Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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,
Karin+

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Consecration Sunday Is Coming!                          
Dear Friends,
This year our Stewardship Committee has decided to use a slightly different type of stewardship program.  We hope that it will be well received by our congregation.  This approach offers a biblical perspective on stewardship.

Congregations that approach financial stewardship from a biblical perspective do not view the money Christians give to their church merely as a way to pay its bills.  Rather, such congregations see financial contributions as a way to help people grow spiritually in their relationship with God by supporting their church’s mission and ministry with a percentage of their incomes.

Our congregation’s stewardship committee and vestry has selected the New Consecration Sunday Stewardship Program as a way to teach the biblical and  spiritual principles of generous giving in our stewardship education emphasis this year.

New Consecration Sunday is based on the biblical philosophy of the need of the giver to give for his or her own spiritual development, rather than on the need of the church to receive. Instead of treating people like members of a social club who should pay dues, we will treat people like followers of Jesus Christ who want to give unselfishly as an act of discipleship. New Consecration Sunday encourages people toward proportionate and systematic giving in response to the question, “What percentage of my income is God calling me to give?”

During morning worship on Consecration Sunday, November 13, we are asking our attendees and members to make their financial commitments to our church’s  missionary, benevolent, and educational ministries in this community and around the world.

Every attendee and member who completes an Estimate of Giving Card will do so voluntarily by attending morning worship on Consecration Sunday. We especially urge people to attend who feel strongly opposed to completing a card. The  procedure will be done in such a way that no one will feel personal embarrassment if he or she chooses not to fill out an Estimate of Giving card. During morning worship our guest leader will conduct a brief period of instruction and inspiration, climaxed by members making their commitments as a confidential act of worship.  Online giving will still be available for those who prefer to make their pledge in this way.

Over the next few weeks we will encourage participation in Consecration Sunday events through our Consecration Sunday team and vestry members.

Your team will make every effort to inform, inspire, and commit everyone to attend our Consecration Sunday worship on November 13, which will be followed up with a Celebration Brunch after the 10 am service.

Thanks in advance for your enthusiastic participation in Consecration Sunday events.

Blessings,  Karin+

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dear Friends,
As Fall sneaks up on us, and hopefully some cooler weather, our thoughts often turn more inward.  A collect I love reads as follows:
                “Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are       passing away, to hold fast   to  those that shall endure…”
This sums it up for me.  As we look around and the natural world begins to dry up and fade, birds begin to flock and migrate and mums start to show up in our neighbors’ yards, we can get a bit anxious.  And certainly this year, amid the presidential race and its politics, terrorist attacks here in New York and New Jersey, shootings by and of police, the refugee crisis in Europe and continuing war in the Middle East, it is even more so.
Psalm 137:4 says “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (NIV) or as “The Message” interprets the phrase, “Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?”   This stanza from the Psalms comes to my mind so often as we try to  understand our own lives and our world. 
It comes to my mind when a faithful person shares their struggles with me and wonders how they can ever feel joy in the face of the turmoil in their lives and in the world.  It can sometimes feel that we are being overwhelmed by the news of the world, the news in our families, and the questions in our hearts and minds.  It can be hard to know how to be            happy in the face of “all that is going on right now”. 
The Hebrew people struggled with this as they had been carried away to Babylon and wondered how, in the face of their trauma and displacement, they could still be faithful to their God.  They figured out a way-and that is what we are called to do also.  I would like to say that the “joy” we feel as Christians is not dependent on present circumstances and is very different than “happiness”.  Joy is the acknowledgment of God’s love and care even and especially in the face of hard times. Joy is the deep sense that whatever comes your way, Jesus is with you and will walk by your side.  Joy is what the abiding presence of  Jesus brings to our lives.  The next phone call or news cast can’t change that; and the tenor or outcome of the presidential election can’t change that, either.
This is the knowledge that can lead us to joy in the midst of anxiety, fear and confusion.   This is the gift that we are given in Jesus Christ, with us, here and now, active in our world, here and now.  We may not understand the how or the why—but don’t doubt the truth of God’s love.  Joy can be  found in the presence of the Lord, here and now.
John 14:27 (NIV): Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Blessings, Karin+

