This week’s e-letter starts with my report from the conference I attended last week. The announcements are below.
Thank you for all the prayers and support while I was away at the Evangelism Matters 2018 Conference in Cleveland Heights. It was a wonderfully informative and refreshing (if busy!) event. There were 400 Episcopalians from all over the Church – including some of our international dioceses – gathered to learn more about sharing the life-giving love of God. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was the preacher for our Thursday night worship. He is a very compelling and inspiring preacher. He was very clear to say that we aren’t doing evangelism “to build a bigger church, but to build a better world” for God and all people.
I have been increasingly aware that when the media talks about “The Church” they mean the Roman Catholic Church. And when the media talks about “Christians” they usually mean people and denominations who skew more towards the fundamentalist end of the spectrum. Both perspectives leave out the broad middle of main-line Protestant denominations – including Episcopalians! That’s a problem, because what most non-churched people think when they hear the word “Christian” is a person or group who are rigid, angry, hateful, and judgmental. That is not a completely fair picture, but that’s what the polls show. Many people have no idea that Christian faith and following Jesus can be generous, loving, forgiving, respectful, and open – and yet that is surely the way we Episcopalians know God and practice being disciples.
So, the Episcopal Church has a new working definition of evangelism, as I learned at the conference: “Evangelism in the Episcopal Church is the spiritual practice of seeking, naming, and celebrating the loving presence of Jesus in the stories of all people…and then inviting them to MORE!” The world surely needs Jesus now, and we cannot allow our language of faith and Christian practice to be high-jacked by others. Ultimately, the work of bringing someone to faith is not our job – it’s the Holy Spirit’s job, but we have to do our part.
What are the take-aways? I’ll be meeting with the other two people from our diocese who attended and some of our diocesan staff to see what initiatives and practices might be forth-coming. I was personally struck by the importance of prayer in evangelism. If any of you would like to know more about this or participate in a group committing to pray for evangelism in our parish and in our diocese, please let me know. At our Vestry meeting this week we used one of the (several) listening exercises from the conference. The Vestry thought it was good and useful, and so we’ll be looking to see how we can try some of these out in the parish. If you would like to take a look at any of the conference materials or some of the video from the event, you can find them here: www.episcopalchurch.org/evangelism. ~VGM+
Take a look at the announcements below, especially:
- Palm Sunday Worship (Holy Week)
- Family Promise (Helping Hands)
- Easter Ribbon Banner Making (Fellowship & Fun)
- Epworth Youth Choir Concert (Fellowship & Fun)
- Updates on the Candidates for Bishop (Diocesan News)
Family Promise Homeless Shelter - Monday, March 26. It’s our turn to serve homeless families once again at Trinity House in Stirling. Please pray for our volunteers and for the families in the shelter. If you are interested in this ministry, please contact Afsaneh Thursfield 908-839-8158 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for all you do to help these families get back on their feet!
FELLOWSHIP & FUN
Easter Ribbon Banner Making, on Palm Sunday during Coffee Hour. We’ll need some volunteers to help make ribbon banners to hang in the parking lot for our Easter celebration. We’ll have the ribbon, wire, and scissors. We just need you!
Epworth Youth Choir Tour Concert & Dinner, Tuesday, March 27, 7:00 pm in the Church. This middle school and high school choir from First United Methodist Church in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, will present a concert of traditional anthems. The second half of the program is a musical by Dean Wagner called “Keeping Vigil with Jesus.” This concert is a wonderful Lenten opportunity and will appeal to kids as well as adults. Parishioners are invited to have dinner with the choir at 5:30 pm. We will need some volunteers to shop, do some food prep, set up the meal (taco and salad bar), clean up afterwards, and visit with our guests – 35 students and 10 adult chaperones. Please sign up on the sheet in the Narthex if you can help or want to attend the meal.
The First Party of Easter follows the Easter Vigil on Saturday, March 31, in the Narthex. We need some simple refreshments to continue the best service of the year! Take a look at the sign-up sheet for what we need.
Palm Sunday Worship, March 25, 8:00 & 10:00 am. Both services begin with the Blessing and distribution of Palms and the Palm Procession. At 8 am gather in front of the Church. At 10 am gather at the main door of the Parish House, where we will be led by a bagpiper. At the end of the procession the children in Grades PreK-1 will go to Sunday School, returning at the peace for Communion. Both services will include reading of the Passion Gospel. Come and begin your journey through Holy Week with Jesus.
Maundy Thursday Agapé Meal, March 29, 6:00 pm. Agapé is the Greek word for God’s love – and the way we share it in community: holy hospitality. We’ll gather for a simple pot-luck meal, as Jesus and his disciples did, before our Maundy Thursday worship. We’ll be sharing this meal with the Christian (Catholic) Community in the Parish House Lower Room. Sign up on the sheet in the Narthex. Hope to see you there!
Foot Washing at Maundy Thursday Worship, March 29, 7:30 pm. This action is a symbol of the loving service to others that Jesus calls us to – basic, humble, prayerful, vulnerable. It is part of Maundy Thursday worship in churches all over the world. During the singing of a chant, the congregation is invited to come forward, have one foot washed, and then wash the foot of the person who comes after them. This care for one another is deeply moving. Wearing shoes and socks that are easily removable makes this easier.
