God's Unpredictable Power

A sermon given on August 25, 2019 - Jeunée’s First Sunday back after Sabbatical

Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17

 Our opening prayer this morning, the Collect, expresses a prayer that has been on my heart as I’ve prepared for my return to St. Michael’s.

  “Grant O merciful God that your Church being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name;”

 I know that I am certainly happy to once more be gathered with you all in unity as I have just returned from three and a half months of sabbatical time. And my prayer is that, together, as we begin this new program year, the Holy Spirit will enliven this church – even more than God already has – so that we might show God’s power to the world around us – even more so than we already do. 

 The one thing about God showing God’s power, however, it that God is rather unpredictable. God doesn’t always act according to our scripts, or follow our plans. God doesn’t always show up on our schedule or act even according to the rules we think God made up for himself.

 So that’s what we’re going to talk about today, about how God shows up, even, and perhaps especially, in ways we don’t expect. About How we can find God in the places where things aren’t working according to our expectations.

 [Just as an aside - You know… it’s been so long since I’ve prepared a sermon that when I tried to open the app on my phone that lets me to listen to the lectionary podcast I normally use in sermon preparation, it had to re-download the app because it had been so long since I’d last used it! ]

 Let’s look at the Gospel story we just heard. Jesus is once again getting in trouble with the synagogue leaders because he is healing on the Sabbath. The Ten Commandments are clear… no work on the Sabbath, and healing, at least to the Jewish leaders, seems to them to be “work.” Some rabbis whose teaching was later reflected in the Jerusalem Talmud, believed that healing could be allowed on the Sabbath but only if it were a critical case, not for chronic illnesses, and obviously, this woman’s 18 year malady is a chronic case. (see m. Yoma 8.6)  But Jesus reveals synagogue leader’s hypocrisy and heals the woman who has been crippled and bound up in pain all those years.

 Jesus shows God’s power in an unexpected way, on an unexpected day. This shouldn’t surprise us. God is in the business of bringing freedom, healing, and restoration. And why wouldn’t that happen on the Sabbath, a day set aside to honor God and enjoy God’s presence and the blessings he bestows on us? The people came to the synagogue that day expecting to hear teaching from the words of the Torah, but instead, unexpectedly, they received a tangible lesson from the Word made flesh, Jesus.

 I’ve just returned from a time of Sabbath. My “Sabbathical” was not exactly what I expected it would be when I started planning it over a year and a half ago. In April of 2018 I submitted a Sabbatical grant proposal to the Lilly foundation to fund a Sabbatical that would have been full of travel to Sacred Spaces like hiking a different section on the Camino de Santiago in Spain and visiting Rome with my mother. It would have included time with my family, even visiting my sister in Hawaii with all of my siblings and our adult children. It included not only time to work on my doctoral thesis, but some other courses and conferences in spiritual leadership. Also included in the grant proposal where opportunities for St. Michael’s… the DC pilgrimage to the cathedrals and monastery would have been completely paid for. We would have had guest speakers from local universities come offer talks on our yearly theme of “Sacred Space.”  

 It was a great plan. I had every day’s itinerary lined up. I had spent about sixty hours or more working on the proposal.  But – after waiting four months, I found out that I did not get the $50,000 grant.  

Bummer.

I felt God tell me at that time. “Don’t worry about it. Don’t plan so much. I’ve got a better plan for you.”

 It turned out to be quite an unexpected plan. A lot different than my original proposal! As most of you know, I got married! Meet Marcel, my new husband!

 Marcel and I had been dating for over two years, and we’d started talking about marriage, but I’m in the middle of my doctoral work, and figuring out a wedding seemed way too complicated. We just wanted something simple. We met in our hiking group, so maybe getting our hiking priest friend Dale Custer, our administrator Doris Custer’s husband,  to take us and our kids up on a mountain for a simple ceremony would work… but even that seemed too complicated. What if it rained? At the same time, since my sabbatical grant program was denied, my summer had opened up. Marcel and his boys had come to Shrine Mont with us last year, and they all enjoyed it. So we decided early last spring that we would come to Shrine Mont again just to enjoy the parish retreat together. Since I’d still be on sabbatical and not in charge, it would be sort of a surprise to the parish.  Only a couple of organizers knew we were coming.

