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+

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+

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dear Friends,
As we here at St. David’s are observing a Lenten “Season of Gratitude”, I would like to begin by giving thanks to God for each of you.  It is an honor and a delight to be a partner in ministry with you here at St. David’s, as we seek together to spread the Good News of the Gospel to our world.  Our world and the communities we live in are in need of that Good News, the news that God loves us and cares very deeply about our world.  As we approach Holy Week and Easter we are reminded of the depth of that love.


The Brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist write:  “Gratitude is so important that the fundamental action of Christian worship is the Eucharist, an act of gratitude that literally means “great thanksgiving.” “Let us give thanks to the Lord,” the celebrant invites us. And we respond, “It is right to give God thanks and praise.”  Gratitude is a great gift, which we are made to receive and offer back to God. And to do that, we need to practice!”


Our St. Paul Team has done a great job of resourcing us with practical ways to “practice” gratitude. Their website, which can be accessed through www.stdavidscranbury.com (click on the purple Christian Formation Lent button), has many articles and ideas on how to practice giving thanks and cultivating gratitude in our lives. There are ideas for families and adults, two Bible Study series, and a section on “Grati-tools” which have very practical ways of practicing gratitude.  Our Lenten Soup Supper group is reading the book “Gratitude Works!” and discussing ways to live a grateful life.  And I hope you received your Gratitude Journal here at church.  Listing 5 or 10 things or people you are grateful for each day can change the way you view the world.  In addition, a closed Facebook group holds a weekly discussion  online on Wednesday evenings.

What makes this a Christian Spiritual Practice is that we are intentionally giving thanks to God and Jesus for all that we have.  Life is a great gift.  The very fact that we are here, right now, is a gift from God.  All that we have is a gracious gift from God.  The more we notice the good things around us, the more we will see that there is much to be grateful for.  It is said that what we focus on becomes our reality, when we focus on the blessings of our lives, rather than only the challenges, we begin to recognize just how privileged we are.  It takes time and practice, but over time we can change our bias and our brains will begin to see the world differently.  Time and patience will win out!


“If the only prayer you ever say in life is “thank you”, it will be enough”.                     
      Meister Eckhardt

Lenten blessings,
Karin+

Monday, January 18, 2016

On November 1, 2015, I celebrated my 10 year anniversary as Rector of St. David’s.  Thank you to our vestry and hospitality committee for the celebration they planned and hosted.  The Capital Campaign Committee shared their wrap-up celebration and we all enjoyed a nice brunch after church that day.  It has been a very fruitful 10 years both for me and, I believe, for our church.  We have each grown in many ways…and I thank God for the opportunity and privilege of being your rector.  We continue to have fun together and challenge each other—so I look forward to more years together in ministry and service to Christ. This year I was honored to attend the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah as an alternate deputy from our diocese.  What an amazing opportunity.
We have just completed 6 years of Capital Campaign contributions.  Wow! I thank all of you for your faithfulness and commitment to St. David’s.  Without our new wing, our ministries would not have blossomed and thrived over the past 4 years in quite the same way.  That being said, we are carrying a whopping $57,000 per year mortgage payment.  I am so pleased to say that in 2015 we were able to make our mortgage payments out of operating budget funds with no need for Capital Campaign/Building Fund monies.  It is my hope that that will continue to be the case.  I urge you all to make use of the “Mortgage Reduction” envelopes in your giving envelope boxes, as this money will go directly to mortgage principal pay-off.  Each dollar given today will shorten the duration of our mortgage payments and help secure the financial future of our church.  I truly believe it to be imperative that we invest in the future of St. David’s by being good stewards of the present.  I hope you will agree and continue to make donations to the Building Fund as you are able.  Thank you to Amy Mansue, Charles Fischer and David Levy for their chairing of our two “Building on our Vision forTomorrow” Campaigns.

This year’s big new initiative has been The St. Paul Project, which our church has participated in through the Diocese of New Jersey’s Congregational Development Committee.  In a partnership with Vibrant Faith Ministries, this program has been developed to support our church members in their Christian Formation and also to extend that formation out into the community.  Our St. Paul Team is made up of Carol Rodgers, Christopher Achen, Abbi Clissold, Catherine Katona, Ed Miller, David Miller, Angela Levy, Deacon Hank and your rector.  We have an energetic, dedicated group working on our first project, which will be Lent 2016.  The committee has attended four different workshop programs led by John Roberto of Vibrant Faith and has had monthly conference calls with our consultant from that organization, Dawn Schwartz.  It has been a growing experience for each of us as we extend our programming into the “cyber world” and work to strengthen our Christian formation opportunities.  I appreciate each of these folks and their dedication to this project.  Come on out to the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper on February 9 to see what #stdavidsrocks is all about! 

