Resources

Wednesday
Feb222017

Homily on the Feast Day of Eric Liddell for the Sisters of St. Anne

The Feast of Eric Liddell

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 40:27–31, Psalm 18:21–25,29–34; 2 Peter 1:3–11; Mark 10:35–45

 

You, O Lord, are my lamp; my God, you make my darkness bright. With you I will break down an enclosure; with the help of my God I will scale any wall.  AMEN.

 

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” So Jesus asks his brash young followers. And so he asks all of us, perhaps with more poignancy in this present moment.

 

It’s a good time to think a bit about baptism. We’re coming up on the season of Lent, so long the season of preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil. For many in the earliest days of the Church, these 40 Lenten days were the culmination of years of training and teaching and formation. Then, in the flickering dark of the Vigil, baptizands were plunged head-to-foot into water three times, in the name of the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer & Sustainer, an intense evocation of their willingness to “die into Christ,” to join themselves to Christ by complete self-emptying, and thereby to be infused with a new life and a new identity as a minister of reconciliation, committed to following Jesus even if to follow Jesus meant to be separated from one’s loving but unbelieving family.  Even, if necessary, into the dens of lions.

 

Because in the early days of the church, these soon-to-be Christians were subject to persecution and even martyrdom, so preparation for baptism was a much more literal preparation for death than anyone in this room is likely to have experienced, even if you were baptized as I was, as an adult. My baptism preparation – at age 28 - amounted to a single conversation with my priest, in which, after four years of singing in the choir every week, I met with him on the picnic table outside the church and screwed up my courage to say, “I think I want to be baptized,” and he responded, “Well, I think you know what you’re doing,” and made a date for the baptism. It was so quick and so negligible that it made me feel a little dizzy and uncertain, feeling by no means as prepared as I felt I should be, but embarrassed to say so in the teeth of (I may say, unwarranted!) conviction. (Or maybe his own uncertainty HOW to prepare me!)

 

I call it “the last private baptism” even though I have no evidence for that, but because it was 1980 and our Church had already adopted the 1979 Book of Common Prayer with its central liturgy of baptism and its expressed desire to have baptisms only on major feast days in the presence of the whole congregation. My baptism was a hold-over from a bygone era, three little spritzes at the font in the back of the church, held on a Saturday afternoon with my bewildered, unchurched parents; my wonderful spiritual mentor, our cleaning lady Alvainie Dawson (who resides in my own personal roster of saints); my grandmother, brought up an Episcopalian from her birth in 1895, and flipping the pages of the unfamiliar prayerbook back and forth audibly and with irritation behind me throughout the little service, as if to say, “What IS this???” and my Episcopalian husband, who sang “I heard the voice of Jesus say” for my baptism despite having told me it was a song for funerals, to which of course I pointed out, “This IS a funeral: the funeral of my old self! Now I will be risen with Christ!”

 

How innocently I could say that. How little idea I truly had then, what it would mean to “drink the cup that Christ drinks, or be baptized with the baptism that Christ is baptized with!” And once-for-all as baptism is – and I depend upon that; I RELY upon the certainty of having been SEALED by the Holy Spirit and MARKED as Christ’s own, FOREVER; I’m with Martin Luther, who, as a reminder to himself not to give up in a time of desperate stress and persecution, hiding in someone else’s house as a captive for his own safety, famously took a knife and hacked the words into the wood of his desk, “I HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED!” – as crucial as this permanence of baptism is, it is also vivid to me that the reality of one’s baptism is also something one can only grasp “through a glass dimly,” in a long process of LIVING INTO one’s baptism, of deepening one’s baptism over years of practice, of renewing and re-affirming one’s baptism over and over, in every partaking of the Eucharist, every “participation in Christ,” as Richard Hooker says of the Bread & Wine, the Body & Blood of Christ.

 

Fortunately we have models for this deepening of baptism – models in Christ’s followers who have gone before us, and who have met the challenges of their lives with faithfulness and grace, empowered to do so by clinging to Christ who is their all-in-all, by “drinking the cup that Christ drinks, and being baptized with the baptism with which Christ is baptized.” Today’s model is the British Olympic runner Eric Liddell, famous for us from the movie “Chariots of Fire,” in which we see him give up his chance at winning the 100-meter sprint – his best event – because the qualifying heat would require him to run on the sabbath day. Son of missionaries in China and devout Scottish Presbyterian that he was, defiling the Sabbath was out of the question. Still, a young man with the opportunity to demonstrate a world-conquering skill, it would have been more predictable that he would have at least hedged on his principles. The dedication with which he met that spiritual challenge – and went on to win the 400-meter at those same 1924 Olympics by running it as IF it were a sprint! – was a mere harbinger of things to come.

 

After being trained at Edinburgh University as a doctor, he returned to his parents in the missionary field in Northern China in 1925, becoming a teacher. And there he stayed even as the Imperial Japanese began to envelope China in the lead-up to World War II. Sending his Canadian wife and their three daughters back to her family in Canada, Liddell remained in solidarity with his Chinese comrades, spelling his doctor brother in a mission to the poor. When the Japanese took over the mission station in 1943, Liddell was interned at the Weihsien Internment Camp (in the modern city of Weifang). There he lived in the harsh conditions of deprivation that characterized these camps under the Japanese, but with astonishing equanimity, encouraged his fellow prisoners, especially the children. “Langdon Gilkey, who also survived the camp and became a prominent theologian in his native America, said of Liddell: "Often in an evening I would see him bent over a chessboard or a model boat, or directing some sort of square dance – absorbed, weary and interested, pouring all of himself into this effort to capture the imagination of these penned-up youths. He was overflowing with good humour and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm. It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known."[15] [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Liddell]

 

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Eric Liddell drank the cup to its dregs, and dove deeper and deeper into his baptism. It certainly wasn’t what he would have chosen, that terrible life in an internment camp. But he HAD chosen to follow the sacrificial path of love his Savior had shown him, and he “poured all of himself into it,” holding nothing back. And from Langdon Gilkey’s account, it was a blessing to him, hard as it was, just as it was a blessing to all around him.

 

In his last letter to his wife, written on the day he died [in the camp at Weihsien], Liddell wrote of suffering a nervous breakdown due to overwork. He actually had an inoperable brain tumour; overwork and malnourishment may have hastened his death. Liddell died on 21 February 1945, five months before liberation. Langdon Gilkey later wrote, "The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric's death had left." According to a fellow missionary, Liddell's last words were, "It's complete surrender", in reference to how he had given his life to God.[19]

[Ibid.]

 

"It's complete surrender." That’s the goal of our baptisms. And it can take a lifetime to reach it. Or sometimes, in the crucible of intense suffering, one may reach it far sooner. Suffering or no, living into our baptism is a way of joy.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say,

‘I am this dark world’s Light.

Look unto me; thy morn shall rise

And all thy day be bright.’

I looked to Jesus, and I found

In him, my star, my sun;

And in that light of life I’ll walk

Till traveling days are done.”

                        [Horatius Bonar, 1846]

Amen. 