 It was something like Palm Sunday that God whispered in our ears, “You could get married at Shrine Mont!” What a perfect plan, God! Except for our families, and a few folk who needed to be in the know for planning, we surprised everyone. And it was a lot of fun sharing that surprise with those of you who were on our Shrine Mont retreat three weeks ago.

 So, God showed up in my plans much differently than I originally expected, but at least I knew going into my sabbatical that we were going to get married. (Which was very exciting!) What we were not clear on was where we were going to live. We thought I’d just keep my apartment as a writing studio for my doctoral thesis while I slowly moved into Marcel’s house. But we soon figured out that his house is too small for my stuff and his stuff and his kids… and so we’d need to find a new home, and sell the house he was living in. Selling and buying a house took on a life of its own. My summer “Sabbath” has not been in rest and spiritual reflection as much as it has been in purging, packing, staging, fixing, cleaning and selling a house. In looking for a new home, We ended up deciding to have a new house built and so have also gone through the process of choosing flooring and cabinets and all those things that go into a new house.

 The only house sold in five days, and it closes this coming Thursday. The new house will be finished, they say, by the end of November. Meanwhile, movers came last Thursday and packed up Marcel’s house into Pods, and he’s moved into my small one-bedroom apartment.

 As some of you have probably already guessed, there’s still quite a lot of work to be done on my doctoral thesis… But I still plan to knock it out to graduate next spring.

 Marcel and I have felt God’s power show up in ways we didn’t expect, bringing us wholeness and joy, even in the midst of turning our lives upside down… or rightside up!

 Let me share another story of how God’s power showed up in unexpected ways this summer, when our plans didn’t work out.

 Some of you know that Marcel and I travelled across country with his boys in July, to visit his parents who live near Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, and take in some of the wonderful sites along the way.  We stopped to see my mom in West Virginia, then hit Chicago and stayed at my son’s apartment there. We drove and camped just outside the Badlands in South Dakota. The next day we visited the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and then drove on to Billings, MT to a campground there.

 The next day we crossed into Canada and headed to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. From the research Marcel had done, the websites said you couldn’t reserve a campground site. It was first come first serve. As we approached Banff and checked the first two campsites on our list we discovered two things. One – the rules had changed, and people could indeed reserve a campsite. And Two – we were arriving about 8 pm, and so all the “first come, first serve” spots had already been served up, even on a Tuesday night.

 We had just travelled 12 hours in a truck with three teenage boys in the backseat. We were trying to figure out what to do. Do we drop a bundle of money on a resort-priced hotel rooms in the area, if we could find one available? Or do we drive an hour and a half back toward Calgary to find less expensive accommodations… or do we skip seeing Banff National Park and just drive four more hours to Marcel’s parents. This was not going according to plan. 

 But then I thought, - or rather, God inspired the thought – “I wonder if there are any Anglican churches nearby?” Sure enough, just 10 miles away, there was a St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Canmore, Alberta. Just outside the border to the park. It’s now 8:30 at night on a Tuesday. My plan was for us to show up, camp in their yard, and invoke Anglican Communion hospitality, and forgiveness if needed. Marcel thought we should call first. So I did. Lo and behold, someone answered the phone.

 I explained the situation. “Hi, my name is Jeunée Godsey and I’m the priest of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Richmond Virginia. I’m travelling with my family camping and somehow we’ve screwed up and can’t find a camp site. I’m hoping for St. Michael’s sister-church hospitality and hoping you’d let us camp in your church yard tonight.

