Resources

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

Monday
Jan092017

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for the Feast of the Baptism of Christ 1-8-17

Feast of the Baptism of Christ Year A 1-8-16

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matt. 3:13-17

 

Speak to us in your mighty voice, O God; open our ears to listen; open our throats to speak your love with power in a cacophonous and dis-affected world; help us to find YOUR voice in OUR voices. AMEN.

Today is the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, one of the great Feasts of the church year, the Feast that launches the season of Epiphany, the season of the manifestation of Christ, God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, in the person of the human being whose birth we honored at Christmas, Jesus of Nazareth. And Epiphany opens with Jesus arriving at the shores of the River Jordan, where his cousin John the Baptizer has been proclaiming to hordes of people, rich and poor, urban and rural alike, “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here,”[Eugene Peterson, The Message, Matt. 3:2] urging people to turn their lives toward goodness in the waters of baptism. When Jesus presents himself to John, John pulls back, objecting, “I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!” To which Jesus replies, in biblical scholar Eugene Peterson’s translation The Message, “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism. So John did it. The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit – it looked like a dove – descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.

Jesus, here in Matthew’s story of his baptism, seems to be the only one hearing the divine voice assuring him he’s beloved. It’s not like “the heavens being torn apart,” as they are in Mark’s Gospel at this point in the story. It’s not like the thunder rumbling in Psalm 29,

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders; *
the Lord is upon the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
and strips the forests bare.

And in the temple of the Lord *
all are crying, "Glory
!"

It’s a tenderer, more private voice. But it is full of the power to move Jesus forward into the temptations and sufferings that lie ahead as he carries forward the message of God’s kingdom’s presence among us. If Peterson’s translation is right, that in Jesus’ baptism, “God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, came together,” it sure didn’t assure him – or us! – that all would now be right with the world! But that voice of assurance kept Jesus at it, healing and hearing and seeing and loving people straight to the Cross, and beyond into Resurrection.

Maybe it’s the laryngitis I had all week, but I’ve been thinking about voices, voices of power, the power to move people to evil, the power to move people to good. I’ve been thinking of how hard it is to hear anyone’s voice clearly in the cacophony of voices all around us. How hard it can be even to hear one’s own inner voice. And how it feels to us so often as if we have no voice at all, are utterly unheard in the rushing rampage of voices asserting themselves – on screen and off screen – all around us.

Maybe I’m thinking about voices partly also because of having gone this weekend to see Martin Scorsese’s tortuously thought-and-feeling-provoking film, “Silence,” about the persecution of the Jesuits in 17th century Japan, when the Japanese authorities rebelled against what they felt was the Christians’ unwillingness to listen to and respect Japanese beliefs and culture, and about the terrible, terrifying silence of God when one feels as if all around one is turning to evil and one cannot hear that reassuring voice of God saying, “You are the Beloved. In you I am well-pleased.” No “voice of the Lord breaking cedar trees” in THAT film. Instead, the voice of the Lord happens wordlessly, soundlessly, in the terribly painful solidarity of a man who knows no speaking will avail him of the power of good for others, and that instead he must join the voiceless in their terrible silence. Much as Jesus may have felt when his words availed him nothing on the Cross.

Maybe I’m thinking about voices because I know how critically important even a very small voice can be in providing others with the power to go on, to hang in there, to claim their dignity and their courage. One of our own poets-in-residence, Susan Donnelly, sent me a poem written by her fellow Episcopalian Bonnie Bishop, who is a member of Susan’s poetry group and also a member of St. Stephen’s in Lynn, our partner church in anti-oppression work, which Bonnie shared with her recently. It’s called, “At the ICE Detention Center, November 2016.” “ICE,” remember, is not what’s falling off our roof this morning; it is U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement of the Dept. of Homeland Security. Here’s Bishop’s poem:

At the ICE Detention Center, November 2016

The full moon rose with authority

above the zig-zag walking bridge

where a hundred of us mustered,

 

holding up signs in stenciled Spanish:

amor no odio, unidad no separacion

Detainees gathered at the windows.

 

Someone flicked the lights inside

off and on, not code but recognition.

