Summer is Here! [Now What?]

Are you ready for summer? I am! Don’t forget to include All Saints in your summer plans. With warmer days and the slower pace, opportunities for fun and fellowship abound:

  • Pentecost – June 4 – We’ll have one service for Pentecost. Come and join us for a celebration which will include special music. We remember the coming of the Holy Spirit in full force, and the Jesus Movement that arose powerfully after Easter.
  • Father’s Day – June 18 – Bring Dad to church . . . or hold your fathers in special memory, recalling how the guidance and faith of our fathers guided and upheld us.

Read a good book! There are lots of opportunities:

  • Summer reading book trade – Do you have suggestions for perfect beach reading? If you have an extra copy, bring it to church and swap it for someone else’s. Be sure to indicate if you want the book back or not. Look for the “display” in the narthex.
  • Summer Book Group: June 18 following the contemporary service our summer book group will kick off with The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Let me know ASAP if you’d like a copy.  There are LOTS available at the library, although it looks like you’d need to request a copy from a library other than the Norristown branch.  We will decide on other books at that meeting. Some possibilities:
    • Unbroken   Rated 4.8 on amazon.com
    • The Boys in the Boat   4.8
    • Reimagining God   4.5
    • Warmth of Other Suns    4.8
    • Walking for our Lives     4.5

Read the Good Book. Bishop Daniel Gutierrez is still avidly promoting a year of reading the Bible.  I have ordered several copies of a One Year Bible Reading Plan – 14 full-color laminated panels that fit in your Bible and have three different reading plans. They should be here right after Memorial Day, but if you want one and we run out, let me know and I can order more. You could also check out Oneyearbibleonline.com, or download the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Bible Challenge app on your smart phone.

Watch a movie or two!

  • If you haven’t watched any movies at church recently, you’re in for a surprise! Nina and Andrew Ely organized a few “film festivals” and were able to turn our Activity Room into a very comfortable and effective movie theater. The sound goes through the sound system, and with lights out, our nice padded folding chairs, and plenty of popcorn or other snacks, it feels like the real deal.
  • June 11 in the Activity Room following worship: Raw Faith, a documentary that follows two years in the life of a Unitarian minister, Marilyn Sewell. “Marilyn must rely on raw faith as she questions her future, her difficult past, her God, and most importantly . . . her ability to love,” says IMDB.com (the Internet Movie Data Base).

There are lots of other possibilities:  Kinky Boots, The Hiding Place, Life of Pi, The Elephant Man, Little Boy, The Hiding Place, Bucket List, Beyond the Mask, Hell and Mr. Fudge, Courageous, To Save a Life, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry, Faith Like Potatoes,  One Night With the King (Story of Esther), End of the Spear, The Passion of the Christ, and Love Comes Softly. Any ideas? I’m all ears. Future dates with be forthcoming.

Have a wonderful summer, everybody. See you at church when you’re not down the shore or gallivanting around other parts of the world!

d any movies at church recently, you’re in for a surprise! Nina and Andrew Ely organized a few “film festivals” and were able to turn our Activity Room into a very comfortable and effective movie theater. The sound goes through the sound system, and with

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Categories: Movies, reading, summer

The Spiritual Practice of Hospitality

 

An article by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of spiritualityandpractice.com

The Basic Practice

We are practicing hospitality when we welcome guests — including strangers and enemies — into our lives with graciousness. An open house reveals certain things about us: we are well-disposed toward others, we focus on the positive, and we believe the universe is basically a friendly place. Sometimes hospitality requires that we cross boundaries and dismantle some of the barriers erected in our society to keep “the other” out. Sometimes it means entertaining ideas that might be alien to us.

To be hospitable, you need to accept pluralism as a natural condition in the world. Celebrate the diversity of the Creation. One particularly valuable spin-off of hospitality is inter-religious dialogue. Spirit speaks in many languages, and this spiritual practice helps us receive these multiple messages.

Why This Practice May Be For You

Hospitality and hostility are both derived from the same word root — but they couldn’t be more different. Whereas hospitality is about welcoming all, hostility thrives on insider/outsider conflicts. Practice the former to increase your tolerance of the various groups in our society and their distinctive lifestyles.
On an interpersonal level, hospitality is a good prescription to balance a tendency to be critical of and unaccommodating to others. People who are distrustful of the world, who become fearful and paranoid when strangers approach, or who are suspicious of ideas unlike their own will also benefit from this practice.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

* The sight of a welcome mat is a cue for me to extend hospitality to someone today.

