Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bishop Tom's team raises $3,500 for cancer research at the Relay for Life

A team with people from all over the collaborative raised a bundle of money -- $3,500 or so -- for cancer research by participating in the Relay for Life in Amesbury

Here's some members of the team near the start of the event -- bright-eyed and ready to go.  They made this reporter promise not to publish pictures of them the next morning at the end of the event, though.

Bishop Tom Shaw was kind enough to stop by at the beginning of the event for the Survivor's Lap. He said he didn't have the right shoes on, but then he discovered that people aren't expected to run, only walk.

A good event for all!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wednesdays during Lent -- meet at five churches

This year we'll repeat last year's very successful series of meetings at the parishes of our collaborative.

During the five Wednesdays of Lent, five Episcopal churches in the Merrimack Valley Deanery will each host an evening that will begin with a soup and bread supper followed by a Lenten themed program designed by the host parish. Each parish will offer a program which reflects the character and culture of their parish.

Children are welcome. Childcare will be available if needed. (Please call the church one week in
advance so they can have time to recruit childcare volunteers.)

February 20th, Trinity, 26 White Street, Haverhill, MA 01830    978 272 4244

Click on each church name for information, and each church address for a map and directions.

The schedule for each evening's events:
" 6-6:35 — Supper, Clean up, and transition
" 6:35 - 7:30 — Lenten Themed Program & child care

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Caring for Chronically Ill Loved Ones: seminar at Christ Church in Andover

Here's a notice from the Rev. Kit Lonergan about a free seminar series on Saturdays in February in Andover. If you're caring for somebody who has a chronic or life-threatening disease you may find this helpful and live-giving.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Glowing Face of Mission by Suzanne DeWitt

This past weekend I attended a Diocesan Regional Learning Days workshop titled Mission Hubs: Transforming our Communities. The workshop opened with a discussion about the evolution of mission work. We’ve traditionally considered mission to be one directional, in other words “we” have something that “they” (whoever the “they” is) need, and we deliver it. In the new paradigm, mission is intended instead to be relational, involving bi-directional, mutual giving and receiving.

The presentation cast a new vision for mission, and gave me much to think about.

Two days later while preparing a meal for St. Paul’s Among Friends community meal program, I was granted a picture of what this new sort of partnering might be like. A recent trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank had resulted in an abundance of beets and parsnips, which aren’t exactly the most popular of vegetables. I tried to be creative about their preparation, and came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea: we would cube up the produce along with sweet potatoes, and roast them to develop their inherently sweet nuttiness. It would be a delicious side to the chicken dish I’d planned, and the colors would be gorgeous; purple and deep orange and white.

I applauded myself for my innovative thinking, and set about peeling. And peeling. And peeling. My partner Diane grabbed her own peeler and started to help. We peeled and chopped the vegetables into semi-uniform cubes while the clock ticked down toward the chiming of the dinner bell. Meanwhile, other tasks were not being attended to, and the vegetables really needed to get into the oven in order to be done in time.

My brilliant idea was in fact not so very bright.

It was then that the vision cast by the workshop presenters came to life.

One of the evening’s crew of volunteers was a large-eyed, solemn-faced young man; a High School junior who has worked with Among Friends on and off for a few years. I hadn’t worked with him before, but it quickly became clear that he was a diligent and uncomplaining laborer. He agreeably stepped in to finish chopping parsnips. They were the worst of the three vegetables to cube, being shaped like carrots, but denser. I watched him hacking away at one of the front counters, facing the fellowship hall where our guests gathered.

An Among Friends guest approached the counter, and stood observing the young man as he worked. He wore a dingy white cap and a faded plaid jacket. His face was lined and weathered, his eyes attentive to the boy’s knife work. After watching for 3 or 4 minutes, he said “If you hold the tip of the knife down on the board, it will go a lot easier.” The young man adjusted his technique, saw that it worked, and said “Thanks!” with a note of relief in his voice. The guest’s eyes crinkled as a smile lit up his face. He nodded in satisfaction, then turned away and sat down to wait in the warm hall for the meal to be served.

I’d witnessed a very simple but very profound thing: an interaction between two souls from different generations and different backgrounds. And it sure made me think.

I don’t pretend to know anything about the man. I was not able to get out to the dining room early enough to eat with him. He could be a wealthy retiree who wanted companionship while he dined. He could be a fisherman who struggles during the winter. He could be a homeless alcoholic. He could be an angel in disguise. But what I do know is that he took deep pleasure in passing on his knowledge. It felt good for him to be helpful.

And he was.

