A Statement from Bishop Gates and Other Leaders Regarding Restrictions on Refugees

Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Gayle E. Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, together with Bishop Douglas J. Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, have signed a joint letter from 17 church leaders, issued  by the Massachusetts Council of Churches, opposing the White House executive action suspending refugee resettlement.

You can find the statement here, along with a message from Bishop Gates addressed to all of us in the diocese.

Climbing the Mountain – January 29, 2017

A Sermon for St. John’s Episcopal Church
Charlestown, Massachusetts
Preached on January 29, 2017, The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

by the Rev. Thomas N. Mousin

Matthew 5:1-12

Today, we are invited to climb a mountain. Last week, we listened as Jesus called his first disciples, and then were told how “he went through the region of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing every every disease and every sickness among the people.”

So his fame spread, Matthew tells us, and great crowds followed him.  “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.”

His disciples came to him, and so do we.
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Living Stones

 

Iyad Qumri, presenting pilgrims with an overview of Jerusalem

Dear Friends,

Many of you know that I recently returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Traveling through Israel and Palestine, we saw places both ancient and modern, visiting sites associated with the stories of the Bible, all the while seeing and experiencing how this region is deeply divided.

Our guide for the tour was Iyad Qumri. Iyad describes himself as a Palestinian, an Arab, and a Christian. He is accustomed to people being surprised that he is both Arab and Christian. Our preconceptions and stereotypes are often broken apart when we travel, and that is one of the great benefits of a pilgrimage such as this.

The challenges faced by Christian communities in the Middle East has caused many Christians to leave. Many Palestinian Christians live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and opportunities for work and freedom to travel, which we take for granted, are limited. Bethlehem, which in 1947 had a population that was 85% Christian, is now only 15% Christian.

What so impresses me about Iyad, his family, and others we met who are living under such challenging circumstances is their deep faith and resilience. Christians in the Holy Land are sometimes referred to as “the living stones.” Their faith is indeed alive, and a witness to us.

I look around us and see the divisions within our own country. I wonder if we can overcome them. And then I remember Iyad, and the way he faces even greater challenges,  faithfully bringing the Gospel alive for pilgrims with patience, confidence, and even laughter. And I am given hope.

Faithfully,

Tom

 

A Statement from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Regarding Refugees

“I ask President Trump to continue the powerful work of our refugee resettlement program without interruption.”   The Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has released a statement in support of refugees and the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Here is an excerpt of Bishop Curry’s statement:

As Christians, we are asked to pray: for our leaders, for our loved ones, for our enemies, and for those who are suffering. Our work does not end with prayer: we also offer assistance to those who are fleeing persecution. We find homes for those who have been forced out of their homes. We feed those who are hungry. The refugees who enter the United States do so after experiencing violence and persecution undeserved of any human being, and they come to the U.S. with hopes to build new lives.

Refugee resettlement is a form of ministry, and one that we, and many other churches and faith-based organizations, cherish. The work of Episcopal Migration Ministries is God’s work, and we show the face of God through the care and compassion in that work.

The full statement of the bishop can be found here.

More information on the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries can be found here.

Epiphany Potluck and Service, Friday January 6 at 6 pm

The Feast of the Epiphany is Friday, January 6. As the culmination of our Christmas celebrations, we remember the coming of the Wise Men to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. The word Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation,” or “appearance.” The wise ones who travelled to Bethlehem are often seen as the first Gentiles to whom the light of Christ was revealed.

We will celebrate with a a simple potluck supper and service at in the Parish House, starting at 6 pm. It will be a child-friendly service, and Tom will present chalk for “chalking the doors” of the church and our homes – it is a tradition we have observed at St. John’s for the last few years, in which we bless our homes for the coming year with chalk inscriptions over the thresholds.

Do you have figures of the three kings or wise men at home? Consider bringing them on Friday and we will place all of them – whatever size – before the manger.

Seeing God’s Beauty

Church StepsDear Friends,

On Saturday evening, St. John’s offers a wonderful gift to the larger community, our Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. It is a St. John’s tradition, and also part of the larger tradition of the Anglican Communion. Each Christmas Eve, persons all over the world listen to the service that originates from Kings’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England.

