Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dear Friends,
This summer, wouldn’t it be great to take the time to:
   • Exhale                                                                                                              
   • Close our eyes                                                                                                
   • and Smile (deeply).
None, absolutely none, of the above concepts are encouraged, dare I say allowed, in our present day culture. We are called to be on the run, fully engaged, and aware of all that’s happening – anywhere in the world, at any moment. It has become a common expectation that a phone call or text will be responded to in a matter of seconds. To say that we have moved beyond the invention of the fax machine is a simplistic understatement.
But hey, it’s summer! Aren’t things supposed to change? Can’t we slow down a bit? At Saint David’s, we go down to only one service. A few years ago, I asked a former rector of mine about the drop in attendance during the summer months and he explained, “…our   parishioners are away at their summer homes, or just skipping church so you think they have a summer home!”
For us, perhaps our summer can be different this year. We may not be able to go away, but still, can we unplug – not just from our daily logistics and technology, but from the world of our creation? Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book An Altar in the World, refers to the spiritual practice of saying no. In the nature of a Sabbath, Taylor talks about the lost Christian tradition of taking a day to say no to our daily commitments and routines, and focus on God; or rather to allow God to focus on us. Over time, she points out, we have lost our Sundays to sports, television, and more recently, our jobs. Each of us, I am sure, can point to  something in our lives that we have acquiesced to invade our supposed day off. We have lost the time to rest our muscles, let the dust settle from our chores, and allow the veritable ringing in our ears to subside.
Sometimes, like us, I think that God hadn’t any idea of the wonder of Creation until it was done and He stepped back, rested, and considered it. In a moment of creative revelation, he truly saw everything, and blessed it – the first blessing. My question this summer is: how can we bless those in our lives, our jobs, church and careers, if we, too, do not take the time to pause and step back? For it is in the perspective of disengagement that we can truly see all that is good, all that we need to forgive, and the many ways we need forgiveness from God.
May this summer, for you, be such a blessing that allows you to and eventually re-engage, as we each strive to once again:
 • Take a deep breath,                                                                                       
 • Open your eyes,                                                                                            
 • and Smile (knowingly),
                                                                                                               The Reverend Hank Bristol, Dcn.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dear Friends,
Well, it is here!  The sabbatical that has been so long in the planning is about to begin.  As I think and pray about it, there are a few thoughts I would like to leave you with.
First, I would like to say thank you.  I am so grateful to our wardens and vestry and to all of you for your generosity and support.  I am honored and blessed to be your rector, and greatly appreciate your willingness to grant me some time away from the parish.  This would not be possible without the leadership and generosity of The Rev. Dr. Jacob David, the faithfulness of Deacon Hank Bristol and the commitment of Judy Henningsen.  Just having returned from his own sabbatical in India, Father Jacob will be covering our worship services and providing pastoral support for our parish.  Deacon Hank will be present to guide and support our parish family.  Judy Henningsen, as always, is the brains of the operation, and will keep all running smoothly.  Our wardens, Carol Rodgers and Pat Kraft, will also be at the ready to offer leadership and support as needed.  All shall be well.
I am looking forward to a few things; reading and studying, gardening, traveling and spending time with family and at the beach.  Not too long a list! First reading and  studying—I will be reading books on discipleship and mission, and would like to suggest that you do too!  The book Joining Jesus on his Mission:  How to be an  Everyday Missionary by Greg Finke is one I have already shared with some of you.  The vestry will have copies, so please either order yourself one or ask a vestry  member to share theirs.  I hope you will enjoy it and that we can discuss it together when I return.  Canon Droste has provided me with a syllabus of titles, so I will have plenty to work with.  More study—I am taking a week long Continuing Education course called Appreciative Leadership.  I am looking forward to sharpening my  leadership skills and studying this important aspect of ministry.  Gardening—I look forward to digging and praying in my back yard and enjoying the warmer weather.  Traveling—Dave and I will be heading to VA and NY for friends and family celebrations and then to Alaska to find some whales and bears.  Family and beach—I will then head to the shore for some grandbaby and extended family time and will fit in a few good novels.   I am so looking forward to all aspects of this time to pray and think and study and just be.
I trust that you will have a healthy and happy early summer and that upon my return in August will have some good stories to share.  Life here at St. David’s will go on—you are such a strong and committed group of Christians!  I will miss you and the gift of my ministry with you; but I know that I will return renewed by the Spirit in love and commitment for all of you and our church.
