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June 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

My Struggle or Our Struggle?

So here’s what I’ve been wrestling with a bit personally and talking some about with the Vestry. Besides the normal responsibilities of being your rector, do I have a larger role to play in embracing the Spirit’s power to breathe life into and through the Church? For example, a common buzzword among church leadership is “entrepreneurial,” meaning being innovative and creative with being the Church in the 21st century, especially since we are in the midst of a seismic cultural shift that we don’t know how to respond to (often termed “post-Christendom,” or life after the Church as it has been known in its modern institutional form). The flip-side of that is trying (with marginal success) to maintain the status quo - basically just trying to offer palliative care to an ailing church.


I know that I am called to be a parish priest - not a chaplain or CEO or some other adjunct ministry. But I’ve been wondering if I am making a big enough impact, not only on the parish, but in our larger Church, and how that intersects with my calling - if being a parish priest is enough and why I sometimes feel it is not, but maybe should be.


At the same time, I have been pulled more and more lately into feeling the need to be more visible and vocal about issues of social justice. It’s not that I don’t do that at all; I do, in sermons and forums and other areas. But my struggle is finding and walking the line between being a prophetic voice (and calling the Church - not just me - to be a prophetic voice), but being cognizant that I represent St. Paul’s and we have a broad spectrum of social and political perspectives here, so wanting to be true to the Church’s calling while not introducing division and dissention within the church, especially when that line is both fine and fluid.


So what do you think? - entrepreneurial vs palliative care, impact vs enough, prophetic voice vs division. My struggle or our struggle?

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May 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

Here's Your Word for the Day: Ruach

Take a deep breath.  Here is your word for the day: ruach.  Say it to yourself out loud: ruach (pron. roo-ahk).  It’s a Hebrew (original Old Testament language) word meaning wind, breath, or spirit - the word that was used at the very beginning of Genesis when the ruach of God moved over the waters and God breathed creation into existence.  The Greek (original New Testament language) word is pneuma (from whence we get our word pneumatic, denoting air pressure), as we see when Jesus, in his post-resurrection appearances, breathes the Holy Spirit (the ruach) upon the disciples so that they would be empowered by that Spirit to successfully carry on with his ministry.

May 20 is Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, a major feast day in the Church when we hear the story noted above and hear the gospel read in different languages (based on one of the other readings for that day).  I have been praying constantly for the Spirit, the ruach, of God to blow through St. Paul’s, among its leadership and its people.  I’m sure you’re getting a bit tired of hearing me go on about the declining participation in the Church - not just St. Paul’s or the Episcopal Church, but the Church in general, but the fact is, that is the reality we are struggling with.  As Bishop Jennifer noted when she was here on Palm Sunday, this is our biggest challenge, and yet, as she noted previously, we have everything we need here at St. Paul’s.  We do worship well; we offer formation opportunities of depth; we do very well with pastoral care and outreach and stewardship of our various resources.  We do good work and should continue, but the reality of the Church not being the center of the universe anymore is straining our ability to proclaim the good news of God in Christ.

We really have only one option, assuming we would like for there to be an Episcopal presence in Columbus for the foreseeable future.  That option is for every single member of St. Paul’s, every person baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, to be touched by the ruach of God - to have Jesus breath the Holy Spirit into you - so that you are empowered by that Spirit to carry on with Jesus’ ministry.  It can’t just be me and it can’t just be the Vestry and me.  It takes every one of us.  So take a deep breath, invite the ruach of God to blow through you and the whole Church, and celebrate Pentecost with a renewed spirit.

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April 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

As we celebrate the Resurrection this month, we’re trying something new!

As we celebrate the Resurrection this month, we’re trying something new!  On Sunday, April 29, we will have one service that day (a fifth Sunday in the month) in a “Rite III” format.  Rite III, you ask?  I know we do Rite I at 8:00 and Rite II at 10:15, but I’ve never heard of Rite III.  What’s that?  Technically, there is no such thing as Rite III, but it is the reference we use when we use An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist on pp. 400-01 in the Book of Common Prayer.  This Order (or “Rite III”) follows the general outline and structure of the regular familiar services and includes the same content, but, except for the words of consecration, it is far less prescriptive of exactly what that content should be (for example, the words we use to begin worship or for Prayers of the People or the breaking of bread) and may include a broader spectrum of those assisting in Eucharistic preparation, including children.  It could utilize material from others within the broader Anglican tradition, for example, from Hispanic or African Provinces or the New Zealand Prayer Book.  Music will also be more expansive that our usual Hymnal 1982 or even Wonder, Love and Praise, for example, spirituals from Lift Every Voice and Sing or from other cultures.

Up until General Convention 2015, this order (or “Rite III”) was “not intended for use the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of Holy Eucharist,” (BCP p. 400).  However, a resolution at that year’s General Convention removed that restriction, allowing a much greater degree of flexibility within the conduct of the service that may better suit the circumstances or ethos of a particular congregation while still maintaining the integrity of the service itself.  As we continue to grapple with realities and explore ways of being the Episcopal Church in the 21st century, we will see how this is experienced by those in attendance and, if well-received, will likely continue the practice whenever a fifth Sunday occurs (usually four times throughout the year).

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March 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

Holiness: not just for a short season, not just a week, but the entirety of our Christian life.

Last month I wished you a joyful penitential Lenten season.  (Check February’s Venite for an explanation if that seems antithetical.)  I hope that is still the case coming through March - a joyful preparation of letting go of all the stuff that gets in the way of being joyful in the celebration of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord.  This month blesses us with the most holy time of our Christian year - Holy Week, the entire point of having a Lenten period of preparation.  There is a lot of information on p.  about what each day of Holy Week commemorates, from the institution of the Eucharist and foot washing to the crucifixion to waiting at the empty tomb to the resurrection itself - an entire week of a heightened sense of the holiness of what we do as Christian people.

The word “holy” has its origins in the words/ideas of wholeness or uninjured, preserved intact, even health, happiness and good luck, which gives rise to the connotation of sacredness.  Committing our lives to the Christian way is a sacred endeavor, a holy journey that we prepare for, not just for a short season, not just a week, but for the entirety of our Christian life.  Here’s to your continued joyful penitential Lenten season as we all prepare ourselves for a life of holiness.

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February 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

I Pray You a Joyful Penitential Season

I came across an article last fall, as the author was coming into Advent, about making ready for a joyful penitential season.  Advent used to be nearly as penitential as Lent and for the same reason.  That is, it is not penitential from the standpoint of whipping yourself with a cat o’ nine tails, but from the standpoint of properly preparing yourself for the season following: Christmas in the case of Advent, Easter in the case of Lent.  Did you catch the way the aforementioned author termed the readiness preparations - using “joyful” and “penitential” in the same sentence?  Makes a lot of sense to me!  How about Lent not necessarily being about giving something up or taking something on, but about what it is supposed to be about, which is preparation - basically, to make ready - and doing it joyfully?  For example, if what gets in the way of a joyful celebration of Easter is knowing that you have a tendency to be judgmental, well then what better time than Lent (which literally translates as “springtime,” by the way - a time for new life) to do some real soul-work and learn how to be more accepting - of other peoples’ differences or just the circumstances of life?  Seems to me that it would be a real joy to let a burden like that go.  Plug in whatever you’d like; the principle is the same (although I will make my annual plea for adult to do something a bit more substantive than giving up chocolate or tv or whatever).  Regardless, as we head into Lent on Ash Wednesday on February 14, I hope this gives you a little food for thought about making ready for Easter and I pray you a joyful penitential season.

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