Some stretched out empty arms

 

and pressed their bodies against the glass.

Some slapped open palms in rhythm,

others swayed like branches in a storm.

 

After a few minutes, they pasted

paper letters on the glass,

we ‘heart’ you and HOME USA.

 

We chanted, sang, and waved.

Some prayed the rosary in Spanish.

I made a heart with my hands, mirroring

 

the movements of one man inside.

Soon the detainees vanished, perhaps

for dinner, perhaps on order from the guards.

 

We assembled for a closing circle.

Although the words were good, a rising

wind kept blowing out our little candles.

We did the best we could, but only

a few stayed lit, glowing orange

and hot inside our cupped hands.


The voice of a tiny circle, with candles threatened by a cold night wind, “amor no odio, unidad no separacion,” “In love, no hate; in unity, no separation! Doing the best they could. “God’s work… coming together.

Or maybe, when I’m thinking of voices, I’m thinking of a story I read this week in the Boston Globe. In 1985, a young African-American, Harvard-trained lawyer named Deval Patrick went to the South as part of an NAACP legal team defending three black civil rights leaders in deepest Alabama. It was 21 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. But echoing that ‘60’s battle, the three African American local leaders were on trial, placed there by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the white Federal Prosecutor with jurisdiction in the region, the same Jeff Sessions now nominated to be Attorney General of the United States.  [“Decades later, Patrick tries to thwart Sessions again,” by Annie Linskey, Boston Globe, 1-4-17] The allegation? That in encouraging black citizens to cast votes by absentee ballot in order to avoid harassment at the polls, the three African American defendants – among them Albert Turner, participant in the Selma March, beaten on the Bridge with Martin Luther King Jr., and veteran of the dangers of other civil rights organizing of the 1960’s – were engaged in voter fraud, charged with altering those absentee ballots cast by elderly black voters.

The case unfolded with a drama we associate with the 60’s, not the mid-80’s: the prosecutors tried offering Mr. Turner a deal: ‘five years probation and no jail time, as long as he promised never to do any more political organizing,” Mr. Turner “said no.” “FBI agents trail[ed] the NAACP lawyers across the state on hot summer nights as they labored to convince reluctant witnesses to cooperate” (reluctant because they were poor people of color and knew well the repercussions – yet and still - of standing up and being counted in opposition to white power in their state)… “an arson …left a defendant’s home in smoldering ashes, and [there was] edge-of-the seat courtroom suspense.” [ibid] Those FBI agents – 50 of them – were deployed at the behest of Prosecutor Sessions to speak to 1500 black families, “spreading fear and intimidation that many of those voters recalled [from] the reign of terror they had experienced just 20 years earlier.” [adapted, ibid.] And sure enough, the black voters wouldn’t sign on to the case for these out-of-town lawyers.

At a night meeting called by another of the defendants, a Mr. Spencer Hogue, “in a one-room structure on stilts with just a wood stove for warmth, Mr. Hogue stood up to speak to his black community gathered there, to try to persuade them to testify for the defendants. But “Mr. Hogue wasn’t much of a public speaker. So standing in that room full of the people he was trying to lead, he decided to do something else. He closed his eyes and began by singing in a baritone wail…He started confidently, stomping his foot rhythmically on the rough wooden floor boards and clapping his hands. The audience joined in. It changed everything. Word got around… [the NAACP lawyers] started to get the information [they] needed to build their case. And after a court case distinguished by its mean spirit, “the jurors came back in a day with their verdict: All [three] of the defendants were not guilty.”

You – most of you, anyway – have been baptized into Jesus Christ, the Beloved. You, Jesus’ own family members in the power of your baptism, are also beloved of God. You are called to “God’s work, putting things right… coming together.” And your voices matter.They matter even when you CANNOT raise them, even when you can only come up alongside someone and by a look or a touch let them know that, just as you know YOU are beloved, so you know THEY TOO are beloved, beloved of God, no matter what they have faced or will face.

And sometimes, like Spencer Hogue, in the silence, in the absence of the words you need, you may be called upon to sing. And you may be amazed what power it has, as other voices join in. A mighty chorus, a chorus of transformation, so that all are crying, “GLORY!”  AMEN.