* When I see a hostess at a party looking after the needs of her guests, I am reminded of the graciousness of hospitality.

* Whenever I pass a house of worship, I vow to practice hospitality toward different spiritual paths.

*  *  *

Part of welcoming all who simply notice us, or, better yet, who cross our threshold, entails a commitment to beautiful, clean, and well-maintained buildings and property. We at All Saints are fortunate, but not the kind of “fortunate” that happens by accident: compared to many churches our size, our facilities (including the rectory) are remarkably well-maintained and attractive. Thanks to many people, too many to mention by name, who have participated at work nights and grounds and gardens days, simply offered a hand by doing something that needs to be done; those who have offered areas of expertise, or have shown up at all hours of the night and day for emergencies (especially Joe Gelet and Nick Durante), and those who have spent countless hours maintaining and beautifying our grounds. Those who haven’t participated probably have no real idea of the level of devotion and hard work it has taken to keep things ship-shape. See the articles on pages 4, 5, and 6 about various work days we’ve had and are upcoming.

There are many more projects that cannot be done by volunteers. These include the following, which shows how much those projects will cost (if we’ve gotten estimates):

  • Professionally clean out drains, already completed by TLC Drain & Sewer: $810
  • Parking lot resurfacing and painting lines: $3,800;
  • Repairing basement windows of rectory, as well as woodwork ($$ unknown; must be completed before the next item)
  • Prepping and painting the rectory (outside): $13,000
  • Prepping and painting the church (outside): $25,000
  • Repairing/replacing woodwork and plexiglass covers for windows of church ($$ unknown)
  • Prepping, fixing walls, and painting the Second Time Around Shop ($$ unknown)
  • Power washing the stone of the church and rectory ($$ unknown)
  • Repainting and refurbishing the narthex (vestibule) ($$ unknown)
  • Getting carpets professionally cleaned (after painting is completed) ($$ unknown)

 

There are more projects that can and need to be done eventually, but all these things are necessary in the immediate or near future in order to keep our facilities in good repair (rather than waiting for a disaster, which is always more expensive). These projects also keep everything looking nicely maintained—a crucial way to tell visitors and potential visitors that we are alive, well, and even thriving.

We are fortunate to have some funds in savings, but probably not enough to complete all the projects needed. Our only other choices are (1) increased gifts by members, or some other ways of raising funds; or (2) getting into our endowment money, which provides regular income to All Saints and should only be used as a very last, last resort.

If you are interested in sponsoring any of these projects, in full or in part, it would be a remarkable blessing to the church. For all the rest of us, please consider how God has blessed you, how you’ve also been blessed by your membership at All Saints, and then keep those pledges rolling in during the summer.

Also, if you are in a position to do so, consider making a special gift or increase to your pledge for a specific project or to be used for any/all of them. You can speak to Joe Gelet, Chair of the Building Committee, any of the committee members (besides Joe, members are Ginger Banmiller, Nick Durante, and John Errington), or Mother Sandra.

And keep an eye out for a continually improved building that we can use to carry on with ministry at All Saints.

 

 

Children are God’s Gift to Us

Children are God’s gift to us: sort of cliché, right? But clichés come about because they contain deep truth that is so recognizable by everyone that they become unoriginal and predictable. But what does it mean that children are God’s gift?

First, we have Jesus’ own words: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Yes, it’s up to us to teach our children well, but don’t forget that our children, he is saying, teach us how to be in God’s presence.

And this surprising one: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matt 18:10).

Wrapping up our school year, on April 24 our Sunday School hosted an Environmental Fair; if you have read the Messenger recently, you will have heard lots about it. The artwork they produced was really stunning, and you can still view it in the activity room.

And on May 22 we honored high school seniors Carley Harrity and Emily Spottiswood, in a joyful and moving celebration of their thus-far lives at school, home and church, including a slide show that I enjoyed putting together and I think people enjoyed seeing.

Our children are truly our teachers, our future and the future of our world. We simply can’t do enough to include them in the life of the church. We welcome them, we celebrate them, and then, when we have to, we send them off into the world more prepared, more faithful, strengthened by the love of God, of each other, and of all of us to be citizen of the United States, citizens of the world, and, most of all, citizens of God’s kingdom as it is here on earth.