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dear Friends,
I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well and enjoying the last bit of  summer.  It has been a hot one for sure! I have enjoyed being at the Jersey shore and am now happy to be back in Cranbury thinking about the coming program year with all of you.
This month I have begun a new spiritual practice and outreach into the community.  Time will tell how it works out, but I wanted to share it with you.  It is called “Free Prayer”….a title coined by Pastor Thomas Rusert of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Doylestown, PA.   Their church began this ministry last year.
So…what is “Free Prayer”—isn’t prayer always free?? Of course, but this signifies the “no strings attached” aspect of this ministry.  As practitioners of this ministry, we are there to listen first, to pray and to show God’s love.  It isn’t meant to coerce anyone into a particular way of thinking or believing about God, but to provide an intentional, prayerful, listening experience for those in need.  I am trusting that God will do the rest!  Of course, information about St. David’s will be available!
Why do this?? In the United States, there are many people who identity as “spiritual but not religious”.  How to reach these folks and show them that God loves them and wants to be present to them even when they don’t come to a church is something church-folk have been thinking about for quite a while.  This is one way to reach out beyond the walls of our church community and building and show that God is out in the marketplace, the coffee shop, the park, the world—just as Jesus did. 
When is this happening?? At this point, I have made a commitment to sit over at Teddy’s in Cranbury for an hour twice a month on Wednesday mornings                  (10:30-11:30).  I will wait and see how the Holy Spirit leads this endeavor before thinking much further than that.  But so far it has been a great experience.  I truly believe that witnessing to the reality of a loving God who is interested in ALL people’s lives no matter where they find themselves or who they are, and showing that we as a church are also interested in serving those people, is of great importance. 
Our diocese has started a podcast called “Optimism is Cool Again” and if you go to the Diocese of NJ website or Google the title you can find it.  I am part of the round table of clergy that are interviewed, and The Rev. Carol Anderson is also featured.  She mentions in one of her talks that if a leader wants to change the culture of their community, that leader has to show that he or she is willing to change also.  This is one of my attempts to lead the way for all of us out into the world, discovering where God is already working, showing God’s love for all and participating in God’s mission to our community.  Please pray for me as I continue to pray for all of you.
Blessings, Karin+

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Dear Friends,
In early June, I attended my second eFormation Learning Community Conference at  Virginia Theological Seminary.  The main focus of the conference is providing clergy and lay leaders with the tools they need to communicate and educate Christians in the new  electronic environment.  Our St. Paul Team has begun work in this realm, through its Christian Formation website, Facebook discussions and Instagram for the church.  (@st.davids_cranbury)
I don’t believe that electronic communication will ever, or should ever, completely  replace in-person community.  That being said, I do believe it is a tool that can be used to enhance the community we already have and are building up.  I love having daytime and evening discussion and prayer groups—but by their very nature, they limit the participation of many who either cannot drive at night, work during the day or have childcare responsibilities in the evening.  Having information and learning/gathering opportunities that don’t require getting in a car and driving to Cranbury can enhance all of your journeys of discipleship.  This can also be an evangelism tool that can be shared with friends and  family.  Many folks outside of our parish accessed the information on our Lenten Gratitude website.
Our diocese has partnered with an organization called ChurchNext, which is an online   learning environment.  It is headed by The Rev. Chris Yaw, the rector of an Episcopal church outside of Detroit.  St. David’s has signed up and we will soon have an online school of our own.  There are many ways to use this to enhance our Christian Formation program. We can take a class as a group either in person or on our own and then gather and discuss it. Our vestry will be “road-testing” this over the summer as they take an online class and gather in August to discuss together!  Thanks to a donation from one of our members, our church will soon be equipped with a flat screen “Smart TV” which will allow us to connect to our ChurchNext school here at church and also show Utube videos and movies through the internet.  I am excited that we will be entering into this new age of formation together!
In person outreach into our community is also very important, and a great idea was shared at the conference.   It is called “Free Prayer” and is similar to “Ashes to Go”.  The idea is for a clergy person to head out to a local coffee shop and set out a sign that invites people to ask for prayer.   Imagine that!  Well…I am going to try it.  Starting in August, I will be  spending an hour or two each week in a local Coffee Shop, probably Teddy’s in Cranbury, to begin with, and making myself available for prayer.  I will post on Facebook when I am there, so please stop by and say hello!  Taking the church into the public square is essential for our mission and purpose: “Welcoming all in the loving Spirit of Christ, through faith, worship, nurture and community”.
Blessings to each of you for a wonderful summer,
Karin +