This year, we invited Canon Connie White to share her “Enriching our Prayer Life” retreat with us.  After a snow-out in February (how many times did that happen last winter??!!), we rescheduled and held the retreat in November.  Our labyrinth was open for the afternoon and many folks took advantage of the opportunity to experience this form of prayer and walking meditation.  We will be scheduling quarterly labyrinth walks throughout 2016.  We also welcomed 21 new members to our church, began offering Bereavement Groups this year (thanks to Clara Douglas and Brother John Baptist), held a Recovery Sunday worship service, revived Father G. Graham’s Passion Play, donated $7500 to ERD’s 75th Anniversary campaign and strengthened our outreach initiatives in the communities we serve. 
This January we will say goodbye to Janet Boyle and Steven Dodson who are retiring from vestry.  Janet has been a wonderful two-term vestry member, as liaison to outreach and liturgy, chair of our nominating committee, and helping out with Cranbury Day.  Janet’s commitment to St. David’s is appreciated and she has been a great voice on vestry.  Steven Dodson has served one term on vestry as Finance chair, as well as liaison to our Welcome Committee.  Steven has brought a new perspective to the vestry table, always reasoned and insightful.  He has led the Finance Committee through the past three years of the strengthening of our finances.  Both of these individuals will be missed.  Thank you to Deanna Emerson, who, having completed one year of an unexpired term, will return for a full three-year term.  Deanna has been a wonderful and creative fundraising chairperson.  Thankfully, Carol Rodgers has agreed to a second term as Senior Warden—Carol has been an excellent warden and I have relied on her wisdom and guidance throughout the past two years.  Carol is truly a mature Christian servant and she and Patricia Kraft, our Junior Warden, have been great partners in ministry. 

Thanks always go out to our staff; Parish Administrator, Judy Henningsen, who handles the day to day comings and goings of all those who use our building—and that is no small feat! Judy is so organized and responsible that there is rarely a last-minute rush or uproar in the office, a situation which I greatly appreciate.  Our Minister of Music, Dr. Brian Katona, has a great sense of providing music which enhances our worship and spiritual experience without overpowering them.  He has brought our volunteer choir to great heights and they contribute so much to our church. Thank you!  Tim Doutt has brought a level of professionalism and commitment to our finances and building maintenance that is hard to find in a part-time employee.  As treasurer, Tim keeps our bills paid and books up to date.  As sexton, Tim keeps our building in good shape and supports the ministries of our church.  I am indebted to him for this work.  This parish has the good fortune to have a deacon, Hank Bristol.  Hank is an important part of our ministry here, working with outreach, leading classes and participating in Sunday worship; I am always grateful for his presence and am pleased to have him as a partner in ministry.  Brother John Baptist is also an important part of who we are, extending our pastoral care reach into the community through his work inside and outside of our congregation.  The Rev. Dr. Jacob David continues as our Priest Associate.  Father Jacob is an insightful teacher and preacher, and I am grateful for his ministry at St. David’s and also for his friendship and support.  We have a great group of committed folks here at St. David’s—please thank them when you see them!

In 2015, I had the privilege of baptizing 7 children, of presenting 7 individuals for confirmation/reception/reaffirmation to Bishop George Councell,  and of officiating at two marriages of young people who had grown up at St. David’s.  I am always gratified when sons and daughters of this parish return for these sacred occasions in their lives and those of their families. 

2016 is here!  It promises to be another great year for our church.  Our 50th Anniversary isn’t far off…2018 will be a big year of gratitude and celebration for us.  A committee to plan our 50th anniversary will be formed this year—would you like to be a part of it?

Yours in Christ,                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Karin R. Mitchell+

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dear Friends,

T his note comes with my deepest wishes and prayers for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year for you and for those whom you love. Advent seems to fly by each year, and I appreciate more and more the small moments of peace and tranquility I am able to find throughout the month of December. Now
Christmas is almost upon us and we must be ready to greet our Lord!

This season our Women’s Discussion Group, AKA Lunch & Learn, has been reading Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Boy, our timing couldn’t be better! This comes at a time when our country is being roiled by a debate about the place of our Muslim brothers and sisters in our common life together. It is a discussion that has deeply disturbed many in the Christian community.

Armstrong’s premise for the “Charter for Compassion” is the Golden Rule. She points out that nearly all the major world religions have some variation on what we know as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or as Jesus would say “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Armstrong points out that if we learn to treat others as we would like them to treat us, the world will be a more peaceful place.

Compassion begins when we empathize with others, refrain from judging them and as St. Paul said, “consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first, but everybody thinks of other people’s interests first” (Philippians 2:2-4). Compassion is a true test of spirituality. How can we bring compassion to our public discourse? How can we bring our Baptismal Promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” into our world and our own lives?

We can begin by consciously adopting the positive and the negative versions of the Golden Rule: not only treating others as we would like to be treated, but also by not treating others as we would like not to be treated. By putting this into practice in our own lives, we can change our worlds. We can model compassion and live in ways that do not depend on demeaning others in order to prop up our own egos or
assuage our fears. This is the way that Christ has called us to live as his disciples.

We CAN be the change we want to see in the world. It begins here, with each of us. The attempt to become a compassionate person is a lifelong project, one that we can embark on together and support each other’s efforts.

As we greet the Christ Child this Christmas, let us each make a pledge and a promise to respect the dignity of each person we encounter and extend Christ’s compassion to all.

Christmas blessings,

Karin+