|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on April 7, 2021 at 9:05 AM|
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Eastertide is here and we rejoice for the season! What a wonderful, renewed feeling that always comes across my mind during this time of year. From the flowers blooming to the vibrant colors of the grass and trees, we begin to see things all around us that are flourishing. If you have ever looked through polarized sunglass lenses, everything just seems brighter and more inviting. That is the way our world seems to look now as we look at the beginning of a resurrection of our lives. With Covid vaccinations, a return to school next week and beginning to worship in person again, our lives seem to be coming alive again or resurrecting.
This was excitedly witnessed as we began to see happy, smiling faces coming back to church on Easter Sunday for our first ever Easter Trail. Little girls and boys dressed in their Easter best outfits coming to visit us at every stop on the trail. Parents were giddy to see their kids filled with excitement and many said to me they were so happy just to see people and that they had missed church. Our hearts were filled with joy as the kids collected their Sunday School packets filled with goodies and picked out a special egg with a ticket to vote on a charitable contribution to the Episcopal Relief Fund. Beautiful flowers were brought in little hands to adorn our flower cross and get a family picture that I am sure many families will cherish as a reminder of the weekend of Christ’s resurrection and our own.
As I read in my devotions this morning, 1 John 1:7 states, “but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Let us all walk in the light of Christ’s resurrection, the glory of Springtime in the air and the dawning of our lives as we begin to progress back to a sense of normalcy. Many thankful prayers for this resurrection and the anticipation of seeing even more of you in person very soon. God’s peace and blessings to you all!
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on April 1, 2021 at 12:25 AM|
This year, Holy Week overlaps with the beginning of the trial of Officer Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Mr. George Floyd, a Black man. Footage is being replayed, witnesses are giving testimonies, and a jury is carefully considering all the evidence.
For some, seeing the video of Officer Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd for a full nine minutes, unyielding until fatality occurred, was a wake-up call. The days following Mr. Floyd’s death were filled with pain, protests, rage, grief, learning, soul-searching, and hard conversations. I remember having some of those conversations with several of you and was moved by your vulnerability and the depth of perspectives shared.
Now we have arrived at another moment of national reckoning—will justice prevail? I pray fervently that justice does prevail: for the sake of Mr. Floyd’s family, for the wider community, and for the many hardworking law enforcement personnel who seek to build trust amongst the communities they serve and do their jobs honorably, without excessive force. The coming days may lead us into more pain, more soul-searching, and more difficult discussions. I am bracing myself for this likelihood with frequent prayer and many deep breaths—ironically, the very thing taken from Mr. Floyd.
Today, Christians enter into the most sacred days of the entire year, as we remember how Jesus gathered with his friends on Maundy Thursday to break bread and humbly wash feet, then how he prayed in the garden, was arrested, and was executed on Good Friday, and how his disciples and friends grieved until they discovered the unimaginable, miraculous truth of his resurrection.
Sometimes, we are tempted to gloss over the ugly parts of Christ’s death, to downplay the violence of it and focus only on the redemptive aspects of it. But we do a disservice to the notion of redemption if we do not also recognize and face the horror of the cross. Jesus called out to his mother before succumbing to asphyxiation at the hands of the civil authorities (John 18:26-30). Mr. Floyd also called out for his mama in his last moments of life. Of course, the circumstances are different, and yet, this poignant echo reminds us that in Jesus’s own suffering, there is a universal solidarity he shares with all who suffer. When Jesus’s breath was taken from him on the cross, he demonstrated once and for all that there was no limit to the lengths he was willing to go because of his love for us.