Tuesday
Feb212017

Jane Hirschi's Living Epistle - 7 Epiphany - 2/19/17

Tuesday
Feb212017

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for 7 Epiphany - 2/19/17

Audio Recording of Sermon for 7 Epiphany

7 Epiphany Year A 2-19-17

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Leviticus 19:1-2,9-18; Psalm 119:33-40; A Living Epistle of Jane Hirschi [1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23]; Matthew 5:38-48

Do we not know that we are your temple, O God, and that your Spirit dwells in us? If anyone destroys your temple, O God, you will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and we are that temple. AMEN. [1 Cor. 1:16-17]

My prayer for this morning comes from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, from the epistle we didn’t read because instead we had Anti-Oppression Team member Jane Hirschi’s powerful testimony in her Living Epistle. But Jane and Paul are on the same page here, anyway. Every one of us human beings is God’s very temple. As the Book of Leviticus in our first reading puts it, “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” We are made in the image of God, and God’s Spirit dwells in us. We dare not disrespect the temple of God by disrespecting each other. The great “I AM” who is our Creator God teaches us in Leviticus what our holiness looks like: our holiness lies in the justice and kindness with which we treat each other. If we are holy as God is holy, we will not disrespect the poor or deny the laborer her wages; we will not hoard the grain of our fields nor the grapes of our vineyards but we will share them with the very poorest and with the stranger and the immigrant among us. We will judge justly; we will speak truth and not slander; we will defend our neighbors’ right to fullness of life. We will love our neighbor as ourselves.

This holiness of the Almighty God which infuses each of us with holiness lies at the very root of why we have an Anti-Oppression Team at St. James’s. The Anti-Oppression Team represents our pledge as a congregation not to disrespect each other. Neither to disrespect each other within the congregation, nor to carry that disrespect out into the surrounding community. We pledge to see each other – every other – as a sacred being: God’s own temple.

But ours is a society that has long roots in disrespect, despite our brave experiment in democracy and human rights. We have disrespected our tribal members that were already resident here when the Europeans arrived on American shores. We profoundly disrespected those from Africa who arrived here bound in the chains of slavery, and we didn’t let up on that disrespect after the words of Emancipation were spoken, but imposed Jim Crow on them, red-lined them out of housing, discriminated against them in hiring, persecuted them with mass incarceration. We disrespected women for much of our history, not even giving them the vote until 1920. Remember that on this day in 1942, the U.S. government issued the order to round up all people of Japanese descent on the West Coast and put them in concentration camps. This, too, is our history. And our disrespect continues. We have overlooked the impacts of globalization upon the rural and post-industrial poor in our country, leaving people stranded in economically deprived communities, a prey to drug addiction and despair, and we continue to utilize the labor and creativity of millions of immigrant members of our society – tax-payers, family members, economic contributors – while leaving them terribly vulnerable to persecution by refusing them citizenship, even those who arrived here as children in the company of their parents.

 

So the Anti-Oppression Team has its work cut out for it, and this congregation has its work cut out for it, because we’re UNDOING a deeply systemic, largely unconscious legacy of disrespect. And undoing that takes a rigorous commitment to uncovering our own biases as well as a dedicated commitment to working to redress the impacts of such biases in our society. And God knows this is not a moment in our history in which our nation looks much like a “shining beacon on a hill” for this kind of redress of bias. In fact, our national leadership at the moment displays a willingness to build policy upon bias that is remarkably unvarnished and unabashed, even preening with self-congratulation.

 

Then, just as we’re getting good and angry about all this, just when our mission to respect each other comes up against such magisterial disregard, along comes Jesus, continuing his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, and ups the ante yet again on the expectations of our holiness. He makes an “ask” of us that, maybe at this particularly divisive time in American politics, is strenuously difficult to the point of unendurable, far, far beyond simply avoiding disrespect. “You have heard that it was said, declares Jesus, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

What can this MEAN for us who are joined to Jesus Christ in our baptisms? How can we POSSIBLY “love our enemies,” even those who persecute our very own family, friends, & neighbors – ourselves? - through their disrespect?

Let us turn to another follower of Jesus Christ, to African-American Congressman John Lewis for clues. In the recent documentary profile of him, called “Get In The Way,” we learn that Lewis grew up dirt-poor as the son of a sharecropper in Jim Crow Alabama. In an era of virtually unchallenged persecution and lynching of African-Americans, Lewis’ mother strictly coached him to keep his head down and not to “get in the way” of the white people in power in his community. But as a teen in the late ‘50’s, Lewis heard Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio and realized in that pivotal moment that he, John Lewis, was God’s Temple, that God’s Holy Spirit dwelt in him as much as in anyone, and that he was called to “get in the way” of the systemic racism of the time. He joined King in the Civil Rights Movement. In the profile, we watch him as a student at Fisk University, organizing sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  We watch him participating in the Freedom Rides in 1961, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons.  We watch him being screamed at and beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South. From 1963 to 1966, as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form, Lewis and SNCC were largely responsible for organizing student activism in the Movement, including sit-ins and other activities. Already by 1963, at the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963, at which King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.  [extracted from https://johnlewis.house.gov/john-lewis/biography]

 

Nothing deters Representative Lewis. Elected to Congress from Georgia’s Fifth District in 1986 after an already-distinguished career at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle, and despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries along the way, and now more than 70 years into this long faithfulness, he has remained throughout a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He has remained nonviolent because it is his conviction that to give in to hatred and violence is to join his oppressors in the prison of their racism. Instead he has sought to “love his enemies” as Jesus commanded by first claiming his own dignity as a human being. He has refused to descend to the level of their disrespect. As Michelle Obama said often during the last presidential campaign, “when his enemies went lower, he went higher.” “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” counseled Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. In Congressman Lewis’ practice, shaped by African-American theologian Howard Thurman’s interpretation, this phrase “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” is Leviticus all over again: not that you should be without fault, but rather that “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Or, as Lewis himself said, "The police came in and arrested us for taking a seat at the Woolworth's lunch counter.  I didn't feel ashamed. I held my head high, I felt liberated, I felt like I crossed over."  [http://www.documentary.org/film/get-way-journey-john-lewisWith every confrontation in which people exerted violent power over Lewis, Lewis became more firmly convinced of his own worth in the eyes of God, and stayed himself on that rock, rather than being deflected into retaliation. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” [Romans 12:19] So John Lewis left the vengeance to God.

 

The proof is in the pudding: at the end of John Lewis’ profile, a former Ku Klux Klan member, Elwin Wilson, reaches out to Lewis, to confess, in his old age, that he had been among those who had beaten Lewis and his fellow Freedom Riders – the interracial bus riderswho had ridden public transportation together into Montgomery Alabama, obeying federal transportation law but offending white segregation practices – in the 1950’s. We watch Lewis meet Wilson, human being to human being, shake his hand, and tell him, eye to eye, “I forgive you.” Could I withstand such beatings non-violently, as John Lewis did, and keep coming back? Could I forgive someone who had so beaten me and others I love? Could you? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” To love your enemies doesn’t mean, don’t resist injustice. It means to treat all humans with dignity, even if they refuse to acknowledge yours, for the SAKE of your own divine dignity.

 

In a minute, we will have the honor to baptize two small “temples of God,” in whom the Spirit dwells richly, Veronica & Vernon Agard-Lynch. They also happen to be children of color, stepping into their “royal priesthood” in Christ in a world that will be all too liable to disrespect them and overlook their potential, and their sacramental presence among us. So it is all the more important that St. James’s be a place where children like Vernon & Veronica can claim the fullness of their dignity, and live into their baptismal vows, as Jane said, to “seek & serve Christ in in all persons, and to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being,” beginning, continuing, and ending with themselves, as it has begun, continued, and will end in the shining, courageous and unrelentingly generous spirit of Congressman John Lewis. And as they come forward for their baptisms now, together with their mom Laverne and their dad Trevor and their LEGION of godparents, please join me in singing them on their way: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”  AMEN.

