Advent 2017: Halfway

The readings in Advent always take me to a place that theologians call the “margins.” Between Isaiah’s prophecies and John the Baptist, I get caught up in the fullness of their vision of the Reign of God, the richness of their dreams, the urgency of their prayer. Advent calls us to draw near God, even as the prophets announce that God is already drawing near to us. The Reign of God, John the Baptist cries, draws near in Christ. The yearning for God expressed in Advent, can take us to the margins of our lives, as it took Jesus.

During my sabbatical this year, I spent three months traveling around the country, visiting intentional communities that seemed to me to exemplify the biblical vision of Beloved Community, groups of people whose souls have caught the prophetic vision of the Reign of God, and are striving to live it in community–this is what church is, of course, but these folks were also forming intentional communities to express that vision in their every day lives, sharing homes, resources and a mission to their neighborhoods.

Beloved Community is a term that became popular during the Civil Rights era in the United States, but its history is older, and its modern expression goes back to the turn of the 20th century. Beloved Community is the language for an ideal—or a vision, a metaphor for the reign of God, or the kingdom of heaven—in religious terms, a horizon toward which we move, also a biblical vision, articulated in scripture. The biblical prophets point us in the direction of Beloved Community; Jesus’ teachings do as well, based as they are in prophetic faith, teachings that break into history with transforming love, working within individuals and in communities. Beloved Community can be thought of in a variety of ways: a community of repentance, a community of memory, a community of hope, grace, revelation, love and justice. The modern use of the phrase is attributed to philosopher Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. In 1913, Royce wrote, ‘“My life means nothing, either theoretically or practically, unless I am a member of a community.” Beyond the actual communities that we directly encounter in life there is the ideal “Beloved Community” of all those who would be fully dedicated to the cause of loyalty, truth and reality itself.'( See: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/royce/). Later the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would adopt this language of Beloved Community, and popularize it in his sermons and speeches, as something that was achievable, rather than a far off horizon of vision. It was a realistic goal: “In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.” For King, the method to achieve this goal was creating a critical mass of people trained in the theory and practice of non-violence. “Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred.” (From The King Center: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy#sub4)

The Beloved Communities I visited were all informed by the powerful stream of  imagery, theory, teachings, and practice about what it means to create just and loving communities, exemplified in the biblical prophets and in Jesus’ teachings, in Dr. King’s work, and those who came after him. Most were Christian or interfaith communities, and all of them lived close in with people who have been, or may be still on the “margins” of our society. Now, here’s what this has to do with Advent: Jesus lived on the margins–this isn’t a new thought in Christian theology; it’s a foundational understanding of Jesus’ identity. From his birth in a rural village in the out-post of the Roman Empire, to his death on the cross, Jesus makes his home with the “anawim,” the Poor Ones. (See Raymond Brown: The Birth of the Messiah).

This year, because of our divisive politics, and some of the cruel measures being taken against the people Jesus calls us expressly to love, I find myself feeling an even deeper urgency to understand, help, and advocate for those who are being pushed to the margins of security because of poverty, immigration, discrimination of any kind, racism, sexism, classism, disabilities, mental illness, addiction.  Anger and prayers about injustice are not enough; faith is active in love. Jesus lives there, in the lives of people who are struggling for justice, truth, and love. Advent can take us into the blessing of those struggles, if we are not there already.

Here is an example. I call it the first principle of the discipline of loving the neighbor: get to know them. In one of the communities I visited, the members simply took regular walks in their neighborhoods, making it a point of learning about the lives, needs, and struggles of everyone who was within walking distance of their communities and churches. What they found, and what we will find, should we do it, are the intersections of our lives. Everyone needs safety from violence. Everyone needs food. Everyone needs shelter. Everyone needs health care. Everyone needs dignity and respect. Everyone needs decent work. Everyone needs love. As they got to know who their nearer neighbors actually were, it expanded their sense of belonging and opened their hearts to generosity and curiosity about their differences and their shared experiences. They discovered, as we may discover, common struggles, our interdependencies, our interconnections.  Refugees live nearby; homeless shelters are down the street; food pantries and soup kitchens feed the person next-door–we ourselves may need those same soup kitchens, too; local libraries offer help with ESL classes, and filling out government documents and forms; neighborhood houses of worship host health clinics and homeless families in transition. Soon the word “stranger” became and becomes the word “friend.”