Easter offers the promise that no matter what happened in his life on earth, Mr. Floyd now enjoys a new, resurrected life in the tender arms of the Messiah who suffered for and with him. But even so, the pain and grief felt by his family and his community is real. We have so much work still to do. My hope and prayer this Easter is that we might see more and more signs of resurrection and new life, not only in Heaven, but here on earth as well--in the form of justice, equity, compassion, and love for one another—the kind of love Jesus gave us in the Eucharist and on the cross.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 24, 2021 at 9:05 AM|
In March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, the invaluable contribution women have made and are making to the church’s song is so abundantly evident. The texts and/or melodies of many treasured songs are gifts derived from the creativity of poets and composers who happen to be women. Songs from The Hymnal 1982 such as “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies”(words by Katherine Lee Bates); “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God”(adaption of Matt. 6 and music by Karen Lafferty) and “Be Thou My Vision”(Irish, ca. 700 text versified by Mary Elizabeth Byrne and translated by Eleanor H. Hull) are all the creation of artists who are women.
In previous articles, I have discussed two of the supplemental hymnals published by the Episcopal Church: Wonder, Love and Praise and Lift Every Voice and Sing. There is another supplement called Voices Found which includes only texts or music written by women. During this last year I have sung some of these songs in the online services. I’d like to share the text of one that deals with the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in Mark 14. The title of the hymn is “She Poured the Perfume Lavishly” and the words were written by Delores Dufner.
She poured the perfume lavishly, a pound of precious nard, anointing tenderly the feet that nails too soon would pierce. With fragrance sweet the house was filled, with scent of loving deed. What gift shall I pour out for him who gave his very life? The treasure of my heart he seeks, the precious nard of love. With fragrance let me fill his house, with scent of lavish love.
This beautiful interpretation of the story from Mark is but one example of how the church’s song has been so deeply enriched by the gifts of women. We give thanks for these gifts and the women who so freely shared them.
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 17, 2021 at 5:05 PM|
As part of my Lenten journey this year, I have been reading The Power of Imperfection by Ruth Scott. Scott was among the first female priests ordained in the Church of England in the mid-1990s. The basic premise of her book is that when we acknowledge and accept our human imperfections, rather than denying them, they can actually become sources of growth, not obstacles to be overcome.
One section in particular has resonated with me in light of the past year. She writes the following: “I am clear about one thing – our capacity for compassion is not dependent upon us being good, but rather upon how we understand our brokenness and work with the (sometimes crucifying) experiences of life.” Her point being that compassion is not something that we can manufacture in ourselves by intention or force of will, but rather it is the fruit of authentic living and a willingness to acknowledge the inherent messiness of life. She further calls compassion, “…a deep understanding of what it is to be human in all its many shades.”
Her words seem especially relevant in our current context. This past year has unquestionably provided “opportunities” for us to experience the messiness, brokenness, and imperfections of the human condition. It is natural for us to feel victimized by the events of 2020 and see it as a “lost year” that we simply need to put in the rearview mirror, so that we can get back to “normal life”. The temptation is to forge ahead and forget.
Ruth Scott offers another perspective. She suggests that it is experiences like we have encountered this past year that engender in us the capacity for authentic compassion, that “deep understanding of what it is to be human…” She points us to a poem entitled Kindness by Naomi Sihab Nye (The Words under the Words: Selected Poems) that speaks to this truth. I share here the last two stanzas:
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
Perhaps one of the fruits of 2020 will be a heightened capacity in all of us for compassion and kindness. In other words, perhaps we will be a little more Christ-like.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 10, 2021 at 4:25 PM|
As Holy Week and Easter approaches, your clergy and staff are busily making plans to observe this most sacred time of year. Beginning on March 28, we will begin to offer both online and in-person worship opportunities. While we are thrilled that we can gather onsite once more, all in-person gatherings will follow the safety protocols of our Diocese and are limited in size. We humbly ask for your patience, compassion, and flexibility as we move forward with plans for a hybrid approach to worship in the coming weeks. We see many signs of hope around us, and yet we are not able to fully re-gather as we would like. Some of us have been able to receive vaccines, and many others of us are not yet eligible. And so, we prepare to commemorate Christ’s death and celebrate his resurrection in ways that speak to this liminal space we find ourselves in this year…partially online and partially in person.
