Saturday, June 21, 2014

Education…Formation…Ministry

Several Education for Ministry groups in the diocese of Rochester are currently accepting new students for the Fall 2014 term. EfM is a four-year, seminary course for lay people that explores the Bible, church history, and theology. Participants also learn how to share their spiritual autobiographies, engage in theological reflection, deepen their spiritual lives, examine their theological frameworks, and discern their ministries in the church and in the world. Tuition is $350 per year; scholarships are available for those who need financial assistance. Contact the administrative mentor directly to register for a group.

Meeting Location
Meeting Date and Time
Administrative Mentor
Online
Sundays
5:00 pm
John Clinton Bradley
johnclint@icloud.com
(585) 313-1059
St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester
Mondays
9:30 am
Donna D'Angio
dangios@aol.com
(585) 381-0363
St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester
Mondays
7:00 pm
Nancy Grear
nancy.grear@gmail.com
(585) 389-2805
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Webster
Thursdays
6:45 pm
Lance Robbins
lrobbins3714@aol.com
(585) 872-2281

Online EfM is a convenient option those who live in an area where there isn’t a traditional group, travel frequently, have limited mobility, or like the flexibility of learning online. You'll find an online EfM group just as rewarding as a traditional group. Visit http://www.johnclintonbradley.name/efm/online to learn more about the online group and download the registration packet.

Visit http://efm.episcopalrochester.org for more information about EfM in the Diocese of Rochester. While you’re there, please join our Google or Facebook groups.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Photos From Faith In Action Dinner

Thanks to Toni Burr for this these photos from the Faith in Action Dinner. Our parish honored the late Jack Cummings.
Post by The Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou: "Church"

Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

It's Sacred; Church
Everything in God's world is sacred.  Trees and
toads and little girl's eyes. Grandfather's hands
and the murmuring voices of lovers.  Sacred.

A poet's dream, almanac compilers and rocks that
look up at the moon.  Sacred.  Everything can be
church and anything can be church.

Church was the first place where I came
child to spirit to Christ.  "Suffer little children
to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of
Heaven."


Literally, church introduced me to my very first
friend.  Louise and I both thought the preacher
talked too long, Mrs. Sneed sang too loudly and
Brother Williams got too wild when he prayed.
We both giggled at the same time and cried just
as piteously when we were chastised.

Every time I feel the spirit, I know I am
immersed in the essence of church.  That know-
ledge changes my voice.  I speak more softly and
choose my words more carefully.  There are more
"yes, ma'ams" and "no ma'ams" and "yes, sirs" and
"no sirs" in my conversation.

Out of my heart, out of my brain, more "thank
yous" slide across my tongue.  I am blessed.
I am in church.

Church is not the luggage I bear, nor the cloak I
wear.  It is neither the hat I sport, nor the shoes,
which carry me around my world.  It is not my
destination, nor my place of departure.

I cannot define the breadth and depth and width
and height of church, but church can define me
always.  It slides the skin over my muscles and
allows my lungs to inspirate and fill so that
"Hallelujahs" like rain come from my mouth,
"Hallelujahs" fall like rain from my lips.

Church is where I go when I want a certain ful-
fillment, and church is where I don't have to go
because it is always with me,
holding me up,
propelling me forward,
sustaining me.

When I think about church and remember that
church and I are one, I am reminded that  every-
thing in God's world is sacred.

2003, Dr. Maya Angelou

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Annual Meeting Slide Show 2014

Thanks to Michael Laver and Toni Burr for these parish photos from 2013!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Two Saints on Google+

Google+ is a social networking platform similar to Facebook. Our parish now has a Google+ page.  Click here to take a look.

Two Saints' Google+ page

While you're visiting, if you use Google+, please click the red Follow button. Also consider writing a review of the parish and sharing the page on your own Google+ page.

Don't forget that our parish has also a Facebook page and a Twitter feed

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A People to Become

Sermon preached on the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, January 26, 2014, at the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, Rochester, New York, the Sunday of the Annual Meeting of the parish:  Isaiah 9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 4:12-23.

          For thirty years or so “mission statements” have been all the rage, not
only in the church and other non-profits, but also in the business community.  They are sometimes helpful and sometimes not, and usually some of both.

          Turns out the inventor of mission statements may have been God, who on several occasions makes clear his purpose for the people he has called together.  We have the seeds of one this morning, when Isaiah talks about the people who walked in darkness seeing a great light.