Tuesday
Feb212017

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for 6 Epiphany - 2/12/17

6 Epiphany Year A 2-12-17

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Deuteronomy 30:15-20Ps. 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9Matthew 5:21-37

 

Happy are we who observe your decrees, O God, and seek you with all our hearts! We will thank you with an unfeigned heart, when we have learned your righteous judgments. AMEN.

 

May I begin this sermon with a surprising assertion, given all that “tearing out of eyes” and “cutting off of limbs” that Jesus talks about in today’s passage from Matthew’s Gospel? (What DO you suppose Jesus would be tweeting, these apocalyptic days?!?) It is my conviction that though these passages this morning may seem to be all about “law & order,” in truth and at heart they are about nothing so much as God’s great, abiding, undaunted, unwavering love for us human beings.

 

Perhaps you can chalk up this optimistic interpretive scrim to my having spent the week before last immersed in the silence and prayer of the monastery of the Society of St. John Evangelist over on Memorial Drive, being renewed in Christ daily in the Eucharist. To be held in such a practice of reflection and prayer, with Scripture flowing into and around one in the daily office five times a day is a potently hope-inducing thing.  And that’s not because stringent truth isn’t spoken. There’s nothing sentimental about monastic piety, at least not as it is practiced among the brothers at SSJE. They are blunt and honest. And frank about their shortcomings, and ours. The threatening dynamics of the world’s politics – and particularly our own national politics at the moment – are not lost on them. But they’re also funny. And deeply, deeply kind. So it is when you are renewing yourself in Christ multiple times daily. And eating your meals to the tune of Beethoven’s violin sonatas or a biography of Francis of Assisi, read aloud.

 

Which brings to mind Psalm 119, which is a long, rotating, spiraling revisiting of the importance of studying, adhering to, exploring, and relying upon The Law, the Torah that lies at the heart of the Jewish faith. We sampled only a portion – the first 8 verses – of it today. There are 168 more! I used to dread its showing up every Wednesday in the Daily Office, with its everlasting repetitions of “the law, the decrees, the statutes, and the commandments.” That is, I dreaded it until I was brought up short and instructed about this Psalm by my friend and mentor the Rev. Dr. Paul van Buren, a scholar of the New Testament but more particularly a proponent of Christians learning about the living tradition of Judaism if they wished to understand their God more intimately. Paul taught me to think of the Torah functioning in Judaism very much as the Holy Spirit functions in Christian theology: the inspiring, motivating, clarifying, instructing, guiding and supporting Spirit that animates all that we know, all that we believe, all that we do. Wrapping Psalm 119 around you – wrapping the Law around you – is like wrapping the daily prayer of the brothers at the monastery around you, deepened with repetition, nourishing your spirit in The Spirit, helping you to grow in spiritual health and wholeness.

 

So with my ears tuned up from being wrapped in the monastery’s cycle of prayer for a few blessed days, I noticed something in Paul’s words to the Corinthians in our second reading today that I had never noticed before: Paul is talking about himself as if he – in Christ, as he says – were a nursing mother. Did that get by you too? “Children, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? In this passage, we are breast-feeding infants, being lovingly tended by a mother who will not press us to assimilate adult food until our digestions are up to it! Which, given how immature and contentious we’re being, Paul says we’re clearly NOT! Biblical scholar Beverly Roberts Gaventa says Paul would have paid dearly for such a scandalously un-masculine image. But what did Paul care? He had already “been crucified with Christ,” and to any resident of the Roman Empire, that would be scandal beyond any other scandal. Yet “the testimony of the cross, to Paul’s ear, became the mysterious music of the spheres, and he, in turn, became the servant of the Spirit’s reconciling song, emptying himself after the manner of Christ’s own self-emptying.” [Robert P. Hoch, New Proclamation, Year A, 2011].

 

Aaahah. So now, we are not only wrapping ourselves in all the facets of God’s wisdom – God’s Wisdom, God’s Sophia, always imaged as a woman in the Hebrew Scriptures – and nursing at Sophia’s breast, but we are also tuning in to the “mysterious music of the spheres… the Spirit’s reconciling song” which is the testimony of Christ’s self-emptying upon the cross, which becomes the model for our own self-emptying, our own “servanthood” of reconciliation.

 

Moses tells the people of Israel, “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” They’re his last words of instruction to them as they are on the verge of entering the Promised Land after their 40 long years of being “formed” in the struggle to survive in the wilderness. Pastor Robert P. Hoch says the “implied theological narrative” in this line from Deuteronomy is, “The Lord your God loves you with an everlasting love, calling out to you even when you are hidden and even when you turn [away], God is faithful still; God clings to you like a mother to her child, or like a child to its mother, such is the love God for you!” All this nourishing, all this immersion in the practice of “the Law,” this cultivation of the presence of the Spirit, all taking place within this utter assurance of God’s loving longing presence and attention – the assurance in Christ crucified, the mysterious music of the spheres which fueled Paul’s own long faithfulness in the teeth of trial and suffering – this all casts a different light on Moses’ command to “choose life” over death. It becomes less of a dire one-shot-only prospect and more a matter of choosing and choosing and choosing again, choosing daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, to cling to God like a child to its mother, to accept the spiritual milk we need. To choose by creating for ourselves a “habit of being,” a habitus, a disposition of spirit, by which we become available to God’s ever-present, ever-loving, animating Spirit. Choosing to empty ourselves of all our insistence on “knowing how to do it,” and instead letting ourselves be open to being supplied with what we need to choose life.

 

In this light, Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel suddenly have a different ring. There’s no doubt that they’re a solid whack upside the head, demanding a standard of moral rectitude so far beyond us as to be devastating. It’s as if Jesus is deliberately pushing us beyond the boundaries of what we can achieve. A colleague of mine suggested that if we preach on these passages, we’d better preach universal ex-communication of the American Body Politic, for as long as we’re all so completely un-reconciled to each other! But now, after what we’ve heard from Deuteronomy and Psalm 119 and Paul’s words to the Corinthians, we might hear Jesus’ extreme words a little differently, especially if we remember that earlier in the Sermon on the Mount - just last week, in fact – Jesus said, Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” If the Law is not our rule book, our formula for righteousness (or our prison), but is rather our invitation to a habitus, a habit of being immersed in the Spirit, immersed in God’s word and our prayer, a habit of “choosing life” over and over, of doing our best to remember that belittling words, not just physical violence, can kill; of doing our best to remember if our family member has anything against us, and to reach out to them to work it out; of doing our best to stay faithfully focused on the person with whom we “became one flesh,” to learn what we can of God’s faithfulness in that very-human, very-fallible relationship; of doing our best to say “yes” when we mean “yes” and a clear, firm “no” when we mean “no,” and not equivocating or manipulating or vituperating at people. (We’re getting PLENTY of practice at all this, these days, are we not?) All of this is not the end-point, but a way-station in the process of self-emptying, a practice point. This is how we become a “witness to God’s covenantal love,” by first learning to claim it for ourselves and in the process, realizing it belongs equally to everyone else, even those who drive us crazy.