The beauty of such liturgical offerings is one of the gifts that the Anglican tradition offers to the larger church. We see God’s beauty in all the elements of this service, as the scriptures, anthems, and carols reveal once again the mystery of God’s love made known to us in Jesus Christ.

There are times when one may wonder if our efforts to create such moments of beauty should be directed elsewhere. I remember that four years ago, our service took place just days after the shootings at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. Today, the reality of the suffering in Aleppo and so many other places around the world is before us. At such times, it may feel that  stepping into the beauty of a candlelit church can be more an act of denial than of worship.

The poet Mary Oliver reminds me of how our efforts to see beauty are essential in such times.  The writer Parker Palmer recalled being at a reading by the poet several years ago. After the reading, someone in the audience asked her, “What is the purpose of beauty?”

Mary Oliver replied, “We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.”

Our coming together in candlelight, our listening and singing, are  all ways of evoking that poignant ache – to be worthy of the beauty and love that God has already given us. We gather, knowing in the words of the carol that “the hopes and fears of all the years” are met in this person of Jesus Christ.

I hope you can join us to hear again the wondrous story of the One who himself is the embodiment of God’s beauty, and who awakens in us the ache to be worthy of love and life.

Faithfully,

Tom

 

 

Rivers of Grace

Roll 24 - 37

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. Psalm 46:4

Dear Friends,

Down below, at the bottom of this newsletter, you will read of the efforts being made to ensure that the dirt basements “down below” us stay dry and free from any accumulation of water. For years, after heavy rains and wet seasons, there have been occasions when streams of water have been running beneath us. Not good, as everyone knows, for the general health of the buildings – or for those who work and worship in them!

I’m grateful for these efforts, but it made me think about the fact that upstairs, in our classrooms and in our church, we are seeking to do quite the opposite – seeking to increase the flow. It’s not water that we are seeking (unless you consider the waters of baptism). Rather, we want to create channels for grace – the means by which we can experience more fully the abundant and outpouring love of God.

Channels for a river of grace: we create them every time we introduce a parable or biblical figure to our children in Living the Good News or Godly Play classes. In the Word spoken, we hear afresh the Spirit speaking to us, and we are changed.

We create riverbeds for God’s grace every time we lift our voices in song, or listen to one of our choirs offer an anthem. “The one who sings, prays twice,” St. Augustine once wrote. How many times has a moving piece of music enabled us to hear and glimpse God’s beauty in a new or deeper way?

Every time we celebrate Holy Communion, we receive the grace of God – the church traditionally refers to the sacraments as “means of grace.” I love the way my Eucharistic theology professor spoke of what happens at communion: “The miracle at the altar is not so much that bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, but that ordinary human beings like you and me are being transformed into the living body of Christ,” – and, I might add, being nourished to go from the altar to go out into the world and to act in love.

This Sunday, we will be introducing one more means of grace: the sacrament of healing. If you wish to have prayers of healing for yourself, or for another, after receiving communion you may proceed to the back of the church (on the organ side). One of our priests will ask for your prayer intention, and then pray with you, anointing you with the healing oil that was consecrated by Bishop Gates at our anniversary service.

We are introducing this sacramental act on this Second Sunday of Advent. During Epiphany, it will be offered twice a month, and then during the seasons of Lent and Easter, it will be offered each Sunday.

I am praying for no more rivers in our basement. And I am praying for more and more rivers upstairs where we want to see them – in our classrooms, in our church, and in our lives.

Faithfully in Christ,
Tom

Lessons and Carols on December 17th

It is a much beloved tradition at St. John’s and one of the ways in which we offer God’s beauty to the larger community. Our Lessons and Carols service this year will be held on Saturday, December 17th at 5 pm. Both our choirs will lead us with anthems, and carols for us to join in, as we list to the story of God’s redeeming work told in scripture. As always, a delightful reception follows, and childcare will be available.

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, (1590–1656)

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, (1590–1656)

Advent Invitations

 

th-3Dear Friends,

The season of Advent is rich with opportunities for deepening our relationship to Christ. Some of those opportunities are in places beyond our parish, and meet a variety of needs. Look through what is happening at St. John’s and beyond, and discover ways to pray, worship, learn, and give this Advent. You’ll also find the schedule for Christmas services included here.

