Monthly Archives: September 2012

Beyond us and them: a new kind of membership

Are you a member of a church? If you live in the Pacific Northwest, chances are the answer is no.

For a long time, church membership has been defined by certain religious practices and traditional forms of commitment. Baptism, confirmation, profession of adherence to orthodoxy, pledging, filling out a tome-like parish register, participation in all that the church has to offer, attending regularly, and/or conforming to various spoken and unspoken behavioral norms.

Any of these traditional membership constructs sound familiar? Many of them are certainly familiar, well-loved, welllived practices of many participants in St. David’s worshipping community.

However, our church is much bigger than our Sunday morning worshipping community, and many people who gather during the week consider St. David’s to be “their” church in the same way that those who are only there on Sundays consider it to be “our” church. What if the “our” of “our church” includes everyone for whom our building is a spiritual home, that is, a place where their spirit is fed?

St. Paul said that we are all members of one body: some teachers, some prophets, some healers, some givers, some leaders. What if the body of which we are all members is our extended community, a community where some teach, some sculpt, some pray, some cook, some play ukulele, some play piano, some sing, some loan tools, and so on? In this community of St. David–which springs forth from the creative, re-creative, and generative act of gathering around a common table to feast and pray on Sunday mornings–all are members.

In this community of St. David, all are members who hope and work for their neighbors’ best interests and dreams.

What makes you a member of a church? What makes you a member of the community of St. David?

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What’s your manifesto?

On September 23, Jeanne Kaliszewski shared portions of her faith journey with us during our worship service. And she read this poem by Wendell Berry. What’s your manifesto?

Manifesto

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

~~Wendell Berry

eNotes: September 20-26

The Word
from Sara

It’s been an amazing week at St. David’s: our building is full of life, and we keep getting wonderful folk asking to be part of our extended family community, or wanting to express their community connections in new ways. It has me thinking a lot about what it means to be the member of a community like ours.

Church membership is definitely not what it used to be, and I’m so grateful to be part of a community with such expansive opportunities to reframe who we are and what we do. To that end, the vestry has a couple of questions for all of you, as we revise and bring into the twenty-first century our parish by-laws. You can answer them simply by emailing me, or on our Facebook page, or on the white board in the parish hall this Sunday. Here they are:

  1. What do you think it means to be a member of a congregation like St. David’s? What does it mean to be a member of the St. David’s Community?
  1. What do you think is the “object and purpose” of a place like St. David’s? To proclaim the gospel? To worship Jesus? To build community? To propagate the faith and doctrine of the Episcopal Church? To serve the neighborhood? All of the above?

Let us know!

On a related note, I also spent some time preparing for our first “Faith & Story” offering, the one-night-only “What kind of Anglican are you?” class. I hope it’ll be fun. I hope I’ll see lots of you there. (See below for details)

This Week
Rain Gardens are HERE: This Sat, Sept 22nd, 9-2 and next Sun, Sept 30, 12-3
Get on your boots and help create beautiful rain gardens full of native plants. There is a task for everyone, so bring the family and invite your neighbors! Bring your own shovel and contact Michael Welsh to sign-up:  michael.s.welch@gmail.com or 503.740.2495

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 20: This Sunday, September 23, 10am
The bulletin is back! Always know what’s happening on Sunday by reading them in advance here.

Directory Update this Sunday: We’re doing a final update of our community database. Find your name on Sunday and let us know we’ve got it all. Won’t be there Sunday? Email us.

Sunday School Parent Potluck: This Monday, September 24, 6-8
Come learn more about our children’s ministries opportunities this year and bring some tasty food to share in the Parish Hall.

JOIN Book Group: This Thursday, 11 – 12, Grace Room
The book group with good coffee and a mission.. one of our many exciting collaborations with the New City Initiative!

Looking Ahead
Gift Cards Needed! We have pledged to support our Covenant of Hope family in every way we can, and we have a great opportunity. Eight-year-old Corinna and six-year-old Aidyn are preparing to start school after the long transition from homelessness into their new home in Troutdale, and we would like to participate by sending their mom, Annika, some gift cards to purchase school supplies and some new clothes. (Think: Target, Walmart, Fred Meyer.) Next time you’re out shopping, consider picking up a gift card, enclosing it in a note to Annika, Corinna, and Aidyn, and dropping it by the church office. We’ll take care of the rest. Thanks for your generosity!