 

As Robert Hoch says so beautifully, “What we are searching for is how the love of God and the love of learning fuse together as the music of devotion. When this fusion happens, it is like watching a gifted pianist play: [their] fingers move over the keys as if keys were waves of water, lifting … music into the air, saturating everything with a sound that is more than the sum total of the separate notes, skills, hours and years of practice which preceded that moment – it is like watching someone in love with a mystery, but a mystery that responds to our searching hand with the sound of music, just as love responds to the touch of the beloved. Perhaps this is one way we could come to value the law, as an instrument: it can be played badly or, as we hope, movingly [even if not perfectly], such that we do not think it is an instrument at all. Indeed, we know it is no instrument but, rather, something [beyond a mere instrument; a mystery of love made manifest in sound,] a mystery that pervades … our senses. The music of the faithful life[is] … a life worn by repetition, by renewal, and by repentance.” And it is not just fiercely honest, but also kind and funny. Because it has been nourished on the self-emptying, never-ending, always proffered love of God. [Robert P. Hoch, New Proclamation, Year A, 2011]

Thursday
Jan262017

2016 Annual Report 

Wednesday
Jan252017

Holly Lyman Antolini's Homily for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul 1-25-17

Homily for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Acts 26:9-21; Ps. 67; Galatians 1:11-24; Matthew 10:16-22

 

May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations.

 

To read the passage from Matthew assigned for the Feast of Paul's Conversion is always unnerving: all that being dragged before the authorities and having to account for yourself; all that "brother against brother, sister against sister, parent against children, children against parents" stuff seems so contrary to the peaceable kingdom vision that draws us to spiritual practice. It brings to mind the age-old wail from congregation members, "Why can't we keep politics out of church?" And "I come to church to be comforted; I don't need this confrontational stuff!"

Paul certainly understood the need for comfort when it comes to faith. As he wrote to the Romans, “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What can be more comforting than that?

But truth to say, what we know of Paul’s life is fraught with danger, contention, confrontation, and yes, politics. And he never shied away from it. In fact, he walked right into it, eyes wide open. And found his real comfort on the other side.

Truth to say, THIS year, on THIS Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, this Gospel message of conflict, of vulnerability, of being made to account for oneself to very unsympathetic people who have immense power over one's fate and one's future, has an especially frightening resonance to it at this particular juncture in history.

After years of being able to pursue the Christian life in the United States in freedom and without much fear of persecution, years of being able to profess dissenting opinions from the "powers that be" without being afraid of being thrown into prison, we seem to have entered a time when that freedom may not be what it was. A time when our baptismal vows might suddenly have real consequences for our immediate well-being. As they did for Paul.

If we seek and serve Christ, providing sanctuary for an undocumented immigrant who will otherwise be deported, might we ourselves find ourselves arrested for civil disobedience? If we respect the dignity of our friends, neighbors, and congregation members of color enough to stand up to police violence committed against them on little pretext, might we find ourselves "dragged before the authorities," and made to testify?

It has always been an uphill battle to advocate for the redress of systemic poverty affecting certain classes of people more than others; it has long been an uphill battle to stand for the civil rights of LGBTQ people. Now, might it be not just trying and difficult, but dangerous as well?

Might our baptismal commitments demand that we become politically active, even though that means entering the wide swathe of moral ambiguity that surrounds any and all political action? Putting our purity of spirituality at risk? As Paul did his, over and over in the Book of Acts, for the sake of his “ministry of reconciliation.”

I am, of all people, a person deeply in need of spiritual tranquility and peace. I seek it out. My prayer style of choice is a deeply contemplative one, centering prayer that seeks to move beyond words into a very deep stillness in the presence of God, without demand. That's why I take a week every year to enter the monastery of the brothers of the Society of St. John Evangelist, as I will next week, and spend five days in deep quiet, praying, worshipping, singing, sleeping, reading, eating, walking in silence. Without such times of refreshment, I find my spirit cannot keep its center in Christ.

But that cannot be my only expression of faith. From that center of silence, I am inexorably called outward, called to join my most vulnerable human family members - regardless of their "citizenship" or lack thereof, regardless of their declared religious faith, regardless of their color or gender orientation - in solidarity, ally myself with them out of respect for the dignity inherent in them because they, too, were "made in the image of God." It is precisely my faith in Jesus that calls me outward, to put my serenity and tranquility at risk. Just as his faith called Paul into danger, into constant strife. And like Paul, who refused to separate Jew and Gentile, but saw them all as one in Christ, I must make that oneness as real and concrete and palpable as I possibly can.

For as Paul wrote,  “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? …Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” AMEN.

Tuesday
Jan242017

Allen Perez's Living Epistle on the Spirituality of Being an Immigrant 1-22-17

Sisters and brothers, wrap the night, any night, with moons of solitude, in near shadows, because in a short period of time I must convey the feelings of this Costa Rican immigrant. At least I want a small cloud of mine to linger in your hearts as a gesture of deep appreciation to all of you.

I arrived six months ago to this soil in despair. I came to the US in bad shape, ill, downhearted, and with 70 dollars in my pocket.  One Sunday I caught sight of the "Black Lives Matter" sign and decided I might be welcome in this church.  I took the risk to come in and was drawn to the word of God here at Saint James Episcopal Church.  While I was enduring suffering it thrilled me to be welcomed, to be invited by the Rector to have a conversation, to surprisingly join the choir, to participate in the food pantry, in the Anti-Oppression Committee and so forth. That was the beginning of a new hope in Christ. Therefore, this House of God became my asylum, refuge and sanctuary. By grace I survived the unknown. 

That being said, let me share with tenderness the following considerations:

God manifests Himself in infinite ways.

God's relationship with each person, each group and each nation is unique and unrepeatable.

God's word is one, but the human hearing of Him is like the sand of the ocean.

The purpose of God is not divine punishment, but divine understanding of the wholeness of love.

The purpose of God is to create His community here and now on this earth.  I call that aim redemption.

Staying among us, God embraces the narrative of space and time. His glorious name is always present in our history.  He walks with us a thousand roads. With Him we rewrite the living Bible. God is the eternal immigrant. He walks with us in spirit all the geographies and languages.  He seeks refuge in us to let his Word be heard. God goes from land to land, from oceans to oceans, from mountains to mountains declaring the grace of human unity.

God loves Christians, Muslims  and Jews alike. God loves people of all colors, races and ethnic backgrounds. The grace of God is for everybody without exception.

God sanctifies sentimental unions without gender bias, without hateful barriers and blessing each person's freedom to love with kindness and integrity.

God is constantly migrating--without boundaries and borders--to construct, over generations, a just society for all. God is the most tireless immigrant, the immigrant of the divine and profane. This partnership with God is sacred because without it there is no human history. God yearns for our radical liberation and sent to us the man Jesus to teach us more about His infinite love and wisdom. I want to be in the camp of the Christians that will uphold Jesus' way of love:  inclusiveness, respect, peace, compassion, kindness, care, love and generosity.

Most of my brothers and sisters from Central America came here from rural areas, with little formal education and with big traumas. Most of them were displaced by military conflicts and outrageous poverty. Sadly the United States government did not do the right thing, financially supporting oppressive military governments.  Time has passed and the causes of economic oppression continue to be in place.  Eleven million undocumented immigrants nationwide are facing gray clouds announcing storms to come. Our congregation needs to be shoulder to shoulder with them in their defense and every member of our community should know that we are taking the first concrete steps in that direction. You have shown this welcome of love to me. My fellow immigrants need it from you, also.