As I thought about this man and the other guests who attend Among Friends, I considered what a blessing it would be for more people to have that feeling. I imagined being physically handicapped as some of the guests are, or elderly and alone as are others. I imagined having lost a job which gave me a feeling of purpose, as have some of our guests. And I wondered how often they feel as if they are useful.

I’ll bet that for some, it is not often enough.

I’m not sure what God has in mind for showing me this small vision of the bi-directional nature of real mission. I don’t know how he wants it to be applied to the Among Friends program in the future, if at all. But I’m grateful for the insight into what true mission can mean, sent in the form of a glowing face beneath the frayed rim of a dingy cap.

Suzanne DeWitt, St. Paul’s Newburyport

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holy Innocents

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."
It has been a trying month.  Our Christmas preparations were shattered by the realization that peace on earth is not a reality – not yet.  This gospel lesson that we heard today, the gospel lesson for Holy Innocents is more that the fulfillment of prophecy.  It is a statement of the depravity to which the lust for power and wealth can drive human beings and the reality that our world is far from the Dream of God and of the pain and suffering that depravity causes.
From Colunbine to Sandy Hook we have come face to face with the loss of innocence.  A USA TODAY examination found mass killings, shootings of 4 or more people, target Americans once every two weeks on average, in attacks that range from robberies to horrific public shooting sprees like the massacre in Newtown, Conn.,
One Saturday afternoon in 1979 I was working at St Dominic’s hospital in Jackson MS.  My code beeper went off and I headed to the ER.  There I saw a 5 year old little boy named Peter, paralyzed from a bullet that had severed his spinal cord at C3.  His 8 year old brother had reached under the seat of the car and found a handgun owned by the husband of their nanny.  In one horrific moment the brother swung around, inches from Peter’s neck and say “bam” as he pulled the trigger.  I have often watched as folks have died, and there is always a sadness about it, but there is nothing more heart-wrenching than when tragedy strikes a child. 
That we have a huge problem in America is pretty obvious.  In December here in our small part of the world it has been devastating.  I mean this part of the country has the most restrictive gun laws in America with the possible exception of California.  We have the best educated populace in America.  We have the most expansive system of healthcare, hospice care, mental health care for those who can pay and for those who cannot pay.  By most accounts we should be living in the safest place in America.  And yet Haverhill made the headlines as the town where the week after the horror of Sandy Hook, someone chose to fire a BB gun into a schoolbus.  What on earth were they thinking?  Well they were not thinking at all!  I mean how ignorant can you get?   
And there are other forms of violence against innocents…  According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.  Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
It is enough to cripple even the most optimistic person….  But here we are in the midst of the Christmas season, longing for Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All.  I am in awe of the teachers in Sandy Hook whose preparation for emergency had taught them to lock the doors from the inside and hide the children and I am humbled by the sacrifice of the women who lost their lives trying to stop the violence.
At Christmas we always get that soaring reading from the first chapter of the Gospel of John – “In the beginning was the Word”.  The lectionary moves us out of the stable to consider the Christmas miracle of God with us on a much more expansive scale.  God separated the sky from the earth and the land from the seas - and before it all was the Word.  The Word that would become flesh and dwell among us.  Kind of knocks your socks off when you think about it.  I am in awe of the Creator incarnated, the infinite confined in human form just as I am, the invincible made vulnerable in order to live the hurts, to share the pains. Madeline L’Engle writes:
The Creator demonstrated that behind the majesty, there’s the power of love, that driving force behind the willingness to stoop, to be made vulnerable, to be stripped naked, be born a babe.  Utterly unfathomable.  At one point in human history,   God entered and lived among all of this horror – miracle enough!!   But that is not the end of the miracle of Christmas, because God dwells in us too.  In each one of us is the kernel of goodness of our Creator waiting for us to open our hearts to be the bearers of God’s truth in the world.  That is perhaps the most profound miracle of Christmas – that God dwells in each one of us with the potential to be agents of the Dream of God….   We are both the vessels and the beacons of God’s love in this world.
More than anything else this Christmas I have felt a call to listen God’s word as a clarion call to do something about the violence that seems so pervasive in our society and so today I want to begin a conversation that I hope will ground every single meeting and gathering we have here at Trinity in the coming year.  We have an opportunity to think about and to prepare for the ways we can become more resilient ourselves and better able to help others confront violence.  
Each Sunday we welcome our children with the words Shalom my friends, Shalom.  God’s Shalom implies liberation, salvation and the ability to thrive in life.  It is the consequence of justice and righteousness, not of violence and bloodshed. It is the end of coercion and fragmentation. Whereas violence begets more violence, Shalom is a time 'when all God's creation eases up on hostility and destruction and finds another way of relating.' (paraphrased from Walter Brueggemann)
A new way of relating might include the words we use in worship, the shape of our prayer, the decisions we make about what programming we have, what community celebrations we observe and how, the hospitality and commitment we show to community groups working on violence related issues.  Individually it might mean choosing to read a book or article that educates on the political issues around violence.  We may not all reach the same conclusions but we can all be a better informed electorate.  What this is really about is turning away from indifference and turning instead to compassion and love.
So I want to invite you to consider a couple of things. 
First consider signing a pledge at Annual meeting. 
As an Episcopalian committed in baptism to seeking justice and peace and promoting the dignity of every human being, I commit to being part of the solution to the violence in our culture that claimed the lives of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School and that claims the lives of 2000 innocent children through gun crimes each year. I commit to the pursuit of laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, prioritize the needs of at-risk children, provide care for mental illness, and address the many ways in which our culture both celebrates and trivializes violence. I commit to holding my lawmakers, my community, and my own household accountable. I commit to accomplishing these things in 2013. I commit to being the change we need
Secondly, take the time to learn about the issues being considered by lawmakers.  Changing the cycle of violence will involve substantial creativity and commitment in our communities, the commitment of our congregation to stay the course, and a commitment to examining our own behaviors. How about signing up to attend Team Haverhill’s Possible Dreams meeting on January 27.  It will take three hours of your time, but will provide an opportunity for you to talk with others about your hopes and dreams for our city – perhaps even God’s hopes and dreams for us.
Lastly, I ask that you not let despair or anger poison your hope for you and for your children.  Christ’s Peace that we offer each time we share the Eucharist is about freedom from the fear, hatred, and oppression that limits our love and our life.  God’s shalom is bigger than that.  God’s Shalom opens the way for all to be free to love and to live.  It opens the way for Peace on Earth and goodwill for all.  Include in your prayer each and every day a petition that God will give you the strength and courage to persist.