Thursday
Jan052017

John Thomas Kittredge's Sermon for Feast of the Holy Name 1-1-17

Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

January 1, 2017

 

Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 8

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 2:15-21


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

This is the time of year when we’re very aware of how out of sync the church calendar is with the secular calendar. All during December, when everyone else was caught up in the bustle and gaiety of the “pre-Christmas season,” we were celebrating Advent, the season of waiting, anticipation, and preparation for the coming of Jesus.

And now, when the rest of the world has moved on to New Year’s, hangovers and resolutions—Christmas is so last week—we’re only eight days into our twelve days of Christmas. This time is a welcome chance to explore more deeply the meaning of the birth of Jesus and his incarnation.

January 1st is set aside in the church calendar to celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus, but only when it happens to fall on a Sunday do we observe it at St James. So this is a special occasion.

It’s particularly special to me, because it was on just such a Holy Name day that I came to St James for the first, or maybe second time. Looking at the calendar, I see that that must have been eleven years ago, 2006.

I remember it very clearly, because Michael Povey, who was the rector at the time, asked from the pulpit if anyone knew what the feast of the Holy Name used to be called. Being a lover of church trivia and never shy about speaking up in class—if you know your Harry Potter, I’m totally Hermione, always, “ooh! ooh! call on me!”—I raised my hand.

Michael said, “I don’t know who you are, but I trust you know what you’re talking about, so why don’t you stand and tell everyone.” So..., can anyone tell me what the old name of this feast day was? I’ll give you a hint: we’re celebrating the eighth day since the birth of a good Jewish boy.

The answer is that until the 1979 prayer book, it was called the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. My guess is that they changed it partly because it seemed too indelicate a matter to have on the liturgical calendar. You can imagine the snickers.

But I think it’s worthwhile to spend a few minutes thinking about a subject that the church once thought important enough to set aside a day for. The old collect celebrates the circumcision as signifying Jesus’ submission to the law of the Torah. Luke’s gospel is the only one that mentions the occasion, just as it’s the only one that mentions the moment when the baby Jesus was presented to God in the temple at Jerusalem at the age of forty days in accordance with the Torah.

Luke’s gospel is often called the “Gospel to the Gentiles”, because of the emphasis it places on the openness of Jesus to non-Jews. But it is clear that from these two stories that Luke also wants to stress how Jewish Jesus was.

And, interestingly, Luke is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles, in which the controversy over whether gentile converts to Christianity need to be circumcised takes up chapters. Luke makes evident that it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit that leads the church to set aside circumcision and open itself to all believers.

Circumcision seems so arbitrary to us, but in the Torah, it is the primary sign of the covenant with God. That is, the Jews’ observance of Torah is in response to God’s unfailing faithfulness to his people.

“LORD, you are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name... Do not forsake us, O LORD our God!”, as it says in the book of Jeremiah (14:9,20).

Which brings us to the significance of names. In mythology and folklore, names have tremendous power. Knowing the baddy’s true name is so often the key to defeating him.

In Judaism, the proper name of God, YHWH, is too sacred to be pronounced, or even spelled out. As a matter of fact, I feel reluctant to pronounce it, myself. It is a custom that Christians have partly adopted. You may have noticed that in many bibles, the word Lord is often printed in all capitals. When it appears that way, it signifies that it replaces the sacred name of God in the original text.

Jesus is the English transliteration of the Hebrew Yeshua, which is a variant on Yehoshua, or Joshua, which means, “YHWH saves.” (I hope you don’t mind me unloading on you all the results of my poking around on Wikipedia the last few days).

Anyway, Matthew refers to this etymology in his gospel when he says that an angel told Joseph, “You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

But, Matthew goes on to give Jesus another name, saying,

All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel’,

which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Matt 1:22-23)

So, Yeshua is an entirely appropriate name for the Messiah. But, I think that we should note that Jesus seems to have been a very common name at the time. Some more Wikitrivia: The History of the Jews by Josephus, written at the end of the First Century, mentions “Jesus called the Christ” only in passing, but it also mentions some twenty other Jesuses.

