February Vestry Minutes, 2-20-18

Members present: Holly Antolini, Sarah Borgatti, Sarah Forrester, Leah Giles, Alice Killian, Marian King, Sam Perlo-Freeman, Lauren Rigsby, Lucas Sanders, Andrea Saltzman, Tom Tufts

Members absent: Jules Bertaut, Jean Clark, Betsy Zeldin

Guests: Meredith Wade, Allen Perez, Kendall Gedeon, Jeff Zinsmeyer


Following a check-in time, Lauren led us in a brief silent meditation followed by a reflection in which everyone wrote blessings for their fellow Vestry members.

Food Pantry

●     Kendall explained how she got involved with food ministry in college and then at St. James’s. She was motivated to learn about her local community and how she could make an impact. She looks forward to the food pantry moving beyond just basic food necessities and towards spiritual nourishment and connections.

●     Allen introduced our food justice support team’s 8 values, of which he pointed out the presence of Christ is number one and the importance of getting to know our guests.

●     Meredith led the group in small conversations about the food pantry.

●     Thoughts included how the food pantry will change with the new building; how we can move beyond distribution of food to be more of a referral center with a personal approach; how small gestures can make a difference; how to enrich relationships; how to use the food pantry to expand the Church’s presence in community; and how to get more parishioners involved which creates more relationships.

●     We mapped people we know at St. James’; the Fresh Pond Apts; the food pantry; and outside collaborators. Next steps: email Meredith with any thoughts and maybe someone you’re going to contact on the list we developed.

Redevelopment Update

●     Sam moved that we enter Executive Session. Marian seconded. Approved unanimously.

●     Jeff Zinsmeyer presented on redevelopment.

●     Marian moved that we exit Executive Session. Sam seconded. Approved unanimously.

Church School Presentation

●     Andrea gave a church school update. Parents rallied after Eric and Emily Litman departed.

●     She said that Godly Play can be challenging. It is very structured which is hard for some parents.

●     Eric’s departure left a leadership vacuum; parents want decisions.

●     Alice said the younger kids are anxious about graduating up. The church school classrooms want to be very inclusive but sometimes that can cause distractions for the whole group when a child is being disruptive.

●     A search committee needs to be formed to hire the new family and church school staff member. The new family position could but doesn’t have to be a clergy person. It will be great to have one or two non-church school representatives on the committee.

●     Alice and Andrea will communicate this to the parents.

Debrief on Vestry Retreat and Meeting with Jean Baptiste

●     Lauren said that in June Jean Baptiste will be transitioning out of his role as the Transitions Officer for the Diocese and instead we’ll have three canons.

●     For St. James’, our two options are hiring a Priest in Charge or a long-term Interim to guide us through the building of the new parish hall.

●     We are writing an abbreviated parish profile that we will send to Jean Baptiste. The diocese will discern potential candidates who may be a PIC (hopefully a three year position, after two years the PIC and congregation decide if the PIC should stay as the permanent rector) or Interim (such as a priest who is a professional interim or near/in retirement). In the case of an Interim, we would form a Discernment/Search Committee to lead the search for a new permanent rector.

●     The Vestry can exercise our own judgment whether we say yes to the diocese’s suggested candidates. We will need to develop a process for candidates we want to interview, reference calls, etc. A Vestry member should make a brief announcement about this at church this Sunday.

●     Because of the extra time that may be needed for the search, the Vestry is building in additional times, such as the first Tuesday of the month, for additional meetings.

●     Alice will work with Lauren on developing an abbreviated parish profile, which they will then send to the Vestry for approval. The profile will be based on the Vestry’s responses to the questions about who we are as a congregation, where we want to be in the future, and what type of person we are looking for in a PIC or interim rector.

●     Lauren asked the Vestry to send her thoughts about best practices for the Vestry.

Financial Reports

●     Lucas reviewed the balance sheet and P&L, which shows how we are tracking to budget. On the balance sheet, the general fund will decrease as we start having construction-related expenses.

●     There are 15-20 likely pledgers for 2018 who have still not pledged. John Irvine is taking another pass at the list; let Lucas if you want to help.

●     Lucas moved that the Vestry appoint the Finance Committee consisting of its current members: John Irvine, Lucas Sanders, Susan Harris, Jeff Zinsmeyer, and Tom Tufts. Alice seconded. Approved unanimously.

●     Several new people would be welcome additions to the Finance Cmte.

Approval of Minutes from January Meeting

●     Marian moved to approve both sets of minutes as well as the minutes of the meeting with Jean Baptiste as presented. Lauren seconded. Approved unanimously.

Rector’s Report

●     Peter Merrill is checking on wi-fi in the church and brown water coming out of the bathroom hot water tap due to an issue with the hot water heater.

●     For the spring cleaning of the church that happens before Easter (ideally March 24--the Saturday before Palm Sunday), Peter will be in touch with Sarah Forrester.

●     The Sanctuary Team will be the recipients of the Dollar a Day in Lent.

●     Planning has started for the Parish Retreat. Liz McNerney is too busy with Scouts to take the lead on planning the retreat this year. Andrew Rohm is discerning, and Nancy McCardle may be involved. Usually the retreat is announced on Easter Sunday.


Respectfully submitted by Leah Giles.


Sermon for 5 Lent 3-18-18, The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini

5 Lent Year B 3-18-18
©Holly Lyman Antolini
Lections: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ps. 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33

Behold, you look for truth deep within us, and will make us understand wisdom secretly… Make us hear of joy and gladness, that the bodies you have broken may rejoice. Amen.

“Grant your people grace… that among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found.” So pleads the Collect for this, the Fifth & last Sunday of Lent, as Palm Sunday and Holy Week approach and we begin our annual hurtling plunge into the death of Jesus.

As you might imagine, you who know that I have spent the last two weeks in Peru, returning only yesterday, my travels are on my mind. An unusual way to spend a chunk of Lent! We spent the first week floating the Ucayali and Marañon River tributaries of the upper Amazon in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, urging skiffs through the thickly humid and sometimes rain-laden air under an immensity of ever-changing sky, up tiny “blackwater” creeks dyed the color of tea by their freight of fallen leaves and vegetation, floating through the shadows of gigantic “strangler fig” trees with their air roots extended cavernously into the river mud, and pressing through unmoored meadows of floating grasses and water hyacinths in search of frogs and bats, snakes and caimans, turtles and lizards, and birds birds BIRDS of all imaginable – and some quite unimaginable – sizes, shapes, songs, colors, and configurations. Or probing the wide muddy swathes of the rivers for the pink-and-gray cavortings of dolphins, joyously arcing to the waters’ surface and then twisting back below again in their perpetual fish-hunting ballet. Or peering upward at sloths curled in deep contemplation, digesting leaves in a crook of upper branches or monkeys grabbing fruit and then swinging and flinging themselves from twig to tiny twig in the gigantic trees. Everything from birds to reptiles to mammals seemed determined NOT to be clearly seen in the wild exuberance of Amazonian jungle vegetation. Nevertheless it truly felt, as the days unfolded, as if the Amazon were opening her enormous and generous hand to reveal her treasures to us in a bewildering abundance.

And then, as if that weren’t stimulus enough to overload anyone’s spiritual circuits, we went from the watery lowlands straight up into the thin air of the high Andes, in search of the antiquities of Incan Cusco and Machu Picchu, ringed by the great surging glacial ramparts of the Urubamba and Wilcabamba mountain ranges, their peaks as high as 21,000 feet, towering over the moist and fertile jungles of their lower reaches.  On knife-sharp ridges in the high mountains, Incas laid out astonishing stone walls and foundations, polishing their huge blocks of granite and andesite to a jewel-like fineness with the most elementary of stone and bronze tools and linking them in earthquake-proof firmness only by stone pinions drilled into them, all testifying to a nearly infinite patience and a close observation worthy of any modern empirical scientist, in service to a vision of temple and home under the minutely-tracked sun & moon & constellations of stars that wheeled and oriented these craftsmen to their heavenly and agrarian rhythms.

But the Incan chapter is only one in layer upon layer of history in those mountains. Like their proportions of 60% underground foundation to support 40% above-ground walls, the Incas were building upon other previous cultures’ foundations. And with the Spanish invasion in the 16th century, its decimation of possibly 90% of indigenous populations with the introduction of new weaponry and, more comprehensively, diseases the Spaniards brought from Europe to a continent whose immune systems were unable to fend off the infection, the colonizing Spaniards then built upon the Inca foundations, covering them with plaster to conceal their indebtedness to Incan engineering. Only when earthquakes shattered the plaster, leaving the Incan stones intact did the colonial structures finally attest their legacy.

