Reflections on Confirmation Day

This is what I told my evangelical husband when he asked why it was important for me to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church: I wanted to be confirmed for the same reasons I wanted to get married rather than simply live together. I wanted my relationship to be “official”; I wanted to make communal promises to uphold my end of the relationship during tough times, and I wanted the accountability of friends to hold me to those promises. 

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I remember the first time I visited an Episcopal church. I was visiting Saint Paul’s in Fort Collins for the first time after deciding that the Anglican Church down the road was no longer for me, because the priest gave an entire sermon about being pro-life without once mentioning the strong connection between abortion and poverty. I needed a church that wasn’t afraid to embrace social activism and justice as a critical part of the gospel.

In the Episcopal Church I saw a unique passion for giving voice to the voiceless that I did not find in other churches I’d attended throughout my twenties, in which “social justice” was a progressive, liberal issue that distracted from the gospel rather than complemented it.

The first sermon I heard at Saint Paul’s was about how Black Lives Matter was, at its core, a biblical movement in addition to a social one, invoking many of the sentiments in The Cross and the Lynching Tree. I also picked up a pamphlet that described the Episcopal church as “a thinking church,” a place where questions are welcomed and even encouraged.

Beth Stoneburner

For more of Beth’s writing, go to her blogspot, here

Confirmands Alex Martin, Beth Stoneburner and Elaine Hild with Rhoda Robinson, Sr. Warden, and Nick Bodkin at St. John’s Cathedral, Denver

Confirmands Alex Martin, Beth Stoneburner and Elaine Hild with Rhoda Robinson, Sr. Warden, and Nick Bodkin at St. John’s Cathedral, Denver

Rejoice!

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Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

Hello my Brothers and Sisters,

At our Vestry meeting this week, we closed with a beautiful Eucharist which included the above reading, also from last Sunday’s service. Reverend Lyn commented that it reminds her of St Paul’s, and I could not agree more. As we enter another transition, I continue to rejoice in the gentle and kind way you all are with one other: offering up our prayers to God and looking forward with peaceful hearts. I will continue to rejoice in the Lord and St Paul’s.

As we approach the coming of our Savior, I say Rejoice! Rejoice in knowing God has a plan for St Paul’s. Rejoice in your gentle and kind way you bring Christ into your lives and out into the world. Rejoice in the fellowship and love we share. Rejoice!

Wishing you God's Blessing and a Wonderful Christmas,

Rhoda and John, Your Wardens

Advent-ure

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Advent – from the Latin ad (to) and Venire (come or arrive)

Adventure –from the same root as advent, but turned into a noun in Old French -- defined by Merriam-Webster as “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks” – or as Star Trekkers put it, “to boldly go…”

Advent at St. Paul’s – A time when we together “come to” the special celebration of our God’s coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ, our Savior – annually an adventure for us as we wait and prepare our hearts and souls for what this will mean for us in the coming year. How will we greet and meet God in the coming year?

And 2000 years ago? What an advenTURE God undertook! Coming to earth with its dangers and risks, to live among us and show us The Way we were created to live. As both our God and a fully human man, He came not to dwell among the recognized leaders, the elite, but to ordinary folk living as a conquered people, seeking peace and God’s guidance.

This Advent Season, let’s remember God’s AdvenTURE in coming to live among us. Let’s consider the advenTURE in which we are engaged and remember The Way He has shown us – to “boldly go” where God leads. Together we have done this before, loving one another and our neighbors and trusting God’s immense love for us. We shall do it again….

In anticipation,

Rhoda and John, your Wardens

It's not too late to express your gratitude

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It’s not too late to express your gratitude to the Holy Spirit and for our St. Paul’s community by sending in your pledge card for 2019.  At this hectic time of year with demands from many places I find that I need and want to hear that still, small voice that helps me to find my way -- my direction in God.

Just this morning I was bemoaning the loss of my favorite winter hat and old gloves that our 8 month old puppy had taken and made useless. As I ate my breakfast, thinking of my annoyance and helplessness, I suddenly had a wonderful vision of pure joy: our 5 year old granddaughter playing her violin at her recital yesterday. This wonderful experience came from out of nowhere!

Or, on second thought -- was it the Holy Spirit engaging me to make an adjustment in what I was focusing on?? I went from self-centered grouchiness to outward-looking pure joy and goodness.

