Monthly Archives: June 2010

Celebrating Interdependence at St. David’s

Following the two big village-themed events this June (City Repair’s Village Building Convergence and the Episcopal Village Mission West event,) it seems only natural to ease into summer by celebrating interdependence.

We certainly hope you’ll join us on Saturday, July 3, from 11:00-3:00 for the second annual Interdependence Day Celebration. Find out all about the great line-up of live music, food, and fun by clicking to Neighborhood Notes, and be sure to spread the word and bring a friend along.

(P.S. We’re still accepting donations for our rummage sale! Bring your goodies to our downstairs closet through June 30.)

But just as Earth Day is every day, we celebrate Interdependence all year round at St. David’s. We share our building with a wide variety of organizations. This makes for a lively view from the parish office.

During the week, tiny voices sing and shout from the Eastside Family Cooperative and Hands-On Art & Play Preschool. Pianists fill the sanctuary with scales and song, a voice teacher and a percussionist bustle through the hallway on their way to a lesson in the music studio, and Tool Library volunteers bike in to work on the shelves or take stock of new donations.

Twice a week, the smell of spices drifts from the kitchen as busy chefs from a local Food Not Bombs group prepare free meals to deliver downtown. Parishioners drop by to say hello or do their part in Altar Guild duties. Our Artist-in-Residence stops in and gives us the update on his latest discovery or project. Volunteers from the parish pitch in with the vegetable garden and grounds.

There’s all that and so much more, from a community music night called Ceilidh (1st Mondays at 7:00) and an evening Peace Mass on Wednesdays (6:00), to Saturday intensive workshops in Zen meditation and Nonviolent Communications. There’s the Ukulele Association and the Threshold Choir and a group called Dances of Universal Peace.

We’re all learning to take care of this space and of each other, and looking for new ways to support each others’ work.

Most of all, we want you there!

See something you think you might like? Give it a try. Have an event you’d like to host at St. David’s? Give us a call. Want to contribute your time and talents to a growing community center with big dreams? We want to hear from you!

Three Quick Ways to Get Involved:

  1. Sign up for our Weekly E-Notes: email announcements about events and volunteer opportunities.
  2. Visit our website and peruse the calendar for your next adventure
  3. Stop by during office hours and have a look around: Monday-Friday 12:30-5:00

and don’t forget to come out this Saturday and help us celebrate!

Projects We’re Working On (and How You Can Help)

  • Energy efficiency. Take a 1950s building and a 21st century church, and what do you get? Lots of room for improvement. Let’s share resources, build water catchment systems, replace old light fixtures. Do you have experience with insulation, sealing, old heating systems? Let us know.
  • Waste reduction. Help us build sturdy compost bins, make our recycling bins more user-friendly, and educate our community about packaging and low-impact events.
  • Outdoor Work. We always need helpers around the grounds. As the weather gets warmer, we have several specific projects in the works that you can help with.
  • Sunday Farmer’s Market. We’ve got this dream of an afternoon market in the parking lot. Are you a grower or know someone who is? Do you like organizing markets, or have pointers to share?
  • Yoga Teacher Recruiting. We need teachers for morning and afternoon classes in the parish hall. Interested teachers should call the office. Spread the word!
  • Cooperative Music Teaching Program. We’re embarking on an exciting experiment at the Music Studio on Harrison Hill. New teachers, students, and audience members wanted.
  • Your Idea Here. Community means everyone. We want your input and initiative, so don’t be afraid to help us make something happen.

Happy summer everyone! 

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Opposite Galilee

Jesus arrived opposite Galilee, and a man of the city who had demons met him.

I recently came across a list of questions to ponder about our church. One of the questions was: “How do you feel God’s presence in this place?” Some feel God’s presence in this physical space, with its dim light, stained glass and high ceilings. Others feel God’s presence in the acts of worship: kneeling, praying, sharing communion. Others talk about God being most present in people—in their families and friends, in the people around them during church and—most important for some of you—during our coffee hour after church. I know many of you join me in feeling God’s presence in music, and particularly in our music today—I’m so grateful to have the Minnesota Boychoir to unveil the kingdom God as only they can! Thank you for being with us on this Father’s Day, to help proclaim the word of God.