Like the layers upon layers of vegetation and rot from which rich nutrient-load spring the wonders of the Amazon River jungle, like the mountain communities building upon each other’s insights and skills – with or without the homage due – we humans are in a perpetual process of change, reconsidering old convictions; adopting new insights; standing upon each others’ shoulders (or foundation stones). Much as we would like our God  - our immense, everlasting, always-loving, always-creating God – to be enshrined in immutable laws and immutable liturgy, our God is a God of ever-unfolding newness. The remarkable hoatzin bird we spotted in the Amazon, with its spiky upstanding mohawk of feathers upon its head, its turkey-like ungainly body ill-adapted to flying, its groaning, croaking call, and its cow-like ruminant’s stomach adapted to digesting leaves, seems to be the very last of its kind of bird. But even the long-lasting hoatzin has adapted, beginning with its survival of the dinosaur extinction that gave it its new avian direction 64 million years ago. We MUST change. It’s how God made us! And we humans – however enthused we may or may not be about the latest phone technology, like my travel companion with his interchangeable wide-angle and telescopic lenses for his phone camera – find this difficult. To change is to lose one’s familiar orientation. We must give up our past in order to embrace our future. And that can feel like losing a part of one’s life.

God knows, change has been coming at us with unparalleled haste. “Swift and varied” indeed! No wonder so many of us – not just in America but worldwide – wish we could seize onto a way of being that reflects some imagined past and slow things down! So many of us particularly long for our religion to be able to do this for us, to secure something enduring for us.

Writer James Carroll reflected on what he regards as the transformative message of Pope Francis this week in The New Yorker. He offered a “litany of our time:” “democracy besieged; the return of nuclear dread; claustrophobic tribalism; masculinity off the rails; self-destroying structures of power; élites in flight from the social contract; uncheckable militarism; politically charged nostalgia for a past that never existed.” Then Carroll asked, “Where, with so many institutions of communal trust in ruins, can spiritual longing find its footing?” Or, in the language of our Collect, where our hearts be fixed? [Source]

His answer? The heart of the message for Francis – the place where the Pope’s own heart is fixed – is at the point of mercy, “which Francis proclaims, in word and in deed, as the measure that matters—mercy toward migrants, misfits, the young, and the very planet. His brand of mercy is not a warm bath of tender feelings but a hard-edged refusal to think the worst not only of those in trouble, or of his critics, but of himself. “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” he was asked early in his pontificate. He replied, “I am a sinner. That is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner…” “…The language of sin comes naturally to Francis, but he might equally have cited Montaigne’s dictum “I feel oppressed by an error of mind. ... I try to correct it, but I cannot root it out.” 

With this focus on God’s mercy and his own vulnerability to “error of mind,” Francis “has made spiritual imagination—faith that goes beyond the material and the established; goodness that can be striven for and accomplished—seem consistent with secular preoccupation… Experience takes priority over doctrine, mercy over rules, which is a pious way of affirming nothing less than the scientific method, the testability of truth. The Pope may not actually be changing doctrine as such, but emphasizing experience over doctrine changes the way that doctrine is regarded… Rather than resist the underlying meaning of such change, as his two predecessors did, Francis has advanced it with supreme naturalness, even while showing in his own uneven reactions how hard it is to uproot “an error of mind.”

Here is where his importance beyond the Church shows itself. When received structures of life and thought are crumbling, such a demonstration of the possibility of change is precious. In renouncing his designated position of moral superiority, this man has found his moral authority. A self-avowed human being, decidedly fallible, sits easily in the Chair of St. Peter. Self-avowedly human, yes, but also self-accepting. Francis conveys a sense that his life as it is (not as he wants it to be or as it should be) is enough. That this conviction springs from a hard-earned trust in the essential goodness of existence—or, as he puts it, in the mercy of God—may explain his magnetism. The life of Pope Francis has itself become a kind of secular encyclical. In this white-robed octogenarian can be glimpsed the transcendent possibility toward which all desire stretches, whether that of the abject poor, who recognize him as an ally, or that of success-obsessed élites, who are ironically burdened by the ultimate vacuousness of the luxuries that he eschews. Without proselytizing, or claiming to be a model, Francis proposes that a depth of life—physical security opening to moral meaningfulness—is proper to every person, which is why every person deserves respect, and why, falling short of that depth, every person deserves mercy.” [Ibid.]

Jesus says, in our passage from John’s Gospel today, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.” As usual he resorts to extreme imagery to make his point. There’s no evidence that Jesus “hated his life” in the conventional sense. He was ‘way too fond of a party! But he WAS willing to die in the supreme act of mercy, the supreme giving up of his life for all of us sinners who struggle on with our “errors of mind.” He was willing to give it up when to do so enabled the rest of us to embrace a more merciful – and therefore more hopeful – reality.

Returning from scenes of such unimaginable fecundity – cultural and natural – on the Amazon and in the Andes, I feel a humbling sense of my own incompleteness and an almost ecstatic sense of God’s energy of creation embracing me and urging me to let my own seed of self fall into the ground and die, to let go, let go of my presuppositions, my resentments, my anxieties, to go ahead and lose my life in a passionate willingness to respect and believe in the capacity of others and of myself to change, change for the good. To recommit myself to a hopeful vision of the world, that no matter how grievously I may have been injured or may have inflicted injury, good can come. To LIVE out of the conviction that the same measure by which I can forgive and see beyond – see deeper – into the potential of others is measure by which I, too, will be forgiven and released to my potential.

In the name of the crucified Jesus, the Merciful One, what do YOU need to lose in your life in order to keep your life? Where do you need to fix your heart? Where, by God’s grace, are YOUR “true joys to be found?” AMEN.


Homily for the Sisters of St. Anne 2-28-18, The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini

Bethany House Convent Eucharist for Feb 28, 2018
Broken Pots
©Holly Lyman Antolini
Jeremiah 18:1-11, 18-20; Psalm 31:9-16; Matthew 20:17-28

As for me, O LORD, I have trusted in you. I have said, "You are my God. My times are in your hand.”  AMEN.

Much in these readings this morning is a bit frightening. Jesus prophesying about his crucifixion at the hands of the authorities. The troubled and troubling sighs of the Psalmist, “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly. For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.”

And Jeremiah – no wonder we’ve named “jeremiads” after him! He is fierce. The Almighty God truly used him to set us straight when we were ‘way out of “true” as the carpenters say. “At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.” Deeply disquieting at a moment when it feels all too plausible that we – so blessed in so many ways here in America, “built and planted richly” by God’s grace, have been doing evil in God’s sight, as the #MeToo hashtags blossom rampantly, pointing to long exploitation of women, and crazy nuclear talk erupts on Twitter and, dear God, we let young men who can’t even vote or purchase a drink, purchase guns they can use to slaughter innocent school children in their classrooms.

So, oddly, I find the opening image in Jeremiah a relief. “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.”

First of all, I have worked with a potter’s wheel. During my first “January Term” at Hampshire College, in the winter of 1971, I read C. S. Lewis and learned to throw pots. I learned how carefully you have to “block” the clay, folding and squashing it over and over to get rid of all the air bubbles. And then I learned how important it is – how crucial, really – to get the clay centered EXACTLY at the center of the spinning wheel, because if it’s not firmly in the wheel’s center, the minute you start the wheel in motion and put your hands on the slick clay, the motion of the wheel will cause the clay to swing around awkwardly. And, off-center like that, as you try to pull the “walls” of the pot up thinner and thinner, the awkward swing of the clay can actually tear the walls right apart in your hands. Many’s the pot I’ve had to squash down, scrape off the wheel, re-block, and re-center on the wheel before starting all over again.

But here’s the amazing thing: you can remake that pot as many times as it takes to get it properly centered. The clay may need a little water added over time – working it a lot tends to make it dry. But then you can plop it back on the wheel and try again. And eventually, little by little, you begin to FEEL where it needs to go and how, tp make the pot graceful and strong.

So instead of being appalled at the thought of being clay in the hands of my God, I find this image very consoling. “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” So I didn’t get centered on the first throw. (I didn’t, by the way. It took me a long time to find God and longer to TRUST God!) So I’m feeling a bit squashed by God. God’s just getting the air bubbles out and preparing to center me again! And God’s hands on my clay: I know what that feels like, the tenderness and the caring nurture of it; the powerful sense of relationship between potter and clay; the creative intention and vision that is tempered, moment to moment, by what’s emerging over time and by the particular properties of each lump of clay. And the clay is very much alive!

Sometimes it's no fun being squashed down in the hands of God. But I love the thought that, like blocking the clay before throwing a pot, God is just preparing for the creation of something lovely. May our clay be held gently in God's hands. May we feel that nurturing intent, and that deep promise of beauty!

So let us not pretend to be more than clay, whatever our gifts. Let us strive for the humility Jesus exhorts in his followers, in place of their vaunting pride and ambition. Let us bend our clay selves toward each other in service, in concern for each other’s flourishing as much as for our own.