What kind of an Anglican are YOU? Wednesday, October 3, 7-8:30 pm in the Grace Room. Have you ever wondered what it means to be an Episcopalian? Has anyone ever asked you “What does your church believe?” This will be a fun and informative evening for newcomers and lifelong Episcopalians alike. Bring a friend! Let Sara know, so she knows how many delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to make!

Baptism, anyone? The Feast of All Saints, which we will celebrate on November 4, is one of the four major baptismal feasts of the church year. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about baptism, contact Sara.

It’s not too early to think about Thanksgiving: Consider joining our community potluck this year! All are invited, so bring the family, your neighbors, and friends. Mark your calendars now, details coming soon…

Parish News
History Room Update: Many thanks to Jennie Brown and Nan Williams for the wonderful brunch last Sunday! If you weren’t able to be at the brunch but would like to learn more about the History Room, contact Jennie at 503-246-1824. There are opportunities to make a huge difference for a small donation of your time (say, 45 minutes a month?) or your treasure. Never seen the History Room? Come by for a tour any time during regular office hours or after church on a Sunday.

Got music? The choir is always looking for musical, enthusiastic, and otherwise interested voices to enliven our worship services. Rehearsals are now on Sundays from 9:20-9:50 in the Music Room and on the 2nd Thursday of every month from 6-9. If you have any questions, contact Dan.

Thanks to the office helpers this week: Jean Baker, Deidre Baker, Carolynn Rudy, Peggy Speirs, Pat Thayer! Doesn’t it look like they’re having fun in the photo above? Contact the office to join in the fun!

Got a name tag? If you do, start wearing it! We have had loads of guests this summer and expect more leading into the fall. Can’t find yours or never had one? Let the office know.

eNotes: September 13-19, 2012

The Word
from Sara
Welcome to September! There are lots of wondrous things going on around here….The Living School is open for business and so Dan and I are surrounded by the sounds of happy, engaged children. Be sure to check out the Grace Room next time you’re in the building. We have hired Emily Jameson as our new Children’s Ministries Coordinator. Anyone who knows Emily knows what a wealth of energy and grace she brings to all that she undertakes; it is a special blessing to have her join our staff. I am looking forward to our Faith & Story offerings this fall on Wednesday evenings. Please join us, for the Peace Mass at 6 pm, for classes beginning October 3 at 7 pm, or just spend the whole evening with us! If you have any questions about any of these classes or anything else, please contact me. In the meantime, I wish you blessings and peace during these beautiful days and always.

This Week
The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 19: This Sunday, September 2, 10am
The bulletin is back! Always know what’s happening on Sunday by reading them in advance here.

History Room Brunch: Sunday, September 16, 11:15
Come have a tasty brunch and explore ways you might help the ongoing project to preserve, share, and celebrate our parish history and present. As always, many hands make light work, and this is particularly light work for people who value our church’s rich heritage.

Directory Update this Sunday: We’re doing a quick and thorough update of our community database. Find you name on Sunday and let us know we’ve got it all. Won’t be there Sunday? Email us.

Looking Ahead
Gift Cards Needed! We have pledged to support our Covenant of Hope family in every way we can, and we have a great opportunity. Eight-year-old Corinna and six-year-old Aidyn are preparing to start school after the long transition from homelessness into their new home in Troutdale, and we would like to participate by sending their mom, Annika, some gift cards to purchase school supplies and some new clothes. (Think: Target, Walmart, Fred Meyer.) Next time you’re out shopping, consider picking up a gift card, enclosing it in a note to Annika, Corinna, and Aidyn, and dropping it by the church office. We’ll take care of the rest. Thanks for your generosity!

Rain Gardens are coming: Sat, Sept 22nd, 9-2 and Sun, Sept 30, 12-3
Get on your boots and help create beautiful rain gardens full of native plants. There is a task for everyone, so bring the family and invite your neighbors! Contact Michael Welsh to sign-up:  michael.s.welch@gmail.com or 503.740.2495

Baptism, anyone? The Feast of All Saints, which we will celebrate on November 4, is one of the four major baptismal feasts of the church year. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about baptism, contact Sara.

