Dearest parishioners and friends,
As we continue the journey during this most unusual chapter of our lives, as a parish and as a society, let us not forget the communion between us created by the Holy Spirit. We are closer to one another than we realize.
Let us, therefore, give thanks. As I often heard in seminary, giving thanks keeps the heart young. We need youthful hearts now more than ever!
I know that many of you are quite weary: the separation and consequent isolation, the lack of reassurance resulting from so much distance, deprived of the comforting embrace of so many loved ones and the uncertainty of what the future holds. Add to this, the continued unrest in our society (and the Summer heat!) and you have a recipe for sadness too heavy to bear. Dare we believe that Christ meets us in new, mysterious ways in the midst of all of this and that, in Him, we are closer to one another than we realize. Listen carefully for Him. In your helplessness, let yourself be found by Him.
In the coming days, please expect more information about re-opening—starting with a date (which parish leadership hopes to finalize within the next week), and the detailed plan describing what re-gathering will look like, as well as a covenant in which we promise respectfully to abide by these guidelines, which each of us is to sign, per the request of our Bishop.
You will also receive information about the parish Annual Meeting scheduled for Sunday, September 13. Under these unusual circumstances, we are preparing an annual meeting kit that will be mailed to all of our parishioners so that if you are unable to attend the meeting in person, you will still have all of the materials and a ballot to elect our new Vestry members. For those unfamiliar with this important parish event, a “state of the parish” address is traditionally given by the Rector or Senior Warden and a financial update is provided by the Treasurer. We also vote for those Vestry members needed to fill the seats vacated by those whose terms have ended. I am grateful for the three years of loving service that Victoria Ebell and Abigail Wilson have given to our Vestry and pray that God will continue to bless them as members of our parish community.
Glad to be your Rector,
Between the gospel passages from Matthew last Sunday and this coming Sunday, we are swimming in parables, in imaginative metaphors meant to give us glimpses of the kingdom of heaven. As preached last week, the Kingdom is nothing less than the King, and all those of whom He has taken hold and who share in His life, a life fully and perfectly lived “in” what we call heaven; hence, the expression, “the kingdom of heaven”.
We have the privilege of sharing in God’s life. “You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed.” This is Peter’s way, in his epistle, chapter 1 (v. 23), of speaking of grace, whereby we share in God’s life. John tells us: “He gave power (grace!) to become children of God.” (1:12)
We have the privilege of sharing in God’s life, which is our truest life, for God is our purpose, God is our home. We, of course, live our human life. We eat and drink and try to be merry. We makes decisions, engage one another in affection and seek to make the world around us a better, that is, a more peaceful and just place. This human life is to be taken hold of and transformed from within, such that the God’s life—a life of pure light and pure love—radiate in us. To the extent that that this happens, heaven begins now—deep inside, and the world around us can be deeply changed. This is a daily choice. We are free to welcome or to ignore or to reject God’s life in us; we are free to let God work wonders in us or not. Let us freely and hope-fully choose.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans
As Church, as sisters and brothers in Christ, we are called to live into the unity that is ours in divine love. Indeed, Jesus prays fervently to the Father that we “may be one” (John 17:11). And, in the footsteps of Jesus, Saint Paul exhorts us to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)
United in divine love, we (normally!) agree on the “mystery of faith”, namely that “Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again” (Eucharistic Prayer A). Otherwise, as Saint Paul tells us, “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile” (I Corinthians 15:17). We also agree that the same Christ calls us to care for Him in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Matthew 25:31-46).
Unity in divine love and agreement on the essentials of faith do not mean, however, that we will always see eye to eye on exactly how we are to live our faith in the world. Disagreement is inevitable given the nature of faith. Faith (“the conviction of things un-seen” - Hebrews 11:1) enables us to touch the mystery of the un-seen God. God then enables us to know the world as ordered to Him and one another as His children. God, however, does not tell us how to think regarding things human, i.e., the things that we ought to learn for ourselves, of which there are so many (!): cooking, cleaning, basketball, painting, carpentry, the wonders of nature, human personhood and the political community and its common good. The list goes on. We can and will disagree about what we see.
I have heard from a couple of members of our parish family recently, to hear what I presumed to be the case: there can be divergent perspectives, for example, on our current societal unrest—in particular, its causes and its solutions. We can disagree also with how persons in the Church—lay or ordained—are framing the events that we are witnessing around us. Such disagreement is to be expected and respected. When we hear a sermon, we are hopefully inspired in our faith walk, but how the preacher speaks to these (or other) societal issues may not speak to us. We are not being asked to agree. We are being invited to go deeper. When it comes to life in civil society, we, members of the Body of Christ, agree to disagree in love. And, we try to heed the exhortation of Saint Paul, to “no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another”. (Romans 14:13) And, we bear in mind that, as paramount as action is, our most powerful response as Christians to societal unrest is prayer. [i]
It is this diversity of thought that makes our parish rather unique. It also obliges a particularly deep welcome of one another. At ASA, we have a working document called our “Statement of Values” (that serves as a basis for conversation and discernment for our Strategic Planning Team). One of the values speaks to this diversity:
We value the church as a community that welcomes all people, where viewpoint diversity is considered a blessing. Jesus’ “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The course of action for Christians in the political sphere, therefore, is not always obvious and may lead to different political perspectives amongst parishioners. We are certainly not removed from the world, as we are called to love “in truth and in action” (I John 3:18). Because we may have different understandings of how to “act justly” (Micah 6:8), as a church, we choose to minister primarily in our immediate community and we pray that each parishioner go forth, formed by our common faith and according to the dictates of individual conscience, to make the world a better place.
May we always maintain the tremendous respect necessary for such diversity. And, “may the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)
Yours in Christ,
[i] I recommend a thoughtful, thought-provoking piece on this by retired united Methodist Bishop, Timothy W. Whitaker: https://juicyecumenism.com/2020/07/07/contemplation-truth/
It continues to be strange and uncomfortable that the doors to our church are closed. We still cannot gather in person as sisters and brothers in Christ; to celebrate the holy mysteries. We still do not know exactly when we will re-open, alas. We are, however, moving towards that day!
Our plans for reopening have been submitted to the Bishop. We are acquiring all the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, and are collecting your responses to our re-gathering survey, which will very much help parish leadership to discern a date. Once our plans have been approved, parish leadership will prayerfully determine when we can finally throw wide open our doors and rejoice to be together. We are hopeful to be able to gather, in a limited capacity, in mid to late August, although there is no certainty.
When the date is established, we will send the approved plan and guidelines, which describe what our re-gathering will look like. This plan includes "A Covenant for Re-Gathering in Worship." Bishop Mariann asks us to make a promise to abide by the guidelines, as our concrete way of fulfilling our Baptismal Covenant to “love my neighbor as myself”, “respect the dignity of every human being” and to “seek and serve Christ in all people.”
In the meantime, we continue this unusual journey, knowing that we are bound to one another in and by the Holy Spirit. The more we pray, the closer we are.
Let us pray! And, let us respond to the faithful presence of Christ by loving those right around us. Easier said than done! But, as Jesus said to Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9), so Jesus says to us, “my grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Yours in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector