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+

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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 worshipping 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+

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dear Friends,
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!!  The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!!
A Joyous and Happy Easter blessing to all of our friends and members.  As we celebrate the gift of Christ’s Resurrection and ponder its meaning, let us give thanks to God for the gift of life given to us through Christ and in Christ.

Have you ever thought about for what are you grateful, and to whom??  These are just two of the questions we have explored during our Lenten Season of Gratitude at St. David’s.  So often “thanks” are given in a generic, secular way…without connection to God as the giver of all things, great and small.  During Lent we have tried to make this connection stronger, thanks to our St. Paul Team and their work.  Deacon Hank has been making the fact that we give thanks to God plain to our youngest members in the weekly Children’s Talks on Sunday mornings.  Evan Heirholzer has been exploring the scriptural foundations of gratitude in the Sunday Adult Forums.  Evan and I led a discussion on “Gratitude Works”, a book by a secular author that most often speaks of gratitude in a religious context.  Abbi Clissold has been hosting a Facebook Gratitude party where folks have shared their thoughts and photos of people and things they are grateful for.  Carol Rodgers has scattered photos around the church depicting the weekly themes of Faith, Nature, Friends and Family, Important people and things that give us joy.  It has been a joy for me to see the photos on Facebook and at church and also hear stories of what our people are grateful for.

Easter Season is a wonderful culmination of this Season of Gratitude.  At Easter, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, God’s greatest gift to the world and humankind.  No longer are we to fear death, no longer does death have the final word.  Jesus has taken its power away and we are freed. Through his saving grace, we are set free to live lives of   gratitude and love, returning over and over again to his grace.  This is the ultimate gift and for it we give thanks to God.

Our Eucharist (thanksgiving) Service is entitled “The Great Thanksgiving” and during its celebration, we give thanks to God for the life of Jesus, for his death and resurrection and for God’s mercy and grace.  We can never say thank you enough, but each week, in our liturgy (the work of the people), we remember God’s gift and Jesus’ saving act.  And we gather at the Table to receive Christ back into our bodies and our hearts and to be reminded of his gift to us.  The Body of Christ, The Bread of Heaven.

I for one have been grateful to have had an opportunity to be reminded of all these things;  Of the need to give thanks to God each day;  Of my daily dependence on the work and mercy of others;  Of the blessing of being alive and able to enjoy the beauty of the earth.  For all of these things I give thanks to God and especially for the gift of my vocation and the ministry we share here at St. David’s.

“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything.  He who has learned this knows what it means to Live.  He has penetrated the whole mystery of life:  giving thanks for everything.”  Albert Schweitzer

Easter blessings, Karin+
Dear Friends,
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!!  The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!!
A Joyous and Happy Easter blessing to all of our friends and members.  As we celebrate the gift of Christ’s Resurrection and ponder its meaning, let us give thanks to God for the gift of life given to us through Christ and in Christ.

Have you ever thought about for what are you grateful, and to whom??  These are just two of the questions we have explored during our Lenten Season of Gratitude at St. David’s.  So often “thanks” are given in a generic, secular way…without connection to God as the giver of all things, great and small.  During Lent we have tried to make this connection stronger, thanks to our St. Paul Team and their work.  Deacon Hank has been making the fact that we give thanks to God plain to our youngest members in the weekly Children’s Talks on Sunday mornings.  Evan Heirholzer has been exploring the scriptural foundations of gratitude in the Sunday Adult Forums.  Evan and I led a discussion on “Gratitude Works”, a book by a secular author that most often speaks of gratitude in a religious context.  Abbi Clissold has been hosting a Facebook Gratitude party where folks have shared their thoughts and photos of people and things they are grateful for.  Carol Rodgers has scattered photos around the church depicting the weekly themes of Faith, Nature, Friends and Family, Important people and things that give us joy.  It has been a joy for me to see the photos on Facebook and at church and also hear stories of what our people are grateful for.

Easter Season is a wonderful culmination of this Season of Gratitude.  At Easter, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, God’s greatest gift to the world and humankind.  No longer are we to fear death, no longer does death have the final word.  Jesus has taken its power away and we are freed. Through his saving grace, we are set free to live lives of   gratitude and love, returning over and over again to his grace.  This is the ultimate gift and for it we give thanks to God.

Our Eucharist (thanksgiving) Service is entitled “The Great Thanksgiving” and during its celebration, we give thanks to God for the life of Jesus, for his death and resurrection and for God’s mercy and grace.  We can never say thank you enough, but each week, in our liturgy (the work of the people), we remember God’s gift and Jesus’ saving act.  And we gather at the Table to receive Christ back into our bodies and our hearts and to be reminded of his gift to us.  The Body of Christ, The Bread of Heaven.

I for one have been grateful to have had an opportunity to be reminded of all these things;  Of the need to give thanks to God each day;  Of my daily dependence on the work and mercy of others;  Of the blessing of being alive and able to enjoy the beauty of the earth.  For all of these things I give thanks to God and especially for the gift of my vocation and the ministry we share here at St. David’s.

“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything.  He who has learned this knows what it means to Live.  He has penetrated the whole mystery of life:  giving thanks for everything.”  Albert Schweitzer

Easter blessings, Karin+