The woman said, “Have you seen our church yard?” “No” “We don’t really have a yard you can camp in.” I responded, “well, do you have any ideas for us? We’re kind of stuck.” She said, “Would you like to camp IN the church?” “Boys, do you want to camp IN the church?” “Yes!”

 So the secretary waited for us – they had just finished their parish council meeting – and gave us keys to the church. Showed us the bathrooms and the carpeted classrooms, and we set up our sleeping backs in various rooms in the parish house. What a gift! What a display of God’s power.

 The fact that it was a “St. Michael’s” was God just showing off a bit, in case we were to think it was just “good luck.”

 Now, I’ve taken some personal privilege for my first Sunday back to share some stories of how Marcel and I have seen God’s power at work in some fun ways in our lives over the past few months.

 But we know that life isn’t always fun, and that there is much pain in the world and in our personal lives. Nevertheless, God’s power is present - often in unexpected ways - in these difficult times as well.

 This last week we lost two dear saints of St. Michael’s family.  Charlie Wayland died Tuesday, August 20th, after months of slow decline and time in hospice. John Lewis died just this last Friday, after a week in the hospital revealed he had not just heart issues, as his doctor thought, but cancer that had spread throughout his body.

 We know Jesus is a healer, and just as he did with the woman crippled for 18 years, he frees those who are held in bondage by their illness.  In both Charlie’s and John’s case, that freedom came as Jesus released them from the pain in their physical bodies, and brought their spirits and souls to be with God in heaven.

 God’s power was present with Charlie as he prepared for death. Charlie kept his sweet spirit and sense of humor until the very end. He had planned for his funeral. He knew he was loved. He expressed his love to Sandra and his family. He was at peace. God’s power is still with Sandra and the rest of Charlie’s family and friends as they let Charlie go and grieve.

 God’s power was present with John as he quickly declined toward death. Becki was called to do last rites Friday, and John was unresponsive at first. But in the middle of the time of prayer, he opened his eyes and gazed at Inge, who he had just married less than a year ago. He just held his eyes lovingly on her during the prayers. As Becki finished last rites, he simply closed his eyes and died.  Inge told me yesterday that a blanket of peace has enveloped her. A supernatural peace. The Peace that passes all understanding. That’s the power of God.

 We all have in our heads pictures of how life should be… plans we like to make, and expectations of how our lives will go. Sometimes those plans and expectations work out, but often times the world doesn’t operate according to our plans. They key for you and me is to look for how God’s power is present in any given situation.

 How is God leading?

How is God directing your decisions?

How is God bringing you freedom?

Where is God bringing healing and wholeness?

 The key for all of us is to not only begin to recognize God’s power working in our lives, but to share those experiences with others. That is how the prayer we prayed at the beginning of the service can be fulfilled:

“Grant O merciful God that your Church being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name.”

Amen.

"Feed My Sheep"

by The Rev. Jeunee Godsey

John 21:1-19 May 5, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C

 Jesus said, Feed my Sheep.

 A year ago in May, several of us from St. Michael’s joined others in our diocese for a pilgrimage on the Way of St. Cuthbert in Scotland. We hiked 100 kilometers from Melrose to Lindisfarne, remembering Cuthbert, a monk who become the Prior of both Melrose Abbey and Lindisfarne Abbey, and later a bishop. He is known for his holiness and humility, and the way he peacefully brought together Christians from the Celtic tradition and Christians from the Roman tradition once the Synod of Whitby declared that the Roman rites should prevail back in 664.[i]

 Cuthbert started off, however, as a shepherd. In fact, when he was a young man, probably about 16 years old, he had a vision while he was shepherding his master’s sheep. On the night of August 31, 651, looking out into the sky towards the sea, he saw a vision of angels carrying off a soul into heaven. He later learned that St. Aiden, the bishop of Lindisfarne, had died at that very hour. That vision is presumed to be Cuthbert’s call into Christian Ministry. Certainly, Cuthbert wasn’t the first shepherd follow God’s call.

