February 2014 Piper Newsletter

February 2014

Why I Am An Episcopalian: Reason #23
It’s a church where you can come in without leaving your brain at the door and then have the opportunity to love all of those who managed to come in with their “wrong” ideas. - The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, D.D., Diocese of Southeast Florida from 101 Reasons to be Episcopalian

Ramblings in the Redwoods
Father Blaine Hammond

Were you there? If you missed the Annual Meeting of the congregation because you were ill, you had company. I know of at least six people who could not make it for that reason. Others of you missed it because you had to be elsewhere. And I think some of you may have just missed it . . .

If you want to have a copy of the Annual Report, there are some still available. Check with Sharon, she’ll help you find one. It makes for informative reading. And although there are no car chases, there is love interest – the love of the members for St. Andrew’s and for each other.

For those who were there, I want to remind you of, and maybe expand on, some of the things that were talked about, and maybe a few things we didn’t get to. For those who were not there, this may all be news, unless you’ve sat down with someone to discuss it since. This is not about the budget or about who got elected to what position – you can find out about those things elsewhere. It is about who and what our congregation is, and how want to grow into the next year.

One of the things I said repeatedly in the days and weeks leading up to the meeting is “We need each other.” I borrowed that phrase from a woman at St. Peter’s, Seaview, Washington – Lucille Pierce – who proposed it as a theme for one of our annual meetings. I adopted it not only for that meeting but subsequently, because it expressed so well the truth of the Church. We gather together, not out of duty nor out of fear of God’s judgment, but because we need each other. We need each other because Jesus has promised to be with us as we gather together in a way beyond how he is with us when we are alone. We need each other because all of us have burdens that are difficult to carry, and we can help each other with them. We need each other because there is a fullness of joy that is possible only in community. We need each other because we can help to fill each other’s cups with the strength we need to go out into the world. And we need each other because we are only the Body of Christ when there is more than one of us; and because wherever there is more than one of us, the Body of Christ is there.

In an attempt to address those realities, we are taking on some new things. One is the Activity Group, which meets every first Saturday at 10:00 a.m. here at the Church. There we talk about upcoming events that the Congregation is doing, in order to spread the load around so nobody gets caught out there feeling alone and abandoned with a great weight to carry. This has happened all too often in our history. Last year was a “conversion” year on that point. Several of our members wanted to give up activities altogether, believing that it was hindering us from our true spiritual growth. Not everyone agreed, but everyone agreed that we needed to do things differently, so that we would be doing activities out of joy, pleasure and mission rather than a frantic effort to keep the budget balanced. If you can contribute anything to these discussions, including ideas, please attend these meetings.

A second is a new Youth Committee, being formed to assist the Youth Group leaders with the tasks that can be overwhelming – all the phone calls, reservations, planning and nuts-and-bolts preparation that can hit the leaders too hard. Look for a meeting before the end of February to kick that off.

One more group is not a new group, but one that had died and was in need of resurrection – that is the Worship Committee. We want to be able to make sure everyone who has responsibilities in worship is informed of what is supposed to happen, and also that those who have a calling from God to share insights and ideas about worship have a place to do that. Or, if you are simply interested in the subject of worship, please feel free to attend. This group meets several times during the year after a 10:00 service on Sunday; the next meeting is this Sunday, February 2nd.

What would you say the purpose of a church is? One purpose is to take care of each other’s spiritual lives, by worship and sacrament, by hearing the scriptures, teaching and preaching; to allow opportunities for discernment and growth. Another purpose is to supply meaning to the things we all go through in life, the deaths and births, the weddings and divorces, the trials of childhood and aging. But a third is the most important of all, the Great Commission with which Jesus entrusted us – that is our Mission, to carry Christ to the world, making disciples and baptizing. We often use a substitute phrase – church growth – which applies more to our fears of financial failure than to the dynamic ministry to which we are called.