When on purpose I think of myself as an immigrant, I remind myself that I was born with skin and hope. I am not asking for eternities full of white stars; indeed I yearn for tenderness, a warm dinner, silence, bread, home, community. More so, as a man of faith I like to dream. For example, I would like to have enormous hands to tear out boundaries one by one and leave as boundary just the air. I picture Jesus smiling and slowly coming to my humble home, and sitting in my little kitchen to share warm coffee, tortillas and cheese, while my friendly neighbor plays an old melody of peasant love, with no need to invoke the times of fences and borders. This is my dream. In this I believe. Amen!

Monday
Jan232017

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for 3 Epiphany 1-22-17

3 Epiphany Year A 1-22-17

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 9:1-4Psalm 27:1, 5-13Allen Perez Living Epistle; Matt. 4:12-23

 

You speak in our hearts, Lord, and say, "Seek my face." Your face, Lord, will we seek. Amen.

 

The purpose of God is to create His community here and now on this earth. I call that aim, redemption.” So said Allen Perez a moment ago in his eloquent Living Epistle. God’s community, with “boundaries made of air.” Everyone “having land as they have air, because in Jesus everyone owns their plot of air.” Everyone simply belonging, with “tenderness, a warm dinner, silence, bread, home, community” enough for everyone. Everyone with their own “unrepeatable relationship with God,” and yet by that relationship, everyone made one with everyone else.

This is a vision Jesus would understand. Jesus, who, when his cousin John was arrested for speaking truth to power in Matthew’s Gospel, withdrew back away from the center of power, back to where he could regroup, where he could gather himself for the effort ahead, the effort of taking John’s prophetic place, of inheriting John’s prophetic mantel, of speaking John’s own proclamation, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is Matthew’s term for God’s realm: “the kingdom of heaven.” Is that not what Allen describes? A realm in which all belong? All have tenderness and protection and nourishment and loving companionship? All are honored in their uniqueness, since their uniqueness comes from God? All are respected for the unique role each person plays in continuing God’s creation, bringing more newness into being? Yet all are still connected with each other, because their connection also comes from God, inherent in them from the beginning in God’s loving Creation? A kingdom of heaven indeed, God’s realm ofshalom.

Aaaaaaaaaa, we are so clearly NOT THERE. We are so clearly a long way from the “kingdom of heaven,” residing instead in a world of strife and contention, a world where “winners take all” and the devil take the hindmost, the straggler, the stranger, the person who couldn’t scramble to the top of the heap. If we had read the Amos reading from our old Episcopal Lectionary this morning instead of the lyrically hopeful Isaiah passage we now have in the Revised Common Lectionary, we would have been chastised roundly, “Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities…” 

And that rebuke reminds us that Jesus’ proclamation wasn’t just that “the kingdom of heaven has come near,” but that in order to avail ourselves of its nearness, we must “repent.” We must turn away from that which is harmful to us and to others, and we must turn TOWARD God, turn continually away from enmity and hostility and one-ups-person-ship and toward God’s chesed, God’s mercy, God’s steadfast loving kindness.

I was reminded by a colleague last week that there’s some dispute among students of biblical Greek about that little word “for,” in Jesus’ core proclamation. It might indeed be “for,” as the NRSV has it, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” But the same word in Greek COULD also be translated, “so.” Then we would hear Jesus saying something quite different. “Repent, SO the kingdom of heaven IS near.” Especially if we also hear the word “repent” as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, not quite as Amos would imply it –a word that has a chastising feel to it, that feels like a rebuke – but rather, as Peterson (with equal warrant in the Greek, by the way), translates it, as “change your life.” So NOW we would hear Jesus calling to us, as we are bending over our nets in the little boats of our lives, “Change your life… SO the kingdom of heaven is here.

Suddenly we are AGENTS of the kingdom of heaven! IF we “change our lives,” we can BRING the kingdom near. We can BRING this tender shalom that Allen describes in his Living Epistle into being, right here, right now. Somehow all the pain and anguish, the animosity and hostility, the queasy uncertainty of intention and even of plain TRUTH that dominates our national moment just adds a keening note of urgency to Jesus’ call, “Change your life.”  For this moment on January 22nd 2017 is a moment of “creative maladjustment,” as Martin Luther King Jr. called just such a moment back in 1963, in a speech from which our bishop Alan Gates quoted in his inaugural week address this week, a moment when, discovering just exactly how terribly off-balance we are, we must “change our life.” Declared King, [T]here are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted, and to which I call all [those] of good will to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must confess that I will never adjust myself to segregation and discrimination,” he wrote. “I will never become adjusted to religious bigotry. I will never adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few. I will never become adjusted to the madness of militarism: the self-defeating effects of physical violence. … There is a need for men and women to be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. In his day, in the midst of injustices, his proud words echo across the centuries, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." “Change your life, SO the kingdom of heaven can come near!”

Of course, we didn’t read Amos’ critique. Instead, we read Isaiah’s luminous promise, the same promise we just read at Christmas Eve as the Christ child was born into the world, bringing divinity deep into our humanity, restoring our humanity to its original divinely inspired dignity. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined.” The yoke of our burden, the bar across our shoulders, the rod of the oppressor God has broken! “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

And we heard Jesus say, not only Change your life… SO the kingdom of heaven is here,” but also, Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” What if he didn’t mean by that, you will draw people into your nets? What if he meant, you will go FIND people as a fisherman goes and finds fish? Go and FIND people who need you to see their worth, their value, their equal right to belonging, to safety, to companionship, to home? If we are to follow Jesus in this, what did Jesus do? Where did he go? He went all around his countryside, SEEING people in their predicament, in their woundedness, in their bondage, in their humanity, in their possibility, and reaching out to them in loving kindness, offering them food, healing and new hope. He never underestimated them. And he never turned them away. Ever.

If we do this, if we never turn anyone away, if we are always striving to follow Jesus in his capacity to SEE and to VALUE EVERYONE, speaking truth to those who refuse to SEE and to VALUE OTHERS even when that truth makes those people uncomfortable and puts us at risk of their reaction, if we follow Jesus in calling the vulnerable, the lost, the least, the last into their capacity, into their power, into their freedom and new life, that will really change not just OUR lives, but the lives of many. SO can the kingdom of heaven come near! The psalmist in Psalm 27 says, “You speak in my heart and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” If we follow Jesus, we will seek God’s face in every single human being, because, as we promised in our baptismal vows, “We will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves,” and “we will strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being.” [Book of Common Prayer, p. 305]

Yesterday, the 40+ of us from St. James’s – those were the ones I knew to count; we may well have been more – who joined the throng of some 120,000 people on the Boston Common for the Women’s March truly had a vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. We were among every imaginable variety of human being from every imaginable walk of life, at every age and stage. We were packed into that Common like sardines, barely room to shift one’s feet without stepping on someone. On our feet for hours; no place to sit. To move from the sound stage where we heard the speakers for two hours into the line of the march itself took nearly another two hours of patient shuffling, not able to see beyond the people right in front and behind us. For those of us who suffer claustrophobia or fear of crowds, it was a challenge. But here’s the thing: all that time, in all that close proximity, people stayed pleasant, patient, good-humored, and friendly to all the strangers around them. No one in my hearing lost their temper. No one elbowed their way through with entitlement. We chatted. We joked. We sighed in shared but forgiving frustration. We sang. When we were finally released into the great stream of humanity that made up the march, we cheered with relief and, yes, joy. In fact, JOY was the predominant mood of yesterday’s day-long event. Joy and determination not to let the well-being of ANY American – indeed, of any human – get sidelined. It was a Women’s March, no doubt about it (although many men came too). But really it was a PEOPLE’S march. Because the rights of all people were being affirmed and upheld.