          As Israel returns from exile in Babylon, Isaiah uses this image to deliver God’s mission (from Isaiah 49:6):

The Lord says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

          When Matthew is writing his Gospel and is telling how Jesus chose to make his home base in Capernauum in Galilee, he recalls this mission and suggests that it is Jesus’ mission:  to be a light not only to his own Jewish people, but to all people.  There were plenty of Jews in Galilee, but there were plenty of all kinds of people in Galilee.

          To fulfill his purpose, after his personal preparation at the Jordan and in the wilderness, Jesus first gathers a group of followers.  It may have been his first act of genius, but it could also be seen as his first big mistake.  Whenever people band together for a cause they will start to organize, and when they start to organize they may indeed accomplish many things, but they will also inevitably start to disagree with one another, some will want to be in charge and others will resent anyone who is in charge and we are off to the races.

A friend of mine said to me the other day about her parish, “I mostly pray that once and awhile the light will shine through the dysfunction and we do some good in spite of ourselves.”  Perhaps that is describing a worst-case scenario, but, if so, it has been around from the beginning.  The Apostle Paul was very familiar with it.

The Christian community in Corinth was a mess.  The two letters to them are almost a manual for how not to do Christian community, although, in Paul answering them, and speaking to some of their dysfunctions, it is also a manual for how to do it right.

This morning we heard Paul responding to a dynamic in their community which was sort of like the “sorting hat” scene from Harry Potter.  I belong to Cephas’ people.  I belong to Apollos’ people. I belong to Paul’s people.

Paul says, “Look.  Cephas, Apollos, Paul, we all did important things in your community, but none of us more important than the other.  You do not belong to any one of us.  You belong to one another. You are all part of the body, the body of Christ.”

I talked about belonging a couple weeks ago when we baptized Avery Kane.  I think it is one of the great gifts of this place that it is a place to belong, to be accepted for who you are at any given time.

But there is more, isn’t there?  “Belonging” implies something outside of ourselves of which we are a part, and the God of the Bible is always forming a people.  Along with “a place to belong,” communities like this one are also “a people to become.”

In our tradition when we talk of this “people to become,” we are not only talking about the people in this parish.  We are talking about sisters and brothers in all places and in all times, the reality we mean when we use the word “catholic” to describe the church.  The bigger it gets the messier it gets and any attempt to over control it is doomed to failure, which I think is one of the points Pope Francis is trying to make.

Paul longed for the disagreements to end in Corinth.  He wanted a church “united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  And I think it is vital that we are always working toward that goal.  Unity is clearly part of the purpose of God in bringing people like us together.  And yet the messiness seems part of the plan also.  Uniformity is not healthy for the body.  It can, in fact, stifle the body’s imagination and creativity.  We need difference of opinion, difference of giftedness, difference of intellect and imaginative capacity, difference in just about anything you can imagine to keep up with what God is doing in the world around us.

The problem is not difference itself.  The problem is when our difference becomes an idol, something which must be defended.  The problem is when I no longer believe you have anything to contribute to my well-being.  We all fall into this trap from time to time when someone else annoys us because of their difference.  I do it also. I speak as a fellow sinner.

My friend Verna Dozier was a complex person, which annoyed me for a long time, but I gradually came to understand that her struggle was my struggle, and, in fact, was universal.  She was a woman of strong opinions, someone who, as they say, did not suffer fools gladly.  Yet she steadfastly held out this truth to all with whom she came into contact.  “If I am a person of faith than the only thing I know for sure is that I could be wrong about anything.”

My sense, my friends, is that the reconfiguration of this worship space is only the beginning of significant change this community must undertake if we are to thrive in a third century of ministry on this site.  More than anything—more than ideas, more than money, more than vision, more than will—more than anything we will need the capacity to honor and celebrate our differences so that out of them can come the energy to move forward.  If we don’t keep developing that capacity, our differences will tie us up in knots and we will go nowhere.

The beating heart of this community must be Jesus’ constant invitation for us to belong and the Holy Spirit’s constant taking that belonging and forging an ever new people with it.


