Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dear Friends,
“God is not a boy’ s name”
Have you seen this bumper sticker?? It is on the bulletin board in our narthex near the water fountain.  What in the world does it mean and where did it come from?  You ask…Well…I am so happy you did!
Last year when I was at The General Convention 2015 as an alternate deputy, I visited most all of the booths set up in the gallery from various organizations from around the church.  And I brought LOTS of materials home.  Some of them made their way onto our bulletin boards…some from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, some from the Church in Jerusalem, and this one from the Episcopal Women’s Caucus.  I have been a             member of the EWC for many years and was happy to visit these dedicated women at their booth.
So…what does that phrase mean?  It means that God does not have to be a “he”.  God is not a boy’s name and God is not a girl’s name.  God is God. Period.  In my preaching, I try my best not to attach a pronoun to God.  ”God” usually works just as well as “he” or “she”.  It may seem obvious to some, or silly to others, but detaching the male gender from God makes a lot of sense to me.  It may seem natural to you to use the pronoun “he” for God, but to others it may be a stumbling block, conjuring up images of that bearded old man in the sky who reigns down damnation and judgment.  To others, it may remind them of an abusive father or older male in their lives, thereby getting in the way of their feeling the abundant love that God is. 
There are times in our liturgy that many, including me, substitute the word God for he.  In the opening sentence the Officiant says : “Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” and the response is “And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever”.  It is easy to substitute ‘God’ for ‘his’ in the response and say: “and blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever”.   In the Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts) at the beginning of the  Eucharistic Prayer the Celebrant says: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” and the response is:  “It is right to give him thanks and praise”.  The response can be changed to: “It is right to give God thanks and praise”.  Neither of these changes affects the meaning of our words, but they can help to remind ourselves that God is neither male nor female. 
As our prayer and spiritual practices remind us that God is indeed greater than male or female, our words can support this knowing as well.  I hope that you will try these changes to the words of the Book of Common Prayer and see if they expand your mind and heart and full experience of God in worship.
We will start printing these words for you in our bulletins in December…let me know if you find it helpful to your spiritual growth and discipleship.
Wishing you a Blessed Advent,

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Dear Friends,
“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves,                       
When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
“Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess            
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;        
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity.
“Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,                            
To venture on wilder seas where storms will show your mastery;  
Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.”
           - The prayer of Sir Francis Drake, adventurer (1577)
This prayer, attributed to Sir Francis Drake, is found in the book, Joining Jesus on his Mission, How to be an Everyday Missionary by Greg Finke. It is a book that our vestry has read and discussed and one of the books on mission and discipleship that I read while on sabbatical leave.  The prayer spoke to me, as I believe that too often we become ‘pleased with ourselves’ and complacent, that we ‘dream too little’ and ‘sail too close to the shore’.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are a people sent into the world to proclaim the love, mercy and justice of God as we have found it in Jesus Christ.  That can be risky business, but it is our call.  
Greg Finke brings this idea local and begins small.  He asks us to explore what it means to be “neighborly” to those people with whom we interact at home, at work, and in our communities, extending ourselves to find out about them, be curious about their lives and responsive to what we believe God might be calling us to offer them.  Finke asks “What would be good news to these people?  What aspect of the gospel would bring some healing to their wounds and restoration to their lives?”  We don’t have to have all the answers, but it helps to be asking the questions, to be aware that God is working in the world to set things right for each human being we               encounter.  Jesus does the hard work.  We are only asked to “enjoy people; and seek, recognize and respond to what Jesus is already doing in the lives of the people we are enjoying”. 
Hmmm….that doesn’t sound too hard, does it??  If this idea intrigues you and you would like to know more about joining God’s mission right here and right now, please speak with me.  I would love to start a small group to begin to explore how we can join in with Jesus in this simple but profound way.
It’s good to be back, and I look forward to seeing you all in church and out and about very soon!
Blessings, Karin+

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+