I’m guessing that the people of Galilee would have felt God’s presence in their lives—if not in exactly the same ways that we do, certainly in the same variety of ways. Galilee was a very religious region, and its people were steeped in Jewish law and Hebrew traditions. The country was filled with folk who were receptive to Jesus and his Good News of the Kingdom of God. In the days and weeks leading up to the events of today’s Gospel, they would’ve witnessed Jesus’ work of healing, teaching, and inviting followers to join him. If we were to track “Jesus sightings,” Galilee was the place to be.

Jesus chooses to leave Galilee, quite possibly the home of his biggest fan club, to go to the region opposite Galilee. This geographical detail is significant, and like many such details in scripture, speaks to us about more than geography. Crossing over to the land opposite Galilee is sort of like casting one’s nets on the other side of the boat. On the other side of the Sea of Galilee was the region of Gadara (often linguistically confused with Gerasa, for those of you paying special attention to details).

In this story, Jesus deliberately travels to Gentile territory, into an area where most people don’t know about him and don’t care. The first person he encounters is a man possessed with demons, a man who has so lost himself and his life that he cannot live in society.

This vivid story about the demons and the swine calls us to use our imaginations, and so this morning I’m going to do the same. Imagine what kind of boundary-crossing encounters Jesus might have in Portland. And imagine where we would go and what we would do if we, his disciples, were to cross over to the opposite side in order to make a connection with a person possessed.

Imagine that Jesus has been traveling around Portland—the nice parts of Portland where you and I might take our out-of-town guests: the Esplanade, the Rose Garden, Multnomah Falls. Imagine that he preaches to a standing-room-only crowed at Trinity Cathedral. Or at St. David’s. And then, with his rag-tag band of disciples, let’s say that he peels off and travels to a place that feels like a foreign country, say, just on the other side of 82nd Avenue, where Burnside stretches out to Rockwood, that no-man’s-land that neither Portland nor Gresham wants to claim within its city limits.

Near the MAX tracks, a woman stands on a dark corner, unkempt and unclean, with a large handbag over her shoulder that holds the few possessions she’s allowed to call her own. She has just made a date via text messaging, with a man who found her through a personals ad. When she’s not waiting for a date she, like the man in today’s gospel, lives with the dead, not in a house but in vacant buildings, in the back of cars, and in the county jail.

Like him, she is tormented by a whole legion of demons, some real and some imaginary. There is the person who takes all of her money each day and monitors all of her phone calls and emails. There are drug dealers who lurk nearby day in and day out. She is haunted by memories of her own painful childhood, of parents who neglected her and brothers who ridiculed her. She is tormented by her own sense of hopelessness and worthlessness.

Imagine that as she stands there on that dark corner, the MAX train stops across the street and a man gets off. He looks different from anyone she has seen all day. She knows he is not her date, but who is he?  She takes a step forward, and he looks right at her, not in the way that others look at her. He looks at her in a way that lets her know in an instant that he sees her, really sees her.  She recognizes him—not just her better self, that little piece of her deep down inside, but her whole self, all the demons that possess her and live in her. The hope that fills her is such a foreign sensation that she feels weak in the knees and drops to the ground. She who never raises her voice cries out to him: “Savior! What are you going to do? Please be real, and not another demon!”

She knew that he was real. She was changed forever, having recognized him recognizing her. She wanted to follow him. She especially wanted to go with him back to the other side of 82nd Avenue where it seemed to her that he came from. But he says to her: You don’t need to be with me every minute of every day in order to be my disciple. You are strong enough and beloved enough to do the harder thing. Find the people who think they know you but don’t really know you. Let them know who you are. Tell them how you are filled with hope because of our meeting. Tell them about the power of love. Ask them to come with you. Tell everyone.