Instead of indulging the feeling (however understandable), as the Psalm says, that “I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind… as useless as a broken pot” when times are tough, let us acquiesce to God’s shaping energy, letting ourselves feel God’s loving hands upon us, and anticipate that our form and utility will be so much greater if we entrust ourselves to God’s intentions in the midst of whatever challenges us.

If I let myself be God’s clay, God WILL shape me for the better. Shape US, for that matter, as individuals; as a community at Bethany House; as my congregation of St. James’s; as the Diocese of Massachusetts; as a nation, a world. AMEN.


Sermon for 2 Lent 2-25-18, The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini

Click here to listen to the sermon. 

2 Lent Year B 2-25-18
©Holly Lyman Antolini
Lections: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Ps. 22:22-30; Romans 4: 13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Remember and turn to God, all the ends of the earth! Let our souls live for God! AMEN.

Theology and politics: always uncomfortable bedfellows. How dearly we long for God to be above politics – above the ugly fray. Unfortunately for that longing, Mark’s Gospel plunges us straight into that ugliness in its most extreme form on this, the Second Sunday of Lent, the second Sunday of our struggle to turn and adhere more closely to God in the midst of all that distracts and tempts us. We may want our spirituality unsullied by human foibles. But Mark’s Jesus will not let us forget that our God is a God of not of some elevated and purified empyrean, but a God of history – HUMAN history – and took on human form to show us the way of love precisely in the midst of our human political drama. We who are baptized into the Christ and have taken the Way of Love MUST find ourselves taking sides and taking risks in the political melée. We cannot afford to leave the vulnerable undefended and unsupported, nor the oppressed in their bondage.

You doubt me? Let’s turn right to that Gospel. We’ve leapt ahead from Chapter 1, where we dwelt all through Epiphany, to Chapter 8, the heart of the Gospel. Verses before today’s passage, Peter has jubilantly affirmed Jesus as The Messiah, the Christ. To which Jesus responds by beginning to teach, and teach openly despite the political liabilities of his speech. And his teaching is this: that as a result of his loving pilgrimage into Jerusalem, he’s going to suffer gruesomely and die at the hands of the political and religious authorities of the day. He can’t avoid “getting political,” when pursuing the Way of Love.

Peter, who was only moments before the one with the insight into Jesus’ nature as the Anointed One of God, now plays the role of we who want our spiritual lives kept untainted by political discourse and political decision-making. No sooner has Jesus put himself and everyone around him at risk, than Peter rebukes him for speaking so rashly and being so negative. We can imagine Peter’s words, “Jesus, you just can’t TALK this way! You need to be more spiritual! You’ll get yourself in trouble! You’ll ALIENATE people!” To which Jesus responds with as harsh a rebuke as he gives anyone anywhere in any of the Gospels, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then he turns to the ENTIRE CROWD and says, “To follow me, you must deny yourself and take up your cross… even if it means you lose your life.” “Taking up your cross” was a very specific demand in Jesus’ context: the imperial Romans were the crucifiers, and they used this tortuous technique on thousands to dissuade them from social protest and terrorism. Jesus is NOT talking about your Lenten fast from chocolate. Jesus is talking about putting your faith and your life on the political line.

Thinking about all this, I happened this week upon the story of young German Sophie Scholl. “Sophie Scholl was born on May 9, 1921, in Forchtenberg am Kocher, where her father Robert Scholl, was mayor. At 12, Sophie joined the Hitler Youth, but became disillusioned. The arrest of her father for referring to Hitler as ”God’s Scourge” to an employee, left a strong impression on her. To the Scholl family loyalty meant obeying the dictates of the heart. ‘What I want for you is to live in uprightness and freedom of spirit, no matter how difficult that proves to be,’ her father told the family…”

“…In May, 1942, German troops were on the battlefields of Russia and North Africa, while a group of students at the University of Munich attended salons sharing their love of medicine, theology, and philosophy and their aversion to the Nazi regime. Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and Alexander Schmorell were at the center of this group of friends.”

Together with medical students Willi Graf and Jurgen Wittgenstein and soldier Christoph Probst, these three formed a non-violent resistance group called The White Rose.

When the mass deportation of Jews began in 1942, Sophie, Hans, Alexander and Jurgen realized it was time for action. They bought a typewriter and a duplicating machine and Hans and Alex wrote [their] first leaflet with the heading: Leaflets of The White Rose, which said: ‘Nothing is so unworthy of a nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by a clique that has yielded to base instinct…Western civilization must defend itself against fascism and offer passive resistance, before the nation’s last young man has given his blood on some battlefield.’ Members of The White Rose worked day and night in secrecy, producing thousands of leaflets, mailed from undetectable locations in Germany, to scholars and medics. Sophie bought stamps and paper at different places, to divert attention from their activities…

Combatting the Nazi policy mandating the expulsion of all “non-Aryans,” and spurred by their horror at the actions of Kristallnacht, ”the night of broken windows,” during which 30,000 Jews across Germany were beaten and arrested, and Nazi Storm Troopers burned 191 synagogues, The White Rose protested anti-Semitism. "The second White Rose leaflet stated: ‘Since the conquest of Poland 300,000 Jews have been murdered, a crime against human dignity…Germans encourage fascist criminals if no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds. An end in terror is preferable to terror without end.’”

Based in both biblical and philosophical argument, “…each leaflet was more critical of Hitler and the German people than the last. The fifth mentioned: ‘Hitler is leading the German people into the abyss. Blindly they follow their seducers into ruin…Are we to be forever a nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind?"

“The Gestapo had been looking for the pamphlets’ authors as soon as the first pamphlets appeared. As the language in the leaflets became more inflammatory they stepped up their efforts. They arrested people at the slightest hint of suspicion. Sophie and Hans brought a suitcase of the final leaflets, written by Professor Huber, to the University, and left them in corridors for the students to discover and read. Jakob Schmidt, University handyman and Nazi party member, saw Hans and Sophie with the leaflets and reported them. They were taken into Gestapo custody. Sophie’s ‘interrogation’ was so cruel, she appeared in court with a broken leg.”

“… Sophie, her brother Hans and Christoph were condemned to death by the ‘People’s’ Court, which had been created by the National Socialist Party to eliminate Hitler’s enemies.” Executed by the Nazis on February 22, 1943, for leading student resistance against Hitler, Sophie Scholl was 21. Her last words:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” [Source]

In a historical context, the White Rose's legacy has significance… both as a demonstration of exemplary spiritual courage, and as a well-documented case of social dissent in a society of violent repression, censorship, and conformist pressure.” Many years after young Sophie’s execution, “playwright Lillian Garrett-Groag stated in Newsday on 22 February 1993, that 'It is possibly the most spectacular moment of resistance that I can think of in the twentieth century... The fact that five little kids, in the mouth of the wolf, where it really counted, had the tremendous courage to do what they did, is spectacular to me. I know that the world is better for them having been there...’

“In the same issue of Newsday, Holocaust historian Jud Newborn noted that ‘You cannot really measure the effect of this kind of resistance in whether or not X number of bridges were blown up or a regime fell... The White Rose really has a more symbolic value, but that's a very important value.’” [Source]

Today, blessedly, we have our American institutions of democracy working hard to hold our government accountable to its citizens and keep our freedom of speech and press, our freedom to protest and to assemble alive. We have not entered the steep decline into fascism that Sophie Scholl contended with in Nazi Germany.

But we ARE allowing our school children – and our concert-goers and our movie-goers and even those simply gathering with their local Representative in the grocery store parking lot – to be murdered wholesale by young men possessed of unimaginable fire-power in the form of semi-assault weapons and ammunition magazines. And like Sophie Scholl, our young people are stepping forward, stepping up and protesting like the only adults in rooms full of elected legislators, asking that those guns no longer be permitted. Might it be time to take up our cross – precisely in the spirit of Lent, that long Lent of turning toward God that cost Sophie Scholl her life – and join them?

Long after Sophie Scholls’ death, her sister Inge Aicher-Scholl wrote: ”Perhaps genuine heroism lies in deciding to stubbornly defend the everyday things, the mundane and the immediate.” [Source]

What cross are YOU feeling called to take up? And how? How will you lift it? What are you afraid of?  AMEN.


Sermon for 6 Epiphany 2-11-18, The Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer

Epiphany 6B
Last Sunday in Epiphany
2 Kings 2:1-12, Mark 9:2-9
© Copyright 2018 Valerie Bailey Fischer

Transfiguration – what an amazing word! It means completing changing one’s form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. If it were only so easy! How can we experience this transfiguration? How can change our very normal forms into something more beautiful? Perhaps this is too much to ask – and why would we want this anyway?
Today’s text is a glimpse into a desire that many of us may have – especially
spiritually. If you are today here in this space, if you are coming to commune with others while being members of an individualistic world, to worship in an ancient faith during a postmodern or modern moment... if you are here and ready to approach a table that more than signifies the presence of a loving God... then probably you too have hoped for a moment where you will experience a transfiguration... especially in an era where ugliness and violence are such a common place experience. Perhaps we can hope for some light to shine in such a way that even for a moment, we are transformed into something beautiful, holy and unexplainable. I add the unexplainable – because you are all already beautiful and holy people – but to become so unexplainable that people must hide their eyes – well, let’s talk about that as we reflect on today’s text.

