Monday, June 30, 2014

All Are Welcome | Notes from Peter's Sermon

"Whosoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whosoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
At the center of the christian experience is this idea of being ready to receive anyone at anytime as if you were receiving Jesus himself. In fact, three out of the five affirmations here at St. Mary's have to do with creating a welcoming sanctuary full of acceptance and care. You might recognize that this is a very high standard for community, but it's a standard that has been an important pillar of both the monastic and lay life of Christians.

One of the fist Christians to put heavy emphasis on being welcoming was St. Benedict of Nursia. He is considered by many to be the founder of ascetic life in the Christian tradition. His community lived by strict observance to what is commonly called the Benedictine Rule. Chapter 53 of the rule emphasized that guests are meant to be welcomed with gracious hospitality and be treated and protected while under the monastery's care. In other words, anyone in need who comes to the door of a Benedictine establishment must be received. In some ways Benedict's rule is the philosophical foundation for hospitals and emergency rooms.

We live in a community where we are use to being a minority, in fact, In Utah county congregations like ours make up only 1% of the population. Because of this we know what its like to be excluded, discouraged, discriminated against, and ignored. Here in Utah, Episcopalians don't set the rules. We live in a majority culture as a small small minority. This experience helps us to know what it's like to be forgotten and in need of community, and because we know what it's like we must be the ones who reach out with welcoming and hospital arms.

In conclusion we should consider one last story. When the savior was gathering in disciples he was surrounded by those whom he referred to as his " little ones." Literally he used the Greek word micron. This word denotes more than smallness, it also gives the connotation of insignificance. There are some members of our community who we might consider "small" and "insignificant" from a social perspective. These are the ones that we must welcome into the Church—The marginalized, the rejected, and the discouraged.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Relax | Notes from Peter's Sermon

Philipp Melanchthon was a friend of Martin Luther's and would eventually go on to take an important role in the religious reformations of the 16th Century. Phillip was also deeply conservative in his views, almost puritanical. After many years of trying to live perfectly Phillip wrote to Martin Luther in an almost discouraged tone. Luther replied to that letter, "God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong...Shall we sin the more that grace may abound?"

Of all the things Luther taught, either privately or publicly, the sentiment "Be a sinner, and sin strong" is perhaps the most troubling. Sidestepping the validity of this teaching, there is something else valuable to learn from his remarks, namely that Christ came for the sinners not the saints. Without sin, there cannot be grace, and without grace there cannot be salvation. This is not to say that we should "abound" in sin, but rather that we should RELAX, and not stress about it so much. We don't have to be perfect, there is only one who was. So...Relax in Christ, rest in his care, and remember your inadequacies are not relevant to your salvation.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday | Notes from Peter's Serom

In the early 20th century there lived a young priest named William Temple. Like many people in the world, William had doubts regarding his christian faith, specifically in respect to the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. As a young priest William began to feel insicure teaching it and despaired that he had no choice but to leave the priesthood behind. However, William made the important decision to continue questioning his faith, rather than leave it behind. Many people in the world believe that doubt is the opposite of faith. However, this is not so. The opposite of faith is despair. Like Williams, each of us will struggle with various doctrinal questions, but we need not suffer in the process.

One of the most hotly contested doctrines throughout history has been that of the Trinity. The trinity first became prominent in Christian thought early in the 100's AD. While the trinity is still considered a great mystery of the Church, it's important to note that the doctrine as we understand it today was not formalized until the Council of Nicaea in the 4th Century. Even then the creed seemed to have been an uncomfortable compromise for it's authors, who had doubts themselves.

One of the beautiful things about our faith is our chance to question the answers, doubt the wonders, and ponder the mysteries. In fact, it is the duty of a Christian to doubt—because doubt is part of faith. Through continuous appeal and examination we develop a richer understanding of God and his creation. Through doubt we develop confidence, which coincidentally in the latin means "with faith." When we put our confidence in the Lord we endure with him, and he endures with us. So our prayer is this: that we may doubt with confidence, that we may abide with the Lord and in his care.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deseret News: Musical Exchange

Musical exchange allows for 'sharing of gifts' between Mormons, other faiths

Published: Tuesday, May 20 2014 6:51 a.m. MDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 20 2014 6:51 a.m. MDT

More Photo's available Here
PROVO — An Episcopal congregation in Utah County is reaching out to its neighbors at BYU and in the community through music.
The congregation of fewer than 100 at St. Mary's Episcopal Church helps the county's homeless through the Food and Care Coalition, and to those addicted by opening its doors for 12-step meetings. However, the Rev. Peter J. Van Hook realized that creating a venue for musicians would be an additional "win-win" service opportunity for his and other congregations.
In medieval England, churches with red doors indicated that they were sanctuaries for criminals. The red door outside St. Mary's, 50 W. 200 North in Provo, indicates that the church is a safe place for all, including aspiring musicians, Father Van Hook said.
He and St. Mary's full-time organist Ruth Eldredge reached out to former and current students at Brigham Young University to let them perform or practice at the church, regardless of their major or profession.
"I think music is one of the most practical ways possible to reach out to the community and to connect with the community," said Eldredge, a member of the LDS Church.
In August, Father Van Hook visited BYU organ professor Don Cook and asked if St. Mary's could host beginning organ students. This was the first time in more than 20 years as a professor that a leader of a non-LDS congregation had approached Cook for the opportunity, rather than the other way around, he said.
Two of the college's 16 students accepted in the fall, although neither were organ performance majors. Natalie Durham, a piano performance major, said the experience was one she would repeat.
"The role of organist in the meeting was certainly one of being a leader. There wasn't a conductor at all, so it was all up to me as the organist to lead. The congregation actually followed my phrasings! That was really exciting," Durham said in an email. "Everyone was extremely surprised to hear that it was my first time ever playing organ for a congregation. Several individuals told me they hoped I would come back again."
This partnership may seem unusual given that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make up 98 percent of the county's religious adherents,according to City-Data. Catholic members make up 1.1 percent of those who are affiliated with a religious congregation in Utah County, with the remaining 0.9 percent of the religious belonging to those of other faiths.
The high density of members of the LDS faith is precisely why there is a need to reach out to other congregations to get professional experience. With three full-time and two part-time professional organist positions in the LDS Church, most organ performance majors at BYU assume they will spend their careers playing for another congregation.
This was the case for Andrew Unsworth early in his career.
He played the organ at Catholic and Lutheran churches while growing up in upstate New York and majored in organ performance at BYU. While earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees, he played for Baptist, Lutheran and Catholic churches and was the BYU organ scholar at the Cathedral of the Madeleine for two years.
“It really opened my eyes to all the good that those churches do in the community,” he said.
After completing graduate work, he returned to the Cathedral of the Madeleine as a full-time organist for five years. He came to appreciate the commitment and passion of other religions and the time and love they put into their worship music.
"The idea to make something beautiful and to offer it to God, that's something that I really admire and respect," Unsworth said.
He credits his current position as Tabernacle organist for the LDS Church to the practical experience he gained while playing for other churches.
“I don’t think I’d have my job on Temple Square if I hadn’t been a cathedral organist,” he said. “Ultimately it’s been a positive experience for me in which I have grown spiritually and musically.”
Student organists are just the tip of the iceberg for BYU performers at St. Mary's. Eldredge has roots at BYU, where she completed her undergraduate degree and taught for eight years. Now she spends part of her time scouting out current or former BYU students who are willing to sing or play for St. Mary's church. Sometimes these positions are paid and other times students are volunteers. So far, violists, oboists, vocalists, cellists and those who play the French horn have assisted in liturgies.
A six-person interfaith choir just wrapped up six weeks of performing at St. Mary's. Logan Bradford was among those who performed.
Rehearsals and singing at the service were held right before Bradford's LDS sacrament meeting, which he said was an ideal way for him to prepare to worship. He said he was impressed by how welcoming the leaders and members of the congregation are.
"We more or less kind of became temporary members of their congregation. They grew to love us and we grew to love them," he said.
In addition to giving musicians a way to gain experience and earn a little money, the performances provide an interfaith experience that Eldredge says is vital for coming together as a community.
"You don't have to look very far to see (that) not every spire in Utah County is an LDS Church spire," she said.
For Eldredge, the musical exchange provides an opportunity for understanding other religions in the community. "This isn't an us (vs.) them. This is an us."
In addition to bringing in worship music, Father Van Hook hopes to attract aspiring musicians for recitals and performances. St. Mary's became one of few venues for musical performance after the destruction of the Provo Tabernacle and its subsequent conversion into an LDS temple. He admits he is not a musician, but said he has been told that the acoustics in the chapel are ideal for performances.
“It’s a sharing a gifts, not a matter of belief,” Father Van Hook said.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rediscovering a Flattened Earth | Notes from Peter's Sermon

In Acts 1 there is a line of scripture that most of the time goes unnoticed. It reads: "The Apostles all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." Throughout Luke's writings there isn't often a time when something important happens without the author mentioning the presence and importance of women. However within a hundred and fifty years the patriachal culture of the Roman Empire would subsume the early Church and women would be relegated to objects instead of equals.

The Lord is unchanging, he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. However, the Church continues to evolve, grow, and blossom. The bible contains the core of Christian teachings, all things necessary to salvation. However, this does not mean that our understanding of the Bible is fixed. God leads the Church today as he has through all generations and speaks his will through the people. While many christian churches disagree, the Episcopal Church has heard that call and has ordained women since the 1970's.

Our mission as a church is to rediscover that the world is flat. Not geographically, but in the Lord's eyes we are all equal. Men, women, and children. Blacks, hispanics, and Whites. Priest, Deacons, and congregants. Gays, Lesbians, and Straights. In God's eyes we are all his children and the playing field is flat. In recent decades the church has begun to address these inequalities. We've blessed same-sex marriage, we've ordained women, and we've fought against the evils of racism and income inequality.

The Lord expects his body and church to stand for justice, to aid and care for those who can't protect themselves, and to speak out against inequality and unfairness. Perhaps not since the time of the fall of Rome has the middle class become so eroded, and the gap between the rich and the poor so wide. Those who don't read their history are doomed to repeat it. We believe in being responsible stewards of our land, nation, economy, and neighbor. We proclaim that the world, at least in the eyes of God, is flat; and all his children deserve an equal opportunity for success and happiness in this world.

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