Thursday, May 31, 2018
Message from Kelly+
The Feast of the Visitation
Today, May 31, is the day when the church remembers the meeting of two mothers—Mary and Elizabeth—and, as Luke’s Gospel tells it, the beginning of the relationship between their children, Jesus and John the Baptist. Here’s the first part of today’s Gospel, Luke 1:39-57:
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
In their daily email today, the Brothers of the Society of St John the Evangelist (an Episcopal monastery in Cambridge, Mass.) shared a sermon* which notes that, by ordinary measures, all this is happening at the wrong time: Mary is “too young” to be pregnant with her child, and Elizabeth “too old.”
Even as we humans might say, “Too soon!” or “Too late!” or, “We’re moving too quickly” or “This is taking forever,” God is working out God’s own vision in God’s own time. As Elizabeth tells Mary: Blessed are you who continue to trust in God’s promises.
Mary responds to that blessing from her cousin with the song we know as The Magnificat. May it echo in our hearts and our lives, today and always.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
*The SSJE sermon is a wonderful, rich teaching by Br. Curtis Almquist, and I encourage you to seek it out here.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Message from Kelly+
The topic of communication is very much on my mind at the moment, as some hiccups in our computer systems have left our admin assistant Heidi and I temporarily unable to use the church’s email. You’ll see an apology above in this letter: We’re sorry if that communications breakdown has kept any of your own news from getting into this newsletter or into the Sunday announcement sheet. We have work-arounds in place, and the issue will be resolved…and of course this newsletter is going out as usual. But the experience is proving to be a good lesson on several points, including one about keeping our tools and technology in good condition and up-to-date.
Of course, it’s not all that many years ago that doing without email wouldn’t have caused the slightest ripple in our life as a church. The post office still delivered today, the phone still rang, and the time before and after Thursday morning’s Healing Eucharist in Ashland was filled with conversation, in small groups and one-on-one.
There’s much value in the all-at-once communication that this e-newsletter makes possible: We all have the chance to get key church news, at the same time, and “officially.” Today, though, I’m particularly aware that this newsletter is a bit like a one-way street. If you chose to reply to the newsletter today (and some folks do), we wouldn’t know.
So, consider this a particular and personal invitation to do two things. First, if you haven’t yet been able to have a one-on-one conversation with me, let’s make plans to talk. Call the Plymouth office at 536-1321, email me at (mailto:email@example.com) (that one is working), or catch me with calendar in hand (any day but Monday) and we’ll set something up. There are stories I need to hear; hopes and concerns to be shared; not to mention my being eager for tips on good places to hike and kayak. That’s one thing: Let’s talk. And don’t be surprised if I reach out to you, too.
And second: Please have another conversation—whether in person, or on the phone, or via a note or card—with someone you haven’t caught up with enough, recently enough. Share those hopes and concerns, or even a simple “I miss you; How are you?” It’ll do us all good.
Safe travels if the long holiday weekend takes you from home. You can find an Episcopal Church where you are by searching here.
Memorial Day Prayer
Eternal God, we remember those whom you have gathered
from the storm of war into the peace of your presence;
may that same peace calm our fears, bring justice to all peoples,
and establish harmony among the nations. Amen.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Message from Kelly+
As we continue to pray our way towards Pentecost, breathe in the words (below) of Malcolm Guite, a poet and priest in the Church of England.
Please pray in particular for those who will be baptized on Sunday: Piper, Kelly, and Katie.
Remember that our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, is preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle on Saturday. Even if you’re not a royal-watcher, Bishop Michael is an amazing, energizing, inspiring preacher.
I hope to see you all in church at 9:30 on Sunday in Ashland as we celebrate Pentecost and renew our own baptismal vows. And thank you for your prayerful attention to my message earlier today about our updated summer schedule.
A Sonnet for Pentecost
Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire, air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in every nation.
Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons: Seventy sonnets for Christian Year (Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd., 2014).
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Our Pattern of Worship for Pentecost and Beyond
As Pentecost draws ever closer, our own transitions as the Episcopal Church in this part of New Hampshire continue as well.