 

All over scripture, we see the image of the Shepherd as one doing God’s will and leading God’s people. King David started off as a shepherd, and he wrote the 23rd psalm – “The Lord is My Shepherd,” which we will hear next week.  Throughout the Old Testament, we see God desiring that the kings of Judah and Israel should be like Shepherds to their people. At Jesus’ birth, it was the lowly Shepherds in the fields who became the first evangelists telling of Jesus’ birth. And of course, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd.

 

Often times, pastors of churches are equated with Shepherds. In fact, that’s exactly what the word Pastor means… Shepherd. The Pastor, the shepherd, cares for her flock, and leads them to pastures where they might be nourished.

 

So, I thought I’d take advantage of these last two Sundays before my sabbatical to talk to you, pastor to flock, and to unfold what the Scripture is telling us these two Sundays, where “Sheep” are a prevalent theme.

 

As most of you regular worshippers know by now, next Sunday will be the last Sunday I am with you before I take a 14 week sabbatical. Those 14 weeks come from the two weeks each year that the church has given to me, so that, now that I’m in my seventh year, I can take a special “Sabbath” time. And as much as I’ll miss you, I look forward to the rest and refocusing, and the chance to immerse myself in my doctoral thesis writing.  I hope you’ll come to the potluck brunch after the (10:30) service today for us to celebrate being one flock together. There, I’ll also share briefly about my sabbatical plans, and the plans for St. Michael’s. Also, I’ll highlight where we are on some of the major aspects of our strategic plan, and let you ask any questions. So come on… even if you didn’t bring a dish to share. There’s always plenty. If you can’t come, be sure to pick up the little flyer that says, “While the Pastor’s away, her flock will play!” which has some of the highlights as well.

 

Although I must admit, when we came up with that title, I couldn’t help but remember the words of my own priest, Sara Chandler, at my home church of Margaret’s in Woodbridge, Virginia. Sara famously said, “Best I can tell from the bible, there is only one Shepherd, and that’s Jesus. So, I’m not really the shepherd. I think my role is more like the Sheepdog that barks at the wolves that might attack, and then bites at the heels of the sheep to keep them moving in the right direction!”

 

Be that as it may, let’s turn back to our scripture for this morning.

 

Jesus says to Peter, “Feed my lambs, Tend my Sheep, Feed my sheep.”

Even so, our Gospel passage today seems to be a lot more about fishing than it does about shepherding.

 

This resurrection appearance of Jesus on the beach cooking breakfast is a beautiful story, chock full of meaning on many different levels, with allusions all over the place to earlier passages of scripture. But at its core, it is a call narrative, recalling the Call of the disciples at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

 

You may remember the story from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus was teaching by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus asked Simon Peter, who was cleaning his nets by the shore, to take him out into the water so that he could teach, and the hillside around the lake would become a natural amphitheater. After Jesus finished teaching the crowds, he told Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

 

And of course, lo and behold, when Simon and his fishing buddings let down their nets, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Simon Peter then kneels at Jesus’ feet, in awe, and out of fear of being unworthy to be in such a holy presence says, “Go away from me Lord, For I am a sinful man.”

 

Jesus in effect says to Simon, “Don’t be afraid, from now on, you won’t just be fishermen, you will be fishers of men.” So Simon Peter leaves his nets, and he and his companions become Jesus’ disciples, indeed, gathering people into the nets of the Good News of God.

 

But here we are, after the three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, his death and resurrection, and the disciples seem to be reverting a bit. As we heard last week, Jesus appeared Easter Evening to all the disciples and then the very next week when Thomas was with them. He had breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and commissioned them, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” But they haven’t really gone anywhere yet. Maybe without Jesus giving them day to day instruction, they had settled into a sense of inertia. Or fear of the future. Easier to get back to what they know.

 

Peter says to his friends, “I’m going fishing.” And they all reply, “We’ll come too.”

