m. and classes will not be held on that day. Classes will resume on January 18.
Thank You, Geni!
St. Paul's has been blessed to have had Geni Baselt as our Nursery Coordinator since the beginning of the program year in September. She recently began working for Easter Seals, and her hours there are being increased to the point that she will no longer be able to work in our nursery after the first of the year.
Congratulations, Geni, and thank you! - Randy
The church office will be closed from December 25 through January 2. In the event of an emergency, please contact Randy through his cell phone (620-2376); Myra Battin, Sr. Warden or Don Vanlue, Jr. Warden. Normal office hours will resume at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 6.
The Good Word newsletter will have earlier deadlines over the weeks ahead. The deadline for the January newsletter will be Monday, December 8. Please contact Ann Horn (email@example.com) if you have questions or concerns about the early deadlines. Contact the church office if you have any changes of your mailing address. Regular deadlines will resume in January for the February issue. Please note: Articles submitted after the due date will be published in the following month's newsletter.
Come and join in the fun at 7:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve as the parish shares in the traditional play, "St. George and the Dragon," as part of the evening's special activities. We will be using incense at the 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service (see smoke alert) and for those who don't want to stay up late on Christmas Eve, join Randy at 8:00 a.m. on Christmas Day to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Holy Eucharist will be "served" at all services. Watch for bulletin announcements regarding rehearsal schedules for the play and please contact Cindy Holland if you'd like to volunteer to help.
Hanging of the Christmas Greens
The "greening" of the church is a long-standing tradition at St. Paul's. It is away of adding color and good will to a joyous time of celebration in the church. It is something that everyone, young and old, can help with.
Members of St. Paul's, and friends who want to put some finishing touches on their celebration of the Christmas season, are invited to help "green the church" on Sunday, December 21, following the 10:15 a.m. service. If you will be coming to the church to help out, we should be underway by 11:45.
There will be a tree to put up, and assorted wreaths and other greens, ribbons, and lights to put in place. Light refreshments will be available.
Dress casually, bring some gloves, and lend a hand. There's something for everyone to do. Children are welcome to make this part of their Christmas celebration, too.
Contact Sandy Stutey or Myra Battin for more information or to volunteer.
Prayers of the People
You are encouraged to pray for friends, family and those in need during the week using the weekly cycle of prayers found in the bulletin as your guide. Please contact Carol Angel to have some one added to the prayer chain and call the church office (377-0106) to have someone added to the weekly prayer cycle. The Sunday Prayers of the People are taken from Intercessions for the Christian People by Gail Ramshaw. You are encouraged to lift up your own prayers during each section.
Christmas Caroling: Friday, December 19th at 5:30 p.m.
We will leave St. Paul's and carol at Canterbury Manor, Bremerton Health and Rehab and Belmont Terrace. When we return to St. Paul's we'll "warm up" and have some (potluck) goodies before enjoying 16th Century Carols at 7:00 p.m. along with a traditional play, "St. George and the Dragon," in the nave. We look forward to seeing you at St. Paul's for an evening of song, food and fun. Contact Cindy Holland for more information.
Calling all Stars…
Come and join in the fun on Karaoke Night on Friday, December 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall. Come and spend the evening singing Christmas Carols and other favorite Karaoke tunes! The night will include a great Filipino dinner of lumpia, pancit, chicken adobo and chicken teriyaki salad, plus dessert. Karaoke will follow the meal. There will be drawings throughout the evening for door prizes.
Childcare is available with advanced notice. Tickets are $5 for adults and youth. Children 12 years old and under eat for free. The deadline for ticket sales will be noon, Tuesday, December 2. No tickets will be sold at the door.
E-mail Luz Accos: firstname.lastname@example.org or Ann Horn at email@example.com for reservations or more information.
Believe it or not the St. Paul's Centennial Year, 2004, is just around the corner!!!
Centennial events planning has been taking place for many months. Steve Rice has designed a beautiful Centennial logo to pay tribute to this special year in St. Paul's history. Centennial Chairman and Historian Margaret Murdach is asking that a banner be made to commemorate the event.
The goal is to finish the banner in time for the official unveiling on April 18 during the Bishop's Official Recognition Day and Rededication Visit. There will be a potluck lunch following the 10:15 service in the Oliver Room along with birthday cake to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of St. Paul's.