You speak in our hearts, Lord, and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will we seek.” We will change our lives, our perspective, so that your realm of shalom will be present among us, present in all those around us. We will fish for the beauty and possibility of your all your beloved people. “With our enormous hands,” as Allen says, “we will tear out the boundaries one by one,” that keep us at enmity with each other. In us, the kingdom of heaven will come near. AMEN.

Monday
Jan232017

Approved December Vestry Minutes 12-20-16

Vestry Minutes:  Dec. 20, 2016

Approved January 18, 2017

 

Members Present:, Lucas Sanders, Jules Bertaut, Andrew Rohm, Tom Tufts, Marian King, Olivia Hamilton, Nancy McArdle, Matthew Abbate, Sylvia Weston, Sarah Forrester, Tom Beecher, Holly Antolini, Thomas Wohlers

Absent:  Mardi Moran

Guest:   Jeff Zinsmeyer, John Bell, JT Kittredge, Jenny Grassl, Janet Hobbs

Gathering

●        Following brief check-in time, Spiritual Practice was led by Holly, focusing on how our faith is speaking to our experiences of our country and community in this Advent season

Currency of Money

●        Lucas reported that we currently have 89 pledges (110 goal) and $206,000 ($268,000 goal), including a handful of new pledges

●        We are in line with past years at this point but our goal was to exceed past years

●        Need to do personal follow-up after Christmas

Budget

●        Lucas presented the draft 2017 budget

●        Main concern is that, even assuming we hit our pledge goal, the budget has us drawing about $15,000 per month from reserves.  This figure should equal what we expect to get in rents once construction is done and our space is rented. But our original estimates were that we could get about $10,000 per month in rents.

●        If we don’t get the $268,000 in pledges, we will have to adjust the budget or draw more from reserves

Food Pantry

  •           Holly reviewed the Pantry situation.  We have more church involvement in the parish than a year ago.  Yvette Fraticelli has done a great job as interim.  Storage closet for food has a leak which has played havoc; not sure there is a permanent fix.  Food for Free/Gleeners have ended for season.  Our liaison with Schochett has been moved to another position and we are waiting to hear who our contact will be and what will be done about the leak.  Pantry closed for holiday til Jan 3rd.  Can’t order from Food Bank til closet leak is addressed. Yvette is leaving end of January.  We have not started replacement search.
  •           Olivia distributed a proposal that the Pantry operations be suspended and a Life Together fellow hired for 2017-18 to help discern the best way for us to address food insecurity
  •           Discussion included:      
    • If make changes, need to find out restrictions on current grants
    • Need to be able to tell clients where else they can get food
    • Want to make best use or Yvette’s remaining time
    • Concern about Rindge pantry patrons
    • How to still keep congregation involved:  still have food collection at church?  Possibly some liturgy/event concerning food insecurity
    • Would a Life Together fellow be capable of leading the discernment work we want?
    •           Jules moved:
      “If the Rector and food pantry volunteer, John Bell, conclude by January 7, 2017, that Schochett is not sufficiently invested in the continuing of the Pantry, we will suspend food pantry operations until construction of the parish house  is complete and hire a Life Together intern to help us discern our food ministries.  We will continue to devote the same percent of our budget to address food insecurity in our community.”  Thomas seconded.  Approved unanimously.

Redevelopment Update

●        Lucas moved that we enter Executive Session.  Thomas seconded. Approved unanimously.

●        Jeff Zinsmeyer presented a redevelopment update.

●        Jules moved that we exit Executive Session.  Matthew seconded. Approved unanimously.

Nominating Committee

  •           Sylvia reported that the committee is still looking to 2 at-large nominees

Signage

●        Olivia presented draft text for a sign that would be on the Mass Ave fence.  The Anti-Oppression team has seen and supports it.

●        Tom B. moves that we produce and hang a banner with text drafted by Olivia and amended by Vestry discussion that says:
“We at St. James’s are not a perfect community, but we take seriously the commandment to LOVE our neighbors;  it is at the HEART of who we are and who we are becoming.  We strive to welcome people of all races, all sexual orientations, all genders, all abilities, all religions, and all national origins.  WE SUPPORT YOU!  YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!
Marian seconded.  10 in favor.  1 opposed.  1 abstention.

●        Jules has emailed MaeBright about facilitating a discussion of the rainbow flag issues.  Possibly could happen in Feb. 

 

Reports

Minutes of November Meeting

●        Lucas moved that we approved the regular and executive session November minutes. Tom B.  seconded. Approved unanimously.

Financial Report

  •           Lucas presented the financial report.  Expenses are tracking the budget but pledges are below what was pledged by about $27,000
  •           Lucas moved to accept the Finance Report.  Jules seconded.  Approved unanimously.
  •           Lucas moved:  Whereas the Rev. Holly Antolini is employed as a minister of the Gospel by St. James’s Church in Porter Square, Cambridge, MA, which does not provide a residence for her the Vestry resolves that, of the total compensation to be paid to the Rev. Antolini during 2017, 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 $43,000of compensation is designated as housing allowance for this and all future years, unless otherwise provided.  Jules seconded. Approved unanimously
  •           Lucas moved:  Whereas the Rev. Eric Litman is employed as a minister of the Gospel by St. James’s Church in Porter Square, Cambridge, MA, which does not provide a residence for him the Vestry resolves that, of the total compensation to be paid to the Rev. Litman during 2017, that $21,160 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 $21,160 of compensation is designated as housing allowance for this and all future years, unless otherwise provided.  Jules seconded. Approved unanimously
  •           Sylvia reported that people associated with the redevelopment will be handling snow removal again

Warden’s Report

Rector’s Report

PARISH ACTIVITIES:

