One of the foundational stories any culture tells explains how it was created. Think about our founding story as the United States. In ancient times, the political and religious divide didn’t exist. So founding stories were spiritual stories.
In Genesis, we find not one but two founding stories. Both place the creation of humanity within the context of a personal God. Both lift the goodness and beauty of creation and the role people are meant to play.
In the second story, two things are noteworthy: naming and knowing. God creates and calls the Earth-Creature “Adam.” Then the Earth-Creature (that is what Adam means in Hebrew) names everything else. God learns the names of things through the leadership of the Creature, Adam. Isn’t that AMAZING?
The Creator and Creature walk the earth together. But the Earth Creature is still lonely. That creature was originally neither male nor female. It was non-binary. God was the intended partner for Adam. But God knew that the Earth Creature was lonesome, so God gave the creature a partner.
Knowing and naming are profoundly important. In our most intimate relationships, we need to be able to do both. Knowing means going deep in shared knowledge and mutual support and affirmation. Naming means articulating and assigning meaning. Are we doing these things with our Creator and our earthly companions? I hope so.
Our founding story guides us. It reminds us that our language is designed for meaning-making and relationship-building. Let’s be sure to use it that way. As we share meaningful conversations, we deepen our knowledge of one another. Giving sound to the love within our hearts through Jesus Christ, the word made flesh.
The issues around terminating a pregnancy are complex and personal. It's an example of our polarization that two camps have formed instead of the several that would express the varieties of perspectives most of us have.
Our congregation has differences of opinion on this issue. I was dismayed to hear from one of our members that she felt diminished by the comments of others who held a different position on this issue. I encourage all of us to share our perspectives candidly and humbly. "Don't ask, don't tell" is a pathetic tool for healthy community. We can do better. We can speak our truth with love and respect. Being one in Christ is not having a hive mind. Thanks be to God! The Gospel hope is that God loves us all - regardless of our positions on social issue. And in relationship, we grow and change according to God's plan, not anyone's personal agenda.
I'm sharing my perspective on abortion through a concise message from a colleague, the Reverend Kurt Stancil. He and his wife pastor Wayman AME Church on Kingshighway. If I could express my personal position more clearly than him, I would. But I'll spare you and let his words speak on my behalf.
I'm not trying to sway or change anyone's mind but to offer my perspective and invite you to engage with yours. If you would like to comment, please do. Let's create a safe space for dialogue and learning from one another.
-- Pastor Rebecca
In mid October, while in Yonkers, New York, I toured a beautiful Episcopal Church called St. John's Yonkers. The congregation was founded in 1693. Their sanctuary seats 600. Unfortunately, their average Sunday attendance has dropped to around 50. Brace yourself; their property insurance is $80,000 a year!
While I was talking with their Rector, Bishop Deon called. He told me the 6300 Minnesota property has significant repair issues and substantial insurance premiums. He clarified that purchasing the property would be catastrophic for our community. It was God's perfect timing to receive that call in a church that anticipates closing in a few years due to a similar problem.
In this discernment process, two things have come to the fore that hadn't been visible before (at least to me).
1. Parking is a critical issue for us. We need more of it if we are to continue to be vital.
2. We could plant churches in South County as we continue to grow.
These are essential and exciting considerations. I suspect you could name others.
So, now, we move into a new phase of discernment. The Bishop's realtor will look around Carondelet to see if other properties might better meet our needs.
It's a stretch to keep ourselves open to that, but God has a plan, and it's so good for us to surrender to new ideas, even when they don't lead to anything. Surrender is a spiritual practice of the highest order!
I join you in continuing to pray for our community. May we see our property with fresh eyes, open to new possibilities wherever God calls us.
-- Pastor Rebecca
Does it startle you to see the busts of three women sitting on top of the altar?
The three women were martyrs whose skulls were encased in wooden representations. The whole scene is displayed in a room at The Cloisters, a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
When I saw this, I was captivated by the power, serenity, and presence the three busts added to the altar. They seemed right at home above the coat of arms, and the stories behind them depicting the life of a saint. For me, the three women dominated the space and left me with a question: Is this okay?
Is it okay for these busts of women to be on the altar? What’s allowed? For that matter, who is allowed? I could easily imagine disgruntled museum patrons complaining that “The only things that should be placed on an altar are the sacraments and all such utensils as support the celebration of the Eucharist.”
Were these busts profaning that? These women had literally given their lives for their faith. They had laid themselves on the altar. And now their bones rest on one.
For half of my life, I believed women shouldn't be ordained. It took a spiritual transformation, literally a vision, for me to begin to change. I learned that it was the inward leanings of my heart and personality that enabled me to fulfill this vocation. My gender is both an asset and a liability; like most of our particulars!