Faithfully in Christ,
Tom

ADVENT AT THE MONASTERY: Tuesday evenings in Advent at 5:30 pm
The brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge offer a preaching series at their Tuesday evening Community Eucharist, focusing on “radical practices.” All are welcome to join the brothers for these services, and to stay for a simple supper afterward. The first service is tonight. For more information, see: http://ssje.org

ADVENT SERIVE OF REMEMBRANCE AND HOPE: Wednesday, December 7 at 7 pm at Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester
For those who have suffered losses, either recent or long in the past, the holiday season can be a difficult time, when we are surrounded by images of happy families gathered about the tree or enjoying a festive celebration. This service of prayer, scripture, poetry, and music offers an opportunity to express our feelings around our losses while also hearing words of hope. For more information, see: http://www.3crowns.org

ADVENT QUIET DAY: Saturday, December 10th at Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester
The Rev. Martin Smith will lead a Quiet Day from 9 am to noon on Saturday the 10th at the Parish Of the Epiphany in Winchester. To be told one is “a godsend” by someone is a beautiful affirmation, yet this intriguing word is rarely explored for its depth of meaning. In this quiet day led by the Rev. Smith, noted writer and retreat leader, participants will ponder and pray about how each of us uniquely shares in the mission of Christ, as members of his Body, embodying God’s outreaching love in an incarnation that is ongoing. The suggested donation is $20, and childcare is available if requested. You can find out more by going to http://www.3crowns.org ;  registration is requested by emailing the church office at office@3crowns.org

ADVENT EVENSONG: Friday, December 16 at 6:30 pm at St. John’s
Our monthly Evensong service this month takes place on the third Friday of the month. Cherish the quiet contemplative nature of this service in the candlelight of the church.

SERVICE OF LESSONS AND CAROLS: Saturday, December 17th, 5 pm
Our choirs are preparing to lead us in scripture and in song as we celebrate with carols and anthems of Advent and Christmas. As always, a reception will follow the service in the Parish House. Please contact the church office if you  are interested in childcare for the service.

CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PAGEANT: Sunday, December 18th, 10 am
Our children will tell the Christmas story as part of our 10 am worship service on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Come look for a star and listen for an angel!  All children are welcome to participate, and the schedule for rehearsals is here:
Sunday, December 4, after the 10 am service
Sunday, December 11, after the 10 am service
Saturday, December 17, at 11 am, with pizza to follow

CHRISTMAS EVE
Saturday, December 24:
4 pm: Family Service with Choir and Holy Eucharist
10 pm: Holy Eucharist with Candlelight

CHRISTMAS DAY
Sunday, December 25, one service at 10 am

ADVENT GIVING – THE JESSE TREE: Opportunities to give in Advent
When you come to church this Sunday, you will see a bare branched tree with symbols of the Advent season. Known as a “Jesse Tree” it takes its name from one of the scriptures of the season: ” A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”( Isaiah 11: 1). Jesse was the father of King David, and the gospel writers trace the lineage of Jesus back to this family.

You can place gifts under this tree for families here in Charlestown and far beyond our community in Syria. Here is what you can bring:

Here in Charlestown: Through an arrangement with the Harvard-Kent School, gift cards of $10 or $20 from CVS, Whole Foods, Market Basket, or other local stores will benefit families in particular need here in Charlestown. Just place your cards in an envelope marked “Harvard-Kent.”

Two Options for Syrian Refugee Relief:
St. John’s Church in Beverly Farms has an ongoing ministry with women and children in the Freedom Refugee Camp in Syria. Cash donations are welcome (make checks payable to St. John’s, Beverly Farms). Warm clothing for women and children, blankets, scarves, hats and mittens, and stuffed animals are also on their wish list. Items do not need to be wrapped. Just place them under the tree – the sooner in the season the better. Checks should be in an envelope marked “St. John’s Beverly Farms.” You can find out more about the organization they work with, Nudaysyria, at:  http://www.nudaysyria.net

Marianne Lindahl Allen, a parishioner, works with Refugee Protection International, (RPI), an organization that focuses on refugees in urban settings near conflict zones. You can find out more about their work at their website, and make donations there: https://refugeeprotection.org