Today’s text features the experts of transfiguration, Elijah, Moses and Jesus. We are familiar with Jesus’ transfiguration with Elijah and Moses that was so powerful that it left even Peter speechless -- for a while. But did you know that Elijah and Moses had their previous transfiguration moments? In our Hebrew Bible reading (2 Kings) Elijah had his transfiguration moment, one we remember as his disappearance into heaven by chariots of fire. And in Exodus (34), Moses had his transfiguration moment after coming down from Mount Sinai. Both of these narratives show how their encounter with a holy God left them physically transformed into something extraordinary, beautiful, sacred and holy. However, the reaction by others to these holy moments tended to be something rather ordinary, if not silly or I dare I say stupid?
In the case of Elijah, as he is transfiguring, he asks his right-hand person, “Elisha, go ahead, ask me anything.” Perhaps in that moment, Elijah was feeling rather confident, after all, he’s glowing and he’s about to get a ride on chariots of fire. Perhaps he thought, wow, I can really fix you up Elisha, what do you want, a new house, a new ministry, healing? What will it be? And Elisha answers, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” Argh, what was he thinking? Elijah just ended his ministry and it was full of trouble and turmoil. Yes, he had this knack for raining fire down on earth but he was also hunted by kings and humiliated by queens -- this I what he got for being a prophet of God. So why would anyone want a double portion of what Elijah had?
Elijah probably paused for a moment and said, “You have asked a hard thing; but if that’s what you want, then, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” Why this test? What does this tell us about transfiguration? Transfiguration is hard to watch. Notice, I did not say it was hard to see, for who can miss a bright shining light or how a person has changed in appearance? That’s easy. In many ways, I think this is what Peter, James and John experienced – they saw the light, they saw the change, but what they did not do was watch this change as it happened right in front of them. It is quite possible that Peter, James and John blinked, and therefore missed the process of transfiguration.
Elisha, on the other hand, was challenged with watching the transfiguration as it happened in front of his eyes. Peter, James and John were probably too shocked and surprised. The event happened so fast that their brains could not process what was happening. Elijah, on the other hand, gave Elisha one of the most important, final ministry lessons -- how to watch the transfiguration happen. This lesson? – Watching the transfiguration is not humanly possible. If you are able to watch transfiguration happens, then this is possible only through the Holy Spirit.
As it turns out, Elisha passes the test, he was able to see watch as the transfiguration occurred and to see Elijah transfigure into something extraordinary, the beautiful, sacred and holy. As a result, now, he gained a double portion of Elijah’ spirit. Sometimes I think his ability to see the transfiguration was evidence that he already had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
Now, in the case of Moses, (Exodus 34:29-35) when he transfigured after being in the presence of God, he face shone. He probably was so enjoying being in the presence of a loving God that he did not realize that he was glowing. However, when Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses and his radiant face, they were afraid to come near him. There was no way that Aaron and the Israelites could have seen the transfiguration. Aaron and the Israelites were not on the mountain with Moses when God was teaching him about the law and constructing a sanctuary that would house his spirit. In fact, the first time Moses went on the mountain to receive the law from God, the people were so anxiety-ridden that they gave up on God and created a
new god to worship -- a calf of gold.
So, you can assume a group of people who replaced a powerful God who had the power to transfigure with a god that was transfigured into a golden statue of their own making – well, I would say that the golden calf may be evidence that the desire for transfiguration was definitely there. But it’s hard, so hard to bring about transfiguration by ourselves. But that desire is real and it’s amazing, that for all the things we hope for, God even responds to that. But transfiguration is a paradox – it’s a change that looks like it takes a moment but if you manage to watch it – then the change could take an eternity. The change that comes from transfiguration, if it took place in chronos time, would take years.
Transfiguration moments are a ball of Kairos time wrapped in a chronos moment. The call to watch the transfiguration is a call to engage eternity. And this movement is peaceful and free of anxiety. It’s a moment of waiting and watching, not worrying or wanting. And if we blink or try to seize the moment, poof, its gone.
The irony is the quick change in Kairos time may seem long in chronos time. Elisha was invited to sit in a very long moment in Kairos time, but it may have been a short chronos moment. Likewise, Peter, James and John, Aaron and the children of Israel were invited into that Kairos long eternity of a moment, but they could not disengage with the here and now of chronos time; the immediate, the fears and worries of meeting our present needs and expectation. So they blinked, and the moment passed.
The moments of transfiguration in all of our stories took place in times of great transition. For Elijah, it was the end of his prophetic ministry, for Moses, it was the turning point in the narrative of the children of Israel when they were nearing the end of their wilderness journey and God deemed them ready to build a tabernacle, a place to where God could take up residence in their midst. For Jesus on the mountain with Peter, James and John, like Elijah, it was the end of his earthly ministry. Peter, James and John were not able to watch the transfiguration on that mountain. And Peter was not able to watch the transfiguration in the garden before Jesus’ crucifixion. I’m not sure about James, but I suspect John learned on that mountain that if he ever had an opportunity to watch the transfiguration, he would not flinch, he would not blink, he would settle into the Kairos moment and watch the change unfold before his eyes. This is what he did at Jesus’ crucifixion – he remained there, the only disciple who did – and did not flinch or move. Who knows what happened in that holy moment on the cross, it is not spoken or written of in great detail. For it was a transfiguration of another kind, where the creator of the universe who took on human flesh died, changing the formula for death forever so that it it is not an end, but a beginning.
This is our challenge today, in times of violence and hatred. Sometimes we want just peace. But I think we should be brave and desire transfiguration. And I think we do. For the changes we are asking for – especially in terms of justice for all marginalized persons, we are asking for a change for interactions that are historical bad to become something beautiful and holy. And while we think this change is painfully slow, perhaps it’s because this change is occurring in Kairos time, transfiguring hearts, souls and minds for what appears as slow motion in chronos time but is really happening at just the right speed in Kairos time.
I had been at St James's years ago as a young adult, a person who was not far out of her undergraduate years and soon to enter graduate studies. My understanding of myself as an African American was limited by my lifetime – and a few stories by my elders. But from my own experience and their stories, it is clear, racial justice has been slow process, especially when you think that we are trying to dismantle a system that gain root in the 17th century. Things have change, but at what speed? It’s been really slow when you think of it in chronos time.
It’s been more than 200 years since Absalom Jones, the first black Episcopal priest and other black parishioners, including Richard Allen, the founder of the AME denomination had what could be described as the beginning of a transfiguration moment – at least a transformative moment. Jones and Allen and others were kneeling in prayer on Sunday when they were asked to leave because they did not take a subordinate seat in the sanctuary. This was a transfiguration moment – not because of the injustice, but because of how
they responded. Instead of attacking back, they recognized that being people in the midst of prayer, they were a people who were engaging a Kairos moment where they were connecting with a God who loved them, people whose despite of the attempt to erase their humanity, instead of accepting non-personhood, walked out into an unknown future. But their bravery opened the door for African American participation in church leadership.
I think in that moment, like Elisha, their eyes were on God and imbued with the spirit, found the strength to walk out and into a new world where they found the means to truly worship as people beloved in the sight of God. That transfiguration may have begun that day but it continues even now, for justice is not how I would describe our present situation. I would call it – in progress – continued indignities and systemic oppression while people are beginning to wake up and stand up for those on the margins. But our present narrative – even the recent changes in our society – is arcing toward justice.
Perhaps as we live in an incomplete moment, it’s not time to give up, it’s time to stare into the light, into the fire, it is not a time to blink or turn away, it’s not a time to back a way in shock or horror – for perhaps if we do, if we blink, we might miss the moment of shekinah glory. And then it will be over we’ll say something silly, or naïve or dare I say stupid. We can do it. We can be like Elisha. We can dare ask for a double portion of the spirit – for that the task at hand, this is what it might take.
Remember, "you are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16) And may we beholding by faith the light of God’s countenance, be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into God’s likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Special Meeting Vestry Minutes, 2-9-18

Members Present: Jules Bertaut, Marian King, Lauren Rigsby, Tom Tufts, Sarah Borgatti, Lucas Sanders, Sam Perlo-Freeman

Members Absent: Sarah Forrester, Alice Killian, Andrea Saltzman, Jean Clark, Leah Giles, Betsy Zeldin, Holly Antolini

Guest: Jean Baptiste Ntagengwa (Diocesan Transitions Officer)


●     We introduced ourselves to Jean Baptiste, he opened us with prayer, and told us some of his background. 