Parish News
Parishioner Jim Pecore is staying at his sister Carol’s home while receiving treatment for melanoma. Consider sending a card to 4676 Oakridge Road, Lake Oswego OR 97035. Jim is also happy to have visitors but has limited energy. If you’d like to call or visit, please contact Sara for more information.

Got music? The choir is always looking for musical, enthusiastic, and otherwise interested voices to enliven our worship services. Rehearsals are now on Sundays from 9:20-9:50 in the Music Room and on the 2nd Thursday of every month from 6-9. If you have any questions, contact Dan.

Faith & Story offerings this fall

We’ve been asking “What’s your story?” for a while…this fall we’re offering a couple of mini-classes and other group experiences to answer a slightly different question: What’s our story? Yours, mine, and ours. What’s our story, yesterday and today?

Here’s what’s on deck for October, November, and December:

Faith & Story: What kind of Anglican are you?
October 3, 7 pm

Curious? This fun and informative evening is not just for newcomers! Stop in to learn what it means to pray and worship the way we Episcopalians do. Refreshments will be served during this interactive mini-workshop.

Faith & Story: The Anglican Story
October 10 and 17, 7 pm

This short class is for those of you who are new to the Episcopal Church and would like to know more about….just about anything!
Want to know about our history?
About what Episcopalians believe?
When do we stand and when do we kneel? Why?
What’s up with that candle in the sanctuary that never goes out?
And what about Mary?

Faith & Story: The Bible Story
November 7, 14, and 28, 7 pm

Feel at sea with the bible? Don’t know your beatitudes from your begats? Wish you could impress your friends (or at least your relatives) with your knowledge of the twelve apostles? Wondering why hardly anyone in the bible has a sense of humor? Wish you knew how to find stuff between those tattered covers? This short class won’t teach you everything you want to know, but it will give you a framework for the Great Stories, and provide a safe port in the biblical storm.

Faith & Story: Discipleship Stories
December 5 through March 20, 7 pm

Who are you? What’s your story? Who is God calling you to be? What does it mean to call oneself a “Christian”? Who are some other Christians we admire? If you want to explore these questions, this class is for you. This class is open to all, but is especially appropriate for those preparing for adult baptism, confirmation, reaffirmation of baptismal vows, or formal reception into the Episcopal Church.

Jesus, you dog!

“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and feed it to the dogs.” “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  From Mark 7:24-37.

I think it was poet and satirist Dorothy Parker who said: “If you can’t change your mind, how do you know you have one?” I know it was Henry David Thoreau who called consistency “the hobgoblin of simple minds.” I find that as I get older, I value consistency more and more. Perhaps that means I’m getting simpleminded with middle age. But I’ve always prided myself on my ability to change my mind. I do it so well, it drives some people around me nuts.

This morning, we hear the gospeller Mark’s version of this famous story of Jesus changing his mind. That in itself makes for a good story, and we’ll get to that in a few minutes. But first, I can’t get past the fact that Jesus calls this woman a dog.

A dog? Yes, a dog. Jesus calls this woman—known only as “a Gentile, of Syrophonecian origin”—a dog. Her, her children, her whole community. Really?

There is a long history of interpreters trying to soften this passage:

  • Some commentators have pointed out that Syrophonecians were rich and abusive landowners, and the Jews living in that region were more deserving of Jesus’ attention. I don’t buy that.
  • There is another theory that Jesus’ words are not as harsh as they sound, and that he was simply referring to her as a pet. However, I don’t think people had dogs as pets in those days…do you buy that? I don’t buy that.
  • Others interpret this as a made-up story to emphasize Jesus’ mission to all people, including Gentiles. If this were the first healing of a Gentile, that might make sense, but by the time we get to this point in Mark’s story, we’ve already seen evidence of Jesus’ mission to all people.

I don’t like how limited Jesus seems to be here. Our Jesus is expansive and inclusive, right?

I believe this passage, for good or ill, up to and including this insulting rejection, illustrates the intensity of Jesus’ focus. He is so clear in that moment of where he is going and what he is doing. She comes along and breaks his concentration. Anyone who has ever tried to interact with me on a Sunday morning just before worship about something that doesn’t have to do with Sunday morning knows that I sometimes get a little too focused.

When I lived in New York City I spent time in a parish that had made a remarkable comeback from the brink of death. This New York church had gone from average Sunday attendance of seventy or eighty to fifteen hundred. (They didn’t all go at once; there were four or five services on a Sunday.) The rector who presided over this amazing time of renewal was regularly asked: how did you do it? What’s your secret?

He described an ongoing sense of urgency and a singular focus: growth. Numerical growth, certainly, but also spiritual growth for everyone who came to that church. People would come to him with all sorts of ideas and he would ask: will it help us grow? I’m not going to talk about it unless it will help us grow. His singular focus made some people mad. But it worked.

The year I was a seminarian at that church, on Palm Sunday, the church did what several New York churches did: they hired professional actors for a very serious and realistic passion play. Before it started, the Rector got up and invited all the children to leave—at their parents’ discretion, of course—and go to children’s chapel.

The play was very realistic indeed. An actor who looked a lot like Willem Defoe was nailed to the cross, with realistic shrieks, blood, and agony. The play ended, the cross (complete with the actor Jesus) was carried out of the sanctuary, and the Rector proceeded to ascend the enormous pulpit. Just as he was about to start to preach, he noticed a little boy standing in the transept, shaking and crying. The rector came back down out of the pulpit, and knelt next to the little boy. After a few moments’ conversation, he invited one of the acolytes to get the actor who played Jesus to come out from where he was behind the scenes, finishing his latte. “Look,” said the Rector. “He’s an actor. He’s okay.” The little boy ran back to his mother, visibly relieved.

This spontaneous disruption of plans, attending to the unexpected needs of someone who is not one’s intended audience, got to me.

Once we get past the shock of Jesus calling the entire Syrophonecian community “dogs,” we are left with a theological problem: It’s one thing for you or I to change our minds, but how can Jesus “change” if he is divine? Yes, we say that Jesus is fully human and fully God. I think many of us rely more heavily on the “divine” aspect of Jesus’ identity than the human part. If he changes his mind about this woman, does that mean that he was wrong? That he made a mistake? Can Jesus make a mistake? Isn’t he immutable? I think this moment in the gospel story gives us a window onto the “fully human” side of Jesus that shows the complexity of what that means. “In other words,” as one commentator puts it, “the incarnation is not a cakewalk.”

Jesus’ incarnation—his fleshiness—means that he is ever evolving. Kind of like us. Eternally begotten of the Father; begotten, not made. Remember St. Irenaeus? St. Irenaeus left us a very useful definition of incarnation: God became human, that we might become divine. God became human, that we might become divine. Perhaps we might become so divine—so God-like, that we, too, are always expanding our mission, always ready to hear new ways to further God’s mission of reconciliation and healing. Perhaps we, too, might become divine enough to say the wrong thing and move on to the right thing as quickly as Jesus does.

When we read this story, we think, quite rightly, that it’s about Jesus—an important moment of Good News.

But what about the woman? What would it be like to be her? Think about it. If I were in her situation and Jesus said what he said to me, I think I’d just slink away, ashamed and embarrassed. I’d probably cry. But she doesn’t. She comes right back, gets right in God’s face and says: Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs. And her words make all the difference. This woman shows us the kind of relationship God wants with us. God wants us to be people who do not rely on their own strength, but instead put their trust in God’s mercy. If those words are familiar, it’s because they’re from this morning’s opening prayer. The Syrophonecian woman has so much trust in God’s mercy, she’s willing to take it in the form of leftover crumbs. She is our hero for the day.

I pray that we might become divine enough to change our minds and respond to those in need, even when they aren’t on our agenda. I also pray that we might become divine enough to step out with fierce courage and perseverance, and that in all of our doings we might be showered by God’s healing, reconciling grace.

Got ritual?

Holy God, graft in our hearts the love of your Name.  

Got ritual? Anyone who looks at our website, our t-shirts, or my email signature has seen this. We love ritual. Ritual R Us. We’re the Episcopal Church and we’re proud of our rituals, right?

It is possible worry too much about ritual. The heart of spiritual life at my seminary was the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, but many of us called it the Chapel of Holy Perfection. Those of us who volunteered to be sacristans—the seminary word for altar guild—learned just how important it was to set everything up perfectly before every service. I made a few fabulous mistakes in my day, mistakes which mortified me to tears at the time but which now make me laugh.

I heard a story about this closer to home. I hope no one on our altar guild calls our church the Chapel of Holy Perfection, but there are still a bunch of ritual details associated with setting things up for the service … a few weeks ago, when I was away and Julia Fritts was filling in, one of the relatively new altar guild members was setting up without her partner for the first time. She shared with Julia that she was a little nervous that she hadn’t gotten it right, and Julia responded: “My dear, Jesus doesn’t care.” Phew!

Today’s gospel is kind of a family argument, between people who love ritual, maybe a little too much, and Jesus and his disciples, who say that ritual has its time and its place. It’s too easy, when we hear this gospel, to dismiss the Pharisees as being backward and stuck on ritual practices. It’s helpful to remember where they’re coming from: the hundreds of dietary laws we read about in Leviticus—well, maybe we don’t read about them, but you know what I mean….these dietary laws and all the rituals around them are what made the Israelites “a people.” They believed that sticking to these ritual purity laws kept them healthy and kept them together. Later, after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, these purity laws had even more meaning for the Jews as a symbol of who they were and what they believed.

Jesus doesn’t want to throw out all of these laws, he just wants to point out that focusing too much on something like ritual hand-washing to the neglect of a different kind of purity—purity of heart, purity of purpose—can get in the way of the kingdom of God.

The question that has plagued theologians and everyday people of faith like us ever since the Reformation is “what must I do to be saved?” Darwin, and the Enlightenment that followed, rocked the world for people of faith in the same way that the destruction of the Jerusalem temple rocked the world of the Jews two thousand years before that. This religious turmoil gave rise to questions like: does religion work from the inside out or the outside in? Are we saved by what we do, or by what we feel in our hearts?

James, whose letter we’ll be hearing over the next few weeks, is often quoted as the big champion of the outside-in model: Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. Elsewhere, James says “faith without works is dead.” He gets a bad rap for this, because, again, it’s easy to dismiss him as some kind of New Testament Pharisee. But the whole letter of James is about our actions as the fruit of our faith that is planted in us, grafted in our hearts.

So, does this mean we are saved by our actions and not simply by our love of God? Luckily, we are both/and people rather than either/or people.

What must we do to be saved? What are some other ways that we ask this question? How do I find integrity and wholeness? How do I live in the world in such a way that my actions and my being bear witness to God’s love? How do I partner with God to fulfill God’s dream of a just world? To put it very simply, what would God have me do? To put it very extravagantly, what can I do to save the world? Either one of those questions has all sorts of implications depending on where you put the emphasis. What would God have me do? What would God have me do? What would God have me do? How do I save the world? How do I save the world? How do I save the world?

No matter how we understand these questions, the answer leads us through today’s gospel teaching. I love ritual as much as the next person—you know I do!!—but if I want to experience wholeness, integrity, a sense of that connection with God we all crave, some kind of confirmation from the Spirit that I’m being faithful, I have to pay more attention to what comes out of my mouth. I have to stop being short-tempered, over-scheduled, whiny, and impatient. I have to stop being judgmental, critical, and easily disappointed. (Not by anyone here. J) I have to stop getting my feelings hurt so easily. I have to stop the kind of false modesty tending toward self-deprecation that lots of us do when we’re actually longing for human affirmation of our gifts.  I have to stop hating the shadow side of my own God-given self. Am I the only one who struggles with these things?

Jesus is not trying to teach a new moral code here. He already has one to work from. It’s called the ten commandments. Jesu is teaching what he teaches throughout the Gospels: how to navigate human experience in a way that brings us closer, rather than farther from the Kingdom of God.

Today’s opening collect began with the prayer “Graft in our hearts the love of your name and increase in us true religion.” This is God’s work. God is the gardener, the farmer, the one who plants and the one who harvests. We are the ground God tills, the soil that gets fertilized with all the things that make good fertilizer.

Our faith works from the outside in and from the inside out. Like a good 12-step meeting, I hope what we do and say together here, our ritual practices, will carry you along on the days when you have no faith in your heart. And I know that God’s grace will be with you whether you are in church or not. (Why to be in church, in that case, will be the topic of another sermon, coming soon.)

God’s grace works from the outside in and the inside out. And then some. I believe God loves us and saves us no matter what we feel in our hearts and no matter what we do. Getting to heaven before we die—seeing the Kingdom of God, being a sign of the Kingdom to the world—is what happens when we take in all that love and grace. I pray that we may all have moments in each day when that love and grace shines forth from our lips and in our lives. And I pray that we will tell each other about it.