Charles Marsh writes in his book on Beloved Community, “We must learn how to perceive the living God who is building a new world in unexpected places and shapes; indeed, we must learn what it means to enter the new world of God. In short, we must relearn the meaning of being a Christian. For if Jesus Christ is Lord of the church and over all creation, power, and principalities, as Christians believe, then our first order of business must be to learn again how to participate in the gift…But let us not for a moment conceal from ourselves the fact that obedience to this vision–our actual acceptance of what the Bible proposes: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”–is a step into space, “an undertaking of unknown consequences, a venture into eternity.” Christian discipleship leads one into the most passionate worldliness and the experience of life’s polyphony, its beauty, anguish and complexity…in church we are taken up, perhaps even against our will, into a fellowship of astonishing variety and difference. In church, we are taken into “Christ-time” …and given the hope that our fragile and infrequent experiences of reconciliation will one day become an eternal feast” (p. 214-215). May this Advent take us to the margins, out past our comfort, and gather us up into that astonishing world of “Christ-time” and “Christ-love”, toward the unexpected and mysterious down-to-earth ways that the love of God might be born anew in us and in our beloved communities.

Advent and Christmas Events

During Advent, there are several events here at St. Paul to enter the season of waiting and preparation. Christmas Services are listed below as well.

On Wednesday Evening, 7:00 p.m. , Dec. 13: Advent Evening Prayer and Reflection: The Gifts of Advent. This is a time of reflection, prayer and conversation about the gifts of this season–this Wednesday, we’ll focus on the gift of patience.

Sunday, December 17th, at 10:00 a.m. Christmas Pageant! The congregation and Sunday School of St. Paul will hold our Annual Christmas Pageant. Everyone is welcome to be a part of this; costumes are provided on the spot! It’s a wonderful time! We hope you will join us.

On Wednesday Evening, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 20th: WinterSong! A Celtic Advent Meditation. Local folksinger Michael O’Leary and Celtic harpist Carol McIntyre will present a beautiful evening of Celtic music related to Advent and midwinter. All are welcome. Freewill donation for the musicians.

Sunday, December 24th 10:00 a.m. : The Fourth Sunday of Advent. This is a Sunday that lifts up the life and ministry of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, her wonderful song, “The Magnificat,” and what she means for us as an exemplar of faith.

Sunday, December 24th 7:00 p.m.: Christmas Eve! Please join us for a Christmas Service of Lessons and Carols, with Holy Communion, come to the manger and sing with all creation: Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to all people on earth.

Monday, December 25th, 8:00 a.m.: Merry Christmas! Join us for a lovely early Christmas Morning worship service, with carols, Holy Communion, and plenty of Joy!

adventwreath

THANK YOU! #Refo500 at St. Paul Lutheran Church

What a wonderful Reformation Sunday! It was a marvelous morning. On behalf of the Church Council and the congregation, I extend our collective gratitude to all who made it a terrific day: especially to Kathy Eckles, and her team: Chris Larson, Deb Coull, Rob Grenier, Chris Grenier, Dianne Richards, Carol Gray, Coreen Scharfe, Barbara Jobe, and everyone who pitched in to transform the Undercroft. The flower arrangements and table settings were inspired! Thank you to the Grenier family for our Reformation feast, featuring German breakfast foods. It was a delicious experience! A special thank you to Carl Johnson for his inspiring preaching! You melted our hearts. Thank you to Ed Garner for his Reformation Door! Gratitude to our choir and Ted Stoddard for their marvelous musical leadership! The roof came off. Thank you to the historians among us who made the Reformation timelines: Chris Grenier, Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, Laurie Jamieson, Fred Peterson, Sandra Jamieson!

Tremendous thanks to the Church Council for their leadership and planning throughout our Refo 500 season this October.  My heartfelt thanks to the Council, Carol Gray and Mary Meader for the surprise anniversary gift of a Reformation Stole and ruby slippers.  And joyful thanks to all of you for a further lovely surprise:  the beautiful anniversary treasure chest full of such beautiful letters. Thank you to Nat Crosby for designing and making the treasure box. It was a wonderful wonderful day, a once in 500 years event!