May this describe our life:  A Place to Belong and a People to Become.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Strange Intrusion

Sermon preached on St. Thomas' Day, December 21, 2013, at a Eucharist giving thanks for fifty year anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of The Rev. Peter W. Peters.  Habakkuk 2:1-4, John 20:24-29


            It is as if back in the dim recesses of liturgical history where mere mortals fear to tread, someone decided that Christmas needed not to be so happy.  So this person
The Very Rev. Michael Hopkins, The Rev. Dr. Peter Peters, The Rev. Canon Julie Cicora
surrounded the great feast of the Babe of Bethlehem with doubt, martyrdom, exile, and the murder of innocent children.  Merry Christmas!
            St. Thomas’ Day is a strange intrusion into our last preparations for Christmas.  But, of course, we should immediately recognize the work of God here.  This strange intrusion has God’s fingerprints all over it.  And the birth we are about to celebrate, as sweet as it is, is it not the feast of the strangest intruder of all?
            In a well-known and dare I say well-loved passage, the prophet Habakkuk speaks for God:  “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.  For there is still a vision for the appointed time…”  The prophet is somewhat cagey about just what this vision is.  He rails against injustice.  “The very stones will cry out from the wall…” against it, he says.  At length he ridicules idolatry.  “Alas for you who say to the wood, ‘Wake up!’”
            At the end of chapter two Habakkuk gives us all that he is going to give.
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before him!
            That the vision may need to be an urging for us to shut up and listen is itself a strange intrusion.  We are all about words.  Words, words, words, and these days in our prayers it seems the wordier the better.  Yet the vision is that our first impulse is to become silence.  Good luck with that, and I do not mean just our hero for the evening, Peter.  It is a message for all of us, this preacher included.
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before him!
            Of all people—since he wrote a lot of words—John Calvin seemed to know this.  He at least knows there is a limit to intelligence and the words it produces.  He once wrote, “There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than our own intelligence.”[1]  I certainly do not think that is an anti-intellectual remark, but our intelligence, Calvin is saying, always needs to be checked before God.  We must learn to listen as eloquently as we speak.
            Perhaps this was Thomas’ problem.  Poor old Thomas and the label “doubter” he carries about.  It should not be lost on us that his doubt leads to faith.  Doubt is not the same thing as rejection, it is more akin to curiosity.  It is one step on a journey.  It can be, of course, and often is, participating in the idolatry of our own intelligence.  In the midst of it we need, like Thomas got, a strange intrusion that strikes us “dumb” (pun intended), again like Thomas, who blurts out a few words but then is smart enough—or perhaps dumb enough—to keep quiet.
            It is, perhaps, easy to rib our friend and colleague Peter for a reliance on intelligence and words.  And I think he would be the first to tell you (although I guess I actually am) that one of the gifts of 50 years of priesthood has been that words are not always the best response, especially if you want grace to get in the door.
            And Peter is about grace.  It is his theological heart, as it was Calvin’s, and, in the end, Thomas’.  Grace may just be the word we use for the act of strange intrusion God makes into our lives, offered freely to us by Jesus and sealed forever by the Holy Spirit.  Grace is, indeed a strange thing, and an intrusive thing, when, in a world of competition and status and the idolatry of the self-made person, unmerited and unearned love arrives at our feet as a gift.  When the simple words, “You are loved,” are spoken, and our impulse is to say, “but…”  And the finger of grace appears at God’s lips and delivers Habakkuk’s vision, “The Lord is in his holy temple.  Just be quiet.”  Any protest you or anybody else wants to make about your unworthiness disappears into the silence, until the vision actually does become plain.
            Peter you have shared this vision with us, and for that we are grateful, to God and to you.  And we are grateful that we have been able to share it with you.  You know well one of the great realities of priesthood, that we who are ordained need our doubt encouraged into faith as much as anyone.  The significant impact between us has been mutual and the strange intruder has been in the midst of it all the time.
            I know that talk of the special grace of ordination is pushing your low church convictions just a bit, but, hey, you asked me to preach, and I have never pretended to have anything other than a catholic heart.  But the special grace of ordination is not about the faculty to bless or consecrate or the authority to preside and absolve, the special grace of ordination is much stranger and intrusive than that.  I have never found a better description of it than in, of all places, the novel Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.  The old woman is reflecting on color, the pain of it and the glory of it, and she eventually lands on the mystery of the prism and the rainbow of color it mysteriously produces.  And she says this most extraordinary thing.
The deeds and sufferings of light make colors.  By the time sunlight reaches us, it is beautiful old news.  We get tanned, healed, fed by the sun’s own long spent ricochet history.[2]
            We are privileged to be stewards of this “beautiful old news” which is the mercy, grace and freely given love of Jesus, that strange intrusion into our lives that call us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly, and, yes, sometimes stand silently, with God.  It is a life fraught with perplexity, peril and pain, and it is tempting nearly every day to doubt its reality or simply wish it away.  But it is the long spent ricochet history of “justice and peace for all people” and “the dignity of every human being” that we cannot let go of because it will not let go of us.
            Thank you, Peter, for being our fellow traveler with this strange intruder.



[1] I found this quote on the Internet, but have been unable to trace its exact origin.
[2] Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1989), p. 274.