Ten years ago, would I have recognized that redirection and the certainty that the Holy Spirit was at work? I don’t believe so. Through my participation in EFM for the past 9 years here at St. Paul’s and through worship, activities and bonds formed in this church community I have come to see the Holy Spirit’s work here in Fort Collins and in my life every day.

Have you had similar experiences?  Has the community of St. Paul’s supported and enriched your life?  Do you turn to God and the St.Paul’s community in times of trial? If you answer, “Yes,” I hope you will show your gratitude and support -- if you haven't already -- by sending or bringing in your pledge to St. Paul’s so that we may continue to share being “Inspired by the Spirit.”

Blessings,

Terry Birdsong

The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Austin, TX - July 5-13

General Convention, the Episcopal Church’s tri-annual event through which the Church conducts its legislative business, is over.

Some of the flavor and excitement of this remarkable event is captured in the videos that highlight key resolutions that were discussed. See https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/.

Following is a summary of some of the major issues under discussion at General Convention. A summary of the results of these discussions will be posted in the Epistle next week.

Marriage Equality

General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage has, for the last three years, monitored the use of two new marriage rites General Convention approved in 2015 for trial use by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, aware of concern about unequal access to the trial use liturgies. Except for eight diocesan bishops, the report found widespread acceptance of the rite across the church. The task force proposed that convention require all bishops in authority to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial rites.”

Revising the Book of Common Prayer?

The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music offered bishops and deputies a comprehensive plan for revision, as requested by the 2015 meeting of General Convention, as well as a way for the church to spend time discerning the future shape of its common prayer. The first option would move the church immediately into a full-blown prayer book revision process that would be completed in nine years. The second would call on the church to plumb the depths of the current Book of Common Prayer’s theology, as well as its usefulness as a tool for unity in a diverse church, for evangelism and discipleship.

The Episcopal Church and the #MeToo Movement

Convention pondered the Episcopal Church’s role in and response to the #MeToo movement with resolutions, reflections and the hope for reconciliation.

Following up on the Church’s Three priorities: Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation and Justice and Care of Creation

A major part of the discussion on evangelism at General Convention focused on the continuation of the church’s increased support for church planting and new regional ministries. Conversations included the role of social media and the ties between evangelism and stewardship of the environment.

Middle East Peace

Numerous General Convention resolutions on topics related to Israel and Palestine were discussed, including one proposed by the Diocese of California to divest from “those companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands or whose products or actions support the infrastructure of the occupation.”

Youth on a Mission -- By Jacki Petrino

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Why go on a mission trip?

Because, when it is all said and done, our future is safe in the hands of the kids from St. Luke's and St. Paul's. What a great three days with 10 youth and 4 adults! We started out by meeting at Hearts and Horses in Loveland, Co. This amazing therapeutic riding center's mission is to promote the physical, cognitive, emotional and social well-being of people with special needs through equine-assisted therapy. At H&H we weeded, raked and planted the front areas and a memorial garden.

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The next day we left early to travel to RMNP where we learned about the Alluvial Fan area of the park. In this area, we worked with shovels digging up invasive weeds that overrun and work against the growth of the indigenous flora in the area. Afterward, the youth worked together to complete tasks and build community by working on a ropes course in Highlands Ranch.  That night we toasted marshmallows by an open fire and watched the sun set over the mountains. The next day we ended the trip with some amazing rock climbing and a hike to the hidden room, an amazing natural rock formation on the grounds of the Highlands Ranch Presbyterian Retreat Center.

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It was amazing to see this group of kids work together, problem solve, compromise and have fun in the midst of some hard, dirty and hot work set in one of the most beautiful places on God's earth. Many thanks to the parent volunteers that also came -- trained as EMT providers and certified drivers as well as amazing leaders with patience love and laughter for these youth. We are blessed and the future is in good hands!

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Lectio Divina with the Easter Story

The Resurrection of Christ!  Who can make sense of this?  Lectio Divina, listening for what God will say to us through the Gospel accounts, is an excellent way to sit with the astounding miracle.  Here are the readings from Mark and from John that we used this year at the Vigil and the Easter morning service.  Spend time with them this week!

Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.  Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’  So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’  Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb.  The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.  As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.  They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’  She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’  When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, *‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’  Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.