Our Saturday service at the Holderness School chapel reaches a milestone this weekend. Launched as an 8-week experiment for the Great 50 Days between Easter and Pentecost, it has drawn a steady and varied group of worshippers and has provided a chance for worship and fellowship to folks who are hungry for those things and yet cannot (for diverse reasons) connect with a Sunday assembly.
The Saturday service has also nurtured a developing relationship between our folks and the Rev. Josh Hill, Holderness Chaplain, and with the school leadership and community. I’m convinced that those relationships will have a place in our future.
As previously announced, the 5 p.m. Saturday service will continue through the summer. Taking into account the experience and feedback about what we’ve done so far, we’ll be adjusting the music we sing and how it’s used and taught. We’ll continue gathering outside the chapel around a campfire to begin the service. Weather permitting, there will be some evenings when we conduct the service entirely outside. While dining together in Weld Hall has been a meaningful part of community building during the Great 50 Days, Holderness School’s summer operations don’t make it possible for dining there to continue while school is on vacation. We’ll revisit that aspect of our fellowship in the fall.
This Sunday, May 20, is Pentecost, a great festival of the church. It will be our joy to gather, worship, and celebrate that feast day together, at 9:30 a.m. in the sanctuary of St. Mark’s Church in Ashland. We will welcome newly baptized into the Body of Christ, and we will renew our own baptismal vows. On this weekend of Pentecost, worship will take place twice: a modified Vigil of Pentecost at 5 p.m. at Holderness on Saturday, and the 9:30 a.m. Festival Eucharist on Sunday in Ashland.
As those of you who assembled at our principal worship service this past Sunday in Ashland heard (along with guests and newcomers and visitors, all told, more than 50 souls), the 8 a.m. service in Griswold Hall was a difficult and emotional gathering. We bring our whole selves to worship, and as the Collect for Purity reminds us (“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid…”), God knows those whole selves, and God knows the pain and sadness, anger and anxiety, distrust and hurt that swirled through our early gathering on Sunday.
I have spent the time since in conversation, and even more so in prayer: prayer for each one of you who was there at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and prayer for understanding what is needed for the health of this part of the vine that is our church. And all that prayer and conversation was tempered by and woven into preparing for and presiding at Keren Hepworth’s funeral Eucharist on Monday afternoon in Ashland.
I had asked us all to lean into something new between now and Labor Day, a fresh mix of fellowship, formation, and worship. In the wake of Sunday morning, having been with the 8 o’clock assembly when the moment for that step into a different pattern of worship was a week away, it’s become very clear to me that it would be an impossibly painful one for some of our people.
Simply put: I am moved with compassion at the distress brought on by a summer hiatus for the 8 am service.
And so: Going forward from Memorial Day Weekend, our weekend worship schedule will once again include 3 services: 5 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. Sunday, and 9:30 a.m. Sunday. After Pentecost Sunday, when we will worship at 5 p.m. Saturday at Holderness and/or at 9:30 a.m. in the sanctuary in Ashland, we’ll also include our Griswold Hall service at 8 a.m. on May 27. Weekday Eucharists continue at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays (CLC chapel) and Thursdays (St Mark’s).
Joan Bowers, Guy Tillson, Deacon Maryan, and I are working to regroup and adapt the fellowship and formation part of our summer schedule.
I have great faith in you, you diverse flock of Episcopalians who, like your predecessors, have worshiped God, prayerbooks in hand, on both sides of the Pemi, and in various chapels and church buildings in our wider neighborhood, for more than 150 years. I have great faith that as we learn to worship God, grow in faith, and love our neighbors TOGETHER, our story is far from over.
You all should also know, though, that I am far from done asking you to imagine (and do) great things. But know, too, that my faith in you and in where we are going is rooted in the hope that Paul sets out in the letter to Ephesians, in a verse that closes Morning Prayer: “Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine: Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.”
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Message from Kelly+
Those of you who gathered at 11 am today at the prayer service led by Deacon Maryan will know this already: Today, Thursday, May 10th, is one of the great feasts of the church, Ascension Day. We are 40 days from Easter, and in one of the great threshold/liminal times of the church year, the time and space between Jesus’s Ascension (as we say in the creeds: “he ascended to heaven,” to God’s right hand) and the gift and arrival of the Holy Spirit 10 days later at Pentecost.
What would it have been like for the disciples to wait that first time? They had been promised this gift of the Spirit. The waiting, though, the trusting in its arrival—called for yet another leap of faith, and arguably one more challenging than anything Jesus had asked of them yet.
Here’s a suggestion: make sure the speakers of whatever device you are using to view this newsletter are turned on, click here, and listen to a recording of Thomas Tallis’ “If ye love me.” The music conveys the deep longing that is a central emotion of these days between Ascension and Pentecost, the uncertainty and hope and trust as the disciples waited for what would be next.
And what was next? The great sending out, when the disciples were finally fully launched as apostles, and the new-born church launched into the whole wide world.
Ordinary time is nearly here. We call it that because we name the weeks by counting the Sundays in order after Pentecost (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on, and so on). But you know what? If we will accept the gift of it, this season of ordinary time could be a chance for us to settle into a round of ordinary church life: funerals and baptisms, worship, coffee and potlucks, and faith formation.
I invite you to trust this ordinariness…even if it is not the mirror image of what you have known as “ordinary church” before. And as we wait and watch for Pentecost, I invite to join with Christians the world over to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”
your ascended Son has sent us into the world
to preach the good news of your kingdom:
inspire us with your Spirit
and fill our hearts with the fire of your love,
that all who hear your Word
may be drawn to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Message from Kelly+
We’re immersed in John’s Gospel as Pentecost approaches, and Jesus’s image of vine and branches, a picture of how we are all connected to him and to each other, for the goal of the growth of the Kingdom of God.
That image of vine and branches is particularly dear to us as members of the New Hampshire branch of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, to build on our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s way of talking about our church. We’re blessed to have adopted that image as our diocese’s own visual identity—our logo, our seal. It tells a central part of our story, at a glance.
Some of you know that along my wandering path to ordination, I gardened professionally for a while, first at Monticello, the historic site that preserves and interprets the Virginia plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson, and then at the University of Virginia. Along the way, I was also a student in the horticulture program at Piedmont Virginia Community College. I tell you this because at one point, though I recall it all imperfectly now, I studied the biological processes behind what any gardener who has even held a set of pruners knows: Proper pruning induces new growth.
There are chemical and hormonal processes that kick in when a plant is pruned, processes that unlock new growth. That potential to grow is there in the plant, but that growth cannot happen unless the removal of the pre-existing stem sends the signal that the plant is now free to grow. It may be counter-intuitive, but you have likely seen it with your own eyes: Lilacs bloom on new wood, for example, and long-shared gardeners’ lore suggests cutting a third of a lilac’s stems to the ground each year to make room for vigorous new flowering wood.
Images and metaphors are powerful because they help us understand things that are too big or deep or rich to be fully encompassed by plain speech. But if all this talk of pruning has you wondering: “Wait…when Maryan talked about pinching off that sorry-looking leaf from the plant she had in the pulpit… Could that sorry leaf be me?” Do not be afraid. God is the vine-dresser of God’s chosen people, the one with the pruning shears (so to speak) … not your deacon or your priest or your bishop…or your wardens, treasurers, or vestry people. God gives the growth—as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth—and God is calling you, inviting you to grow, in love and faith.
What is entrusted to us is the care and keeping of the vine that is the church: the Spirit-led, though human-built, institution that (in spite of our very human faults, failings, and fears) exists to embody and enact God’s love for all creation. And there are times and places where we act to prune that church-vine, trusting that pruning unleashes energy for growth.
In all the richness of last Sunday’s lectionary, we did not pause very long with a powerful piece of good news; this passage from 1 John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…. [and] We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:18, 19).
Do not be afraid. God loves us, and God invites us to grow, even as (perhaps especially as) that growth is made possible by some pruning.