Liminality is a concept that appears in many disciplines: anthropology, architecture, psychology, and literature, just to name a few. The concept speaks to a threshold moment, when we find ourselves somewhere between the already and the not yet. Liminal spaces are found woven throughout scripture, as the people of God navigate various rites of passage and deep learnings. Holy Saturday is the ultimate biblical liminal space—that time of waiting between the cross and the empty tomb, between death and new life.
I think we, as a society, are very much in the liminal space that feels like Holy Saturday right now. Resurrection is coming. I believe it with all my heart. And yet, there are still lessons to be learned from this current season, as much as we are eager and ready to leap into the next phase. My prayer is that, rather than be impatient with this time between the already and the not yet, we will listen to what God still has to teach us, and lean gently and faithfully into the hope of new life on the horizon.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 3, 2021 at 9:45 AM|
As I write this article, I am listening to the Brene Brown podcast when she interviewed Bishop Michael Curry last Fall on Love & Hope in Troubling Times discussing his book Love is the Way. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly recommend it. Bishop Curry is such an inviting and inspirational presence and it reminded me of the couple times I saw and spoke with him at St. Alban’s. There are many things that stood out in the podcast; however, one is the mention of faith when Bishop Curry says, “I don’t know how all that works. I just trust and believe that it does,” when he is talking about the time of Jesus on the cross. Another directly quoted from Love is the Way, is “It’s how we stay decent in indecent times. Loving is not always easy, but like with muscles, we get stronger both with repetition and as the burden gets heavier, and it works.” As I listened, all I could think is that it couldn’t be truer, that our love and faith does get stronger as the burden gets heavier and we just trust and believe that it does. In many of my devotions lately, I am reminded that obstacles or burdens in our lives bring us closer to God with faith that he will get us through them.
Faith, a powerful word, in our lives, in God, in others is what holds us together. On Sunday night, this was our topic for our Youth Group lesson. We discussed some of them having faith in stepping out in sports and how you get out there and try having faith that you can do it. It is being uncomfortable sometimes and facing it that builds that faith in ourselves. It can be with a job, for me it was this one, that feeling of knowing I was led and the faith to know I could do it. Our wonderful special guest, Wes Wehunt, shared the inspiring story of Dr. Freeman Hrabowski who overcame being arrested as a child in Alabama during a Civil Rights march with Dr. Martin Luther King to later become an advocate for students of all backgrounds to graduate from STEM programs. His faith to overcome the tragic moment in his childhood led him to later become his current role as President of the University of Maryland Baltimore College or UMBC. Faith gives us strength to overcome, believe and achieve things greater than ourselves that we may not have even attempted. At the core of this faith inside of us is our faith in God and that is what I think of as our supreme faith that fuels what we do, try or attempt.
We discuss these short lessons at the beginning of every Youth Group and follow with prayer and then fun games that get us laughing as they did this past Sunday night. There will be a time coming up later this month when we will gather as a Youth Group again thankfully. All parents of middle and high school age youth, please mark the date of March 21st in your calendar and have your youth save the date as well! Join us as we have fun, plan, look ahead and brainstorm a fun, safe future of gatherings, events and experiences as we attempt to move forward in faith to be in person once again.
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 24, 2021 at 9:50 AM|
February is celebrated as Black History Month in the United States. Many events in these last few years have led to renewed and, hopefully, meaningful discussions about the lives and experiences of African-Americans and other people of color in the United States. While there is much in America’s past and present for which we seek God’s forgiveness we live in the hope that the vision of God’s perfect kingdom will be realized. One in which we imperfect humans seek to see each other as God sees us: his creation in need of love, grace and understanding.
There are many sources available to learn about the history of the experiences of African-Americans in the U. S. I’ll leave the teaching of this history to the scholars but I did want to talk a little about a musical gift that came out of this painful history. African-American spirituals are a rich addition to American music. Their origins are in the “work” songs common in many cultures. These were songs sung while people went about their work. Sadly and understandably so, many of these songs became laments dealing with the lives and treatment of those who endured slavery. For those who converted to Christianity themes of hope and longing for home emerged. The hope of heaven, healing, redemption and longing for injustice to cease are the basis of the words in many of these songs. If you watched last Sunday’s service the Canticle I sang was “Deep River”. In this song crossing the Jordan river is a metaphor for crossing through death to a new life in heaven: “that promised land where all is peace”, as the song says it.
