From the Rector
This page is the home of "From The Rector"
This page is one where thoughts, prayers, messages and musings on the life and mission of St. Barnabas from the perspective of the Rector will be found. Some of it may be creative, some may lapse to the pedantic but with room for give and take! Hopefully it will never be a diatribe, a rant, or a bore!
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Welcome to the New Year!
Gilbert K. Chesterton, the British author, lay theologian and sharp observer of the intersection of the human soul and the world, said of New Year’s resolutions:
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”
I’ve decided to take Chesterton’s words to heart. Here are some resolutions I have made for 2017 and for most of them I’ll need some partnership if they are to be well kept!
1. Conversation. In my Christmas letter I extended the invitation to conversation. I would like to begin this year in conversation with as many members of St. Barnabas as possible. I am open to those conversations being about anything (except the Bronco’s season). Some may have a desire to talk about your relationship with me as Rector of St. Barnabas. I have asked Jim Banks (a member of the vestry and a therapist) and Rev. Deb Angell to be available for those conversations. Mostly for a clear objective presence. Please contact me directly or through Carol and we can set an appointment.
2. Christian Formation. Sometimes we need a little pause as they say to “Sharpen the saw.” I have acquired a resource for looking back at the roots of our faith to help us be more fully followers of Christ. The resource is called “Pilgrim”. Why Pilgrim?
Even now, back at our base for ministry, as Christians we are always on a pilgrimage of faith to God’s reign with Christ. Pilgrim has been developed to help local churches to look at the dimensions of that journey, as individuals and as congregations, and to help in inviting others to join us in our journey of faith. More information will follow but for now know it consists of two stages called “Follow” and “Grow”. Each stage has four sections divided into six sessions. Sessions are about 80 minutes and could be on Sunday or a weekday evening. Follow is especially is good for inquirers and those who would like to prepare for baptism or confirmation. While not as broad as Education For Ministry – Pilgrim offers enough scope to allow people to take an in-depth look at our journey with Christ both as individuals and as members of the church.
I’ll be sending out more information but initially I would like some input as to when people think this might best be scheduled. You can take a look at some information about Pilgrim here: https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/pilgrim/welcometopilgrim.pdf
3. Preaching Workshop. Speaking of sharpening saws I have long wanted to attend the annual “Festival of Homiletics.” Which is a week-long event offering workshops, lectures, and symposia for clergy and others called to preach in the church. This year it is in May in San Antonio. Meeting with well known preachers, authors, and other preachers offers a chance to be renewed and learn. It’s been a long time since my homiletics courses in seminary. I am planning on attending this year!
4. A Night to Shine. With our now completely handicapped accessible facilities we are in a position to reach out to people we really haven’t been able to before. The Tim Tebow Foundation sponsors and promotes an international event every year around Valentine’s Day: “A Night to Shine”. It is a prom night for people with special needs and an opportunity for congregations like ours to share the love God has given us with some much of our society simply do not see or do not see as inherently valuable and beloved.
I will arrange to attend one here in the Denver area to take a fist hand look at what is involved. If you would like to go with me it is February 10th 5PM-8:30 PM. You can take a look at a video about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCBKUEObk0w
December 22, 2016
"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light."
(Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16)
Dear Saint Barnabas Family,
At this time of the shortest days and longest nights of the year the challenges facing our nation and our world may seem insurmountable – I find it important to think of this moment in time as a chapter of the ongoing story of God's work in our world.
Much of both the Old testament and the New were written in times when it seemed that all the odds were against the people of God and their desire for justice and peace in the world. Many of the most comforting and prophetic texts were written by people living in times of political uncertainty, war, and even exile. Some of Paul's greatest letters were written as he awaited execution in prison. And it was at time of deep political and economic oppression when our God chose to be born into a poor human family to bring a message of God's love, healing and salvation to a broken world. Again and again Scripture tells us that in the darkest moments, God shows us light. God tells us that God's Dream of a world that knows justice and peace is unfolding right now, and that we all are a part of God's work in the world. For me, this unfolding story gives me hope. Hope that in the end, love wins. God's peace and justice will reign.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has said, "The Christian community is meant to be a mutual hope society, with each one offering courage to another whose hope has waned, insisting that even in the darkest of night, new life is being prepared." Maybe now more than ever, we all need, and our world needs, a "mutual hope society." Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church continues to tell our sacred story so that together we will be built up in hope. And, it is important to remember that story isn’t static!
The New Year will see us continuing to settle into our renewed base for ministry. We will be listening for what the Holy Spirit might be saying to us through these renewed spaces about the next chapter of our story.
I do want to hear what any member of the parish has to say about your own, mine, or our ongoing story.
My office hours have shifted in the past year. I am now in the office Tuesday through Thursday (and Fridays when I’m not preaching the following Sunday) 10AM to 6PM. As always Carol will hold my Thursday afternoons and evening as a predictable period to make an appointment with me. Also, again as always, when I’m in the office my door is open. If you drop by I’ll be glad to see you.
The birth of our Lord and Savior reminds us that we are sons and daughters of God with him. We are baptized into Christ’s mission to love God and to love our neighbor. The Spirit inspires and empowers us to be “Christ’s Light” to a broken world.
May God richly bless you, all those whom you love, and all whom you are called to serve in Christ’s name, in this holy season and always.
Faithfully in Christ,
After the Election: Standing Up, Standing Together
One hundred and fifty years ago, twenty-five years before St. Barnabas became a parish, our reunited country was in great turmoil. The previous year had seen both the end of that atrocity we call the Civil War and President Lincoln’s assassination. While the Union had been preserved the ties that bind remained severed and the healing of the nations wounds was still largely a dream.