Easter blessings,Karin+

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dear friends,
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
These are the opening words of our Easter celebrations.  At the Great Vigil of Easter, after the new light is kindled and the story of salvation told, new water is blessed and these words ring out—the candles on the altar are lit and the Gloria is sung.  On Easter morning, our worship service begins with these   joyful words.
What do they mean to you??  Another Easter come and gone, good music, lots of flowers, too much chocolate and maybe an Easter Egg hunt?? Or do they speak of new life and possibility?  The resurrection is all about hope for me—that God has the final word and isn’t done with us or our world yet.
In a time when conflict abounds and our country is polarized in so many ways, it is easy to begin to feel hopeless.  In our personal lives also, when it seems like each day brings worse news, it can begin to feel like hope is fleeting.  Easter reminds us that hope is often found in struggle.
Certainly, those last days for Jesus were full of hardship, struggle and  disappointment.  His disciples even more so as they came face to face with their own inability to maintain their commitment to Jesus at his death.  But that struggle produced hope—hope that death is not the final word and that God’s word will prevail.  That hope was hard won and is available to each of us.
When we struggle and survive, we develop a sense of possibility, a store of memory that tells us new life is not only possible, but that it comes to us out of our struggles.  Hope develops when we experience pain and suffering and yet we still live, even thrive in the face of it.  Hope is what keeps us afloat.
The Resurrection story is one of hope and new life.  My prayer for each of us this Easter Season is that we are made aware of new possibilities, new life through our lives in Christ, and that we never lose hope and our faith that God’s kingdom will prevail.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen.  The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Easter blessings,

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Dear Friends,
If  you were in church on Ash Wednesday, you heard me talking about (as per Pope Francis) taking on a Lenten Fast from “indifference towards others”.  I think we in the church are often guilty of being so self-absorbed about ourselves and “our” mission that we forget that that mission is necessarily all about other human beings and the love of God!
It is important to me to be available and open to conversation with others while I am in the church building, so if you have stopped by the office, you have probably heard me calling out—“Who’s that?” and coming out to chat for a minute.  I also like to be out and about in the hallways to greet those who are coming to our church for recovery meetings, yoga, scouts and Jazzercise, as well as our own members.  I believe this is an important part of God’s mission for the church-one of hospitality and welcome.  This year I have extended this to our community through “Free Prayer” sessions at Teddy’s in Cranbury and Theology on Tap at The Americana Diner in East Windsor. 
Believe it or not, being “available” for conversation is a big part of being a disciple in today’s world.  In my homily on Ash Wednesday, I suggested having “curious conversations” with the people in your life, work, community and your church.  During these conversations, wonder to yourself what God might be doing in their lives.  As Christians, we believe that Jesus is active and involved in the life of every human being.  Creating, Redeeming, Blessing…everyone.  That is the work of Jesus.  We don’t need to worry about that…but we can help Him on HIS mission to reconcile the world to God.  Small conversations can be a big step.  Conversations in which we show genuine caring and interest in another person’s life can be life-changing for all involved.  Wonder what God might be up to and then ask yourself the question “How can I help?”  Practice on your family members!
This takes the pressure off the word “evangelism”, something we often struggle with.  If we truly believe that Jesus is already active in the world, that it is not up to us to “save” anyone…we can be free to create life-giving relationships without an agenda.  Isn’t that a relief??  No agenda is necessary other than genuine interest and caring.  Ask Jesus to help you to see how you can help Him on His mission and you will be surprised by what happens.
Are you intrigued by this idea? Is God calling you to investigate what discipleship can mean in your life and our church? Please speak to me about becoming a part of our new St. Paul discipleship team.  I promise it will be life-giving for YOU as you deepen your faith and trust in God and join Him on His mission in our world.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Dear Friends,
Do you stop in at Coffee Hour after worship on Sundays?  Believe it or not, Coffee Hour is an important part of the fabric of our Christian community.  Carol and Ed Miller and our rotating Sunday hosts and hostesses work very hard to make it a time of refreshment and nourishment.  I am so grateful for their ministry!
It is also an important time of connection.  This is where relationships form and we get a chance to “find out” about each other.  Coming and going on Sundays for worship only is understandable, and sometimes necessary, but it is hard to find your place in a church community without taking the time to know and be known by others.  
I know that this is hard for many people.  I know that the introverts among us would rather not enter a space filled with other people, many of them that they do not know.  But, I ask you to give it a try….to enter that space and have a “3 Minute Conversation”.  That’s all…just 3 minutes with someone new to you. 
What can that achieve?  Well, many of us come to Coffee Hour and immediately sit down with our friends and those with whom we have church “business” to take care of.  That is fine, and encouraged…but leaves many on the “outside” looking in.  If we all do our best to have one “3 Minute Conversation” with someone we don’t know after church, we will strengthen our community by building relationships within. I encourage you to take the risk and give it a try.
What can I say in 3 minutes?   Well, first, introduce yourself.  Then, ask a question:  “Have you been coming to St. David’s for very long?”  “Where do you live?”  “Where were you brought up?”  “How did you find this church?”  “What brings you to St. David’s?”  “What do you enjoy doing?”….you get it.  Easy, soft-ball questions.  And then be curious and ask a follow up question or two.  Perhaps this could be your “Lenten Discipline”.
You will be surprised by what you will learn and how this simple practice will increase the bonds within our community as well as creating a more welcoming space for newcomers.  Connecting with newcomers helps them answer these questions:  Where do I fit in?  Can I make friends in this church?  Is there room for me relationally?  Does this church need, me?  Can I find a place to belong, and serve?  Am I safe here?
When we reach out with genuine interest to those who are new to St. David’s, we let them know that this is a place where they are welcome and a place where their spiritual needs as well as their need for belonging will be honored.
Each of us is an ambassador for this church—on Sundays and all week long.  I hope you will take that ministry seriously and reach out, connect and find out about not only your fellow church members but also visitors to our church.
Blessings,                                                                                                                           Karin+

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Rector’s Letter from the 2016 Annual Report                                  
Dear Friends,
St. David’s continued to grow in strength and vitality in 2016.  It is such a gift to minister alongside so many dedicated Christians!  We could not accomplish all that we do here without the sustained efforts of so very many.  I appreciate all you do for our church in many ways, large and small.  In 2016 we added 20 new members and our Average Sunday Attendance increased by 3!
This year we have strengthened our Outreach Program through our renewed commitment to Rise and the Wednesday evening (now twice a month) food program along with our other Rise partnerships.  We look forward to participating in a meaningful way in the new Millstone Area Habitat for Humanity building project in Hightstown in 2017.  Thanks to John Patterson and the new Outreach Committee for their hard work this year.  Significant funds were raised, and matching funds obtained from our Diocesan Global Initiatives Grant program, for earthquake relief in Ecuador and hurricane relief in Haiti.  Our congregation always rallies to respond to emergencies at home and abroad.
Our St. Paul team did some great work this year and continued its commitment to the diocesan program led by Canon Rob Droste.  Many workshops were attended, at which electronic  evangelism, Christian Formation and growing disciples were focused on.  My thanks go to  Carol Rodgers, Deacon Hank Bristol, David Miller, Ed Miller, Angela Levy, Christopher Achen, Catherine Katona and Abbi Clissold for their commitment to Christian formation and discipleship.  We began our work with a Lenten Season of Gratitude, making sure that every aspect of parish life was included in this theme.  A new Lenten Christian Formation website was created around the theme of Gratitude and the kick-off was held on Shrove Tuesday.  Inter-generational activities were planned and all were included.  It was a wonderful effort.  The team then regrouped, studied their work and in the fall held a St. Nicholas Day party to which the whole community was invited; gingerbread houses, a visit from St. Nick, and gold coins along with a movie room and dinner made for a wonderful evening.  The work of this committee led to changes and efforts in other areas of parish life such as the Duck family  planning and hosting 2 Movie Nights with great success,  my starting to offer Free Prayer sessions at Teddy’s in Cranbury this past fall and also “Theology on Tap” for young adults with Evan  Hierholzer.
David Thomsson, our Stewardship Chairperson, took on a new challenge this year and formed a committee to bring New Consecration Sunday to our church.  It was a great success, increasing the number and size of pledges for 2017.  Thanks to all for your faithfulness! A great new part of this program was our celebration luncheon hosted by Kathy & Ron Herzog.
Our Welcome/Evangelism Committee also stepped up their efforts this year.  They attended a Diocesan workshop entitled “Invite, Welcome, Connect” and used the knowledge they gained to order and distribute reusable grocery bags at Cranbury Day and the Hightstown Harvest Fair.  This created a great opportunity to talk with local people about our church.  A New  Member Dinner was held in September to welcome all those who had joined St. David’s over the past few years.  
This year we have continued to grow our Christian Formation offerings through the leadership of Father Jacob David and  Seminarian Evan Hierholzer.  They, along with David Miller and Deacon Hank Bristol have offered a very strong program at 9 am on Sunday mornings, at which attendance has grown.  Deacon Hank has continued offering Book Study/Covenant Groups twice a year which are always very well attended and well received.  Evan Hierholzer and I led a Lenten Soup Supper series on Gratitude. Our Women’s Lunch & Learn program has flourished.  Thanks to Kim Duck and Bob McKay for providing solid programs for the youth of our parish.