If you would like to join in this worthwhile project to help plan the pattern and create the needlepoint banner (using the same colors as the kneelers), please contact Margaret Murdach or Cindy Holland.
Church Quiz - December, 2003
The Season of Advent began on November 30 and continues into December. The Season of Christmas also begins in December.
1. What is the color for the Season of Advent?
2. When does the Season of Advent end?
a. Christmas Day
3. How many Church seasons are there? Can you name them?
b. The Eve of the Nativity
c. The First Sunday after Christmas Day
4. Christmas is an immovable principal feast. How many other immovable feasts are there? Can you name them?
5. When does the Christmas season end?
a. The Epiphany
Church Quiz Answers
1 a, d, and e; 2 b; 3 c (Advent, Christmastide, the Season after the Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide, and the Season after Pentecost; 4 b (The Holy Name, January 1; The Epiphany, January 6; The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, February 2; The Transfiguration, August 15; and All Saints' Day, November 1); 5 a.
A Night with Robert Burns
The pipes are calling to the lads and lassies of Scottish Heritage. Come listen to the beautiful language of the Scots on Friday, January 23, when recited by the lovely lassie, Joan Dalgarno Zaratian, born and educated in Dingwall, Scotland.
The Robert Burns Supper will be the first annual celebration for the Centennial Year, 2004, for St. Paul's Church. There will be the traditional menu of Roast Beef, Smoked Salmon, Tatties'n Nips, Haggis, Tipsy Laird and Beverages.
The Ceremonial Supper brings the pipers and musicians for the centerpiece of the evening and piping and blessing of the Haggis. Your evening will bring you great entertainment, some of which you can join in when
you hear your favorite Scottish music.
We will have tickets reserved for you when sales begin on Sunday, November 16 at the Kirking of the Tartans. Call Rosemary and John Allen for ticket reservations or additional information.
No tickets will be sold at the door. Make checks payable to St. Paul's Episcopal Church and please note on the memo line "Burns Supper'.
We look forward to your presence and will revive a festival dear to the hearts of Scots.
Auld Lang Syne.
Mark your calendars for the Annual Meeting and election of church officers of the parish that will be held on January 11, 2004. There will be one Eucharist at 9:00 a.m. followed by the annual meeting and a potluck brunch hosted by the vestry.
There will be no Christian Formation classes that day. All persons who are 16 years old and older will be able to participate in the election process.
The Rector and Vestry are the designated leaders of our parish. Their ministry oversees the spiritual life and direction of the parish, and the management of the business affairs of St. Paul's. The Vestry is composed of 12 members, four of whom are elected for a three-year term every January. Serving on the Vestry means a willingness to dedicate oneself to many hours of hard work. It is challenging, rewarding, and often fun.
The Clerk of the Vestry and the Treasurer are also nominated and elected to one year-terms to serve with the Vestry and attend meetings.
The Diocesan Convention Delegates are elected at the annual meeting. Four delegates will be elected to represent St. Paul's for a two-year period. Two alternates will also be elected to take the place of a person that cannot attend the Diocesan Convention.
The delegates and the clergy attend the diocesan convention that is held each fall. They represent St. Paul's by voting on a variety of different topics. The group then reports back to the parish about the convention's decisions.
The Annual Report for 2003 will be distributed during the meeting. Please contact Myra Battin or Don Vanlue if you have any questions.
Living With Loss While Others Are Celebrating: Coping With Holiday Grief
Come and join Cece on Saturday, December 6th from 9:00 -11:00 a.m. to explore ways to "make it through the holidays" while grieving the loss of a loved one.
On Advent Sunday we made a special offering of the Stewardship Inventories and Intent for Giving Cards for 2004, which were introduced to you at the Vision presentations with the accompanying worksheets. The forms themselves are enclosed for your use, and the worksheets may be found on the media table in the narthex. Or you can just call or e-mail the church office for them. Drop them in an offering plate or bring them by the office, or mail them in. If you out them in an envelope, mark the outside of it Stewardship 2004. Your responses will go directly to the Treasurer, Sharon Rios, and the Parish Stewardship Officer, David Stomberg.