And there’s a curious side note to the Barabbas incident in the Gospels. All of them report that Pilate offered to release Jesus as a Passover clemency gesture, but the crowd instead demands that he release a criminal named Barabbas. The oldest copies of Matthew’s Gospel, however, reports the criminal’s full name as Jesus Barabbas. Apparently, some Christians were so troubled by this detail that it was omitted from later manuscripts.

So, one could say that there’s nothing particularly special about the name “Jesus,” any more than Joshua is in our day. It’s certainly not a magic spell to be invoked, the way that the heroine in the Rumpelstiltskin tale uses his name to banish the evil imp. In fact, the Acts of the Apostles reports some exorcists trying to do just that. They apparently knew nothing of Jesus except that his disciples were casting out demons in his name, so they tried it themselves. The demon said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” and the demon-possessed man chased them out of the house. (Acts 19:13-16)

But even if we don’t believe in magic spells, I think that we humans tend to feel that names are talismanic, that they hold the identity of a person. And that to me is the significance of the feast of the Holy Name.

The identity that we are naming is hinted at in the passage from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians that we just heard, which is so poetic and striking in its language. I once read speculation that Paul is actually quoting a very early hymn that his readers would have known, while adding his own commentary.

Not that the passage exactly explains anything here. What does it really mean to say that Christ was in the “form of God”? Or that he, “emptied himself, … being born in human likeness”? The church spent centuries trying to hammer that out at eccumenical councils. But I’m fine with leaving it a mystery. To me, the whole point of God is that the divine is beyond full human understanding, something that we can only dimly grasp through poetry and prophecy (is it surprising that the ancient prophets spoke mostly in verse?).

But if the divine is beyond our comprehension, the Christian doctrine of the incarnation is doubly so. That the totality God who created the heavens and earth and all that is in them could be found in a mere human, a tiny baby, is absurd on the face of it, but that’s what our faith teaches us.

As Paul says in another poetic passage, in his letter to the Colossians, “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:19-20).

So, in the name Jesus we are naming someone whom we do not understand, but whom we have come to know. And who, we believe, knows us.

If I were forced pick a single verse of the Bible as my favorite, it would be John 20:16: “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” The scene is the garden on Easter morning, and Mary Magdalene has asked the man she thinks is a gardener what they have done with Jesus’ body. It is only when he says her name, that she recognizes him.

As Jesus says earlier in John’s gospel, “The shepherd … calls his sheep by name, … I am the Good Shepherd.”

And we call ourselves by the name of Jesus Christ when we call ourselves Christians. “LORD, you are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name. Do not forsake us, O LORD our God!” For we believe that the one we call Emmanuel is always in the midst of us.

In the name of Christ. Amen.

Tuesday
Jan032017

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity 12-24-16

Christmas Eve Year A 2016

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 9:2-7; Ps. 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20

 

We walk in darkness, O God; grant us a great light; we live in a land of deep darkness – shine your light on us. Increase our joy. Bear the yoke with us, the bar across our shoulders; help us remove it from the shoulders of others. Break the rod of the oppressor, wherever it crushes the people. Your zeal alone can do it! AMEN. [adapted from Isaiah 9:2-7]