Imagine.

Encore!

What a treat, huh?! I can’t thank the Minnesota Boychoir enough for coming to share their beautiful music with us and I hope they do come back again someday. Until then, here are a few YouTube videos of other choirs singing the wonderful music we heard this morning.

Who is this who forgives sins???

Who is this who even forgives sins?

In churches that I know some of you grew up in, the norm is to hear about sin all the time: sin, sin, sin, sin, sin. In many Episcopal Churches, outside of our weekly confession, we talk about sin as little as possible, maybe on Ash Wednesday and again on Good Friday. This is a great loss, since who Jesus is, is all about drawing us from all that alienates and distracts us, back into God’s embrace.

The gospel presents a wonderfully vivid picture of someone who has already been drawn back into God’s embrace. We are treated to a brief but detailed encounter between Jesus and a woman identified simply as “a sinner.” As we reflect on this story for a few minutes, think about how you respond to God’s extravagant grace. She washes his feet with her tears, and dries them with her hair, then anoints them with ointment from an alabaster jar. For those of you who wonder about such things, Jesus would have been reclining, propped up on an elbow. The woman could have accessed his feet without crawling under the kind of table that you and I think of, when we read about a dinner party.

Which is not to say that there was anything about her action that was socially acceptable. She would not have been invited to the dinner, but would have wandered in to this semi-public setting with what some might call the local riff-raff. It was never proper in nice company—which the Pharisee who hosted the dinner would have considered his home to be—for a woman to let down her hair in front of a man, and touching a man’s feet had definite sexual overtones.

Simon, the Pharisee, says to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is.” The irony here is delicious. Not only does Jesus know who and what kind of woman this is, he knows better than the Pharisee, better than any prophet, perhaps better even than the woman herself. Jesus knows her in the biblical sense. And I mean that literally. He knows that she is God’s beloved child. As we all are.

There is a transaction between Jesus and the woman with the long hair, but it is not the kind of transaction the Pharisee assumes the woman has in mind. In this transaction, the woman performs her own version of a traditional act of hospitality, washing a guest’s feet. She ministers to him. What he gives her in return, in addition to words of peace and forgiveness, is that he lets her minister to him. Remember this the next time someone wants to wait on you.

I believe that the woman in today’s gospel is restored to wholeness, restored to herself, in part through his allowing her to touch him. Jesus’ side of the transaction is also an act of hospitality. He lets her in. And so they practice a kind of mutual hospitality. Like a good host, she bathes his feet and kisses him. Like a good host, he rejoices in her presence.

When we practice hospitality, do we act like people who have been forgiven much, or like people who have been forgiven little? When we welcome people into this place, are we mindful of the brokenness that God accepts from us?

It is no accident that the story in today’s gospel takes place at the dinner table. Most of Luke’s stories about Jesus’ teaching encounters take place around food and hospitality. Are we communicating the forgiving love of Jesus in our hospitality for one another?

* * *

Who is this who even forgives sins? The Good News of forgiveness is not just the property of God, but of all of us. Jesus says this in the Gospel of John: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. We affirm our role as those who forgive every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. Not only are we called to acknowledge our sins to God, and not only are we called to accept God’s forgiving love for us, we are called to go and do likewise. Listen to the order of these words in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

We don’t forgive sins in order to be forgiven, we forgive sins in order to follow in the way of Jesus.

If we’re honest, we can probably admit to ourselves that our forgiveness has limits, that there are people in our lives whom we cannot forgive. What if we really forgave the sins of those who sin against us, the way we say we do in the Lord’s Prayer?

