There’s a Parade in Town

Dear Friends,

Yes, there is a parade in town this Sunday – the Bunker Hill Day parade. It is a cherished Charlestown tradition. But I am thinking about another parade. It is the parade we participate in every Sunday as we  worship. I know most of you don’t process – at the 8 am service it is usually just one person, the presider, and at the 10 am it is at the most 12 to 15 of us processing to the first hymn.

Still, I want you to picture our worship each  Sunday as part of a grand procession of people who throughout the ages have gathered, in formal procession or not, to bring their praises and prayers before God. Ideally, all of us should be a part of the procession.

The Bunker Hill parade is a long one. But the parade of worshipers of which you are a part is an even longer one. It includes those who sang the psalms when they were first written as they made their way to the Temple in Jerusalem. It includes those who sang under cover of night in slave quarters or other places where Christians were persecuted. It includes all the people of God in every time and place. And it includes all those how have gone before us and now sing a new song.

We are one incredibly small part of that parade. Nonetheless, it comforts me to think that whether there are 200 of us or 2 of us at a worship service, we are part of a much greater procession. I hope to see you at the parade this Sunday, and every Sunday.

Faithfully,

Tom

Promises to Keep

Dear Friends,

Will you cherish the wondrous works of God, and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?

That is a question we will be asked at the 10 am service this Sunday. It is one of a number of questions that make up the Baptismal Covenant, questions asked of those being baptized, or of parents of children being baptized. For those of us already baptized, it is asked of us as well  so that we might reaffirm our commitment to promises we once made.

For most of us, however, it is a new question. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2015 added this question for trial use in the Sacrament of Baptism – you won’t find it in the Book of Common Prayer.

“New occasions teach new duties” are  words from a hymn I used to sing in my days as a United Methodist. Deputies and bishops at the General Convention discerned that the care and repair of creation is a crucial issue  for Christians to address in the 21st century. Climate change is a new occasion. We have new duties to learn.

I thought of that baptismal question listening to President Trump’s remarks announcing his intention for the United States to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. As I listened, I realized the he was following through on a promise he made in his campaign. He was keeping a promise he had made.

On Sunday, we will be asked to keep to the promises we make. We will not be asked to make those promises as Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. We will not be asked to make those promises as Americans, or even as global citizens.  We will be asked to make those promises as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We will be asked to serve Christ, not only in the intimate circles of those we know, but “in all persons.” We will be asked to strive for justice and peace, not just among some, but among all people. We will be asked to respect the dignity of human beings, not just of Americans, but  of every human being. We will be asked to care not only for the beautiful property of our church that we blessed last Sunday, but for all creation.

I know that I fall far short of lkeeping the promises I have made. I know that given my 21st century American lifestyle,  I am doing little to  protect the beauty and integrity of all creation, and actually doing much to harm it. I need your help. And you need mine.

Will you respect the wondrous works of God, and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation? I look forward to hearing from you how you are striving to keeping that promise.

Faithfully,

Tom

 

Spring Fling!

Join us for an evening of fun, food, magic, and more!

This Saturday, June 3rd from  6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. is St. John’s Spring Fling.  It is shaping up to be a wonderful evening.  There will be an opportunity to sign up for “Breaking Bread” events — social gatherings and events throughout the year that various parishioners have kindly volunteered to host.  By way of example, if you would like to have brunch in Gloucester and see the schooners or have dinner at a wonderful home on the Training Field, don’t miss the opportunity to sign up on Saturday night.  Any profits we make on Saturday will help to offset our budget deficit and 10% will be shared with Harvest on Vine, The Harvard Kent Leadership & Scholarship Partnership and B-SAFE.

 

A Sabbatical Season

Dear Friends,

It is hard for me to believe that I have been serving with all of you for over five years now. September will mark our sixth anniversary of being in ministry together. As announced at the Annual Meeting in February, I will be taking a three month sabbatical this year. Combined with two weeks of vacation, it means I will be away from St. John’s from July 24 through November 2.

The wardens and vestry have been working with me to arrange coverage during the sabbatical. We anticipate hiring an interim priest to be with us two or three days a week, including Sundays. Our priest and pastoral associates,   Lyn, Dick, and Liz, will continue with their regular assistance in preaching and presiding, and their engagement in the pastoral life of the parish. We also anticipate that many of you will participate in carrying out ministries that are important to our life together.

A sabbatical after five years of service is part of my  Letter of Agreement, and the vestry has supported my decision to take it at this time. I am sure there are many questions people may have about the sabbatical, and in the coming weeks, the wardens and I will provide more details about what this three and a half month period will be like.

This will be a time of renewal for me. A theme of my sabbatical will be to focus on creative endeavors, including oil painting and piano lessons. The sabbatical will also be a time for the parish to more clearly identify the strengths and opportunities of its members. You will hear more about that as well in the weeks to come.  I’m grateful for the vestry’s support, and confident that under their leadership, we will continue to be a community where people can hear the Spirit, see God’s beauty, and act in love.