Every year when we gather at nighttime to observe of the Feast of Christmas, I’m struck with the counterpoint of anguish and tender homeliness in the tale we tell of Christ’s birth, the counterpoint of deep darkness and glorious light, of arrogance and humility, of rapacious fear up against generous and forebearing love. As we hollow out our own little crèche of light within the cold dark of this long night, we re-enact the symbolism that has adhered to the celebration of Christmas since at least the 4th century of Christianity – back when the early Christians appropriated the pagan honoring of sol invictus at the winter solstice by reminding themselves, not of the sun’s invincibility and expected return, but of the Son’s. By the 5th century, this Christ-Mass had become established as a nighttime celebration, rehearsing by shadowed candlelight the story of the humble little tradesman’s family being shuttled around by huge, uncaring political forces, evicted first from their home and then from their country itself, finding along the way into exile “no place to lay their heads” but in an animal stall, where the pregnant Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus, attended by donkeys and sheep. And already by that 4th century, this Mass was called the Missa ad praesepe, which means “the Mass at the crib,” foreshadowing St. Francis’ choice to make that imagery even more concrete in the 12th century, as he gathered real animals around him for the celebration of the Christ-Mass. [Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B., New Proclamation Year A 2001-2002] St. Francis, who (perhaps alongside Mahatma Ghandi) is shining example of humble simplicity and compassion, wished to connect us more experientially to the Feast of the Incarnation.  He wanted us to feel in Christ’s embodiment a savior more palpably “of our flesh,” more inescapably belonging to our humanity, not something of glory (though glory adheres to his ordinariness), but something of humility, of “lowness, smallness, insignificance and baseness,” as the original Latin word humilitatem implied, [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=humility] something of “humus,” of the organic soil from whence all life comes and to which all life returns; something of defenselessness and vulnerability, smelly and noisy and real in terms every single human being can understand and relate to. For so has Christmas – the Mass at the crib – always signified: the Messiah’s full inhabiting of his own humanity and ours, as the Collect for the Incarnation says, “that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, [God’s] Son Jesus Christ.” [The Book of Common Prayer, p. 252]

Perhaps the potency of that “light in the darkness” theme is why I have always loved Richard Wilbur’s hymn, which we sang towards the end of the Carol Sing that opened this service, “A Stable Lamp is Lighted.” It begins with the tenderness and the humility as well as the light and the hope of the story,

A stable lamp is lighted
whose glow shall wake the sky;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
and straw like gold shall shine;
a barn shall harbor heaven,
a stall become a shrine
.

No Christmas before this, though, has rendered the darkness quite as loomingly dark. Never in my 64 years has the world prospect seemed as fraught with evil and the potential for evil. Never have I been so keenly aware of the tininess of that child, his nakedness, the disenfranchisement of his family from “the inn.” The Greek word we translate as “inn” is actually kataluma, which was hardly the cozy snugness of an inn, but rather “a large area, perhaps covered with a tent, where wandering travelers found a place to lie down for the night.” [op. cit. Mohoney] No place in the town for the heavily pregnant mother-to-be even to lie down! So the journeyers must continue their arduous journey farther on, the woman perhaps already experiencing the first harsh pangs of delivery, to find accommodation with the beasts for the birth, instead. And though tonight’s passage doesn’t travel that far, the story continues, as well we know: barely will the young mother have “brought forth her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,” when the family must up and out, rousted from the stable by a terrifying dream, to flee the country barely ahead of the murderous and fearful rage of King Herod, before he can bring all his military might to slaughter this child alongside all the other children he kills, whose mere existence he fears will disenfranchise him.

In the darkness of this particular night, at this particular moment in history, the prospect of enormous military might slaughtering the innocent children of refugees in ostensible self-defense is all-too “incarnate,” all too real. No crèche needed. The imagination reels in terror, as it has been reeling for months while children are slaughtered without recourse to medical aid in Aleppo, as the prospect of refugees surging around the world drives ordinarily rational populations to endorse authoritarian rulers who promise to stop at nothing to staunch the flow of desperate people, and as the image of our own nuclear armory is drawn up like a specter to terrify the world into submission.

Comes Wilbur’s second verse, driving us away from the tender family and the babe ensconced within the manger, away from the gathering shepherds with their angelic host, driving us further on the journey of incarnation, the journey of what it means to be a human being staying faithful to the work of love, the work of “salvation,” driving us onward to the triumphal parading and palm-waving and flag-waving and patriotism of the Palm Sunday procession into Jerusalem.

This child through David's city
shall ride in triumph by;
the palm shall strew its branches,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
though heavy, dull and dumb,
and lie within the roadway
to pave his kingdom come
.

And before we can even catch our breath, before we can re-orient ourselves and re-affirm our hope, before we can “ponder in our hearts” the imagery of God’s kingdom, Wilbur drives us further, deeper into darkness, deeper into the story of salvation which is a dire story, a perilous story, a story of love become sacrifice, of defenselessness embraced, of refusing to give up one’s solidarity with the vulnerable in the face of heartless, soulless, self-serving evil, the story of the Crucifixion, the story of God nailed upon an instrument of imperial torture, the Victim of our thoughtless need for our own safety, our own security, our own prosperity, to remain unchallenged.