Other spirituals that have become beloved songs in the church are “There Is a Balm in Gilead”, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” On Sunday(3/7) the Canticle will be “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”. This spiritual speaks of a “pilgrim journey” like the one each of us takes each year through the season of Lent. It also speaks of longing for Christ to “walk with me” during life’s trials and troubles which, Thanks Be to God, he does. All thoughtful teachers (teachers, preachers, parents and, yes, even music directors) hope that what we share is meaningful and instructive for growth. Hopefully, empathy for others is a fruit that grows in our hearts when the deeply-felt and sometimes painful words of these songs are shared.
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 17, 2021 at 2:45 PM|
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and in our online service, we heard some powerful words from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was called by God to speak truth to the community of Israelites who had been living in exile in Babylon. They were going through a terrible ordeal, but they did not always handle it well. They had been thinking that if they were more pious, more strict in their fasting, and more frequent in their prayers, that God would have mercy on them and save them from their troubles. And then they began to complain that God abandoned them, that God didn’t appreciate or was not even aware of their fasting. They believed they were doing all the right things and that it was God who had not been faithful. They were genuinely confused.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves but you do not notice?” they asked of God.
And God had a response for them. Oh, did God have a response for them! Because apparently while they were so focused on their personal piety of fasting, they had been neglecting their obligations to each other. People around them were starving. People were homeless. People were oppressed. And God let them know. Through Isaiah, God told them that their fasting meant nothing if they were not also loving and caring for their neighbors. God, via the prophet, says:
“Is this not the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them and not to hide your self from your own kin.”
The people allowed their desire to appear pious to get in the way of their ability to actually be pious through ministering to those who were in need.
I think this is such an important thing to remember as we Christians begin our holy season of Lent. We believe that Lent is a time for piety, but not for the sake of brownie points from God or anyone else. As we make our journey toward the cross of Christ, we must remember that it is our love and care for others that pleases God the most. And we should keep this understanding of piety in mind as we consider our Lenten disciplines.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many different kinds of Lenten disciplines. Fasting is, of course, an ancient spiritual practice. Like the Israelites of yore, lots of Christians today choose to fast from something as a Lenten discipline: Sugar … Booze … Meat … Caffeine … Chocolate … Television … Facebook … Fossil Fuels … and more. I have given up some of these things myself in years past and found the self-denial to be a spiritually meaningful experience. Our cravings can help us remember to fill our emptiness with God.
And of course, some Christians take on a new discipline rather than fast during Lent: Daily morning prayer … Centering prayer … Reconciliation of a Penitent (Confession) … Journaling … Meditation … Regular worship attendance … Bible study … Volunteering for an Outreach ministry … Going on a spiritual retreat … Eating meals together as a family … Regular exercise … Walking a labyrinth, and more. I had a roommate in college who decided to take on flossing her teeth every single day. There are so many options!
Any of these disciplines, and plenty of others too, are wonderful ways to observe the season of Lent. My counsel is that you give some thought to how your observance of Lent might contribute ever so slightly to repairing our broken world. We talk of observing a Lenten discipline in this season. And the root of the word discipline is disciple. Our Lenten disciplines should be all about trying to grow as disciples of our Savior Jesus Christ. And disciples of Jesus Christ are called to help repair this broken world. As Isaiah said,
If you remove the yoke from among you, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually you shall be called the repairer of the breach.
We’ve got roughly 40 days of Lent ahead of us. How will you prepare for Holy Week and Easter?
In our newsletter this week, we have included a few opportunities you might consider. What discipline will you observe, and how might it help loose the bonds of injustice? How will your Lenten discipline continue to mold you into a disciple of Jesus Christ? What will you do in the coming weeks to help repair the breach?
