Eleven months ago, Mother Sarah (Coakley) began volunteering in our midst, leading our School of Theology & Prayer. She has offered us rich theological fare. She brought us wonderful theologians, not least of whom was Archbishop Rowan Williams. Mother Sarah's ministry is now moving in new directions and she will no longer be serving in our parish. I know that I speak for all of you that she leaves with our blessing and our deep appreciation for what she has accomplished.
Professor Ryan Danker of Wesley Theological Seminary will be guiding us this coming year in the area of formation. Ryan is a professor of Church History and is a friend of the parish with a deep appreciation for our spiritual and liturgical life. He has lectured at the parish on several occasions. He recently led our wonderful Vestry retreat.
By formation, I mean, as suggested, growth in faith through the pursuit of theological truth, something that we particularly value at ASA. Formation takes on many forms: lectures, conversational Bible Studies, food for thought via social media, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for our children.
Expect to see, in the next couple of weeks, a full lecture program for the year, with speakers from around the country and perhaps one or two from abroad! Let us all pray for a fruitful year of growth in faith.
Yours in Christ,
We had a wonderful Vestry retreat this past weekend, at the Claggett Center in Adamstown, Maryland. There were 11 of us (4 had to stay home, but they joined us via Zoom). We enjoyed prayer and fellowship, teaching and engaging, discerning conversation, and R&R. During our closing Mass, I shared a few thoughts on the gospel, the parable of the laborers of the “eleventh hour”, who get paid as much as those who labored all day. I share some of these thoughts with you.
There is an aspect of this parable, most encouraging, for those of us who arrive late—which, in one way or another, to one degree or another, is all of us! We are all paid the same thing: God’s unconditional, immeasurable gift of Himself. This same God also makes wonderful use of our labor—whether we are early or late. Think about the fact that we all meet and receive Christ in the Eucharist, no matter where we may be.
We are indeed all late in different ways: late to discovering Christ on the timeline of our life, late to awakening to His presence on any particular day because lost in our heads, late to calling upon Him because worry has overtaken us, late to being an instrument of His love for an-other because we are afraid of the other, later to the Vestry, late literally to Church, late in so many ways. Our lateness is not an impediment to Christ filling us with Himself and reigning in us and working through us. We simply need to say “yes” wherever we are.
If Christ loves us so unconditionally and immeasurably, pursues us with relentless tenderness, will meet us in any circumstances, wants nothing than for us to rest upon His breast like John at the Last Supper, then how can there not always be, at least, some measure of joy in our lives?
In the joy of God, with you,
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,
We can easily fear silence, for silence can have the appearance of emptiness. Who is comfortable with a void? Who likes free-falling? Such discomfort and fear incline us then to fill the void.
In comes social media. Nothing seems to be happening, and so we immediately turn to our smart phone, and scroll and tap mindlessly at break-neck speeds—or is that text-neck speeds? “Text neck” is defined as neck pain caused by the flexed/forward head posture during texting (or reading) on a smart phone. Such posture compresses the anterior cervical spinal joints, effectively loading the anterior discs. Ouch—pain traceable for some to a fear of silence.
If only we remembered more often that God inhabits the silence. Recall Elijah meeting God at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11-13). God was not found in the great wind or the earthquake or the fire, but, “after the fire” in “a sound of sheer silence.” Many of the saints, the close “mystical” friends of Christ, speak of the indispensability of silence.
Mother Teresa (+1997) tells us: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
The Spanish mystic, Saint John of the Cross (+1591), says that “What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”
The young Polish nun, Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska (+1938), exhorts us: “In order to hear the voice of God, one has to have silence in one's soul and to keep silence; not a gloomy silence but an interior silence; that is to say, recollection in God.”
In the midst of so much unrest, both inner and outer, let us not forget (also) to be silent. In fact, seize the many opportunities of apparent emptiness in your day, to frequent God and, by grace, be a mystical friend of Christ. From such sacred silence, you will “be able to touch souls.”
Yours in the silence,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans
follower of Jesus Christ
In difficult times, be they societal or more personal, it is particularly important to know who we are, who we are in Christ. Even as Christ’s disciples and friends, we so often look to the outside, to the world and persons around us, to know who are—and for validation. Yet, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We know this in faith.
We also know, alas, that faith, because so subtle and deep and because freely exercised, is easily overshadowed. The voice of God that we hear (with our hearts!) in faith can be easily drowned by other voices. And so, we ask the question afresh: who am I in Christ?
Who we most truly are in Christ cannot be seen in the mirror, cannot be measured, cannot even be easily described. All that I am has lovingly been taken hold of by Christ—my capacity to love, my hair texture, the contours of my body, my past, my relationships, my brain—and yet, the child of God in me, at his/her core, is a mystery (which is a good thing!) Our life is “hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). We are uniquely loved and held and safe and, over time, with our cooperation, we are transformed, divinized. We are becoming like God.
Saint John tells us in his first epistle (3:2), “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he (Jesus) appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” One day the transformation will be complete.
In the meantime, on this pilgrimage towards our heavenly home, we trust that we have been “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love.” (Ephesians 1:4) Chosen and thus sent forth, we must witness to all those around us, along the way, in these complex times, to the goodness and brilliance of God. Indeed, Saint Paul urges you and me (Ephesians 4:1-3) “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
This is my prayer with you.
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.
If only this were true of each day, for each of us. Alas! We lose ourselves in imaginary returns to the distancing past or in imaginary projections into the unknown future and, in the process, deprive ourselves of today, of what could be our favourite day.
Projections into the unknown future are all the more tempting nowadays, as so many important things in our lives have been postponed: weddings, soccer matches, conferences, concerts and church. More than ever, we are positioned to look forward.
Among the things postponed are our Annual Meeting (to September, 13) and our Parish Picnic (to September 20). If ever we cannot meet for the Annual Meeting, we will arrange for a virtual option. And, the Picnic, well, we will see.
We do look forward to gathering, to seeing one another, to praying and singing, to celebrating Eucharist, to letting Jesus, the Bread of Life, do His wondrous thing in our midst. Yet, as we look forward, let us, as Maya Angelou, the American poet, says,
“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”
From the desk of the Rector