Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Report of the Nominating Committee

The Nominating Committee for the Annual Meeting - retiring members of the Bishop's Committee Erik Heiny, Jim Meador, Marci Miller - are putting forward the following names to serve as members of the Bishop's Committee: Louisa Heiny, Melody Oliphant, Steve Casazza, and Steve Nordstrom.
Note that Steve Nordstrom was elected mid-year by the Bishop's Committee to fill vacated by Kirk Hepburn, and he is eligible to be elected to a full term. The Nominating Committee is suggesting that Steve be elected to that seat, which is for two years.

The Annual Parish Meeting: A Celebration of Ministry, by the Rev. Peter J. Van Hook

Canon 35.1 Annual Meeting. There shall be an Annual Meeting of every Congregation on the date specified in the Congregation’s bylaws. Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah

Meetings of the Congregation
An annual meeting shall be held each year at a time and place designated by the Cleric-in-Charge and Bishop’s Committee. Notice of the meeting shall be published not less than two weeks prior to the meeting. The purpose of the meeting shall be to hear the report of the Bishop’s Committee; receive the report of the Treasurer and all organizations of the Congregation; elect members of the Bishop’s Committee, delegates and alternate delegates to the diocesan convention; and to conduct other business as required. Bylaws of St. Mary's Episcopal Church

          Whenever two or three Episcopalians are gathered together they are a prayer group. As soon as they agree to meet again they are an organization.

         “I’m sick and tired of organized religion!” “Then come to the Episcopal Church! We’re the most disorganized religion around!”

These two witticisms neatly encapsulate life in a small Episcopal congregation: The best part about it is the relationships; the problematic part is often the organizational responsibilities.

An interesting fact of life in voluntary organizations (the fancy name for community service organizations as well as churches) is that when they fail, upwards of half the cause can be related to a lack of attention to organizational concerns, to things like budgets and accounting, human resource management, care for physical plant, and governance.

No priest or deacon ever was ordained who did so in order to attend meetings. No parishioner ever joined a congregation looking forward to congregational meetings. The problem is stated by the first quip (ascribed to a previous Bishop of Colorado): We must attend to the organizational concerns of our congregations or all the rest of it soon begins to fall apart.

This year our Annual Meeting will not only include the usual elections, appointments, and reports, but it will also feature a celebration of the four areas of ministry of this congregation: our Sunday morning worship, our hosting of the support groups, that meet here, the Food & Care Coalition Ministry, and the Community Music Outreach Program. There will be special guests as well. And of course, good food and fellowship.

I invite you, indeed I urge you, to attend this Annual Meeting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Regarding the Primates Meeting

The following is a letter that Father Peter received and asked that it to be passed along to the blog and newsletter:
Dear Clergy and Staff,

I made the following post to my FB page and the Diocesan FB page.

You many share this with the people in your places of ministry and beyond. Also, please note that the Episcopal Church has not been kicked out of the Anglican Communion.

Below is what I posted:

By now, many of you have read or heard of the Anglican Communion Primates’ sanctions on the Episcopal Church because of the decisions concerning marriage equality made here in Utah at General Convention. I am saddened by the Primates’ decision, but not surprised. I want to emphasize it DOES NOT CHANGE US – IN WHO WE ARE IN UTAH or in the Episcopal Church for that matter.

We were inclusive about marriage equality before today. We still are.

We welcome all people whether they agree or disagree with the stance our Episcopal Church took in Utah last summer when we gathered together and listened for God’s guidance. Our unity is in Christ.

We believe all are created in the image of God. Our model for this is Jesus and His outstretched arms of love on the cross. This is the symbol of God’s self-sacrificing love for all people. We believe that in Christ we are a new creation and a new people inclusive for all people.

I know there are those among us who will be pained by this decision, especially our LGBT brothers and sisters. This is another case where they are compromised individually and collectively. I pray all know all are in my thoughts and prayers and all continue to be welcomed to receive the Grace of God in any of our congregations. Christ loves you as do I.

To read the report on the Primates Meeting follow (this link).



An excerpt from Bishop Hayashi's sermon from January 17, 2016

And lastly, a link to the Huffington Post article, "On Becoming Second Class Anglicans for Treating LGBT People as First Class Christians"

The authors of this blog welcome comments, reactions, and critiques.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Update from Our Seminarian, David Carlisle

Greetings to St. Mary’s from Tucson! I hope all of you have had a wonderful Christmas, and wish you all a happy and blessed New Year.

