Saturday, December 2, 2017

Dear Friends,
This is the time of year when we are wishing each other a Happy Thanksgiving, gearing up for Christmas and TRYING our best to focus on Advent.  Not a small feat, by any means.
This year Advent begins in December, which feels better than the last Sunday of November, or Thanksgiving weekend.  We will begin our celebration of Advent on December 3rd with an Advent Wreath Making activity during Coffee Hour and a St. Nicholas Party later in the day.  The people of St. David’s will be off to a great start.  Also, please check out our new Advent Christian Formation website! www.stdavidsformation.org.
How can one stay centered during Advent??  In her books, Brene Brown  recommends that stress and anxiety can be countered by focusing on gratitude.  When we become stressed, or even fearful, we can consider the gift that we may be overlooking.  Too many Christmas gifts to figure out?? Say a prayer of thanks that you have a life full of people you love.  Too many people coming to dinner?? Once again, a prayer of thanksgiving for family and friends can help.  Worried about your family member who is traveling for the holidays?? Be grateful that you have someone you love so much that you worry about them.  You get the idea.
When we experience stress over the holidays, it is often because we have taken too much on.  An overabundance of good things to celebrate with too many people can be exhausting!
We can also experience stress because of loss and grief; the person we love is no longer there to join in celebrations of family and love with us.  Take time to thank God for the part this person played in your life and for the love you shared.  Grief is a life-long task that we can only “get through”, not “go around”.  Holidays are   particularly challenging when we are grieving.
Unfortunately, Christmas and New Year’s seem to bring many of these stress points to the fore.  Observing Advent as a season of preparation can really help us to stay centered and focused on  the gift of Christmas, not the stress of Christmas.  Can you spend 5 or 10 minutes in the morning before your day begins, sitting with God, spending time with Jesus, giving thanks for God’s presence and love?  I promise you, this can help  you maintain your composure in the face of the                  calendar and daunting holiday preparations.  This is not the time to neglect, our spiritual lives;, Advent’s emphasis on preparation and quiet can literally save us.  Reading the Bible (or a spiritual book) for a few minutes, or keeping a gratitude journal are all ways of fueling our spiritual centers, keeping our “oil lamps filled”. 
Please let me know how you will keep your Advent this year; I pray that each of us finds time to thank God for all the blessings of our lives and our life  together at St. David’s.
God’s blessings, Karin+

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dear Friends,
This year our Stewardship Committee has decided to follow the Consecration Sunday stewardship program once again. We have listened to your comments following last year’s effort and have adjusted as necessary for this coming year.  I thank our committee, and new chairperson, Tena Achen, for their work on this important aspect of our life  together as a parish.  We are happy to announce that The Rev. David Snyder, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Mt. Holly, will be our guest leader this year.

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, once again, selected the New Consecration Sunday Stewardship Program as a way to teach the biblical and spiritual principles of generous giving in our stewardship education this year.

This program 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 our 8 & 10 am  Eucharists on Consecration Sunday, November 19, 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, November 19. 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 both the 8 & 10 am services, our guest leader will offer a brief period of instruction and inspirational homily, after which our members may make their commitments as a confidential act of worship.  Online pledging will still be available for those who prefer to make their pledge in this way or cannot attend that Sunday.

Over the next few weeks we will encourage participation in Consecration Sunday events through our Consecration Sunday team and vestry members.  Our team will make every effort to inform, inspire, and commit each of us to attend our Consecration Sunday Eucharist on November 19, which will be followed up with a Celebration Luncheon after the 10 am service.  Please look for your invitation and RSVP card in the mail soon.

Thanks in advance for your enthusiastic participation in this year’s Consecration Sunday events.  Your commitment to St. David’s and always generous response to our yearly stewardship program is greatly appreciated. 

God’s blessings, Karin+

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,
Karin+

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,
Karin+