Jesus used a little child to teach us who was most important. He took a little child, stood him by his side and said, 'Whoever welcomes this child in my name, welcomes me. For whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.' Luke 9:46 – 48.
This phrase, the least will be greatest, subverts the privileging of gender, class, race, or merit and makes us all equal before God. We are all called to be servants of one another. Not greater or lesser. Mutual love, and honor mark us as Christ’s own.
I wonder how long it will take before Christians of all ddenominations move past the patriarchy and realize that the Christ-like qualities of any leader are what matters. In the meantime, I'm so glad to be able to fulfill my call as your Rector.
Is it joyful to see your female clergy at the altar? God has emphatically said yes. Yes to our life together. Yes to our ministry in this place. Thanks be to God, that we are all included. No exceptions. That's A-OK!
-- Pastor Rebecca
I am writing this for accountability and to ensure that everyone has all of the information on the hiring process and the connection between Metal, our Communications Specialist and Pastor Rebecca's family.
The hiring committee included Deacon Barbi, Derek O'Chui, Tom Schroeder and myself, we expanded the committee after the unsuccessful first hiring process.
We had three candidates apply for the position. During the review process of the candidates for the communications position, Pastor Rebecca made Tom and me aware of the potential for her son's partner (Metal) to apply for the position. I encouraged her to have Metal apply, as we would treat her as any other candidate for the job. To keep the process fair and not influence the other members only two of the four committee members knew about the connection.
During the review process Metal was one of two candidates moved forward for an interview and this was agreed upon unanimously by all members with Pastor Rebecca abstaining from voting. After interviewing both candidates we felt that both candidates were capable of doing the job but Metal brought a level of enthusiasm and engagement that we all felt would be an asset to our St. Paul's family. The committee agreed unanimously that she was the best person for the position. After the selection, Pastor Rebecca made the other two members aware of the connection between Metal and Wes.
Again, all the members still agreed that she was the best person for the position but we agreed to hire Metal for a probationary period to ensure she was the best fit and there would not be any relationship conflicts after working in the position.
The church's reaction to Metal's introduction video (that she took the initiative to complete) confirms that we made the right choice.
Sr. Warden St. Pauls Carondelet
So, when was the last time you drove past an intersection and saw a person holding a sign? Yesterday? Today? If you have a car and drive, you almost can’t leave your neighborhood without that experience.
Jesus was right when he said, “The poor are always with you.” Sometimes they are just more visible. As people who are called to walk in love, it’s sometimes challenging to know what to do. As a fellow pilgrim, not an expert, I offer you the advice of Scripture and experience in approaching these beloved children of God. Especially if you are walking past, it’s essential to have a plan.
As winter approaches, we’ll have many opportunities to serve those who are food and shelter insecure. The tiniest gestures that recognize someone’s need and humanity mean so much. Thank you for magnifying the magnificent love of God at the off-ramps and intersections. Together, love is shining through.
At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores... Luke 16:20
If you have been to our building lately, you may have noticed something new. For the last five weeks or so, we have had a group of people sitting in the shade on the lot adjacent to Heigham House. Some of these folks are familiar, and some are strangers. Many are in the bondage of addiction.
When I came to St. Paul’s, I knew virtually nothing about heroin, meth, or fentanyl. Here are a few things I learned:
I tell you these two things because addiction is scary. Knowing more will help you feel more aware and secure while coming to the building. It may encourage you to join the Harm Reduction team.
These people, sitting in the shade adjacent to our yard, are absolutely precious to their Creator. God longs for their deliverance and restoration. I confess, that I have not joined God in that desire.
I’ve been so irritated by the trash, their sleepy presence, and my own ambivalence about them, that I have basically wished they’d just disappear. I repent of that.
In a few Sundays, we’ll be hearing the story of Lazarus (Luke 19:16-31). He was a poor man who sat outside the rich man’s door, suffering. We have a Lazarus outside our door. The sores may be from drug injections, and the hunger may be for the next hit, but the suffering is real, and we are called by Jesus to respond.
On September 21, 2022 we’ll launch our Harm Reduction team. This is the embodiment of help and healing. It’s a method for offering prevention of transmissible diseases (HIV and Hep C), preventing overdose (Narcan), and creating a supportive community through food and relationship that just might empower someone to take the next step toward healing.
If you are interested in participating in this doorstep ministry, click HERE to begin.
-- Pastor Rebecca
At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores...
Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end, you will be counted among the wise.
If you are like me, you are happy to give advice and much less happy to receive it. I’ve always been that way, and I’m not getting any better. I’m also much better at saying what’s wrong with everything than determining what’s wrong with me. Fortunately, that one is improving as I age! But the advice thing is an issue.