Since we left you all in August, things have been very hectic, and I think we are only now really starting to settle in.
Arum started right away with a full teaching load and a round of teaching and research and service projects;
I started part-time at the University, where I taught two classes and will teach two more in the Spring, but also took three classes from CDSP (Intro to the Old Testament; Christian History 1; Post-Modern Christian Education) and an independent study here at the University of Arizona (Biblical Hebrew 1).
Desmond and Wallace both started in daycare/preschool at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, but next year Desmond will start Kindergarten so we will move Wallace to somewhere much closer to our work (the JCC is a 15-20 minute drive each way!).

We also began attending the nearest Episcopal Church here (St. Michael’s and All Angels), which is decidedly more “High Church” than St. Mary’s, though they have a family service we usually go to that is pretty simple.

We definitely miss St. Mary’s though, not just the perfect blending of liturgical styles, but also the lovely family-like community you all offered us: we are still a long way off from feeling like we are “at home” at any other church, I think.

I have also begun attending the campus services offered by the University of Arizona Episcopal Campus Ministry, and led by the Chaplain Fr. Ben Garren, who, as it turns out, overlapped with me and Arum at UNC-Chapel Hill by a year or two. It is a small world, indeed!

After two terms of formal seminary, I think I can now safely say that I love it, although I will reduce my course load a bit next semester, since I found three courses and part-time teaching a little too much.

I am learning so much from all of my classes, though, that it is very difficult for me not to sign up for everything I can all at once! In my Christian Education class, the larger projects really helped me think more about, and become more confident about, my own leadership in a Christian context and community.

I was put in contact with some writings, and given many exercises to do, that have really helped me expand my thinking about Christianity generally, and more specifically about how we form and are formed for Christian discipleship.

In my Old Testament class, it was really wonderful to learn more about the historical context of and the scholarly approaches to the Hebrew Bible; I am finding more and more that when I read and reflect on the lessons for daily prayer or Sunday Eucharist, I am able to contextualize what I am reading in a much richer way.

My Church History class, though it overlapped more than the others with my pre-existing knowledge, also introduced some new ideas and interesting approaches to me, and I am excited to take the second half of Church History soon, since I know far less about Christianity after the Reformation (with the exception of the Anglican Communion, about which I have taken two classes now, at the Utah Ministry Formation Program and Church Divinity School of the Pacific).

My Hebrew class at the University of Arizona, finally, will pick up where we left off in January: we are most of the way through our introductory textbook, and will likely begin reading directly from a biblical text early next year; we had already begun to read unmodified selections from the book of Ruth with some grammatical and lexical assistance. My hope is that, by the time I leave seminary, my knowledge of Hebrew will be, if not as solid as my knowledge of Greek, at least good enough to be able to muddle my way through the Psalms in the original and to appreciate something of their poetry.

In January I will return to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific for another intensive. This one is only a week, and we earn 3 credits rather than 6, but the schedule is just as packed as it was in June: we are in class all morning for Pastoral Theology I, and then after lunch until late afternoon for an elective. I opted for “Life and Death in Biology and Theology,” which is part of CDSP’s Center for Theology and Natural Sciences initiative, because it sounded absolutely fascinating.

Those classes run from January 11-15, but the professional association for mine and Arum’s scholarly discipline (formerly the American Philological Association, but now the Society for Classical Studies) is having its annual conference in San Francisco this year from January 6-9, so our whole family will travel to the Bay Area for the conference and then I will remain behind for another week. We are all very excited for the trip, but I will be missing my first two days of teaching, so I have to be very careful to prepare as much as possible before hand so that I will not start next semester already behind.

When I return to Tucson mid-January, I will start my next round of online classes. As I mentioned earlier, I have decided to reduce my course load a bit, so I will only take two classes in the Spring: an exegetical Methods class on the synoptic Gospels, and Introduction to Worship. I don’t know much about either apart from their subjects, so I will refrain from saying more until my next letter.

We continue to hope that we will have a chance to see you all soon, but we also want to thank all of you for your continued support of us, whether financial, spiritual, or emotional, even as we are far off from Provo; when we think of you all and reflect on the blessing of your presence there in our old home town, and your prayers in what is still, in our hearts, our home church, we remember that we are doing all of this in community, with the support and love of our friends in Utah, and that helps us more than you can imagine.