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 10, 2021 at 6:45 PM|
It has essentially been a year since we first started hearing about COVID-19. What a year it has been! None of us knew at that time what the year ahead had in store for us. It has been a time of tremendous loss for so many: loss of loved ones; loss of freedom; loss of planned and expected experiences; loss of jobs; loss of income and financial security; loss of face-to-face interactions with friends and family; loss of cherished routines; and the list goes on. In a time such as this, when the losses are piling up and hope seems to be in short supply, we can’t be blamed for losing something else – perspective.
Perspective can be a nebulous thing. When the world is upended, as it has been during this time of pandemic, there is a natural human tendency to become narrowly focused on the negative. Our capacity to see the “bigger picture” is diminished. While it is absolutely important to acknowledge and grieve the losses, it is also important, in the midst of the grief, to find ways to stay connected to the larger story of God’s loving reign in our lives. I would like to offer just a few suggestions of ways we might do that:
• Pray This is the obvious one, but not necessarily the easy one! Taking time on a regular basis to pray is, I believe, the most effective tool at our disposal for maintaining perspective in the midst of incalculable loss. Prayer can take many and various forms, but it truly is the lifeblood of faith.
• Count your blessings One of my spiritual disciplines is to spend some time each day intentionally thinking about the good things in my life. I find this especially important in a time such as this. Even in a time of pandemic, there are things in each of our lives for which we can be grateful, some of which are actually the unexpected fruits of being in a pandemic.
• Be informed, but not obsessed Speaking for myself, it can be very tempting to not only consume the news, but to be consumed by it. I find that I am better able to maintain a healthy perspective when I limit my news intake, trying to stay informed without becoming obsessed.
• Consider a social media fast If you are a regular user of social media, consider setting aside an occasional time (e.g. one day a week) to step away from it. Social media has been an important tool for maintaining connection for many of us during this time of pandemic, but it also has the capacity to rob us of perspective.
• Get outside in nature Go for a walk or bike ride. Getting out and immersing yourself in God’s creation is one of the tried-and-true ways of staying connected to the “bigger picture”.
I hope these suggestions prove helpful as you seek to maintain perspective in this time of challenge and loss. May God’s peace be with us all!
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 3, 2021 at 3:35 PM|
It appears as I look outside that we are a bit in the winter doldrums. This time of year can often drag us down a bit and this year especially. We have to look for lights where we can find them, like the cardinal chirping on my deck this morning or the sun shining and you look up to see crystal clear blue skies, which believe it or not, has happened a few times in the last couple weeks. Often times it might just be an uplifting word or phrase that will strike a chord with you that you continue to replay in your mind. For me it was during the service last week, when the phrase from 1 Corinthians 8, “Knowledge puffs up, but Love builds up”, was mentioned and Kevin spoke so eloquently about. The word Love seems to have such a deeper meaning now in our current environment. During what a dear friend of mine is referring to as the “The Great Reset," we have needed to find alternate ways to show love, care, concern and affection.
Love is mentioned in so many things the Episcopal Church is doing like, Bishop Curry’s Way of Love, including those all-important steps of Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. The upcoming virtual Diocesan Youth Bishop’s Ball has a theme of “Do Everything in Love” also from 1 Corinthians and the Episcopal Outreach effort of “One Thousand Days of Love”. All of these incorporate Love in some way to show us that the way we feel and think of others should be based around Love. After all, 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us “Of these three; Faith, Hope and Love abide and the greatest of these is Love.” This Love strengthens and binds us together to face whatever challenges come upon us and will give us the grace to know that God’s Love will see us through.
With Love, we have assembled Lenten bags for both families of young children and for the parish. These will be available in the coming week and include supportive materials for the Lenten season at home. Please be on the lookout for more information on when you can get one. This is our way to spread Love to you and your family and please know that you continue to be in our prayers. Let Love build us all up!