●     Jean Baptiste explained that, in July, he will no longer be the Diocesan Transitions Officer, and the role will instead be taken on by a new system of three regional canons, who will be responsible for transitions, leadership development, and pastoral care for clergy and their families.

One Option: Priest-In-Charge

●     An abbreviated parish profile (1-4 pages) is created by vestry and given to the Transition Officer.

●     Transition Officer hires a Business/Congregational Consultant to work with the Treasurer to create a Transition Review Report (That’s a review of the financials, business practices, etc. Assuring ourselves, the bishop, and candidates that we can actually afford a priest and so forth).

●     Candidates are presented one-at-a-time by the bishop. They interview with the wardens, then with the whole vestry. The bishop is informed that the congregation wants to hire the person as a PIC and signs off on it.

●     The normal term for a PIC is three years. After two years, there’s a discernment process: is this the right person to hire as a rector? A discernment committee is formed, etc. If the answer is yes, the wardens seek the bishop’s approval, and then there is a transition for the PiC to become the rector.

●     In general, Bishop Gates discourages churches from the PIC route: you need to have a good reason for wanting one for him to allow it.

Another Option: Interim and Search

●     Search can be either long- or short-list.

●     Both types of search begin with informing the bishop and the bishop appointing an Interim priest with the approval of the vestry.

●     Vestry selects a Search Committee, who then creates a Parish Profile, Community Portfolio, Transition Review Report, etc. with the help of a Search Consultant and a Business/Congregational Consultant.

●     For the short-list, applicants are directed to send their applications to the diocese, which then does an initial screening and sends 3 or 4 names to the congregation.

●     For the long-list, all applicants send their applications directly to the congregation.

●     In either case, candidates are interviewed and the bishop is informed of the decision. Vestry, candidate, and bishop all need to agree.

●     Most churches do a full search: only about 4 of the 80-ish searches in Jean Baptiste’s tenure have been short-list searches, and he strongly advises doing a full search.

Plan for St. James

●     Holly talked to the bishop about our situation and asked for us to get a PIC. 

●     The bishop says for the time being he is not ready to decide between a PIC and a long-term (about 3 years) interim

●     Bishop says once the right candidate has been found, he’ll see if they’re better as a PIC or a long-term interim who would stay through construction and then a Search process.

●     Usually when a parish decides to do a search, the bishop appoints an interim, with the vestry’s approval.

●     A “bridge priest” is appointed for a short period of time if no interim is lined up when the priest retires

●     The “bridge priest” is also appointed if no PIC is found by the time the priest retires.

●     Sometimes it takes a while for PIC to be found (several months, even a year). It varies, because the bishop wants to make sure the candidate is the right match for the congregation.

●     Bishop says if he finds a good match for St. James's, he’ll decide between them being a PIC or an interim depending on their qualities. For instance, a retired priest, or one nearing retirement age, cannot be a PiC because they are not a potential candidate to be rector at the end of the term as PiC — they would serve as an Interim. Or if they’re a professional Interim.

●     If we go with an interim, it would be a long interim. We’d go through construction and then do a search. A few years.

●     We will need a transition review but not necessarily an Abbreviated Profile, because Holly has provided a lot of information to the bishop about the congregation and the building situation. But Jean Baptiste recommends that we do the profile because we may have a different perspective than Holly, and it’s us, not her, that the next person would be working with.

●     The abbreviated profile would be short: 1-4 pages, and wouldn’t involve surveying the congregation, merely relying on our knowledge of it.


  •  If we have an interim priest, it would be like: we complete the building, then do a search, and call a rector.
  • If a PIC, hopefully in 2 years we would be done with the building. Then we would do the discernment: are you the right rector for us? If we’re not ready after 2 years (say, the building isn’t done), the bishop can extend the term of the PIC for a year or two.

Series of Comments

●     Jean Baptiste says he’s available to us any time. We can call, email, or ask for another face-to-face meeting. His contact info is on the diocesan website. Contact with Jean Baptiste will filter through the wardens.

●     We are approaching this transition like we’re going for a PIC, in terms of doing the transition review and so forth before Holly leaves.

●     When we look for a new Children and Families Minister, we shouldn’t advertise it as an Assistant/Associate Rector position, because, even if the interim helps hire them, the new rector in 3 years has discretion to keep them or not. Instead we should call them an Interim Assistant Rector, or a Minister of...

Next Steps for Us

●     We’re hoping to have the priest chosen by June and overlapping with Holly for a month.

●     We need to come up with the abbreviated profile.

●     Jean Baptiste will find a business consultant to do the transition review. 

●     Once the diocese has the abbreviated profile and the transition review, they can start to look for the best person for us (and PiC v. Interim decision will be made by the bishop depending on the person).

Best Practices

●     The vestry should think of this transition as ours, not just the rector’s.

●     Get all of Holly’s knowledge before she leaves because when she retires that knowledge is completely gone/lost.

●     When you put together the abbreviated profile, make sure it’s really you. And then use it to test the candidate the bishop sends. 

●     Do your due diligence on the person the bishop sends: interview them, call references, etc. Let the diocese know if they’re not a good match, and why (so they don’t send another person with the same problem).

●     Make sure the members feel like they’re in good hands. Don’t focus too much on the transition; continue focusing on your ministry. 

●     The transition is just one ministry at the church.

The Abbreviated Profile

●     It should answer three questions:

  1. Who are we?
  2. Where do we want to be in the future?
  3. What type of person are we looking for?

●     The information that Holly has provided the bishop about our situation may or may not be sent to the candidate, depending on what the bishop decides.


Lauren closed us with prayer.


Submitted by Jules Bertaut


January Vestry Minutes, 1-16-18

Members Present: Sylvia Weston, Jules Bertaut, Matthew Abbate, Andrew Rohm, Marian King, Tom Tufts, Leah Giles, Sarah Borgatti, Betsy Zeldin, Lucas Sanders, Sarah Forrester, Holly Antolini

Members Absent: Olivia Hamilton, Sam Perlo-Freeman

Guest: Jeff Zinsmeyer


Following a check-in time, Jules led us in a reflection on the early Church described in Acts, based on a Church School lesson.

St. James App

●     Andrew provided a sample QR code that could be put in the bulletin, linking to our donation page.

●     He talked to the 20s and 30s group and some people would use the QR code or a link to donate online.

●     Andrew moved that we take the necessary steps to include and QR code and link in the Sunday Bulletin to make donations easier. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.

Church Safety and Gun Violence

●     Betsy reported that she talked to the Canon to the Ordinary, William Parnell, about church safety and gun violence. 

●     The diocese started looking at this issue but has not gotten very far with it.

●     They have focused on restraining orders, which makes sense because most shooters have a restraining order against them.

●     They also suggest looking at the physical layout of the space.

●     We could look into usher training for identifying and responding to situations.

●     Various sources suggest working with the police, surveying the property, and considering ways of avoiding incidents.

●     As a next step, Betsy will contact the Cambridge Police and see if they have advice or have encountered this situation before.


●     Lucas moved that we enter executive session. Marian seconded. Approved unanimously.

●     Jeff Zinsmeyer presented on a redevelopment matter.

●     Lucas moved that we exit executive session. Leah seconded. Approved unanimously.


●        Jeff handed out a spreadsheet with Love/Hope/Improve feedback from phone calls.

●        The Currency of Money Committee has attempted to categorize feedback according to themes of community, worship, outreach, and redevelopment.

●        It’s important that we let people know we’re listening to their feedback.

●        Jules and Leah will present a brief vestry response with the Currency of Money team at annual meeting.

Nominations Committee

●     Sylvia reported that they are still looking for a Senior Warden.

●     They have found several delegates for the Alewife Deanery.

●     Lucas needs the names for the Annual Meeting powerpoint.

Clergy Housing

●     Lucas moved that whereas the Rev. Holly Antolini is employed as a minister of the Gospel by St. James's Church in Cambridge, MA, which does not provide a residence for her, the vestry resolves that of the total compensation of $106,586 to be paid to the Rev. Holly Antolini, during 2018, that $43,000 be designated a housing allowance within the meaning of that term as used in Section 107 of the I.R.S. Code of 1986. And be it further resolved that $43,000 of compensation is designated as housing allowance for this and all future years, unless otherwise provided. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.


●     Holly explained that she is ready to retire at the end of the year.

●     She reported that she advocated to the bishop for us to have a priest-in-charge during construction.

●     The bishop he wanted to keep his options open: either a priest-in-charge or a long-term interim for the period of construction, so he could pick the best priest

●     Next steps: the transitions people at the diocese will contact the new vestry

●     Holly plans to stay through St. James Day. But for us to pick the new priest in the spring.


●     Lucas reported that the 2018 budget assumes we start construction on April 1. At that point we stop getting Oaktree payments, start paying the Owner’s Project Manager, etc.

●     The budget assumes $260,000 in pledges, which we don’t have, but is what the finance committee hopes to achieve.