Yet he shall be forsaken,
and yielded up to die;
the sky shall groan and darken,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
for gifts of love abused;
God's blood upon the spearhead,
God's love again refused.
 

The gifts of love abused. No gathering shepherds this time. No angel host. No gentle sweet reminders of belonging. No room in the kataluma. We who seek reassurance are left in the cold. The stone cold. And if we dare stay there long enough, we’ll begin to hear the whole earth crying. The people who have lost their homes because of war, because of climate change, because of rulers that misuse their power for their own advantage, because of tribal animosity. The ice sheets melting. The growing things seeking scarce and scarcer water. The animals losing habitat, succumbing to extinction.

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry.

But. This is a night for the people who have walked in darkness to see a great light. This is a night for those in deep darkness to be surrounded by light, by angel song, by alleluia’s. This is a night when, amid all this terrifying intimation of our human perfidy, the Prince of Peace brings us a message of shalom. He comes in his tiny form to remind us of our own smallness, our own vulnerability. He comes in his tiny form to remind us that we have his divinity within our

vulnerability, within our mortality, every one of us, and that if we do not shrink from it in fear, if we do not enshroud ourselves in our own privilege so as to avoid it, if we do not shield and defend ourselves, but instead we let our own vulnerability soften us to the vulnerability of others, if we reach out instead of curling in in self-protection, we will access not just our own small power but the very power of God’s Own Self, the power of God’s Own Love, God’s transforming, renewing, reconciling love.

No, we will NOT BE SILENT in the face of tyrants. We will NOT BE SILENT in the face of climate change. We will NOT BE SILENT about the needs of our fellow human beings, driven from all they know into strange lands among strange people, yet every one of them still full of the very same divinity with which that small baby, in his coming, infused us, every single one of us all a peerless gift of God to the world.

[So] now, as at the ending,
the low is lifted high;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
in praises of the child
by whose descent among us
the worlds are reconciled
.

                                    [http://www.pateys.nf.ca/cgi-bin/lyrics.pl?hymnnumber=219]

Please, take heart! And take your Hymnal 1982, and turn to Hymn # 104, and stand as you are able. And in the name of Jesus, let us sing Richard Wilbur’s hymn again, together.

Wednesday
Dec212016

Karen Montagno's Sermon for 4 Advent 12-18-16

The Rev. Karen B. Montagno

St. James Episcopal Church

December 18, 2016

Advent 4

 

This 4th Sunday marks the climax of the Advent season.  The collect for the day sets a tone of hope.  In this prayer, we note that Jesus Christ visits us daily.  For me, the purifying daily presence of Jesus is hopeful.  We also pray that at Jesus’ will find a mansion, a home in us prepared for him. 

This prayer expresses the desire that amid the scurry and in the midst of the cares of this world Jesus will find a place prepared for him.  For many of us the holidays can be difficult-loss, loneliness or anticipation of difficult family reunions can make for low spirits during this “high” time of the year.

One Advent story I heard as a child, drew a connection between the holy search for a room at the inn and the work of Advent.  That is, that the work of Advent was one of preparing a place for the coming of Jesus in our daily lives. 

As a child, I always wondered what that meant. 

This Advent, the Episcopal Church observed a season "make ready the feast."  The website features the theme with reflections and treasured recipes.  Most of us equate making ready is preparing for Christmas. My family teases about me being a Food Channel fanatic.  I can get into recipes!  But on a spiritual level, making ready is the inner practice of finding the stillness, for the Christ child to dwell within us.

These days however, amidst the joy and promise, I have noticed a sober note.  There is also a sense of despair and anxiety.  I hear it as friends reach across distance to make their yearly contacts.  One longtime friend called this week.

He was unable to get fully in the mood of the season. He spoke of sleepless nights.   During these times, he was filled with longing for something he could not put his finger on.  Perhaps a sense of peace.