Forgiveness—especially forgiveness of our enemies—is one of the things that sets us apart from other religious traditions. About ten days ago, we celebrated the feast of the Martyrs of Uganda. These Christians walked to their death singing hymns and praying for their enemies, acting out their forgiveness. Who are these people who even forgive sins? Those who saw them immediately wanted to become Christians themselves. In the early church, it was not great buildings or preaching or beautiful vestments and banners or even wonderful music programs and liturgies that created more Christians. It was people watching the behavior of the followers of Jesus and saying: I want that. I’ve never seen people show that kind of love to one another. I want to be in that kind of community.  Evangelism in the earliest days of Christianity was simply the behavior of the community of followers after the resurrection. They stuck together. They shared their possessions, and they welcomed sinners and outcasts.

This is wonderful good news indeed—it means that we never have to read another book on church marketing or attend another conference on evangelism. We simply need to live as followers of Jesus. For us this begins—but doesn’t end—with sharing a holy meal together.

As we celebrate this feast of our redemption, this feast of our forgiveness, let us go forth from this place showing the great love of a forgiven people.

Sunday, June 20th, 10 am – Minnesota Boychoir

While every service at St. Davids is a “you don’t wanna miss it” occasion, this Sunday, June 20th is a “you DEFINITELY don’t wanna miss it” occasion as the Minnesota Boychoir joins us to fill our Eucharist Service and Coffee Hour with gorgeous music. The video below proves that they aren’t just any boychoir – they’re fantastic! Plus, they were selected to sing at the Pacific International Children’s Choir Festival in Eugene a few days after their performance at St. Davids. Not too shabby! Can’t wait to see you all on Sunday!

Sanctus

Our Sanctus of the moment is part of the Freedom Mass by Betty Carr Pulkingham, a founding member of the Anglican-based Community of Celebration. It is a result of extensive travel, community development, and musical experiences in South Africa. She writes: “One of the worst by-products of the apartheid was the suppression of indigenous singing.” This mass setting

is, therefore, embedded with African folk tunes as a means to preserve, restore, and spread their rich musical culture. The Sanctus, for example, is based on the protest song Asikhatali:

It doesn’t matter if you should jail us

We are free and kept alive by hope.

Our struggle’s hard, but vict’ry will

Restore our lands to our hands.

Praying Twice

The following is a wonderful article written by Linnea Good, a self described “singer, songwriter, worship guide, and musical animator” based in Summerland, BC Canada. It’s not short, but it is very inspirational as we musically develop and grow.

Music has many jobs to do in worship. Singing proclaims the word, tells the scripture, reflects on and analyzes it. Music marks beginnings, middles, and ends of things. Sometimes it covers quiet moments like candlelighting; other times noisy moments like the children’s leaving. It touches the heart in ways that the spoken word cannot. As Augustine said, those who sing pray twice.

But, sometimes we see music as merely a “punctuator” to an order of spoken worship pieces (calls, prayers, scriptures, announcements, and the like). Scripture is followed, a theme is discerned, hymns chosen (and a prayer said that the anthem will fit somewhere). The job of music, then, is to re-state the theme of the day. Our biggest musical concern becomes trying to order our three chosen hymns so that the most familiar hymns are placed in the most singable order in the liturgy.

The result might be a service that feels comfortable enough – in which the leaders and the people will have had a “meeting of the minds.” At the door, people might even say, “Good sermon” or “Nice music.” However, a service that is shaped in this way remains largely in our left brain – a kind of scholarly, holy busy-work.

The left brain is our thinking, analyzing, fact-and-data organizing mind. This side of our individual and collective thinking is extremely important; it helps us make sense of the information we receive, to sift and sort it, discard what is unusable, build on our beliefs, and so forth. But, it does not worship very well. Like Habakkuk, perched upon the rampart, it is watching to see what God will say, yet longing to hear a voice truly from the heart.

The right brain allows for thinking outside the lines. It is creative, expansive, intuitive, and emotional. It creates connections between previously unconnected things. It works with images, symbols, and ritual. It is the other half of the worship equation.