We need each other. We need the repository of wisdom in our elders, we need the talent and dedication of our adults, we need the hopefulness and questioning of our young. We need those with doubts and those with answers. We need those with a lot of time, and those with limited time. And you need the rest of us.

We ask God’s blessing on all of our ministries, on all of our quests for the experience of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Youth Group News

St. Andrew’s Youth Wins Football Honor! Mark Carling, son of Gina & Rob Carling, was the recipient of the Defensive Lineman of the Year award. Carling plays for the Falcons of the Scotts Valley Athletic Association. Congratulations, Mark!

Blankets for Warmth & Comfort
St. Andrew’s Youth Group made lap blankets for the Katz Cancer Center. The blankets were blessed by Fr. Blaine before being given to the Cancer Center.

Youth Sunday
Sunday February 23: The youth will lead services on Sunday, February 23rd, filling all the worship leader roles, from usher to lector to singing and more. Be sure to let Jerry & Sharon know what you are interested in doing! They can be reached at 336-5994 (church office) or home 336-8192.

Tuesday, March 4th: The Youth Group traditionally sets up, cooks, serves, and cleans up at the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. We always have fun doing this and hope everyone can take part. RSVP to Sharon or Jerry to save your spot!

Notes from Our Advent Series - Teresa A. Ruff

“That we may delight in thy will, & walk in thy ways, to the glory of the Name”

This last Advent, The Rev. Canon Jesús Reyes visited us and brought with him the “Sacred Art of Prayer: A Spiritual Journey of the Heart”. Each Sunday evening over a plate of shared dinner, we gathered to learn about prayer. Each of us was there for different reasons: some to learn how to pray more effectively, some to learn how to pray, and some just to learn. Each week brought with it a different aspect to prayer and a different assignment for us to practice. To thoroughly describe how much was shared within the group would mean that this article would be a novelette. And of course I would be breaking the first rule: what happens in prayer group, stays in prayer group... But I can share the path we took on this journey.

The first week we were introduced to Benedictine Spirituality. There are essentially three parts to the Benedictine Rule: Stability, Obedience, and Conversion. These elements support the art of prayer. As described by Canon Jesús, “Prayer is the art of turning noise into silence; converting silence into word; and transforming the word into an act of love”.

*Week One assignment: 1) Listen to music (Canon Jesús played some Gregorian chant). 2) Be in the moment, pay attention to your posture, and listen to your breathing. 3) Come back and read, write, contemplate, move. 4) Listen to your action, discern, and ponder. 5) Be ready to engage the world.*

In the second week, we learned more about Stability: the ability to find God in the here and now. It can be in the person we are talking to, the place we are currently standing, the community that currently surrounds us. It’s not about what may be, or what may have been, but the right here, right now. Canon Jesús described stability as the rhythm and balance of the heart. We focused on the spirituality of the heart as described by Ignatius of Loyola: “strengthening and supporting us in the effort to respond ever more faithfully to the love of God”. This week we were introduced to the labyrinth. As I was reminded, a labyrinth is not like a maze – there are no choices to make nor dead ends. It combines the physical act of walking with the spiritual journey.

*Week Two assignment: Walk a labyrinth (some of us did a finger labyrinth and some visited the Quaker Center labyrinth). 1) Before entering: Give thanks to God for this opportunity and ask for Him to bless this journey. 2) As you enter, ask God to bless those who made it, and ask God to bless all who walk it. 3) As you turn in towards the center, ask God to comfort all who seek His love while on this path. 4) While walking an outer edge, pray for all those who find themselves at the edge of life, that they will find strength and courage to continue the journey. 5) Before entering the center, ask that all who journey to the center feel the presence of God and find peace in their hearts, minds, and souls. 6) In the center, pray that all who enter will receive what they need according to God’s wisdom. 7) After leaving the center, pray that all will be strengthened to serve all creation as they return to daily challenges. 8) Halfway out, pray for the labyrinth to be blessed, that it may be a safe place, a place of discovery and enlightenment. 9) After completed, give praise to God.*

The labyrinth was such an amazing experience! It had definitely showed how stability is important in the Rule, especially in how to bring silence from a noisy world.

