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,

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,

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+