Without the left brain, the life of faith would lapse into passionate free-associating without critical thinking or transformation. Without the right brain, the life of faith would amount to a set of beliefs and weekly head-nodding to them. Worshiping with only one side of our brain makes us unbalanced, unintegrated people. As such, we will be inclined to try and control the spiritual experiences we encounter in worship and without – to force them to fit the one-sided mold we have created. At worst, this can actually turn into an addiction – a controlling pattern.

But worship is at best, I believe, a series of currents that move us through life’s contradictions: peace against challenge, old patterns comfortably repeated against new patterns allowed to emerge, outward awareness against inner contemplation, passionately upbeat against passionately serene… Worshiping with both intuitive and analytical thinking allows us to be nurtured and transformed. And that is where “service music” comes in.

Service Music as a Connector and Integrator
When I refer to “service music” I mean music that tends to consist of short, such as repeated songs and refrains that appear throughout the worship service. Each has a different purpose. They are often lines from scripture, celebrating our relationship with God. They ask and answer questions, voice yearnings, mourn, affirm, aspire, mark the time, and remind us of what we long to know. They go home with us and become a part of our everyday, spiritual landscape. Service music is intended to bind together the frayed ends of the selves we bring to church. It speaks to our left brain in words that match the worship’s theme or the purpose of the moment; it speaks to our right brain through melody, the variegated threads of harmony, rhythm, and intensity.

Thus, music is a connector and integrator in worship. It allows us the space to take in what has been offered and it gives it a new and potentially deeper emotional impact. Service music turns around the idea that the liturgy is essentially a spoken thing with some music in between and makes it essentially sung with moments of speech – even if there is more speaking than song!

In worship that employs service music, the onus for the momentum or the moving forward of the worship belongs to the music. Spoken parts are reduced in size; for example the Call to Worship becomes shorter and acts more like an introduction to (dare I say?) the real beginning of the service – the singing. Spoken, unison prayers are let go, in favor of singing the same.

Service music creates the connections between spoken and prayed pieces of the worship so that our sense of movement together is unbroken. In churches where the complaint is that the service is too long, often it is not the clocked length of the service that is the problem but rather the lack of liturgical momentum that creates the sense of time dragging.

Another way of looking at it is that, rather than being an element that fills the next empty space in the liturgy, service music often seeks to create an empty space – a receptivity or opportunity for the Spirit to speak. A good example of this is the singing that follows the sermon. Oftentimes, the “hymn” after the sermon is one in which the preacher’s theme is confirmed or the singer invited to make a response to what she or he has heard. If we wished instead to allow space for the listener to integrate the message more fully, we might choose to sing a piece of service music that was simple and bare.

Service Music: Some Possibilities
Consider the variety of sung responses you could integrate into worship, including whole hymns, single verses, or refrains:

  • Introit: Focus the people as a group on worshiping; can function as a Call to Worship. In the Music Showcase for this issue of Update, consider using “Enter, Rejoice, and Come In” or “Come and Find a Quiet Center.”
  • Approach: Focus the people as a group on worshiping and on the theme of the day. Refer to Music and the Lections for weekly suggestions.
  • Scripture entry: Sung before scripture is shared, it celebrates the word of God. “What Does the Lord Require of You?” can set a tone for active engagement.
  • Psalm response: This allows the psalm to be spoken or sung aloud by any combination of choir, congregation, and leader. The psalm is read like a poetic conversation with God, rather than like a prayer. The response may be sung at the beginning and end, or every four verses, as the words permit. For lament psalms, try the refrain of “There Is a Longing.” For psalms of praise, consider responding at the beginning, middle, and end with verses from “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
  • Sung scripture: A line from one of the gospels, epistles, or Hebrew scriptures may sum up the theme of the day. It could be sung between all the scriptures, as an introit, before prayer, as a closing, and so on. Refer to Music and the Lections for weekly suggestions.
  • After-sermon reflection: allows for a brief moment of thoughtfulness or rest before leaving the engagement with the word. A For a more upbeat feel, try “What Is Our Service to Be?”
  • Prayer entry: Invites the people into a prayerful state. Aiming for fewer words in the prayer itself will allow a sense of nurturing our relationship with God, even as we ask God for grace and power in the situations for which we are praying. You might use the refrain from “Be With Me, Lord,” or try repeating “Father in Heaven” for a number of weeks as a sung version of the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Ending (Benediction and/or Commissioning): Singing is the perfect end, giving a sense of closure. For an exuberant sending song, use “Go, Make Disciples.” For a quieter benediction, consider “As You Go on Your Way.”