●     The short-form budget presented has an error in the expenses formula, which Lucas will fix.

●     Jules moved that the vestry adopt the 2018 portion of the budget prepared by the finance committee. Andrew seconded. Approved unanimously.

Finance Report

●     Lucas reported that they have preliminary year-end financials. Final ones will be available in February.

●     The upshot is that 2017 was a pretty good year financially: we added to our general fund surplus.

●     That is partly because we didn’t have an assistant rector, though. Paying for that position continues to be a bit of a stretch.

●     Andrew moved that we accept the finance report as presented. Leah seconded. Approved unanimously.


Minutes of December Meeting

Leah moved that we approve both sets of October minutes as presented. Marian seconded. Approved unanimously.

Warden’s Report

●     Sylvia reported that property affairs and maintenance are now being overseen by Peter Merrill. 

●     Sarah F. reported that the Hospitality Committee is not going to badly. The vestry will do coffee hour on Feb. 4.

Rector's Report


Aim Unhalakheka has been hired as our new Nursery Caretaker, to take Julia Reed-Betts’ place this spring. Because she is an international student and ineligible to receive a salary, we are looking for a different way to compensate her, possibly through a tuition payment to her Harvard School of Education graduate program.
Meredith Wade and I are working on our mid-year evaluation. She continues energetically, working with her Leadership Development Initiative coach Dan Gelbtuch and her support team of John Bell, Kendall Gideon, Allen Perez and Jenny Grassl. “Next steps” include preparation for a power analysis of food justice issues at and beyond St. James’s.
Moved to be close to goal on the Currency of Money campaign.
Church School teachers met to plan for spring; we’re problem-solving on the difficulty of maintaining a “young” Young Church and an “older” Young Church classroom, and recruiting additional Godly Play story-tellers. The Upper School class is enriched by the addition of Caroline Merrit just as Benazeer had to take leave for baby Rafi.
The Church School Families are having their first Gathering of the year at Jeremy & Anne Wilmer’s Saturday Jan. 20th. Aim will provide childcare.
Christmas season was liturgically rich and well-attended (though this season is often one of travel for our community).
Though I was absent due to flu, Pat and the Choir held a beautiful Anti-Oppression Lessons & Carols for Epiphany at our Cathedral on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6th, in collaboration with Karen Montagno and outgoing Interim Cathedral Dean Nancy Gossling. It was deeply cold that Saturday and the congregation was small but deeply appreciative! The St. James’s Choir also sang in the annual city-wide Martin Luther King Day event at St. Peter’s Central Square, and provided a real spiritual high point for the event with “The Storm is Passing Over.”
Worship Commission planning teams scheduled to prepare Lent and also Holy Week/Easter, so that work will be ready and underway long before my two weeks away in Peru.
A plan is developing for a Lenten Bible Study in the model of Paulo Freire’s “pedagogy of the oppressed,” each Sunday in Lent. Adult Confirmation Class will wait until May, since Confirmation itself doesn’t happen until October 2018.
The Food Pantry was uneventful and well-attended on Jan. 13; we are continuing to problem-solve with Schochet Management on access problems in the cold weather. Their upper management is now involved; I meet with them on Wed. Jan. 17 and hope this will make things easier for all of us as we proceed to the Feb. 9 distribution. Much food donated to us through MLK Jr. Day “Many Helping Hands” initiative.
Planning to train two new Lay Eucharistic Visitors in the context of a gathering of the LEV’s - we just need to find a date. It may have to wait till after Easter.
Thanks to Peter Merrell and Hong Chin, the boiler replacement has been completed, even though we still await the remote-controlled thermostat installation that will permit us to adjust temperature and problem-solve from a distance via Wifi.
Annual Meeting planning and Vestry Retreat planning proceeding apace. New-Vestry Orientation will be at Sarah Forrester’s (my renovation being still underway) from 5 to 7 PM the day of Annual Meeting, January 28th. The Sunday after Vestry Retreat – February 18th, first Sunday in Lent, will be Vestry Commissioning Day: we’ll need you all present to be commissioned.
Youth Confirmation Class continued in lively fashion with Caroline Merrit and the Rev. Dr. Katie Rimer on January 7th. Mark Yoder is the teacher on Feb. 4th. His topic: “Jesus is worth following. It’s not always easy to do, but he opens the way to God’s life. Each of us “follows” in our unique way: our vocation, our calling.”
Sanctuary Team continues strongly. We are preparing to apply for deanery grants and also a St. James’s Missions Grant to help defray the costs of keeping someone in sanctuary. It’s amazing how steadfast everyone has been over more than six months now.
The Anti-Oppression Team has the great honor of presenting Marga Varea’s documentary on African-American activist and illustrator, 94-year-old Ashley Bryan this coming Sunday at our regular 5-7 pm meeting. We have invited the Reservoir Church’s folks to join us as they did for “13th” last fall.
Redevelopment, progressing quietly but steadily toward the goal of construction.
Active with Life Together as the supervisor & mentor of Meredith, our Life Together Fellow this year.
Attendance at Deanery Assemblies regularly.
I am registered for my annual silent prayer retreat at SSJE Monastery Jan. 30 – Feb. 3., following Annual Meeting.
Bear in mind I’ll be away on a two-week Yale University cruise of the Amazon River and Machu Picchu! It’s March 3-16, 2018, so I will be gone for the third and fourth weeks of Lent. We will plan well ahead for Holy Week, so that bulletins and staffing for those special services are well along in preparation during my absence. I’ll be back in time for 5th Sunday of Lent and our March Vestry meeting.
My three-month sabbatical remains as planned, for September 1 to December 1, 2018.

Submitted by Jules Bertaut

Sermon for 1 Lent 2-18-18, The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini

Click here to listen to the sermon. 

1 Lent Year B 2-18-18
©Holly Lyman Antolini
Lections: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15

You guide the humble in doing right and teach your way to the lowly. All your paths, O God, are love and faithfulness to us if we keep your covenant and your testimonies. AMEN.

We have entered the season of Lent. Lent is a time of formation and preparation. In the Middle Ages, it acquired its atmosphere of confession and repentance, of acknowledging “our manifold sins & wickedness” and turning from our “evil ways.” But long before that, right back to the earliest days of its observance around the second or third centuries after Christ’s death, Lent was more a time of preparation: preparation for initiation into baptism, into Christ, at the Easter Vigil.

I want to invite you into a Lent that is preparation, preparation for the renewal of your baptisms at the Feast of the Resurrection on March 30th – the night-time Great Vigil of Easter – and April 1st, Easter Sunday morning. That might involve some inventory of your choices in the last year, and maybe even confession, if you find in your inventory that you are burdened with a consciousness of “things done or left undone.” But it might be more deeply and simply a turning toward God and a turning toward “your neighbor,” because you can’t love God, as Scripture says over and over, if you don’t love your neighbor. ANY neighbor. This one, right next to you, right now. And the one you’ll pass on the street right after church today.

In entering a season of preparation, you have to be willing to enter a period of transition, leaving something behind and preparing to move on to the next part of your life. Straight from his baptism, Jesus gets propelled – hurled, really, in Mark – into 40 days in the wilderness with only the wild beasts for company, to prepare for his proclamation of the nearness of God’s Realm. 40 days in the Bible always signifies a LIMINAL space – Moses’ 40 days on the mountain; the Israelites’ 40 days in the desert; forty days’ warning of Ninevah’s destruction in Jonah; forty years of Jerusalem’s desolation after the Babylonian exile and before the city’s rebuilding. The 40 days of Lent are a LIMINAL space, from limen, Latin for “threshold” or “margin.” Liminality, then, means both “crossing a threshold from one status (or stage) to another,” and also “being on the “margins” of the rest of society.

Believe me when I tell you that being on a threshold – as we are on the threshold of demolishing our old parish house and garden and building a new one; as you are on the threshold of calling new clergy leadership for the parish; as I am on the threshold of retirement – is a disorienting experience. The Rev. Amy McCreath, who facilitated our Vestry Retreat this weekend, invited us each to select a photograph that spoke to us from a whole collection of allusive images. I chose a man upside-down in mid-air over a whole city. (You have him there in your bulletin.) He DOES have a helmet on – image of faith if there ever was one! But it doesn’t look like much protection if he keeps heading straight down! Still, his expression is an anticipatory one, not a fearful one. He looks remarkably optimistic, given his predicament! Such is the baptismal liminality of Lent.

There’s a way in which, to enter a liminal space like Lent, we have to let go of our presuppositions and be open to discovering something truly new, about ourselves, about the world. To truly let go in that way DOES make you feel upside down, at least some of the time. The feeling of being upside down is something I have NEVER enjoyed, not even as a child. I could manage a somersault – at least there, you’re grounded the whole time. But a cartwheel?!? NEVER could do one! But I have learned over my many decades of the spiritual life that I have to tolerate being upside down if I’m going to grow. And grow closer to God. As long as I’m relying on my own two feet, I’m too “pedestrian” for God to get to me! So God long since learned to throw me up in the air: it was the only way God could help me learn about God’s grace!