King Solomon, credited with the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, was purported to be the wisest man in the world. He gave a lot of advice. He is the one who said, “listen to advice and accept discipline, and in the end, you will be counted among the wise." He was great at giving advice but, like the rest of us, not so great at taking it either. Instead of following the advice of others and remaining faithful to monotheistic Judaism, he practiced Judaism alongside other religions. The decision ultimately devastated his kingdom politically and culturally.
Author and pastor Andy Stanley say, “How do you know when you need advice? When you don’t want it.”
We are in a season of discernment at St. Paul’s. We are receiving advice on a new outreach ministry for our addicted neighbors (see Harm Reduction below). We are discerning God’s call to us through the Diocesan program Requiem and Renaissance. Soon we’ll be interviewing a new batch of candidates for our communications position. That hire will lead us further in our La Misa launch. In all of this, we need advice!
We need to share our wisdom and listen to outside voices who will help us. We may not always want this advice, but we need it.
I pray that you will take Andy’s words to heart when someone says to you, “Take my advice….” Before we close down our receptivity, let’s open ourselves to what God might have to tell us. Then we’ll be counted among the wise.
-- Pastor Rebecca
This Sunday, we will hear the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told this story in answer to a question: “Who is my neighbor?” In it, he provides a muti-faceted way of answering the question. I want to warn you that one way of interpreting that story that is risky and wrong.
That interpretation says: Every person on the side of the road is YOUR problem. Every person in need is entitled to your attention, time, and resources. This is simply not the case.
Even Jesus didn’t’ roll that way. He used discernment and the Holy Spirit within him to decide who HE was called to engage with at any particular time.
Imagine if the story went like this: The person lying injured on the side of the road a donkey drunk driver. He had a long history of drunk donkey driving. People had been hurt by it, but he still continued to do it. He was in the ditch because of his addiction. What does it mean to be a neighbor to that man? Maybe, just maybe, that ditch is where he needs to be until he realizes the truth: his addiction brought him there.
We have people in our midst who have problems that you and I can’t solve. In an effort to get their needs met, they may ask us to play “Good Samaritan” to them. But doing so may not be in their interest. Doing so may just enable them to avoid the truth of their situation that much longer. To their peril, or that of others.
How will we know what to do?
You don’t know the other person’s situation, but you know yours. Be ready in advance with clarity about what you and are not comfortable doing for someone else. Ask yourself why you are helping, really? And let your answer be guided by truth.
Sometimes saying no, and NOT playing Good Samaritan is what is best. But it will make you feel “unchristian”.
The person seeking help may say something like that to you. I cant tell you how many times I've been told, "You're no Christian!"
Even Jesus was called Satan. You can take it. Walk on by. This is not, I repeat, NOT, an invitation to not care for people. It is a challenge to all of us to care more effectively.
You are not the Savior. I am not the Savior. As Candace Plattor, a clinical counselor at an addiction center, puts it: You cannot control or “fix” another person. So stop trying. She goes on to say:
“The only person you have any control over is yourself. You do not have control over anything the addicted person does. Many people choose not to believe this, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Once you can really grasp the reality of this concept and live by it, your life will become much easier.”
I join you in praying that we will always respond with love and concern to those in crisis or in need. It is NEVER wrong to give someone food, water, or help provide for their basic needs. But love may call us to a tougher action than meeting the need. Love might call us to walk away.
St. Paul’s has been in existence in Carondelet for over 150 years. That’s a long time to be in continuous community! The church was founded by four prominent local families who were tired of riding in their carriages all the way to Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday mornings, in snow, heat or rain. They saw the Carondelet neighborhood growing, and they longed for an Episcopal church here. From that humble beginning, into a small wooden church, to the current building, our congregation has cycled between seasons of growth, retraction, adaptation, and growth again. There were a few decades, not so long ago, when the Rector, Liew Heigham, begged the bishop to keep the doors open. Thanks be to God, the doors stayed open, and consistent growth is happening!
Today, we are facing almost unprecedented change. Being a Christian is a minority identity; one which many of us prefer to phrase in other ways (Jesus followers is our Presiding Bishop’s favorite). No longer does anyone attend church to “be seen”, or to network, or to fulfill some societal or family obligation. Personally, I’m delighted that’s the case. Now, we are doing what Margaret Wheatley is naming: effectively gathering to act on what we care about; actions based on our values and faith.
Here are examples of our values and faith in action:
On June 18, three of the five members of your Requiem and Renaissance team began our journey as liaisons between the Diocese and St. Paul's. Through this program, we’ll be leading St Paul’s as we continue in revitalization. This will look a lot like “discovering what we care about”. The above bullet points are mile markers in the journey so far.
In the coming months, you'll be invited to engage in questions and conversation that help us gain momentum and clarity on next steps and new steps. Don’t let the name, Requiem or Renaissance make you nervous! This process is not about closing the church! It’s about lovingly saying goodbye to the old ways that no longer apply and walking into new life in community. I’m so excited to be on this journey with you!