Week three was about obedience and discernment and I saw how it would be difficult to digest these concepts without first learning about stability and silence. Obedience is the active listening and responding to God, and not just hearing, but the deep listening in all that surrounds us. Canon Jesús broke down discernment for us in this way. “Biblical discernment is the ability to see life as God sees it... is the ability to be led by the Holy Spirit...is the ability to apply common sense acquired through life experiences... must be distinguished from negative criticism... is the ability to examine yourself before we judge others.” It is the most difficult aspect of the rule, but with prayer and the Bible we may be guided in God’s direction. One exercise we did this week was to practice reading Bible verses slowly and with purpose. After reading each line, we would make sure to take a breath to allow God’s Word to permeate our minds and hearts. I’ve used this practice during our church services. Sometimes we can let the Book of Common Prayer become a dry script, but if we focus while reading it, listening not only with our ears, but with our hearts, eyes, and minds, we’ll find that the words we say every week during service mean so much more than expected. Re-read the title of this article slowly, taking a breath and pausing at each comma. Can you identify where this comes from in our service? How does the meaning of these words change each week you say them? Food for thought...

*Week Three assignment: Walk your neighborhood. Pray for each house and the people who live there. Listen. Pray.*

We finished the series with the last part of the Rule: Conversion of Life. This is where we need to expect and be open to new life and new work that God is doing in us as He draws us closer to Him. Canon Jesús used the famous quote from Julian of Norwich to show us that in order to learn, we will fail: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” We are all works in progress. We are constantly learning and it is important to re-evaluate ourselves as we grow. This week we evaluated our core values.

*Week Four assignment: Part One - 1) What are 3 of the most meaningful compliments you have ever received? 2) What is one thing you do unselfconsciously? 3) What is one thing that will make you weep if you can’t do it or be it? 4) What is one thing that you have done or been that you never want to do or be again? Part Two – 1) Write down ten words or phrases that identify what you perceive your value to be. 2) Compare each of the ten words/phrases and prioritize them from most important to least. 3) Re-write the top five of those words/phrases. Title the top of the list as “My Core Values”. 4) Write ten rules to follow that will help you focus on your Core Values.*

These assignments can be done over and over again and you too will discover that they may change as time goes, as you learn and grow closer to God. I give thanks to God for bringing Canon Jesús and these tools to our community so that we may share in this journey.

Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth. -Psalm 86:11.

What in the world is shrove?

Shrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove comes from the word shrive, meaning to be absolved. The day is also called Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.

We see two related themes, cleansing the soul through confession, and cleansing the home of rich foods by eating it all up at a party. So this was both a way to have a last celebration before entering into the solemnity of Lent and a way to use up those foods one would not be allowed to eat for the duration. The fast of Lent was characterized by plainer food and giving up foods that would give particular pleasure.

In the days of the tradition’s beginnings, this meant no meat, dairy or eggs. It has also been observed that by about this time of year, the winter stores of meat were nearly used up. Lent also coincides approximately with the dry period in a milk cow’s annual cycle and the time when most birds normally would not be laying eggs.

While practices may vary from place to place, the theme of celebrating before the fasting and religious obligations theme is universal in Christianity. Ash Wednesday and Shrove Tuesday dates are determined by Easter, with the dates changing annually.

Lent begins on March 5th , Ash Wednesday: Imposition of Ashes at 6:00 pm

Lent Madness

You just never know about those Episcopalians…

Lent Madness began in 2010 as the brainchild of the Rev. Tim Schenck. In seeking a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints, Tim came up with this unique Lenten devotion. Combining his love of sports with his passion for the lives of the saints, Lent Madness was born on his blog “Clergy Family Confidential.”

