Thursday, July 26, 2018
Message from Kelly+
Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;
*it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.
Canticle 10, The Second Song of Isaiah (55:6-11) (BCP 86-7)
The rain these past few days (and the taller-each-day corn in the fields along Quincy Road) keeps calling to mind the passage from Isaiah printed above. It’s deeply familiar to me because of its extra identity as one of the prayerbook’s canticles. A canticle is a short, scriptural song; the 1979 Book of Common Prayer includes 21 of them, and Enriching Our Worship adds another dozen-plus. In the pattern of the daily office (Morning and Evening Prayer), they function much as the Psalm functions in our Sunday worship service: as song (whether we put it to a melody or not) prayed in response to the scripture just read.
In my own practice of Morning Prayer, I find myself using Canticle 10 as the response when the day’s passage from the Hebrew scriptures is difficult to listen to: a story of battle, or conquest, or some other sort of violence. Those stories are in our holy book in part because they reminded the authors of God’s enduring faithfulness…even when the actions and events in which our forebearers perceived God’s active presence are ones I myself find hard to stomach. And so that particular canticle becomes, for me, this prayer: Holy One, Let this hard word of scripture be a seed that grows into a fuller vision of your loving, life-giving purposes.
As summer nudges towards fall, we Episcopalians in the Pemi-Baker Valley are being called very particularly into spiritual growth. Our leadership team for Renewal Works is being discerned, and you’ll be hearing more and more about that program in the coming weeks. It begins with a congregation-wide survey—a spiritual life inventory—and then leads through a series of important questions: “Where have we been? Where are we now? Where do we feel called to go? How will we get there?” (See more about Renewal Works here).
Throughout the process, our local team of leaders will be working alongside groups from 3 or 4 other faith communities in the diocese. These are folks who—like us—are poised for renewal: We have the resources and the potential to thrive here where we are planted. The Renewal Works program can be for us that life-giving rain (and, yes, eventually snow) that, as the canticle says, will give us growth, thanks be to God.
PS: Curious about all this talk about pages in the BCP beyond the familiar ones that hold the Sunday service? Join our August formation series, “Walk in Love: Introducing the Episcopal Church,” which starts a week from today, on August 2. Session 1, “Worshiping God in the Episcopal Way: The Book of Common Prayer,” presents the prayerbook as a deep well for our spiritual life.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
Message from Kelly+
Bead by Bead
“Bird by bird” is one of the most widely shared pieces of advice for aspiring writers. The phrase is Anne Lamott’s, and comes from a story of her childhood, which she recounts in her book by that title. As I remember the story, her brother, overwhelmed by the scope of a school assignment, was stuck, frozen, unable to get started.
The liberating advice came from a parent: How do you report on all those birds? “One bird at a time. Bird by bird.”
Tonight’s “Spiritual Practices Sampler” session on creating and using Anglican prayer beads could not be arriving at a more opportune time. The world around us is, as always, more than full of concerns that summon our prayerful attention. Look closer to home, in our own communities, and our own households, and the list of needed prayers only grows….cares, yes, and also thanksgivings. As Lamott, who is a follower of Jesus, puts it in another book title: We are called to pray “Help!” and “Thanks!” and “Wow!”
Please join your fellow pray-ers this evening at this session led by Senior Warden Joan Bowers, and accept the invitation to pray steadily and persistently, bead-by-bead, one bead at a time.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Message from Kelly+
Preparing to preach this Sunday—when our Gospel passage gives us Mark’s flashback to the murder of John the Baptist, and the phrase “head on a platter”—has had me thinking about one of the odd artifacts of my childhood: a painting of that very scene.
I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, a place shaped by Thomas Jefferson and his legacies. The state university that he founded anchors the town, and Monticello, his plantation home, sits on a hill on Charlottesville’s outskirts. And yes, right there in the parlor of Jefferson’s house (a place I toured countless times on school field trips and with out-of-town guests visiting my family) hangs “Salome Bearing the Head of St. John the Baptist.”
The story that Monticello’s researchers, historians, and tour guides tell about life there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries has shifted greatly since my childhood, and most dramatically around the lives of the enslaved workers and their families. Once a place that presented “the great work of one great man,” Monticello—through its tours, programs, exhibits, and even the landscape itself—now presents a deeper, more nuanced, more complicated, and yes, more painful story of interwoven lives. In its wholeness, it’s a truer story. And it touches a truth that’s also conveyed in the prayer from Compline that I commended to you several weeks ago, where we ask God to “grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil.”(BCP 134)
For the past two weeks, the Episcopal Church has been gathered in General Convention. A great part of the work done in Austin has been about our church’s willingness to confess that we have sinned “against God and our neighbor,” and to decide how, over the next three years, the Episcopal Church will commit our energy, time, and funds to amend our common life.
General Convention does its work through legislating resolutions. But what those resolutions are, at heart, are prayers and promises. Prayers and promises that we will work to do better at how we treat all of God’s children. Better at caring for God’s creation. Better at telling the truth about ways that we have fallen short. And above all, better at trying to love each other as God loves us.
We are in this together, this work of being God’s people, and especially this work of being God’s Episcopal people in this corner of New Hampshire. May we never forget that we need God and each other to do the work that our loving, life-giving, liberating God has called us to do.
Thursday, July 5, 2018
Message from Kelly+
Yesterday was, of course, the 4th of July, and one of the ways I marked that birthday of our nation was….carefully following what is going on in Austin, Texas, where the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church is taking place*. That’s perfectly fitting: after all, the Declaration of Independence is a document from the same political revolution that led to the birth of the Episcopal Church.
Our team from New Hampshire, which includes Bishop Rob, four lay, four clergy deputies, and two alternates, have been in Austin since Monday or Tuesday, and are working hard (you can catch up with them here).
At Eucharist this morning, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry introduced the Church to “The Way of Love,” a pattern of practices to help us all grow into a Jesus-centered life. Read more, and watch the Presiding Bishop’s message here, as he invites Episcopalians to:
Together with Holy Spirit and St Mark’s invitation from the Diocese to begin the Renewal Works program this fall, as part of a small cohort of congregations poised to thrive, the coming months look to be an exceptional season of spiritual growth.
But you don’t have to wait — or go far — to grow your spirit. Tonight’s formation program, which runs from 5-6:30pm in Sherrill Hall, will be a gem. Our presenter Roberta Nobleman joined us at the 11 am healing service in Ashland today, and when she read from scripture, well, Wow. We are blessed to have her company tonight. Don’t miss her presentation of stories from the Gospel of Luke.
*If you’re asking yourself, “Wait, what’s General Convention?”, here’s the official answer: “The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church that meets every three years. It is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese. During its triennial meeting deputies and bishops consider a wide range of important matters facing the Church. In the interim between triennial meetings, various committees, commissions, agencies, boards and task forces created by the General Convention meet to implement the decisions and carry on the work of the General Convention.”