But they spend the night on the boat, and catch nothing. Then, a stranger on the beach says, “Put your nets down on the other side of the boat” and when they did, the catch was so great, they could scarcely pull it in.

 

They know immediately that it was the Lord, and even though they aren’t that far from shore, Peter jumps in the water to get to Jesus as soon as he can.

 

Jesus is there, on the beach, cooking them breakfast, the Fish and Bread reminding them of the feeding of the 5000.

 

Then Jesus both reinstates and recommissions Peter. There by the charcoal fire, like the charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard where Peter had denied Jesus three times, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. And Peter affirms three times, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.”

 

So here we finally get to the sheep.

Feed my lambs. Tend my Sheep. Feed my Sheep. These are the words of mission Jesus gives Peter every time he says he loves him.

 

You say you love me, then feed my sheep.

Jesus’ call to Peter is Jesus’ call to us as well.

 

We are all part of Jesus’ flock, and we are called to care for one another. To tend to the flock, and to feed the sheep. This commissioning by Jesus can be taken both metaphorically, and literally. There are many ways that we are called to tend to and feed members of the flock spiritually – by engaging together in scripture study, for example, and spending time together in fellowship. 

 

But Jesus is also asking us to literally feed those among us who need feeding. Many of you know that St. Michael’s has long been involved in several feeding ministries. They are anchors of our outreach ministry. But we need more people to be involved in Feeding Jesus’ lambs. We have had a food panty on the lower level of the Parish House for decades, and although we no longer open hours to serve the hungry, we use that food pantry for people in crisis situations and to supply food for our other feeding programs.

 

Some of you volunteer to be part of a rotating team to make and serve food for Friends of the Homeless, and others of you have help us provide our twice monthly grocery support  to low-income elderly residents at Monarch Woods. Each month. St. Michael’s provides hundreds of meals to people who otherwise would be hungry, or have to make the decision between buying needed medication and buying groceries. St. Michael’s makes a huge difference in the lives of so many.

 

But while we do have some help, the majority of the leadership and responsibility for planning, the ongoing weekly food bank shopping, hauling and shelving groceries, government reporting, coordinating volunteers, and acquiring food and supplies not available at Feedmore fall to just a two people, who are struggling to keep up.

 

We’ve just adjusted our Friends of the Homeless commitment from one Wednesday a month to a Tuesday every other month.  But we need a several volunteers, and I imagine those people are here at church today, who can commit to helping Feed Jesus’ Sheep on a regular basis.  We need two or three people who take on significant responsibility for oversight for portions of our various feeding programs. We need a few people who can consistently volunteer to make the twice monthly trip to the food bank and handle transporting the cases of can goods and frozen items back to our pantry. If you work during the day, you could volunteer to make a large casserole every other month - recipe and cooking tray provided - so that one of our teams could  consistent volunteers to make the casseroles for Friends of the Homeless and bring them to church for the teams to heat and serve. Or You could be responsible for the record keeping and online reporting. Or you could figure out what other items we will need that we couldn’t get at the food bank and do or coordinate the Sam’s Club shopping when it works in your schedule. I’ve put a volunteer interest form out in the Narthex, and you can contact Shirley Wiley, our vestry person in charge of outreach, if you are interested.

 

I’ve just highlighted our actual feeding ministries this morning, but Jesus’ call to Peter to “Feed my Sheep” goes way beyond literally feeding the hungry.

 

Jesus calls each of us, over and over, each new day, to cast our nets into the waters of the world. It’s easy to fall into a rut of our regular routine and day jobs and forget that we have each been commissioned by Jesus to go into the world, and share the Good news, in word and deed. We are called to fish for people, to look around and let down our nets on the other side of our boats. We are called to make our love of Jesus tangible by tending his sheep and feeding his lambs, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

 You don’t need me to be around to make that happen. You just need to listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice. Amen.