He is a statistician.  He went over the numbers he kept during the unfolding of election night.  He asked my opinion about the campaign missteps that would account for the numbers.  Instead of sleeping, he reviewed the headlines-national divisions, international unrest.  Could he make peace with the direction of the country?  He worried about future health care and his daily pressures.

He wondered anxiously, what was going to happen now?  How many of you have felt like that?

After speaking with him, I have to admit that I picked up some of his heaviness.  But in reflection, I try to keep hold of his parting words.  He said that perhaps now he would have to do more than watch and keep numbers.  He had to get out and do something.  That was hopeful.

In 1943, Ruth Caye Jones, the spouse of a minister was worried too.   She thought about the headlines in her Philadelphia newspaper.  One biographer said she noted the slow progress war with its casualties. 

Around her there was joblessness, food shortages rationing and people were suffering.  In the middle of one busy day, words of assurance came to her. She penned these words of hope. 

“In times like these you need a Savior.  Be sure, be very sure your anchor holds and grips the solid rock, this rock is Jesus.”  The second verse, urges “O be not idle. In times like these you need a Savior.”

The readings today, echo the themes of human hopelessness and despair.  Ahaz finds himself in the crosshairs of two great nations.  Instead of seeking God, he focuses on his own plan to make a deal with a third nation. 

The prophet urges him to seek a sign from the Lord.  But he does not.  Perhaps he did not see God acting in his life in that way.  How many of us decide not to bother God with our concerns.  Instead, we say, “I got this.”

We can hear the exasperation of prophet Isaiah.  Is it too little that you weary mortals that you weary God too!  Despite all this, God is present to him.  Despite Ahaz’s view, God responds with assurance and saving words.  God gives a sign and a promise.  A “national” victory.  And the promise of a child, Immanuel, which means "God is with us."

The Gospel shifts our attention to Joseph.  Joseph plays an unsung role in the story. (although he plays a critical role) I imagine that Joseph also found himself in the crosshairs.  According to the custom of the day, his choices were public disgrace or divorce. 

We are told that Joseph was a righteous man.  There are a variety of understanding about the meaning of righteousness here. Some commentators say it means, Joseph had faith in God and acted on it.  Another says, Joseph was a kind, merciful man.  What do you make of it?

Joseph wondered what to do about Mary, the Angel appeared to him in a dream.  (I imagine this was Gabriel who must have been very busy!)  This dream changes the course of things.  For many, dreams are powerful things. 

My family, pays attention to dreams.  We loved to recount our dreams.  My mother had an expression, “No dreams before breakfast.”  Dreams can give vision and courage untenable times. 

I remember MLK for an example, and Harriet Tubman whose dreams were powerful motivators.  Joseph acts on the power of this dream.  In fact, he has several other dreams that give him the vision and courage to act on behalf of Mary and the new life they share in Jesus.

What is the good news for us today?  As a child, I wondered what it meant to prepare a place for Jesus in daily life? 

Reflecting on this, I want to go back to an earlier observation.  I have come to believe that it is recognizing, “In times like these we need a Savior.”  Perhaps it is as simple as preparing a place of stillness in our lives for dreams-the dream of God to take shape.  Then like my friend, like Joseph, do something about it.

Bp. Charleston former Dean at EDS shared a reflection a couple of days ago.  I’ll share a bit of it with you.  He said, “Our task is to recognize what has been placed in our care, to value it, and then to bring it forward to share with others.

When we do this we begin to fit the pieces of the message together. We begin to make sense out of it, to see what it is trying to tell us.”  He called it, “the message we all long for, the word of hope, the vision of the future.”

Like Joseph, we must all take the risk of love.  Make ready the feast. The author and poet Madeleine L’Engle puts it this way: “This is no time for a child to be born, With the earth betrayed by war and hate And a comet slashing the sky to warn That time runs out and the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born, In a land in the crushing grip of Rome; Honor and truth were trampled by scorn– Yet here did the Savior make his home. When is the time for love to be born? The inn is full on the planet earth, And by a comet the sky is torn– Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.” 

The risk of love, let us make ready.  Amen

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