A month before his assassination, President Lincoln made his second inaugural address. In it he voiced the fear that the war would “If God wills…continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword…”
But he looked beyond that to the day the war would end and the next great national project could begin “To bind up the nations wounds…and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves.” Some of the most determined warriors of that struggle shared Lincoln’s final hope. Even as he conducted the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee instructed his men to go home and wage peace with as much vigor as they had waged war. Another Confederate General, the brutal Nathan Bedford Forrest, addressed his disbanding troops saying:
“Civil war, such as you have just passed through naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge. It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings; and as far as it is in our power to do so, to cultivate friendly feelings towards those with whom we have so long contended, and heretofore so widely, but honestly, differed. Neighborhood feuds, personal animosities, and private differences should be blotted out...”
He concluded his address saying:
“I have never, on the field of battle, sent you where I was unwilling to go myself; nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor…”
Our times, seemingly, are as contentious as that period after the Civil War. Anger and hatred fester in our public discourse. Some feel validated by winners of elected office and at liberty to commit acts of astonishing hatred. The free exchange of ideas has been exchanged for a juvenile jeering that invokes the worst of our collective emotions.
Yet our own history points us toward a different way. If such enemies as Lincoln, Lee and Forrest could see a path beyond war and division is there a reason we cannot walk that path? If they could be as passionate for healing and community building as they were in prosecuting their side of the war is there a reason we cannot be equally passionate for healing and community? They knew anarchy lurks behind, not far behind, festering division. In such times it takes courage to walk a different path, to play a different role.
We, the people of St. Barnabas have a role in this time. We can be a force, as President Thomas Jefferson put it to, “Restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”
None of us can be sure yet of all of that role entails, but, as I suggested a couple of weeks ago, one place we can begin is by publically standing with those who are most insecure and vulnerable right now. In this Advent season we can be part of the light of Christ breaking into the world, we can begin to play our part by standing in love, and as neighbors, with those who are most at risk for acts of hate.
I have here an initial draft of a letter I would like us to send to religious and community organizations such as The Center, the Islamic Center, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Sikh Community Center, Temple Micah, Shorter AME Church and others we think appropriate. There is a copy for each of us to take and sit with for a little while. We can all have opportunity to share input at the Adult Forum or with me in conversation or even email before we sign and send these letters out.
I’ll close simply by reading the letter.
Dear Faith or Community Leader
For 125 years the people of Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church have come together as a family, have come together as a faithful worshiping community, have come together to open our doors and reach out in service to the people of this city of Denver. In all those years we have not been shy in partnering with other faith communities and organizations to contribute to the greater good. Our hearts have found great joy in all of this.
In this time we find our hearts are heavy.
It is impossible to close our eyes and pretend not to see a great upwelling of anger, scapegoating, and hate in our country, state, and city. It is impossible to close our eyes and pretend not to see that those who increasingly are targets for acts of anger and hate are too often in places of great vulnerability and insecurity.
From insult and assault committed against women, children, and others who have virtually no defense or defenders, to the desecration and destruction of houses of worship, the incidence of hate crimes continues to rise.
Our hearts break when we hear of women being assaulted for wearing hijab. Our hearts break hearing about grade-school children being bullied by fellow students and even teachers because of the color of their skin, their country of origin, or their religion. Our hearts break hearing of members of the LGBTQ community being harassed and assaulted for simply being themselves.
Our hearts break knowing so many groups feel as if it is open season and fear that they are being hunted: Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Gays, Hispanics, Blacks, Arabs, Asians, Native Americans, the Disabled. With over 1,000 reported incidents of hate crimes in November alone there is more than enough reason for fear.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed that people everywhere ought to be free from fear and free from want, and ought to be able to enjoy freedom of worship and freedom of speech. If these freedoms are denied to anyone in this country they are denied to us all.
It would be so easy to succumb to hatred for those who are, in these days and in this city, seeking to deny others these freedoms. But, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of our country’s greatest prophets, taught, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” And of course the one we follow as Christians calls his followers to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Rejecting hate we choose to stand up in love and as neighbors.
We want your community to know you are not alone, together, we all belong here, we are neighbors. If there is joy in this time it is found just there – together we are neighbors in what actually makes this country strong – our diversity. We want you to know in these fearful days we stand with you in love, as neighbors, as children of the same race – the human race – and children of the God who loves us all.
What we can do we will do to be loving neighbors. Your community doesn’t stand alone in facing hatred. We stand with you. We all stand together.
The People of Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church
To the Rector
One idea that was passed along to me recently is that of an annual questionnaire on various aspects of the ministry of the Rector. Questions might include subjects like Worship services, sermons, pastoral care, community & larger church relations, communication, parish values...
Not a bad idea but perhaps it might go a bit more into mutuality with questions like how do you feel about your faith walk? What kind of support do you need in your ministry as a baptized Christian? How can the parish support you in deepening your spiritual gifts? What is the toughest question about faith you wrestle with?
I'd like to have such a questionnaire be a place of give and take, where questions and hopes, doubts and answers can be shared as a means for growth and empowerment.
I invite any member of the parish who would like to work with me on development of this type of questionnaire to please give me a call and let's explore this together!
In this election year a few thoughts from the Episcopal Public Policy Network
“If we who are Christians participate in the political process and in the public discourse as we are called to do — the New Testament tells us that we are to participate in the life of the polis, in the life of our society — the principle on which Christians must vote is the principle, Does this look like love of neighbor?" – Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, March 2016
Episcopalians can live out our call to care for our neighbors as ourselves by engaging in the public square. This November 8, our nation will head to the polls to decide a number of important elections, and there are many opportunities for Episcopalians to engage in this electoral process. Official Episcopal policy recognizes voting and political participation as acts of Christian stewardship...A faithful commitment to political participation aligns with our Baptismal Covenant’s promise to “strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.”
Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States (or of this community) in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.