  • Food Pantry: in handling the persistent uncertainty about the status of our food storage space, and now losing the Community Relations reference person, Anthony Raines, who has been promoted elsewhere with no formal information extended to me about his departure or successor, I’ve been continuing to work closely with Yvette Fraticelli, our Interim Director, on calling pantry openings day-by-day, depending on the availability of food (since without the storage closet, we cannot place 500-lb minimum orders with Greater Boston Food Bank, and must rely on holiday donations). We finally closed for the duration of the year after last Saturday’s distribution, having given away all our food. Yvette is succeeding Karen Coleman until the end of January, when we will need to hire a new 16-hour-a-week Director or go in a different direction. JT Kittredge and John Bell continue as key volunteers, ably assisted by Jenny Grassl, Allen Perez, Scout Collective 56, Suzanne Hill, Anne Read, Hong Chin and assorted others.
  • Annual Meeting & Vestry retreat planning: the dates are January 29th for Annual Meeting and February 10th (6-9 PM) & 11th (9 AM – 4 PM) at Our Saviour Arlington. We are wondering about fresh facilitation, possibly inviting the Rev. Amy McCreath (rector, Good Shepherd Arlington) or the Rev. Nancy Gossling (new co-chair of the diocesan Mission Strategy Phase Four Planning Team). We have not yet approached either. For Annual Meeting, we’re thinking to allow Lucas more time to talk about the redesigned budget, and I propose that we invite the VISIONS trainees to talk about their hopes for the usefulness of VISIONS training.
  • The Currency of Money team & the Nominating Committee continue valiantly. Both are considerably closer to their goals than at our meeting time in November.
  • The 20's & 30's came to my house for my annual Advent Dinner, and had a lively conversation about the call of their faith “in such a time as this” with the incoming Trump administration.
  • Our rabble-rousing Elders continue the Second Sunday Elders' Brunch once a month.
  • The Advent Contemplative Complines from 6:30 - 7:15 on Wednesdays (so that choir members can come before rehearsal, if they desire) have had a solid 8+ participants seeking Christian community for quiet and centering.
  • Beautiful wedding for Philip Burnham & Frannie Lindsay on Dec. 10th. Thanks to Kathryn’s diligence, we’re prepped and ready for our Christmas and New Year’s services. One Sunday News to cover this week and next.
  • VISIONS training will continue with another 1-day event February 18th, at which we’ll form teams and begin practicing leading events ourselves in the congregation. We will need to do some reconsideration of the relationship between the A-O Team and this new coterie of trained leaders at our February 10/11 Vestry Retreat. The A-O Team has a possible 7-8 new members: Erika Agard, Sam Perlo-Freeman, Betsy Zeldin, Polly Grant, Robbie Waddell, Allen Perez, Sasha Watson, and maybe Katie Rimer too. A grace from God!
  • A parishioner wishes to make a substantial gift. We thought to suggest it be put toward the organ motor, as a kick-off gift for the new Organ Fund? With our proffered “matching gift,” we could be a long way toward that motor!
  • Staff Evaluation process COMPLETE! Staff all in good shape.
  • Eric and I continue to wrestle the Gordion knot of his time commitments. T’will be ever thus.
  • A-O Team met to consider allying with Cosecha on immigrant rights advocacy and decided we need to learn more about immigrant rights. We plan a Living Epistle from Allen Perez about the immigrant experience and a training, possibly by MCAN (Massachusetts Community Action Network, lead organizer Lew Finfer) in January. In addition we discussed the banner the Vestry is considering and gave it unanimous support.

DIOCESAN

  • I continue on the Mission Institute Advisory Committee.
  • Debating with several colleagues and St. James’s members about whether to gather a group and participate in The Women’s March either in DC or Boston, January 21st.

PERSONAL

  • I continue my practice of monthly meetings with my Women Clergy Colleague Group, monthly spiritual direction, and participating in the Recently Ordained Clergy Mentoring Group quarterly. Keeps me grounded!
  • Swimming and drawing continue. I am also renovating my kitchen and bath and (eventually) finishing the attic of my condo in Arlington.
  • Following first cortisone shot December 4th, I continue to experience back trouble. I have been managing back issues since age 24, but the stress inherent in my role contributes also, especially this time of year.

Assistant Rector’s Report

  •           We had a fortuitous encounter with the woman who runs the Pine Village pre-school (the meeting location for our Godly Play classes) two Sunday mornings ago.  She stopped by do some work and came upon our classes.  She was very gracious and is still very pleased that we are able to use the space on Sunday morning when it is not otherwise being used.   The use of this space is still a huge blessing during our transitional re-development period.
  •           The Church school classes continue to run nicely.   Our teachers continue to do a wonderful job.   
  •           We are working on training some new teachers for the pre-school Godly Play class.  We have some great folks interested. 
  •           The Church school folks had fun over at the McNerney’s on 11/26 for a game night!
  •           The pageant rehearsal/Christmas tree decorating/Pizza party was a bit chaotic if not just a lot of fun.  The Christmas tree is festively decorated!     
  •           There is a growing team coalescing around the outdoor church sandwich ministry, still a bit more work to do though. 
  •           The Scouts are doing well.  They were very helpful at the St. Nick festival playing games with the kids and helping with clean up.  I was able to lead the invocation at Brian O’Rourke’s Eagle Scout ceremony the last week of November.       
  •           Very grateful for Julia Reed-Betts work in the nursery.  She is doing some very good work with our littlest ones.     
  •           I preached on Thanksgiving Day and I am scheduled to preach/preside on Christmas Day, December 25th. 
  •           We are planning some Winter/Spring youth events.  A bake off of sorts during Epiphany, Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner, possibly the diocesan high school retreat or the pre-confirmation retreat up at BHC.     
  •           Kids-4-Peace convention the first week of April.  

Submitted by Nancy McArdle

Monday
Jan092017

Approved November Vestry Minutes 11-15-16

Vestry Minutes:  Nov 15, 2016

Approved December 20, 2016

 

Presiding: Sylvia Weston

Members Present:, Lucas Sanders, Jules Bertaut, Andrew Rohm, Tom Tufts, Marian King, Olivia Hamilton, Nancy McArdle, Matthew Abbate, Sylvia Weston, Mardi Moran, Sarah Forrester, Tom Beecher

Absent:  Holly Antolini, Thomas Wohlers

Guest:   Jeff Zinsmeyer, Brian Goldson

 

Gathering

●        Following brief check-in time, Spiritual Practice was led by Nancy around our responses as Christians to the recent national election

Shared Leadership

●        The Shared Leadership leads reflected on the progress/process over the last year

●        Doesn’t seem to be energy to have a large group meeting this year

●        Things haven’t gone quite as last year’s Shared Ministry team thought they would

●        Should encourage the incoming Vestry to pause and re-evaluate process

●        May be some benefit in helping ministry groups prepare  their annual reports

Rainbow Flag

●        Discussed whether the hanging of the flag would reflect the “truth” of experience in our community

●        Flag could be seen instead as a sign of “striving”   --possibly have signage that shows that we don’t always get it right, but we hold both complexity and striving

Currency of Money

●        Currently have 27 pledges (110 goal) and $70,000 ($268,000 goal)

●        Ingathering Sunday is this week

●        Would like Vestry’s help to reach out to people

●        Lucas is planning targeted outreach to certain groups

Redevelopment Update and Pastoral Matter

  • Brian Goldson, who will be our liaison with the builders during the construction process “clerk of the works”, introduced himself. He is Dir. of Construction for New Atlantic Development
  • He will be working for our interests, will make monthly report, and will monitor the work and schedule; says the “communication is key”
  • Olivia moved to enter Executive Session.  Thomas seconded.  Approved unanimously.
  • Jeff Zinsmeyer presented redevelopment update
  • Jules moved to exit Executive Session.  Thomas seconded.  Approved unanimously.

 

Nominating Committee

  • Sylvia reported that they have identified nominees for officer openings, but still are looking for people to serve at large.

 

Food Pantry

  • Discussed future steps with Pantry, in light of Acting Director moving on at end of January, very limited storage space, serving 12-15 visitors per opening
  • Discussed possibilities of having an Emmaus fellow both run pantry and lead discernment work, or hiring a consultant to help us move forward, or hiring a temporary director until an Emmaus fellow can come on board
  • Marian moved that we set aside a future date for a subset of the Vestry to meet with FP Board members and current volunteers to discuss the issue of the FP and consider hiring a consultant to help develop a framework for the future of the FP, with the possibility of utilizing an Emmaus fellow.  Thomas seconded. Passed 11-1.

 

Reports

Minutes of October Meeting

  • Lucas moved that we approve the regular and executive session October minutes. Tom B.  seconded. Approved unanimously.
  • Thomas moved that we approve the executive session October minutes.  Julies seconded. Approved unanimously.