Prayer Watch, anytime Maundy Thursday night, 8:30 pm to 12 am. Come and keep watch in the Church with Jesus for thirty minutes on the night of his trials in the Garden of Gethsemane (Altar of Repose with the Reserved Sacrament). Although this is a time for personal prayer and meditation, it is something done on the part of our whole parish community, even if you haven’t been able to attend worship earlier. The watch will conclude at midnight. Sign up for a half hour prayer time on the sheet in the Narthex.
Good Friday, March 30: Stations of the Cross, 12 Noon
An interactive service of readings, prayers, walking, and chanting, with things to see, touch, and hear in this 40-minute service for children and adults.
Good Friday, March 30: Good Friday Liturgy, 7:30 pm. This year we will have two guest musicians: Lydia Anthony and Kristen Sands, both of who have sung with us before. They will sing several movements from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, as well as the plainsong version of the Passion according to John, along with Director of Music Alison Siener Brown. We are very blessed to be able to have Kristen and Lydia join us. Please invite a friend to join you for Good Friday worship.
The Great Vigil of Easter, March 31, 7:30 pm
Light the New Fire of Resurrection in the Memorial Garden. Hear the story of salvation by candlelight. Renew the vows of our baptismal faith. Celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter. Bring a bell to ring at the Easter acclamation!
Easter Sunday Worship, April 1, 8:00 & 10:00 am
Celebrate the joy of Christ's Resurrection with Scripture, hymns, prayers, choirs, instrumental music, and the celebration of the Eucharist. All children will receive a flowering plant.
Bible Study/Book Study – meets Wednesdays at 10:15 am, in the Rath House. We are reading and discussing Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life, by Derek Olsen. Can’t come Wed. mornings? Pick up a copy and read it on your own. The books are in the Narthex and cost $20.
Pilgrim Study Group Mondays, 7-8:30 pm in the Rath House. This 6-week session is based on the theme Church & Kingdom. The group will be on break March 26 & April 2. We’ll resume April 9. Questions? Speak to Mother Vicki.
Candidates for the XI Bishop of Newark - The Standing Committee has published the names of the Candidates for election as our next Bishop. They are: the Rev. Carlye Hughes; the Rev. Lisa Hunt; the Rev. Canon Scott Slater. Follow this link for short bios of each person, and their answers to questions put to them. On May 4, 5, and 6 there will be public meetings (i.e. "walkabouts") to hear from all the candidates and ask questions. Look here for details. This is an exciting time in the life of our Diocese. Please pray for God's wisdom and discernment for each candidate and for our Diocese.
Several people have asked about the Episcopal Church’s position on concerns about gun violence and gun safety. There is no unilateral teaching about this issue, but more than 70 Bishops (out of a total of 129), from all across the Church – rural and urban - participate in a group called “Bishops United Against Gun Violence.” Our own Bishop Beckwith is one of the conveners of this group. They have a website here: http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org. Both Bishop Beckwith and Bishop Stokes of the Diocese of New Jersey will be participating in Saturday’s ‘March for Our Lives’ in Washington, DC. Some Episcopalians from our diocese will be going to that event, other will be attending the parallel march in Morristown, also on Saturday. I have been asked to help staff the hospitality table on South Street in front of Church of the Redeemer. If you have questions about this important issue, please speak with me.
SAVE THE DATE
Sunday, May 13 for Bishop Beckwith’s last visitation with us before his retirement.
3/26 Family Promise Trinity House, Stirling
3/27 Lenten Youth Choir Concert Church, 7:00 pm
3/28 Bible/Book Study Rath House, 10:15 am
3/29 Junior Choir Choir Room, 5:15 pm
Agape Supper Parish House Lower Room, 6:00 pm
Maundy Thursday Worship Church, 7:30 pm
Prayer Watch Church, 8:30 pm-12 Midnight
3/30 Stations of the Cross Church, 12 Noon
Good Friday Liturgy Church, 7:30 pm
3/31 Great Vigil of Easter Memorial Garden & Church, 7:30 pm
For a full schedule of our buildings check the website calendar www.allsaintsmillington.org.
Music and singing have been part of Christin worship and spirituality from the very beginning, starting with singing the psalms – which were the hymnal of the synagogue. Although the style and emphasis of the music has changed over the centuries, some things have been remained central.
The congregation has a central role in worship; work to do. In fact, the word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” The congregation’s role is to sing God’s praises, and to proclaim our faith in prayer and acclamation. Adding music to the congregation’s role takes us to a deeper place; touches our souls in a different way than merely speaking. The choir, organ, and other instruments support us in our worship, and help to augment and lead our praise, but never take over or do the congregation’s work for us.
The musician who best understood and exemplified this is Johann Sebastian Bach; and today, March 21, is his birthday! Not only was Back a composer of music for church and court, he also was an organist and choir director (as well as a violist). Here is a link to a biography of him:
And here is a recording of the Dona Nobis Pacem (Give us peace) from the end of Bach’s Mass in B minor. Bach wrote it as a concert work. German Lutheran Churches in the 18th century didn’t use this form of Eucharist, nor did they sing in Latin. But the entire Mass is probably Bach’s greatest expression of his Christian faith. The entire work is worth listening to: https://youtu.be/MuoQ-2cVK4s
Holy Week blessings, Vicki+