 

[i] https://www.britainexpress.com/History/saxon/cuthbert.htm

 

Youth Group Update

By Christian Hansen

As mentioned at the beginning of the year, we have been meeting approximately twice a month. Over the winter months, we have begun to meet more frequently with St. Matthias and plan to meet with St. David’s soon as well in effort to build up youth ministry within our convocation.

Coming up this summer, we will be attending the IMPACT Richmond Mission Trip for our third straight year from July 14-20. If you are not familiar with this mission, it is a wonderful local mission that gathers ~100-125 youth and adults from Virginia and the surrounding states (WV & TN in past years) to make repairs and updates on local homes. Local residents can apply to be considered for this mission work each year. “Gurus” (people with construction/home repair experience) help guide each group’s work and give them what they need to complete the job(s).

Over the past two years, we have built a ramp, fixed a roof overhang, painted interior and exterior walls, and cleared out lawn debris amongst other things. We hope you will join us for this great trip - your friends are invited! If you are interested in being our female chaperone or know someone that we should ask, please contact me at chansen@stmschool.net.

Archangels Update

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By Christian Hansen

Sunday School has continued its momentum under the fearless leadership of Jill Hunter, Carla Ewing and Marion Price. One special highlight was when our kids learned about Jesus’ healing ministry. The “Threads” take home sheet for this lesson did a good job once again of relating these stories to our identity as Episcopalians for our kids...

“Episcopalians take a holistic approach to healing. We ask for healing, not curing, knowing that God’s way of healing may not be our way. When confused about what to ask for, we often say, “We entrust all who are dear to us to your never-failing care and love…knowing that you are doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for…” (BCP, p. 831).”

We continue this healing ministry through healing prayer during Communion by lay members of our congregation and visits by our clergy to parishioners at home or in the hospital. Our Archangels made cards during class as seen in the pictures above for our church's healing mnistry. These cards will be distributed by the clergy when they visit parishioners and is our small way of continuing Jesus’ work.

Sunday Morning Worship Takes a Villag … er … Whole Congregation

By Katy McGrann

You walk into church on an ordinary Sunday morning, get a bulletin from a smiling usher or greeter, find your pew, and let the organ prelude wash over you, as you prepare for the worship experience ahead. Seems straight forward, almost effortless, right?

Au contraire, my friend. Your worship experience began days earlier, at a meeting between our Rector, Jeunee Godsey, and our Director of Liturgical Music and Organist, Crystal Jonkman, with Deacon Becki Dean adding her wisdom as needed. Together, they craft the service and hand off the details to Doris Custer, Director of Parish Operations, who prepares the service bulletin; office volunteers then copy the bulletin and “stuff” the announcement sheet into it, so you’ll have it in your hands come Sunday morning. That’s at least five people, plus more than a dozen choir members, who’ve thought about your worship experience so far, and it’s not close to Sunday yet.

Now add another 40 folks who will help to make your Sunday morning a genuine, moving and meaningful experience. Eleven coordinators under the umbrella of the Liturgical Commission have finessed the schedules of over 100 volunteers to make sure that all areas of a normal Sunday service have been attended to. The Altar, Flower and Visual Arts Guilds have made the sanctuary beautiful. The Choir has rehearsed processional, psalm, anthem, and recessional music. Someone has lovingly baked communion bread. Acolytes, lectors, lay readers, healing ministers, eucharistic ministers and eucharistic visitors have been assigned.

And that’s just the group that makes Sunday morning worship happen. It doesn’t include other commisions, like the wonderful instructors of Christian Education for adults, youth and children before the service or the welcoming hospitality of Parish Life after.

Chances are if you sit in the pew on Sunday morning, either you or your pew neighbor are involved with one of these commissions. Two adages come to mind: “many hands make light work” and “it takes a village.” Here at St. Michael’s, while we have the hands of many parishioners already at work, there is always room for more, because in our case, it takes a village – our entire congregation – to keep this church running.