There are many pictures of the morning on our Facebook page which you can access here.

All of October 2017 has been dedicated to raising our awareness of the roots and the ongoing significance of the Reformation, through worship, classes, discussions, and special events. Many of us working in the church feel that we are undergoing another kind of reformation in this 21st century. The good news: the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ moves in every age. My reformation prayer for all of us comes from a collect in our ELW, p.304 : O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us an your love supporting us; thought Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
With a full and grateful heart,
Pastor Anne

Ecumenical Evensong–Reformation 500

You are invited to a special event:

 St. Paul will host an Ecumenical Evensong service

Sunday, October 15 at 6:00 p.m.

in observance of the

500th Anniversary of the Reformation

 

We are delighted to share this time with you!

Joining us will be the St. John’s Episcopal Church and the Annisquam Village Church choirs. We will sing the Lutheran Book of Worship’s beautiful Vesper Service and the combined choirs will perform

“Grant Peace We Pray” by Mendelssohn and

“Fairest Lord Jesus” by Russell Schulz-Widmar

Please join us for a lovely evening of prayer and song!

 

Address: St Paul Lutheran Church 1123 Washington St, Gloucester
Accessibility: The service location is wheelchair accessible via elevator
 
Parking: There is a large parking lot at the Church
Information: Contact the church office at 978-283-6550

 

October: Reformation 500

During October, we have several opportunities to consider the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Here is a short list of what we are doing:

  • On October 9th at 7:00 p.m., Jonathan Rundman, a Finnish-American folk/rock composer and musician, will be offering a Hurricane Relief concert at St. Paul. Jonathan has performed at St. Paul in the past, and he was recently featured in a short video produced by the ELCA Refo500 team. We had scheduled the concert well in advance of the hurricanes that devastated areas along the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. Now with the need so great, Jonathan has kindly agreed to change the focus of his concert to benefit hurricane relief.
  • On Sundays in October, during worship, we’ll be singing pieces composed by Martin Luther, especially his hymn settings for the parts of the service. Last Sunday, for example, we sang “Out of the Depths” for our confessional prayer. This Sunday, we’ll sing a Luther “Kyrie.”
  • Five members of the congregation are designing a history of our church starting in the 16th century to the present time which they will present on Reformation Sunday.
  • On October 15th, 6;00 p.m. we’ll be holding a special Ecumenical Evensong at in the sanctuary, with two other churches, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Annisquam Village Church to mark the Reformation 500th anniversary, singing the Vespers setting from the Lutheran Book of Worship, and choral pieces Mendolssohn’s “Grant Peace We Pray,” and  Schulz-Widmar’s “Fairest Lord Jesus.”
  • During October on Wednesday evenings, I am teaching a class called the Four Pillars of Lutheranism, on key Reformation insights with which we still reckon. We’ll also be looking at Declaration on the Way, to see how far we have come since October, 1517.
  • On October 29th, Reformation Sunday, we’ll have a special morning of worship, and a gathering after church during Fellowship Hour to mark the occasion.
  • Our Stewardship theme this year is taken from the notion of a Reformation garden. We are calling it: Abundant Garden: Beloved Community. Each week, we’ll honor the Lutheran insight of the “priesthood of all believers,” in the garden of our beloved community.

We hope you will come to any and all of these occasions. It’s only once every 500 years! Come and learn about who we are, where we have been, and where we hope to go.

 

Jonathan Rundman Concert–Monday, October 9th, 7:00 p.m. Hurricane Relief Benefit

CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED SONGWRITER JONATHAN RUNDMAN TO PERFORM AT

St. Paul Lutheran Church

 

Minneapolis, MN – Minneapolis-based folk/pop songwriter Jonathan Rundman will perform at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Monday, October 9th, 2017.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 9th 7:00 p.m. (doors at 6:30 PM)

Freewill Donation: all ages welcome

JONATHAN RUNDMAN in concert

St. Paul Lutheran Church

1123 Washington St.

Gloucester, MA, 01930

 

Born and raised in the isolated Finnish-American communities of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Jonathan Rundman has been writing songs and performing across the country since he was 18 years old. He emerged on the national music scene as a Chicago-based touring artist, generating rave reviews in Billboard, The New York Times, Performing Songwriter, Paste, and countless regional publications. Now living in Minneapolis, he continues to tour and record. Jonathan’s songs can be heard on radio stations across America, in Scandinavia and England, and have been featured on television’s Ellen Degeneres Show and CBS This Morning. Jonathan has toured in New England several times, and has appeared at St. Paul in the past.