The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch. For much more information, go to their website: www.lentmadness.org

Dena Robertson (February 2)
Rochelle Kelly (Feb 4)
Gene Kodner (Feb 4)
Alexander Cadell (Feb 7)
Paula Jansen (Feb 10)
Tedd Parske (Feb 13)
Alice Hutchinson (Feb 18)
Teresa Ruff (Feb 20)
Brett McPherson (Feb 26)
Gary Smith (March 2)
Gina Carling (Mar 4)
John Brough (Mar 5)
Clark McPherson (Mar 7)
Elizabeth Forbes (Mar 9)
Celestine Glover (Mar 13)
Jerry Fishel (Mar 16)
Claire Cunningham (Mar 16)
Nia Wooliscroft (Mar 16)
Tom Spring (Mar 24)
Gary McCormick (Mar 27)

The Back Page...

Jars of Clay - Elizabeth Forbes

The world is a mess and when my denial isn’t working well, I get scared and lose perspective and wonder how it will all end. Does that ever happen to you?

Then I come to church and hear the scriptures, the sermon, and the encouragements of others and I am reminded that God has an intelligence and will that are beyond me and it’s OK that I don’t get it. I can have hope even when it doesn’t make sense to me. My faith is nurtured.

The 12 Steps begin with admitting that we are powerless and our lives are unmanageable. Step 1 reminds me I have no control over violence mongering religious radicals, within our own belief system or any other. I can’t feed all the starving children in the world, nor protect all the abused people and animals. I don’t even have power over what happens in our own country, city, or household.

“We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…”, says 2nd Corinthians. And the Life Recovery Bible says this: “The living power poured into our lives from above is the treasure. We humans, with all our flaws and weaknesses, are the perishable containers. So the stark contrast between what we want to do in this world and what we see we are capable of doing points out why we need to rely so fully on God.” It is to convince us not to stand on our own powers to both understand and to remedy the ills of our world. When Eden fell, we were left in this awkward position of understanding the mess but being powerless to change it substantially.

But I usually think I have control over myself, and I figure I’m not alone in that. That illusion doesn’t last long, does it? I am so grateful to St. Paul for his frank admission at the end of Romans 7: “I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my [mind, soul, and body] another law...making me captive to the law of sin…Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Happily, Paul doesn’t leave us there. Chapter 8 begins, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” To be in Christ Jesus means to believe in, trust in, and rely wholly on him to get the job done. But to have access to that treasure, that extraordinary power, we have to open up the deepest part of ourselves to God. To let God have control means I have to let go of control, and that is not something the strong, self-reliant Elizabeth does well.

Gerald May, in Addiction & Grace, maintains that is our human nature. We hear the Spirit asking to enter wholly
into our spirits, and we are afraid to allow that. There is no up front disclosure, we can’t know the end from the beginning, we have to open up in faith. We have to become wholly vulnerable to God in order to know the fullness of God within.

How ironic that we are unwilling to let God into our clay jars to effect the healing that would begin the thing we most want. There is much we can do collectively, but the deeper changes only happen when individual hearts are remade.

Our powerlessness is a paradox. We only gain power when we admit we have none. We don’t have to always be strong or pretend to be perfect. We can live a real life, with its daily struggles, in a human body beset with weakness and still find the power from above to keep going without being crushed and broken.

So I come to church and hear the scriptures, the sermon, and the encouragements of others. I find hope. My faith is made strong enough to let God into that deep and protected place so God can continue the transformation that God longs for in me.

I had grasped God’s garment in the void
But my hand slipped
On the rich silk of it.
The ‘everlasting arms’ my sister loved to remember
Must have upheld my leaden weight
From falling, even so,
For though I claw at empty air and feel
Nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.
Denise Levertov, in Evening Train, 1992

If you are interested in submitting an article in next month's newsletter, contact Elizabeth Forbes or Paula Jansen.