Thank you, and blessings on you this Christmas season and New Year!
David (and Arum, Desmond, and Wallace)

David Carlisle is a member of St. Mary's Church who moved with his family to Tucson, Arizona, last spring. He is a aspirant for ordination from the Diocese of Utah, and is participating in the extension program from the Church Divinity School of the pacific in Berkeley, California.
The authors of this blog welcome comments, reactions, and critiques.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Challenge for the New Year: Reaching Out, by Steven Nordstrom - Food & Care Coalition Coordinator at St. Mary's Church

“Before Christianity was a rich and powerful religion, before it was associated with buildings, budgets, crusades, colonialism, or televangelism, it began as a revolutionary nonviolent movement promoting a new kind of aliveness on the margins of society.”
― Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation

The Gospel--the "Good News"--of the Jesus Movement was originally referred to as "the Way" by many first-century Christians (see Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 24:14,22). Jesus invited us into the Way modeled in his teachings and actions, and this path promises to push us out of our comfort zone, both for our own benefit, as well as for the benefit of the people and the world around us. It isn't just a call to confess our individual brokenness in a solitary path to personal salvation (although that's an important element). And it certainly isn't an exclusive club, with perks for "members only". It's a lifelong journey in which we can expect to be made aware of and challenged by our preconceptions, our preoccupations, our sensitivities, our secret shames, as well as the profound power of love and hope in making peace with or overcoming any personal or societal obstacle in our path.

Along the Way we meet many others, either moving alongside us, or else moving in their own paths. We come to recognize that that there is no solitary path on the way; the Way must be made with others. Some of the people me meet on the Way will become easy, natural friends and travel companions; others will be lovers and partners, bound to us with ties even stronger than death. Still others will surely annoy, scare, enrage, and disappoint us. We'll feel that many are certainly heading in the wrong direction--how could there be more than one Way? Aren't we all trying to get to the same destination? How could they be so blind?

Others we'll hardly notice, or only see if we are compelled to pay attention. They are so far out on the edge of the horizon, so far outside our own experience of life on the Way that we have trouble making out the details. They don't fit our paradigm of what we suppose life should be like that it becomes extremely uncomfortable for us to acknowledge them as fully as individuals with the same kinds of hopes, feelings, challenges, and sorrows that we have.

They might have different skin color or speak with an accent. They might wear different clothing, or adorn their bodies with different decorations. They might not have the same standard of hygiene we've learned to adhere to. They might not have all the right body parts, or they might have visible deformities or maladies that alarm or repulse others. They might be older or younger than the folks you are accustomed to spending your time with.

Look deeper than surface details and you'll likely find even more differences. They might have ideas or feelings that are foreign or challenging to you. They may identify and express gender and sexuality differently than you. They might have mental and spiritual ailments that prevent them from interpreting or interacting with people and the world around them in the normal, predictable ways. We react to them with fear, avoidance, distrust, disgust, and sometimes even hatred or violence.

When we enter the Way, we make promises to "seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself", to "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being" (BCP, 305). Beautiful words, worthy ideals. MUCH easier said than done. Our natural inclinations for self-preservation, and our many cognitive biases all get in the way when opportunities to see, to love, to commune with these "others" arise. We miss opportunities to build God's kingdom when we cannot, do not, or will not reach out to all people, including especially those on the margins. Time after time in the Gospels, we see Jesus going out of his way to eat with, heal, care for, teach, and even resurrect the poor, the sick, the weary, the rejected, the hated, the marginalized. We are invited to walk our Way in this same manner.

So here's a challenge for the New Year: let us resolve to resist the natural inclination to avoid the "other". Pay closer attention whenever you feel nervous about reaching out to get to know others around you. In all areas of our lives--at work, in your neighborhoods, at church, in our service with others--we all can remember times when we felt that discomfort, that shyness, that nervousness, that feeling of fear that prevented us from speaking up and reaching out a hand of introduction and care. After each occasion, we might have noticed also that empty feeling of regret or of opportunity not taken.

When those feelings arise, let's resolve to recognize them quickly, and make a determination to reach out instead of ceding to our fear of the unknown. I need help doing this just as much as anyone else; as an introvert, interactions with others don't come easy and take lots of conscious energy. Begin to look and pray for opportunities to practice seeing all people as fellow humans worthy of dignity and respect, and also as humans in need just like we are of having friends and fellow companions on the Way.

If this seems like it will be hard, start small and celebrate successes. Share your experience with your close family and friends. Meet someone new at fellowship hour after services on Sunday. Come to Food and Care Coalition, sit and eat with the guests, and engage in conversation with them. While it is important that we do things for others, especially when their basic needs are not being met, it is perhaps even more important that we do things with them. We become friends and partners with those around us. We erase the hierarchy of "have" and "have not", or of "me" and "other".

The Way will challenge us to move outside the narrow view of our own troubles and cares and into the broader vision of God's dream for humanity. This is the Jesus Movement, as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says. And movements require...movement! Let us make the road by walking in the Way, reaching out to all in welcome, friendship, and love.

Steven Nordstrom
Food & Care Coalition Coordinator at St. Mary's Church

The authors of this blog welcome comments, reactions, and critiques.