 

In 2017 Rundman released the new solo retrospective album Reservoir, collecting his best songs of the new millennium.

Deftly navigating between folk music, garagey rock, sophisticated pop, and Americana, Rundman proves to be one of the country’s most ingenious and persistent independent songwriters.

 

“bright, catchy indie pop” NEW YORK TIMES

“clever phrasing and fresh rhymes” PERFORMING SONGWRITER

“accessible and crafty pop-rock” CHICAGO DAILY HERALD

 

 

Rally Day and Church Barbecue: Sept.24th! 9:00 a.m

Rally Day and Church Barbecue: This Sunday, September 24th: At 9:00 a.m., we begin our Sunday School 2017-2018 program with Rally Day, in Fellowship Hall. Children and confirmation youth register, meet and greet each other, and their teachers. We’re excited to begin this year together as this fall is a special time for us: we are observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. During this season, we’ll be hearing about God’s marvelous gift of grace, about our history, and who we are today as a global church. We’ll be using the Sparks Lectionary curriculum, which follows the Sunday worship readings and the church year, augmented with special activities and topics. Confirmation youth will meet with Pastor Deneen and with their parents for a brief overview of the confirmation program and schedule in the library.

Immediately following our 10:00 a.m. Worship Service, we’ll enjoy a church barbecue on the lawn, and in the Undercroft. If it rains, we’ll move inside. All are welcome at this festive time.

Hurricane Prayers

Hurricane Irma, following close on Harvey, is making its devastating way across the Caribbean. We are keeping all who are in the path of Irma in our prayers; we continue to pray for those affected by Harvey, and for recovery efforts. Should you wish to help in some way, Lutheran Disaster Response is a good way: Here

Loving God,
in the communion of Christ, we are joined with the trials and sufferings of all. Be with those who endure the wind, rain, and flooding from Hurricane Irma.
Protect those in the path of danger.
Open the pathway of evacuations.
Help loved ones find one another in the chaos.
Provide assistance to those who need help.
Ease the fears of all and make your presence known in the stillness of your peace; Through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

(Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Occasional Services for the Assembly, page 394)

We pray, too, for those affected by floods and mudslides in South Asia, for the those affected by wildfires in California, and all emergency and relief workers, for all suffering from natural disasters.

Last night, at our Peace Meditation, we prayed for the earth itself, holding the world in our hearts, before our mind’s eye, praying for healing, for recovery, for peace. We’ll continue Peace Prayers and Meditations through September, at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday evenings, should you wish to come and pray. We meet in the sanctuary.

 


 

Easter III

Easter arrived April 16th, and as usual, some of us went to Good Harbor Beach for the ecumenical Easter sunrise service. It was a balmy peaceful dawn, and none of us could remember a warmer one. We didn’t even need jackets. The peace of the morning stayed with us for our festive Eucharist at 10:00 a.m. It was a joyful beautiful celebration of our Lord’s resurrection, graced by beautiful music from our choir, organist, and guest musicians Michael Milnarik on tuba, and his wife, composer/pianist Sanae Kanda. The children decorated the altar with flowers, and hunted for eggs in the playground afterwards. For some reason, the lovely peace of Easter has stayed with us, and though so much tumult is around us, we can still breathe in the peace of God. We celebrated the second Sunday of Easter with a baptism, and we’ll celebrate another baptism tomorrow, on the third Sunday. Spring has finally come to Cape Ann with Eastertide; beauty is everywhere, life-giving, soul-refreshing, and spirit-renewing. Last Sunday, we heard about the Easter evening appearance of Jesus to the disciples on the first day of the Resurrection: he breathed peace upon them, and said “receive the Holy Spirit.” And he told the disciples: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:19-23). May the breath of the Holy Spirit renew you and fill you, as a freshening wind from the sea. Happy Easter! For Fifty Days!

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