If you volunteer in any capacity, thank you for making Sunday morning happen. If you would like to volunteer, pick an area of interest, then ask Jeunee, Becki, or any Vestry Member to direct you to the appropriate coordinator. We’re happy to help you make a connection at St. Michael’s that runs deeper than an hour on Sunday morning.

The next time you walk into church, thank that smiling usher, greet your pew neighbor with kindness and curiosity, let the organ prelude wash over you, and say a little prayer of thanksgiving for the extraordinary 45 plus people who have made this ordinary Sunday morning seem so straight forward, almost effortless, all

Letter from the Rector: Exploring Sacred Space

Dear Friends,

There are several topics I’d like to address in my letter this quarter: 1) Our yearly theme of Exploring Holy Space 2) What we are doing with our “Holy Space” here on the Bon Air Campus and 3) The Holy Space and Time I will soon be experiencing on Sabbatical.

1) Exploring Sacred Space: This year has already been powerful for me as we’ve begun to explore Sacred Space. I truly enjoyed exploring the concepts of “home” during Advent and Christmas, and “Rome” during Epiphany. Our Rome theme focused mainly on reading through the book of Romans with the Good Book Club, and many of you, like me, were simultaneously challenged and fulfilled by engaging in this robust letter from Paul. Our guest speakers, both Hanan Kharabsha from Palestine, and our own Gordon Jackson fleshed out the idea of sacred space “elsewhere.”

I hope you look forward to engaging the Sacred Space of Wilderness during Lent, as we walk the Way of Love. Then, in the Easter Season, we will explore Sanctuary and Tabernacle…. Culminating in a one day parish pilgrimage to Washington DC to see the Washington National Cathedral, the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. After a summer of resting into the Sacred Space of Creation, we prepare for our parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I hope you are able to embrace these opportunities as a way to explore and expand your own sense of Sacred Space in your own life.

2) “Space” has been an issue here at St. Michael’s ever since before I became your priest almost seven years ago. For over 10 years, there has been a constant, at least low-grade, anxiety about how St. Michael’s would care for and use our space once the school moved entirely to its new campus. This anxiety has been based in the fear that we’d be “stuck” with exorbitant costs of upkeep that could “sink” the church financially. Granted, this issue [dealing with the now vacant school space] is extremely important. Future generations will look back at this time in our history and evaluate how the decisions we make today affected our future. We are clear that we don’t want our buildings and land to be an albatross around the neck of our ministry. So, please know that the leadership (Vestry, key lay leaders, and me) take this responsibility seriously. Also know that we have already seen miracles! Our discernment processes, the charrette, and our research have been enlightening. We have a great asset in our land and buildings, and we are confident that we will soon be able to sell the portion of the property we don’t need to a party whose mission compatible with our own. Keep up the prayers, and feel free to ask Tom Ager, vestry member in charge of property transition, or Doug Schepker, former Junior Warden who is chair of our Facility Work Group, if you have more questions as we “right-size” our space for our future.

3) I will be on sabbatical May 15-Aug. 21, 2019. A Sabbatical is space and time for reflection and renewal granted to priests (and some other professions) in order to prepare oneself for renewed engagement in ministry. I look forward to this time of sabbatical, my first ever in 19 years of ministry, (even though clergy normally earn sabbaticals every 4-7 years.) To answer questions I have heard pop up, and to relieve any anxiety over my upcoming time away, I have put together a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet that will be available in the narthex at church, and online. I’ll be using my sabbatical mostly to write my doctoral thesis as well as being able to spend some extended time with my mother, my adult children, and other family. Please know that “sabbatical” is NOT code for “job search.” While I know better than to tell God to ratify my plans, I love St. Michael’s and I foresee much wonderful ministry together in our future. I look forward to returning having accomplished my thesis, having had time to rest, hike, and spend time with family, and having God inspire me with expansive visions of St. Michael’s future ministry. So, read the FAQ sheet, and let me know if you have any questions.

Blessings,

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