Thanks to David Miller, we have begun offering more labyrinth walks this year.  A Labyrinth Guild will be formed in 2017 to support this important work with the goal of quarterly walks.  Please let me know if you would be a part of this important community outreach effort.
This year we had the pleasure of welcoming an Aspirant from the diocesan Committee on the Priesthood for his formation year.    David Gooding came to us from St. Elizabeth’s in Elizabeth and added to our congregational life this year.  David shared his musical gifts with us, as well as his preaching talents and worked with our fledgling Men’s Fellowship group.  I enjoy mentoring those in the “process” and was grateful to be a part of David’s journey.  He will be missed here at St. David’s and we wish him well.
I am honored to work with Carol Rodgers, our Senior Warden and Patricia Kraft, our Junior Warden.  These dedicated women give so much time and talent to our church community and are wonderful partners in ministry for me.  Corinne Peters will be leaving our  vestry this year, having served 9 of the past 10 years! That is commitment.  Corinne has led our Finance Committee and served as liaison to our Welcoming Committee and has done so with grace and dedication.  Thank you, Corinne!  We are blessed with a wonderful vestry, a group of disciples who work very hard for our church and who  take their own spiritual growth seriously.
I began this letter by saying how much we accomplish here with the help of so many….I would be remiss not to include our staff in that statement.  Judy Henningsen has been with our church for almost 9 years and I couldn’t imagine our office without her.  Judy is a welcoming presence to outsiders and a source of support and help to our parishioners and vestry (and to me!).  Please thank her for her dedication to our church.  Tim Doutt has been a mainstay in our office as a volunteer for many years, and now, over the past few years, has been a paid staff member wearing two hats, Treasurer and Sexton.  If you ask him, he will tell you that he enjoys his work as sexton very much, treasurer—well, maybe not VERY much! But Tim does an extraordinary job of keeping our financial house in order and I thank him for his dedication to St. David’s.  Dr. Brian Katona, our Minister of Music, has been with us for almost 5 years.  He has brought our choir to new levels of excellence, brings us guest musicians and encourages our members to share their gifts with the congregation on a regular basis.  Many thanks go to Brian for his musical gifts and leadership.  Evan Hierholzer has rejoined our staff this year as Seminary Intern and his gifts have made a great addition to our Christian Formation and J2A programs.  Evan will surely be missed when he graduates from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2017.   Father Jacob David, Deacon Hank Bristol and Brother John Baptist round out our staff, as they volunteer their time here at St. David’s and enrich us with their ministry and wisdom.  I am indebted to each of them for their support and the partnerships we share here at St. David’s.  Being a solo parish priest can be a lonely occupation; these good people support me in a way that I can never adequately thank them for.  It is a great blessing to minister with each of them.
I have been honored to be a part of the discernment process towards ordained ministry for two people this year; Carol Rodgers (diaconate) and Evan Hierholzer (priesthood).  This year we have formed a Parish Committee on the Priesthood for Evan and will form a Parish Committee on the Diaconate for Carol in 2017.  This is a special time for our church, being a part of discerning God’s call to these two gifted individuals.  Please keep them in your prayers.
Deanna Emerson has agreed to chair our 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee.  The committee will spend this year planning and we will all spend 2018 celebrating the gift of St. David’s and its rich history to each of us and to our community.  This is indeed an exciting time to be a part of this church!
I pray God’s blessing on each of you with thanks for your support and for sharing this journey with me.
Yours in Christ,                              K                                                                                                                                                            
Karin R. Mitchell+ K 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Dear Friends,
This letter comes with prayers and blessings for a Happy and Healthy New Year for you and for those you love.  On New Year’s Day, we will celebrate the Feast Day of the Holy Name of Jesus.  This is a                  celebration of the day that Jesus was circumcised and received his name.  The name “Jesus” comes from Joshua, the Hebrew word for “savior” or “deliverer”.  It is a good opportunity for us to remind                   ourselves, at the beginning of 2017, who our savior and deliverer is and where our hope lies.  In the name of Jesus, we find our strength and our salvation, for He is Emmanuel, “God is with Us”.  May God continue to be with  each of us and our country during this year of transition and may we always fix our eyes on Jesus, our hope, and constant source of  redemption, strength and love.

The Prayer of St. Francis de Sales 
Be at Peace
Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;
rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are,
will deliver you from out of them.
He has kept you hitherto,
and He will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will bury you in his arms. 
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you then and everyday.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

Christmas blessings,