Lent is a liminal space in which to give up whatever orients us and makes us too rigidly comfortable to be able to resonate like the string of a cello bow to the oppression and suffering of others. Lent is a liminal space in which to learn again – and again and again and again – that when we are lost in disorientation is precisely when we are FOUND by God’s surprising, never-failing grace to help in time of need. And FOUND by the deepest possible compassion – com-passio – to suffer with, as in “fellow suffering.” A compassion that will not allow us to dismiss an immigrant, a mother with hungry children, a person whose illness demands treatment they can’t afford without jeopardizing their mortgage; a person who cannot even obtain a mortgage in the first place.

For religion scholar and mother Kate Bowler, her Lenten liminal space gaped open in her life at age 35 when she was diagnosed with incurable colon cancer. Horrifying as that is, she has found in that wilderness, GOD, and a deep, deep compassion for the world around her. She told “Fresh Air’s” Terry Gross,

I think maybe [the place of prayer has changed in my life] because I think I don't have the luxury of being too sophisticated anymore. I mean, you just get infected with this urgency that comes with facing your death. And so I pray for very basic things. Please, God, make me kind and open to the pain of the world. Please, God, heal me. Make me less of a dink and help me be a good mom and a wife. I mean, just really basic stuff as opposed to maybe the more layered prayers that I was raised with or learned in theological school, which always have long gerund phrases like ever-loving and ever-living God...”

“…I would love to trade the life I have for one in which I imagined I could always spend it with my husband and my son. But it did feel like cancer was like this secret key that opened up this whole new reality. And part of the reality was the realization that your own pain connects you to the pain of other people. I don't know. Maybe I was just a narcissist before. But …all of a sudden, I realized how incredibly fragile life is for almost everyone. And then I noticed things like - and that felt like a spiritual - I don't know - like gift.”

It's like you notice the tired mom in the grocery store who's just like struggling to get the thing off the top shelf while her kid screams, and you notice how very tired that person looks at the bus stop. And then, of course, all the people in the cancer clinic around me. That felt like I was cracked open, and I could see everything really clearly for the first time.” [Source]

Dare I say that THIS Lent is a liminal space for us Americans very different from Lents in the past? I’ve been thinking about our opening passage from Genesis, in which God repents of the terrible world-encompassing flood he had set in motion out of frustration with our arrogance and insouciance and, his heart riven by love as he watched our destruction, sets his rainbow in the clouds as an everlasting covenant with us, that NEVER AGAIN would he try to drown us out of anger. I do daily have the strong feeling that we humans – and maybe especially some of us Americans – are testing God’s resolve about that covenant! That we are daily sacrificing our SCHOOL CHILDREN to some abstract idea about self-defense that permits a society awash in guns? That we are continuing massively, nationwide, to redline people of color so they can’t obtain mortgages they are MORE than qualified for and are segregated to only certain areas of a city or town??? That we are ripping apart stable, contributing, tax-paying families and deporting one or another member simply because they don’t have certain PAPERWORK? If I were God, I would have run out of patience a long time ago. Miami’s 40 days; New Orleans’ 40 days; Seattle’s 40 days; BOSTON’S 40 days would be UP by now!

And who knows what horrors could lie ahead? We KNOW what horrors we’re capable of, because we’ve had more than a foretaste of them: in the Holocaust; in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; in the Agent-Orange-blasted killing fields of the Viet Nam War. German Expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz, who lost a son in WWI and a grandson in WWII on the German side, knows just how terrified (and terrifying) we are, in her self-portrait drawn as the Nazi regime rose up and engulfed and both persecuted and exploited her. And knows just how deep our grief can be, especially TODAY after Parkland, in her etching of mother clutching her dead child. You have them there on your bulletin insert.

We’re so disoriented right now – we’re so upside down – that we don’t even know WHAT FORM our repentance should take! At times like that, it’s time for a poem. Here’s one to end, from poet Kevin Young’s Book of Hours. It’s short, so I’ll read it twice. Then I’ll open the mike for one or two of you to respond, what’s YOUR Lenten liminal space?


by Kevin Young

Empty your arms of all

            they own.

Now, bring me

            what remains --

like a saint’s

scattered bones

or stories told

in glass, stained.


Sermon for Ash Wednesday 2-14-18, The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini

Click here to listen to the sermon. 

Ash Wednesday 2-14-18
©Holly Lyman Antolini
Lections: Isaiah 58:1-12; Ps. 103; 2 Cor. 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6;1-6, 16-21

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name. AMEN.

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

We are not overly fond of dirt, us 21st century North Americans. It smacks of decay and germs, after all: away with it! We live in a society that disinfects everything. We try our best to scrub our lives of anything that might shorten them. We dream of living forever, and even a generation of hospice care after Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s On Death & Dying, we still hospitalize people at end of life as if dying were a remediable “health condition” instead of being a part of life to be incorporated into the daily-ness and messiness of living and the daily-ness (and messiness!) of loving.

Think about it: nowadays, we even imbue regular every-day household soap – already a “cleanser” – with antibiotic. Anti-biotic: literally, anti-“bios;” anti-life.

WHY, then, do you suppose on this Wednesday that opens the season of Lent, people are so eager to have their foreheads smudged with ashes – even people who never darken the door of a church on other days – that they’re willing to line up in the subway for it? Doesn’t that seem profoundly counter-intuitive?

I think it’s because in our heart of hearts – and let’s face it, in our GUTS, the quote-unquote “dirtiest” part of us – we know all this antiseptic anti-biotic-ness of ours smacks of a kind of hubris – an unwillingness to be just plain old everyday HUMAN. Human, as in “of the earth,” of the humus! “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” However uncomfortable it is to remember that we are dust, we also crave it. The RELIEF of it! No longer pretending we’re immortal and perfect and spit-polished put-together! No longer imagining we could run the world if everyone would just cooperate! To let down our guard and remember that we are dust, even for a day: SUCH A REPRIEVE!

When it comes to humus, my years of organic gardening in Maine gave me a great respect for dirt. It didn’t take long before I began to realize that if my soil wasn’t “in good heart,” nothing else in my garden would be. And for soil to be in good heart, it had to be chock-full of “bios,” things living and dying and consuming each other and – to be absolutely frank – excreting each other and generally making a holy mess. VERY holy. Anyone who’s dug the dark-chocolate compost out of a well-turned, well-aerated compost bin into their garden will tell you exactly how holy that dirty stuff is. It even SMELLS holy! Rich and moist and soft and inviting, as if you wouldn’t have to be a pig to want to roll in it.

One of my gardening heroes is Joel Salatin, who was featured in Michael Pollan’s best-selling book about food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, farms in the Shenandoah Valley, in Swoope, VA. Salatin raises beef cattle, pigs and poultry in a special field rotation system that allows each kind of animal to consume what they prefer and excrete what they excrete and prepare the fields to be ripe and ready with the things the next kind of animal in the rotation wants to consume! Although he raises an astonishing quantity of restaurant-quality organic meat given the acreage of his farm, he likes to say, he’s not an animal farmer; he’s a DIRT farmer. It’s all about the soil; each animal takes from the soil and gives to the soil in a wondrous give-and-take of which he’s just the steward. (He also calls himself “a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer.” Caring for dirt – and oh by the way, a whole lot of plants and animals, and people who look to him for guidance and meat – is a matter of faith for him.) [Source]

So when Brian Wren writes in the beautiful song we’re going to sing at communion, “We are not our own. Earth forms us, human leaves on nature’s growing vine, fruit of many generations, seeds of life divine,” it makes sense to me. God created us “out of the dust of the earth,” says the Book of Genesis. That’s where we came from and that’s where we’re going. In the meantime, we’re full of the “seeds of life divine,” like my magnificent crop of pumpkins one year – great, swelling, improbably orange globes of possibility, we humus-y humans!

The invitation of Ash Wednesday is to keep “a holy Lent.” How does “remembering that we are dust” contribute to that? There’s a clue for us in the fact that that cross of ash is placed just where we had our anointing for ministry in your baptism, “sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own, forever.” The cross of ash is a reminder that you have already died, in your baptism. So quit worrying about it! “Your life,” as the Letter to the Colossians says, “is hidden with Christ in God!” [Colossians 3:3]

Being “hidden with Christ in God” doesn’t mean being perfect. In fact, it means the opposite. It means letting God be God and us be honest about being dust. More than dust: it means being compost – being highly, richly, often stinkingly imperfect. But also being in process. Giving up expectations and discovering new ones. Allowing ourselves to be transformed. Dying and resurrecting. And all the while, increasing in fertility and possibility. As Ephesians says, “speaking the truth in love – being exactly as dusty as we are – we must grow up – or, if we’re compost, we must break down – in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” [Eph. 4:15-16]

There’s something else about our dustiness. Religion scholar and young mother Kate Bowler writes about it in her new memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved. Bowler told Terry Gross on NPR this week that she “used to believe God had a plan for her life. Then she was diagnosed with incurable colon cancer. ‘I really had to rethink what trust and hope looks like," she says.’”