Monday, June 6, 2016

Dear Friends,
What makes a church a Church?  First, I would say, the presence of God and the Holy Spirit and the presence of an altar at which we break bread and share in the Eucharist with our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Next on my list would be the Beloved Community.  And that is all of you, and me!  A  community of disciples seeking to share in the love of God together and with each other; a community of disciples who spread the Good News that God loves all people and shares that love with those with whom they come into contact each day. Empowered by the Holy Spirit at  Pentecost, the church has grown since the day of its birth.
Other than the hospital, the church is the only place where we come into contact and community with others with whom we have nothing in common, except the fact that we are Christian.  It is a place where we do not choose our neighbors, but are called to love them nonetheless.  That is sometimes a tall order.  At the Last Supper, Jesus left his disciples with a new commandment:
                            “Let me give you a new command:  Love one another.                                                                                                                   In the same way I loved you, you love One another.                                                                                                                This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—                                                                                                             when they see the love you have for each other.”                                                                                                        John 13 v. 34-35 (The Message)
The world will know that we are followers of Jesus by the love we show each other.  Ironically, it is sometimes harder to show love and forgiveness to our fellow church member than it is to someone who lives down the street and we don’t really know.  It is true that being church is hard, and I think that Jesus knew that that would be the case! And so he left us with these words.  We can argue, and we do, we can disagree, and we do, we can get frustrated, for sure; but in the end we are called back by love and by these words of Jesus.  This type of loving forgiveness and compassion  is often in short supply in our world and is a gift we can give each other.
I love this church and I love each of you.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t get frustrated or  irritated; after all, I AM human!  But it does mean that I am called back from those moments by love and by community.  The up-building of the Beloved Community of the people of God is an important part of each of our callings as baptized persons.
I am so grateful to each of you for the part you play here at St. David’s and for the opportunity to minister beside you as we seek to share the love of God with each other and with our world.
God’s blessing,
Karin+
Dear friends,
Our “new” bishop, William (Chip) Stokes, is all about Christian Formation.  It was his passion at St. Paul’s in Delray Beach, Florida, where he was rector before coming here, and it is his passion as our bishop. Hence he has planned a Bishop’s Spring  Conference each year that focuses on Christian Formation.  He emphasizes that this is    lifelong learning—not just Sunday School— and formation “happens whenever and   wherever the people of God live into their vocation”.  And so I was grateful to attend the 2nd Annual Bishop’s Spring Conference last weekend with others from St. David’s.  It was a great day.
One of the thinkers about Christian Formation that we heard about is Maria Harris.  She believes that the church itself is an educator, teaching to and through various forms to shape us into the people God has made and is making us to be.  Certainly, our corporate prayers shape us into the people we are.  The Book of Common Prayer is a great teacher and “praying shapes believing” as we live out our prayers in our lives and in our various vocations. 
Harris talks of five curricula that together comprise the vocation of the people of God.  First is Koinonia (community) and speaks of the community that gathers us together.  When we are together, we learn from each other and with each other.  Second is Leiturgia, the act of prayer.  When we pray together, and alone, we are formed and strengthened.  Third is Didache, teaching, which includes discussion, preaching, learning, any activity that engages us in conversation and thought about our lives as Christians and where God might be leading us.  Fourth is Kerygma, proclamation, the message of scripture and our sharing it with others. Finally, Diakonia, loving service, caring and gathering, empowering and   advocating, our service to others is grounded in our gratitude to God. 
When we think of formation in this all-encompassing way, we can see that it is indeed  life-long and includes all of our life together as a worshiping and serving community.  Whenever we meet to discuss and plan, we are learning from each other and putting our faith into action.  When we go out and serve others in God’s name, we are modeling God’s love and extending that love outside of our walls.  When we teach and are taught, we are sharing our stories of God’s presence in our lives and the lives of others.  When we speak of our faith to others, we are teaching about God’s love in a profound way.
Whether you are serving at the altar as an acolyte, ushering, singing in the choir, teaching  or serving at the food pantry, you are a part of the formation of God’s people.  We model this each time we get up on Sunday morning and show up at church, each time we extend our hand to help, each time we tell someone about the way God is working in our lives, each time we pray.  Christian formation doesn’t begin or end at the Church School door.  It is a life-long endeavor which enriches our lives and the lives of all whom we meet.  I am so grateful to be sharing this life-long journey with each of you!
Easter blessings, Karin+