Service Music: Some Guidelines
Unless you are trying out one deliberately “different” style of worship with lots of warning for your people, it would seem best to incorporate some of these pieces slowly, and one by one. You might choose a period or season in which you invite congregants to experiment with you and your music leaders by singing parts of the service. Each added piece might have a small explanation given – either verbally or in your bulletin – so that people can feel part of the change.

Plan for it. Make a musical overview for the next number of worships. Let there be a mix of music that:

  • stays the same for a liturgical season – for example, a prayer response or Advent candle-lighting song.
  • comes and goes throughout the season or period – for example, have two children’s theme songs that alternate during Lent.
  • is new every week – such as a psalm response.

Don’t let anything stay for longer than a couple of seasons.

Consider momentum. Whatever the order of service that you follow, aim for a feeling of momentum that, in broad strokes, begins with bigger energy, deepens into more contemplative feel, and ends again with bigger energy. Do this with music, story, word, and prayer.

Don’t just add to the service. Be willing to let go of some spoken pieces to make room for the sung ones. I am not joking when I say that this is a point of considerable difficulty for many clergy, whose upbringing has taught them that their job is to speak!

Alternate speaking and singing. Plan not to let speaking follow speaking. Let there be a hymn, sung response, or small instrumental moment to connect each spoken piece.

Let voice lead voice. Have at least one human facing the singing congregation and leading with an encouraging manner. Be careful, however, not to conduct like a choir director. Hands and whole bodies lead big energy singing; eye contact and eyebrows or palms raised in a devotional manner for tender and prayerful times.

Teach with care. Teaching is a sensitive thing. It can be done during the service, especially if the music falls at the beginning or end of worship. For example, the music leader might say, “Join us in this response to the psalm,” then sing the response two or three times, letting the psalm begin without further explanation. Music for the middle of the worship, such as at prayer time, might best be taught before the service begins. However, if you find yourself needing to teach a response in a moment that is quiet and reverent, you might consider simply singing it yourself, and raising your head expectantly the second time around to invite the congregation to join you.

Include musical subtleties. Allow the music sometimes to begin lightly underneath the introduction to a spoken piece or to carry on after the singing is done, and the next speaking begins. This often smoothes the transition from one element to another if it is done quietly. (Be aware of people’s difficulties with hearing in these cases)

Use worship refrains. Worship refrains may be repeated any number of times. While it is not necessary to sing each response multiple times, it is still helpful to sing most of them more than once. This is a hurdle for many in the mainstream pew. Let the intensity build and drop again. Consider singing a refrain with no accompaniment at some point, if that feels comfortable. Bring in instrumentation at different times, not all at once. Don’t simply repeat the refrain with the same feel.

Transitioning with Care
As with anything that affects people profoundly and spiritually, it is almost inevitable that some will have a strong reaction to change in worship. Respond with thanks and check back with them after a few weeks. If a number of people are still having a strong reaction to the change, re-evaluate the change, its placement, the speed of the transition, or the way it is being led. If the reaction has softened, carry on.

The transition to worship of word and prayer woven with music is a scary one for many. It touches parts of us previously shielded. It can feel like abandonment to some, a switch to another denomination for others, overly emotional to still others. But when people have truly prayed and prayed twice, it can be the beginning of a profoundly different way of worshiping. My prayer is that, having sung thus far, there will be no turning back.