Blessings,

Mother Sandra+

Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry

We haven’t talked much about our new Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, but there’s plenty to talk about! There has been tremendous excitement since his election and his installation on November 1.

So we’re long past due! I first heard of Bishop Curry when I was a seminarian; he was repeatedly noted as being one of the – if not the – most electrifying preachers in the Episcopal Church.  It’s about time we hear some of what Crazy Christian book coverBishop Curry has to say, so I’m excerpting from the first chapter of his 2013 book, Crazy Christians:

CHAPTER ONE

We Need Some Crazy Christians

Then [Jesus] went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:19–21)

Jesus “has gone out of his mind.” That’s what the people say in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The King James Version translates it as, “He is beside himself.” The old J.B. Phillips New Testament puts it, “He must be mad!” But my favorite is from the 1995 Contemporary English Version which says, “When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.

Trying to get Jesus “under control” is exactly the problem. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov rightly warns us that the Church and we Christians have often tried to make Jesus tame. We want to manage the Messiah. But this Messiah won’t be managed. As Richard Holloway, former Primate of Scotland, once wrote, “Jesus goes on breaking out of all the tombs to which we have consigned him.”

So, forgive me for saying it this way, but Jesus was, and is, crazy! And those who would follow him, those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way, are called to be exactly that—crazy. If you asked me what the Church needs today, I would say this: We need some crazy Christians. . . .

. . . What the Church needs, what this world needs, are some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God—like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something closer to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those of us who would follow him, those of us who would be his disciples, those of us who would live as the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but those of us called to that life are called to craziness, too.

Christians who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. My friends, we need some of those crazy Christians. Sane, sanitized Christianity is killing us. Comfortable, demure Christianity may have worked once upon a time, but it won’t carry the gospel anymore. We need some crazy Christians like Mary Magdalene and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Christians crazy enough to believe that God is real and that Jesus lives. Crazy enough to follow the radical way of the gospel. Crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death. Crazy enough to believe, as Martin Luther King Jr. often said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We need some Christians crazy enough to believe that children don’t have to go to bed hungry; that the world doesn’t have to be the way it often seems to be; that there is a way to lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside; that as the slaves used to sing, “There’s plenty good room in my Father’s kingdom” because every human being in this world has been created in the image of God, and we are all equally children of God and meant to be treated as such. What we need are some crazy Christians—Christians who are crazy enough to catch a glimpse of the crazy, transforming, transfiguring, life-changing vision of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christians who are crazy enough to follow him into the work of helping God to realize God’s dream for all people and for all creation.

I don’t know about you, but this “crazy talk” gets me excited – excited about our new leadership, someone who can work with the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into our church, our individual churches, and our lives. Makes me happy to be an Episcopalian, hopeful for the future of our church, and energized to go out and do the work God has called us to do.

Mother Sandra+

Categories: Presiding Bishop

Happy Earth Day from the Sunday School!

This year our Sunday School has been focusing on Creation – as God created it, and as human beings have an impact on every aspect of what God created.

Our first project was getting a compost bin constructed, filled, and maintained. Thanks to those who helped – the Neros, Elys, and Dello Buonos, Bill Koffke (who helped construct our bin and, we hope, will help with new bins!) John Freeman (who loaned us a book on composting) and even non-member Jack Hale (Nina Ely’s father, who has had a compost pile for many years and gave some good advice). Oh, and don’t forget Joe Raudenbush, who has provided lots of “brown elements” in the form of grass cuttings and dried leaves. The leaves have been particularly helpful because the way that Joe collects them they get shredded into small pieces, which break down more easily.

Families have brought their “green compost” regularly as well – besides rectory and church kitchen waste, I’ve seen Steve and Natalia Dello Buono and Liz Parker out there numerous times, piling the kitchen scraps on. I also got a “compost aerator” – a simple device consisting of a pole that has metal “wings” on the bottom, which fold up toward the pole when you push it into the pile and then open up as you lift it out, thus stirring up the pile and giving it the space and air it needs to break down. It also shows how well the process is working, as it pulls up dark, decayed plant material from the bottom of the pile!

We’ve also been paying close attention to the creation story, are planting potato pots, doing artwork related to creation, watching some videos, and making sure to have “creation-themed” snacks when we can.