After coming through the initial crisis phase of treatment and now being in an experimental protocol that seems to be extending her life in three-month increments, from scan to scan, Bowler set out to write a memoir, she says, as “part of the maybe spiritual excavation project,” not “because I thought, you know, I have a lot of really important things to share with other people,” but, as she said on “Fresh Air,” “I was trying to get down to the deepest, hardest, truest things that I believed - like, get down to those lies that I had perpetuated all along, that I needed to be shiny to be worthy of God's love and the attention of others and that I needed to achieve and be master and commander of my, you know, everything. And so part of not being shiny - it was me coming to terms with my own frailty, the fact that I probably wasn't going to be able to piece things together and learning to feel spiritually, I guess, accepted by God and by other people when I didn't have much to offer people anymore.”

That feeling of being loved in the midst of her pain and fear and weakness and terrible sense of loss at the prospect of death – and of losing her beloved baby son and husband, and of BEING lost TO them – was a startling thing, to find that “…after [having] major surgery, in which the large cancerous tumor was removed from [her] colon, [she was] in the hospital, incapacitated and somehow felt the presence of God in a way that [she] hadn't experienced before. She writes “that when [she was] sure [she was] going to die, [she] didn't feel angry. [She] felt loved…it felt as though [she’d] uncovered something like a secret faith and [she] kept thinking, I don't want to go back.” “…I just didn't feel quite as scared. I just felt loved.” [Source]

 “Remember that you are dust.” And ALSO remember that in the midst of your dustiness – your humus-y humanity – you are deeply, thoroughly, completely LOVED. God is not waiting to love you till you get your act together. God is not waiting to love you till you’ve confessed every jot and tittle of sin and failure to live up to the glory God intended for you when God knit you together in your mother’s womb. GOD LOVES YOU NOW. God has sealed you by the Spirit and marked you as God’s very own beloved child.

Mind you, you don’t have to be diagnosed with incurable colon cancer to “get this.” For one thing, there are many ways to “die,” and though you may be completely physically healthy, you may have experienced more than one of them! ANY of the bazillion deaths – of our own illusions about ourselves or others – or through trauma or betrayal – our own or that of those around us – or our addictions or our disappointments can be the thing that reduces us to rubble – or dust – and lets us finally – FINALLY! – accept that it’s not our achievements or our scrubbed-up purity that wins us God’s love. WE ALREADY HAVE GOD’S LOVE. God’s love is the PREDICATE to – the spiritual ENGINE for – all that we achieve and create and offer for the flourishing and achievement of others around us. That’s Jesus’ whole point in coming among us! That’s what salvation IS! Letting ourselves be utterly completely loved. (Yup, it IS Valentine’s Day!) As we will soon sing in Brian Wren’s beautiful words at the communion.

“Through a human life, God finds us, living, dying, love is fully known

and in bread and wine reminds us we are not our own.

Therefore let us make thanksgiving, and with justice, willing and aware,

give to earth, and all things living, liturgies of care.”

“Remember that you are dust.” Be compost. Be “dirt farmers.” Be LOVED. AMEN.


Sermon for 4 Epiphany 1-28-18, Sylvia Weston

Click here to listen to the sermon.

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time, grant us your peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28
                                                              Conversations with Jesus
In the early morning hours, these songs come to my heart such as: “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place, I can feel His Mighty Power and His Grace,” “This is the Day that the Lord has made, Let us Rejoice and be Glad in it,” “Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right,” “I Am Weak, but Thou Art Strong…..I’ll be satisfied as long as I walk, let me walk close to Thee,” and “Father Speak, Thy Servant hear-eth, Waiting for Thy Gracious Word!

One Sunday, “Immediately Jesus comes into the Church/Synagogue and teaches? Mark tells us “They were astonished, for he taught them as one with Authority." The people present on that Sunday “had a glimpse of Holiness at the thin places that reminds - that we are not our own, nor on our own,” says Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Professor, Author. Well, Jesus still does; He shows up, He teaches - and does even more!! He speaks! He wants to have a conversation with us! “Master speak, thy servant Hear-eth, Waiting for thy gracious Word!”

“Now”, says Mark: “There was a man/person present who thought he knew everything, and instead of saying something like: Glad you are here Jesus - welcome…he says: “I know you, what are you doing here?” (paraphrased) In other words, he is saying - leave us alone. Jesus responds with Authority and firmness:  “Be quiet, Come out of him!”

Words matter! The words we speak matter! Not only are the words we speak of utmost importance, the words we put into our hearts and minds are key to the conversations we have with God and with each other.  What do you do with that Knowledge of knowing Who Jesus is? You have to Confess Jesus as LORD & LOVE! (And not turn Him away.) Paul to the Corinthians tells us that - yes, while knowledge is good, LOVE is key, and surpasses - in that it builds up, it encourages, it sustains. Love welcomes! Love smiles! Love greets in Peace! Love speaks a kind Word; Love does a good deed for another in need. Love does not turn away, but welcomes the Stranger with open arms. Love invites them in. Love feeds the hungry, and offers rest/shelter. Love is free and gives freedom to all. Love prays for and visits the sick, the prisoner and befriends the lonesome. Paul continues - “Anyone who loves God is known by Him.”

In the WORD, the/gospels of the past Sundays we have met with others who have had encounters and conversations with the Holy of Holies: Samuel who listened to the Call and affirmed: “Speak Lord, your servant hears.” Peter,  Andrew, James etc…then there were Phillip & Nathaniel. The dialogues they have had were different: Nathaniel even asked “How do you know me?” “Before Philip called you”, Jesus says: “I saw you sitting under the fig tree!” What? Let’s think this through - HE sees Nathaniel? That means he sees US too! All heard him Speak; some listened and immediately stopped what they did and followed. Others like Nathaniel, carried on a conversation with Jesus! I believe, they knew there was something different/special about this man. Jesus acknowledges in scripture “All Authority is given to Me!” Jesus speaks and there is  response/Action of some kind! He knows you/us by Name - and he Calls you/us too! The expectation is that we too will come to know Him and claim and confess Jesus as Lord of All.

In conversations with God, Abram, Moses and the Prophets cultivated a special relationship. He tells Moses:  “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people. I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.” JESUS is the one raised up! I am sure each one treasured the moments they met with the ONE in authority - and they welcomed his Promises of  Love, Trust, Hope & Healing. Some examples are found in conversations throughout scripture like Jeremiah, the prophet who says “Something within me like a burning fire!”, like David and the composers of the Psalms. Search - “Read, mark and inwardly digest,” as one of our Collects exhorts us to do. Write The WORD on your heart. (“The Word is very near you - on your lips and in your heart!” And remember the fascinating encounters of the women, some of whom are - Hagar, to whom the Angel spoke - MARY, Jesus’ Mother - The woman to whom Jesus said, “Who touched me?” The woman whom he met at the well -  who proclaimed “Come see a man who told me everything I have ever done,” Mary Magdalene - who proclaimed “Raboni!  Master! With that experience of seeing Jesus, she had to share the Good News: “I have seen The Lord “- and many others did as well.

Jesus, the WORD Incarnate, became human - and Lives among us. He visits us wherever we are: in our churches, synagogues and mosques, in our homes, at school, the work place, at hospitals, in the dance (I am sure you saw youngster Beckett and Holly dancing during the recession last Sunday) - in the Garden, on walks, by the seashore, and even at parties - wherever we are! He calls us each by Name and Draws us to Himself! Jesus is Here! Jesus is always Near! Continue the dialogue. May we recognize him and SEE His Glory and  recognize His Authority, and may our Hearts respond in Love! 

Some times life presents trying, difficult and challenging situations that are very hard to bear; and yet, we know that we are not alone, for You, Jesus, are always present and we speak Your WORD of  Authority!  Come Jesus, Come Holy Spirit. Drive away any fear, doubt, distraction, discontent - all the “de’s and disses and diseases”. Speak your word of Healing to us: “Be silent and come out!” Teach us Oh Lord and write Your WORD upon our Hearts! Help us to respond to Your Presence among us in Prayer, Praise and Adoration, in Songs/Music, Thanksgiving, Dance and also in Joyful and Quiet Amazement. WE are Glad You are Here.  COME HOLY SPIRIT! We receive you as Bread of Life & The Cup of Salvation! Open our hearts to receive You and our eyes to SEE You! Thank you for the Love, Lord Jesus. Thank you for Life and all the Goodness you have given us. Thank you for ALL your Blessings. 

How are Jesus’ words speaking to you?  How will you respond to Him?