Our Presiding Bishop closed her Christmas message with this:

“Alleluia alleluia let us Go and look – and discover the love of God poured into our world in human form. Hope reigns abroad, in the cosmos and in human hearts. And rejoice, for a child of the light is born in our midst!”
                           Let the church say……  Amen

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Relief for New Jersey: Shoes Needed

Alert to the Merrimack Valley Deanery and to other interested persons……  If you know someone who might help please forward.

During my time on the Gulf Coast I worked with many churches who sent teams of people to help rebuild homes and lives after Katrina.  One of those churches was a small parish in South River, New Jersey.  South River was hit hard by Sandy, but Holy Trinity was not damaged.  The parish has opened its doors to be a distribution center for clothing, food, and water for those who have no place to go.  I was not surprised.  I spoke with Mother Joanna Graham, the interim there,  who said that just yesterday a woman walked into the church with a child looking for shoes.  The child was wearing plastic bags on her feet.  I promised Mother Joanna that I would do everything I could to see that she has plenty of shoes to hand out. 
So now I am turning to you.  Trinity is willing to be the collection site for children’s shoes, coats, and warm clothing.  VERY gently used or new please!!!!  Mother Joanna said that she would be grateful to anything, but let’s not short-change our brothers and sisters by offering our discards.  I will provide the truck to carry the goods to New Jersey.  I will need a driver and helpers to go with me to load and unload.  Trinity parishioners will come pick up your donations if you need that service. 
There is more information coming from Michael Hamilton soon, but this is a opportunity to help now. I do not know about NY but NJ lost several churches and rectories.  Pray for our clergy colleagues as they deal with not only the losses of their parishioners, but also their own losses.  I know from working with the clergy in MS that knowing that others cared was sometimes the difference between despair and hope.  Lets be thinking about how we might provide a respite for their renewal as this tragedy drags on in the weeks and months and years to come. 

God bless, 
Jane Bearden+

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Collaboration ministry in the old tobacco country of Maryland

Here's an essay by Greg Syler on the collaborative work they're doing in several parishes in Prince George's County Maryland.  There's a lot of excellent wordly wisdom in it.  But this one piece of anti-worldly-wisdom stands out for me. He wrote:

Stop buying books and looking for the next great consultant, bishop, rector, or senior warden. Listen to what God is calling you into, and what God is saying to your gathering. People are ready to do creative ministry, together.

Paul of Tarsus put this in other words (1 Co 1:22-25)

 "Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength."

Good stuff, Greg, thank you.