And now you are all invited to share in the fun. On April 24 (the Sunday after Earth Day, which is April 22) the Sunday School is hosting an Environmental Fair in the Activity Room. We have some fun activities planned and hope that you will all take time to stop by for a few minutes, learn something about creation and how we can all play a part in maintaining a healthy, sustainable earth so that all people, animals, and plants can enjoy it and thrive.

We will be offering compost buckets to collect kitchen waste, leaf bags, potato pots, and a few activities so that people of all ages can learn and participate.  (and hoping that so many people participate that we can construct one or two more compost bins).

Please join us! This idea was first promoted by a Sunday School student, Clare, and enthusiastically taken up by the other kids. Support our Sunday School and show your love for God and God’s amazing creation with us on April 24.

Mother Sandra+

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1):

There’s a time for Lent, and a time for Easter; a time for repentance, and a time for rejoicing. And these intermingle for most church workers – clergy, staff, thrift shop workers, Easter Egg hunt planners, and last (but certainly not least), the Altar Guild. All of us try to have a holy Lent while preparing like mad for Easter – a tricky balancing act!

We have almost the entire month of March left before Easter arrives, and a helpful focus for that is the second “proper preface” for Lent. The proper preface is part of the Eucharistic prayer, and it changes by season. I particularly like the second option for Lent, which I always use for the last few Sundays before Easter:

“It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every-
where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of
heaven and earth. You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer and in works of mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fullness of grace which you have prepared for those who love you. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels . . . .”

Indeed, we cleanse our hearts, but at the same time we prepare with joy for Easter.

This year once again we collaborate with St. Augustine of Hippo; we are graced with their presence for Maundy Thursday, and we will join them for Good Friday services at noon on Friday, March 25. They have been extremely generous and faithful at attending our services, so I eagerly anticipate a good crowd of All Saints folks that Friday. If you want to carpool, meet in the parking lot at 11:30.

The Greater Norristown Area Ministerium also offers services every day during Holy Week; I’ll be leading worship that Tuesday across the street at Grace Lutheran. We will keep you posted on dates and times of services.

And as to appropriate times for every matter under heaven – this time next year I will be on sabbatical. And, I sincerely hope, not just me, but the entire congregation, in a sense. You can read more about my plans, and plans for the congregation while I’m away, on page 4 of this month’s Messenger.

Have a blessed Lent and Holy Week as each of us cleanses our heart, reevaluate whether we live our lives consistent with our faith, and continually prepare these “temples of God” given us as worthy receptacle of Christ’s light.

Blessings and peace to you all – Mother Sandra+

Categories: Easter

A Lent Water Challenge

On January 11 the Gospel reading told of Jesus’ baptism, and I spoke about the Living Water Jesus offers. I also offered some difficult facts regarding water:

  • Many young girls throughout the world never go to school because they have to walk miles every day to get water for cooking, drinking, and bathing.
  • One in 9 people in the world don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water, not to mention water for agriculture, bathing, and sanitation.
  • According to Episcopal Relief and Development (ER&D), a child dies every 15 seconds from water-related diseases.

Take a moment, count to 15, and then say a prayer for the children and their faheartmilies affected in such a tragic way.

This Lent we are going to put some focus on the world’s shortage of clean water.

But it can be interesting, challenging, and even fun all at once.

As you can read on page 3, Lent is traditionally a time for fasting – abstaining from all or certain kinds of food and drink as a religious observance. Thus, we can observe a special kind of fast together this year.

Would you be willing to drink only water for the duration of Lent? That would mean 40 days from February 10 through March 26 – but Sundays are always an exception. And while the truly brave could give up morning coffee or tea, that is too much to ask of most of us!

But the Lent Water Challenge this year is a simple observance of Lent for everyone who’s willing to do together. It’s simple:

  • Drink water only. This wouldn’t include bottled water – except for water you put in a bottle you already have. Filtered water is OK but tap water is perfectly healthy.
  • Calculate your savings by giving up soda, iced tea, lemonade, alcohol . . . you name it!
  • Save the money — for instance, if you drink a can of soda every day, you’ll save between .50 and $2 each day.
  • We will donate the entire amount raised to the ER&D Clean Water Fund.
  • If you slip up and break the fast, no problem. Make the donation anyway and start again. A slip-up doesn’t mean the end of the fast – you just start over.

If you keep in mind the face of Jesus Christ himself in the faces of thirsty people everywhere, this won’t be too difficult, and you won’t spend any more than usual.

 

Categories: Lent, water