 

Financial Report

  • Lucas presented the financial report.  Expenses are tracking the budget but pledges are below what was pledged by about $27,000
  • Hopes that people will get up to date when 3rd quarter statements are mailed soon; is optimistic but cautious
  • We still need another counter
  • Lucas moved that we allocate 1% of budget in this and future years for ministry preparation for postulants, with a strong preference for candidates from St. James’s; Jules seconded; approved unanimously
  • Lucas moves that the 2016 recipients of this scholarship money be Isaac Martinez and Mary Beth Mills-Curran.  Marian seconded; approved unanimously.

 

Warden’s Report

  • Sylvia reported that some work is needed on the baptism font

 

Rector’s Report

PARISH ACTIVITIES

  • Food Pantry: working closely with Yvette Fraticelli as she picks up the reins as Interim Director, succeeding Karen Coleman until the end of January, when we will need to hire a new 16-hour-a-week Director. JT Kittredge and John Bell continue as key volunteers, ably assisted by Jenny Grassl, Allen Perez, Scout Collective 56, Suzanne Hill, Anne Read, Hong Chin and assorted others.
  • The Currency of Money team continues its campaign, with Ingathering Sunday this coming Sunday, Nov. 20th. Lucas is pondering a special letter to the 20's & 30's about starting to pledge, and also to families about helping their kids make "offerings" of their own. We are concerned at the shortfall in current follow-up on pledging, and the slow start of the campaign. We'll know much more after Sunday.
  • Likewise the Nominating Committee has had some success but is still struggling to get the whole roster of Members-at-Large filled.
  • The 20's & 30's ministry continues to thrive and to brunch weekly after the departure of our three current postulants. They sponsored an excellent "Trans 101" event with Mason Dunn of the MA Trans Political Coalition, and are exploring a new curriculum on spirituality and sexuality. They will sponsor our Trans Day of Remembrance prayers this Sunday as well. They are inviting Seth Woody to speak at my annual Advent Dinner.
  • A group of rabble-rousing Elders have formed a competing Second Sunday Elders' Brunch once a month. The first one, last Sunday, was well-attended despite the Half-Marathon.
  • We were blessed to be able to gather for prayer, singing and worship the night after the presidential election. Much grief and worry felt throughout the congregation. I anticipate a fair amount of pastoral demand because of this. We have also had several devastating deaths in the "wider" parish family.
  • I am intending to hold a simple Advent Contemplative Compline from 6:30 - 7:30 on Wednesdays (so that choir members can come before rehearsal, if they desire) the four Wednesday of Advent. I see this as a fundamental need in the Christian community for quiet and centering not just because of a busy season but particularly at this juncture in American history.
  • Wyatt's baptism and the candle-lighting of All Saints were wonderful, as was the sermon -participation last Sunday in the wake of the election. We'll celebrate Christ the King and have the pledge Ingathering this coming Sunday, Thanksgiving at 10 AM on Thursday the 24th, and First Sunday of Advent on the 27th. A small wedding will happen the afternoon of Saturday December 10th
  • VISIONS training will continue with another 1 ½-day event this coming weekend, November 19 & 20; we’ll wind up with another one-day event in late February, at which we’ll form teams and begin practicing leading events ourselves in the congregation. I am so grateful that we have an Anti-Oppression Team up and running, as I anticipate we may have more demand for our energy and Christly commitment in the coming days of the Trump administration. We will need to do some reconsideration of the relationship between the A-O Team and this new coterie of trained leaders at our February 10/11 Vestry Retreat.
  • There has been at least one inquiry about the possibility of a parishioner funding half the organ motor repair. I encouraged that person to think of the larger issue of maintaining our organ, rather than focusing only on the motor.
  • Staff Evaluation process still “in process.” Ready to complete Pat, Hong & Kathryn. The time spent on the Food Pantry, and my two weeks away have helped delay this process.
  • Eric and I continue to wrestle the Gordian knot of his time commitments. He's doing stellar work with the youth and the church school, but with his two professions, it can sometimes be hard to carve out communications time.
  • GBIO team helped pull off a win in Boston for the Community Preservation Act [CPA]. ALLELUIA!

DIOCESAN

  • The Resolutions Committee completed its work in good order at Diocesan Convention, and we succeeded in passing our CPA resolution with an amendment from the floor adding a requirement that congregations get involved in the CPA work in their cities and towns to influence its dedication to affordable housing. I am debating whether or not to continue on this convention committee, having served on it for 8 years and chaired it for 2.
  • I continue on the Mission Institute Advisory Committee.

PERSONAL

  • My CREDO retreat was deeply refreshing and renewing and my four days with my daughter (the last of my vacation) delightful. But I don't think being gone for two weeks mid-season is a good idea in future! Too much time away!
  • I continue my practice of monthly meetings with my Women Clergy Colleague Group, and participating in the Recently Ordained Clergy Mentoring Group quarterly. Keeps me grounded!
  • Swimming and drawing and medical appointments for small issues continues. Next stop: addressing lower back arthritis.

 

Assistant Rector’s Report

  • We baptized Wyatt Edward Berry Holmes on All Saints Day!  
  • The Church school classes continue to run nicely.  We have a good and growing cohort in our young church-Godly Play classes.  Our Upper church school class continues to do good work learning from the book of Kings and trying to make sense of faith and life.   Our teachers continue to do a wonderful job.
  • We are working on training some new teachers for the pre-school Godly Play class.  We have some great folks interested. 
  • The day retreat with the Christ Church youth went well.  We had 6 St. J youth, and Jules and I.   We had a beautiful fall hike in the Lynn conversation land and then we baked communion bread over at St. Stephen’s. 
  • The youth are heading over the McNerney’s on 11/26 for a game night and the second weekend of Advent we are planning on attending a Diocesan Advent event at St. Luke’s Chelsea.
  • Due do to a perfect storm of confounding human and liturgical scheduling issues, Anne R. and co. requested that we postpone the youth liturgy until the end of Epiphany.  This will work out well with our spring Church school schedule and add a little excitement before Lent begins.     
  • We have a pageant rehearsal/Christmas tree decorating/Pizza party scheduled for the fourth Sunday of Advent.
  • We do need to do some work on refurbishing our pageant costumes.  Would anyone be willing to help sow Angel wings or lamb bonnets?         
  • I am looking to do some shared leadership work around the Outdoor Church sandwich ministry, stay tuned.   
  • The Scouts are doing well.  They are working out some kinks with their food pantry service, mostly due to have too many volunteers show up but also due to some tardiness on their arrival time.  The scouts are scheduled to help out with games at the St. Nick festival.   The scouts are also celebrating the Ranger and Eagle Scout achievements of Maddie Desnoyer and Brian O’Rourke this coming week.   
  • Very grateful for Julia Reed-Betts work in the nursery.  She is doing some very good work with our littlest ones.     
  • I am scheduled to preach/preside on Thanksgiving Day November 24th and Christmas Day, December 25th. 
  • The Visions training group has the second part of Visions training this coming weekend.
  • On November 5th I attended the Diocesan convention with Holly, Lauren and Sylvia.  We had a nice time.   

 

Meeting evaluation

  • Started and ended a bit late; want to recommit to getting there on time
  • Thanks to Sylvia for chairing
  • Mardi reports that, relative to other church leaderships she has witnessed, we are "ahead." 

 

 

Submitted by Nancy McArdle