Faithfully,

Tom

 

 

 

 

Charlestown Historical Society Church Tour

St. John’s will be one of four churches open to visit for the Charlestown Historical Society’s Church Tour on Saturday, June 3 from 10 am to 2 pm.

St. Francis de Sales, St. Mary’s, First Church, and St. John’s will all be part of the tour. It is suggested that people begin the tour at St. Francis Church, where brochures will be available. Lemonade and cookies will be offered at St. John’s at the end of the day.

 

EfM: Formation for Christian Leadership

From Left to Right: David Bresnahan, Kathleen Steen, Jane Struss, Alice Krapf

On Sunday May 21, four graduates of the Education for Ministry Program (EfM) were recognized at the 10 am service. Alice Krapf, David Bresnahan, Jane Struss, and Kathleen Steen each received their diplomas at the service. EfM provides adult Christian formation through a four-year curriculum that includes bible study, church history, ethics, worship, and theological reflection.

An EfM group has been meeting on Wednesday evenings at St. John’s, and will resume in September. We are currently seeking new participants. More information can be obtained by contacting the church office

Read Esther

Dear Friends,

This week, I call your attention to the biblical book of Esther (and not for a reason some of you might think). You will see in the article below that the presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are inviting us to undertake disciplines of fasting, prayer, and advocacy on behalf of those who suffer from hunger in our country.

What does that have to do with Esther? I won’t say more. Rather, I encourage you to read the bishops’ messages (or watch their videos) and read the book of Esther. You never know when you might be called “for such a time as this.”

Faithfully,

Tom

 

For Such A Time As This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a joint statement calling for prayer, fasting and advocacy.

The statement, For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy, calls for fasting on the 21st of each month through December 2018, at which time the 115th Congress will conclude. 

The 21st of each month is targeted because by that time each month, 90% of SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits have been used, thereby causing the last week of the month as the hungry week in America.

 The fast will launch with a group of national and local leaders doing a three-day fast together May 21-23. These leaders include Presiding Bishop Curry, Presiding Bishop Eaton, and leadership throughout the Episcopal Church.

 

Click here to read the bishops’ full statements and to see video presentations by each of them.

On the Road Again

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, in preaching about Luke’s story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus, I concluded the sermon with a poem. Several of you asked about the source of the poem and for a copy of it.

I composed the poem a few years ago at a diocesan clergy conference. There was an afternoon workshop with a poet, and we were encouraged to write poems in response to the Emmaus story. There were any number of evocative poems, some in free verse. As someone who loves to sing hymns, my poems inevitably take on the structure of a hymn text.  So here  is the poem.

Whatever road you are on this week, I invite you to be listening and watching for the presence of Jesus Christ illuminating our hearts and minds  with resurrection life.

Faithfully,

Tom

EMMAUS

Upon the road we often walked
You joined us, stranger, as we talked.
And bid us, “Tell me of your loss-”
The meal, the garden, then the cross
A dulling grief, a piercing pain
Beloved, never seen again.

But on that road, and then with bread
We met the living, not the dead.
No shrouded corpse within a tomb
|But radiance that filled the room.
And hearts ignited by the fire
Of you, our love, and life’s desire.

 

Anything But Low

Dear Friends,

The Sunday after Easter is sometimes referred to as “Low Sunday.” It is not unusual to see a dip in attendance after the full pews on Easter. One can understand if the energy of the many lay ministers, choir members, staff, and clergy who create our liturgy each week flags a bit after all of the good work of Holy Week. My experience teaches me however, that the Holy Spirit does not keep time as we do, and that fresh expressions of resurrection joy are not limited to one Easter day.

This Sunday, I will be in a place where I suspect there will be lots of energy. I will be spending the first part of the 10 am service with our Godly Play class, which is led so ably by Rachel Pfost. I won’t be there to teach, but rather to listen and to participate as we continue to wonder about the Easter story and all that Jesus’ resurrection means to us. I have a hunch that the energy level in that room will be anything but low on Sunday.  I will then join the rest of you at the sharing of the Peace.

If you have never sat with Rachel and our children in a Godly Play session, I encourage you to do so. In our community, it is as crucial a circle of formation as any Sunday liturgy or sermon. You will see and hear our children doing what we are all encouraged to do – to hear the stories and parables of scripture, to wonder and reflect on what they mean for our lives, and in so doing, to encounter Jesus Christ.

I also invite you to join us anytime on Friday mornings at 10, where a growing group of children, parents, and caregivers gathers each week to sing and pray and hear stories from the Bible. You most certainly do not need to be a toddler or preschooler to participate!

Wherever you are this Sunday, may it be anything but “low.”

Faithfully,

Tom