Wednesday, July 22 2020
Our Father's prayer for our days: a reflection from the Gospel of Luke 11: 1-13
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for[e] a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Today's Gospel reminds us of an important text that is included in each Eucharistic liturgy, celebrated in the Episcopal Church and is our identity. Our Father's prayer, the Lord’s prayer can be found both in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of Luke, although if we compare the two versions Luke omits some parts that are more detailed in the Gospel of Matthew.
We could dedicate many reflections on the meaning of the words of our Father’s prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But I would like to focus in a general way on the meaning the Lord’s prayer has and the parable we have read today, in the practice of personal and community prayer in the lives of Christians.
The way of Jesus was a way of prayer. Luke is the evangelist who most often refers to a praying Jesus, both in community and alone, both in moments of joy and crisis.
That is why the way of Christians must also be a way of prayer. Luke himself, in the book of Acts, often presents the apostolic community in prayer. Today the gospel helps us understand the importance of prayer in our personal life.
Luke is the evangelist of prayer and sees Jesus as the great prayer in permanent dialogue with the Father. Above all, in the important moments of his life, he shows that Jesus retires to a solitary place to pray to his Father: Thus he prays in his baptism, in the desert, before the election of the Twelve, in the transfiguration, before the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, on the night of betrayal, on the cross: that is why the prayer of the Our Father reminds us, "Pray not to fall into temptation."
When we focus on praying, we should live an experience of total dependence on God, recognizing that, above our human abilities, God has the ability to transform us through prayer. That is why prayer creates that deep connection we have with God and that at the same time produces in us that immense joy of sharing our faith and our love in the company of our brothers and sisters.
Prayer invites us to look at the reality of our world with faith and love. From that perspective we will be sanctifying the name God, who loves the world even when on many occasions we have decided to turn our backs on actions that do not dignify the human being as his creation. And although sometimes prayer also takes action from us, it is important to understand that what may seem impossible on many occasions in our human reason, the Gospel reminds us of the words of the Angel to virgin Mary, in the history of the birth of Jesus: "Nothing is impossible for God."
Prayer can change our sadness into joy, it can change our insecurity into trust, it can turn the impossible into something possible. All of this on the basis of faith and action.
In 1959, Cuba experienced the world-famous Revolution. The Cuban revolution initially brought social promises that encouraged the people to feel some sympathy for the values that the new leaders promised (free health for all, free access to sports, free education for all, among other reforms). But very soon The Cuban Revolution declared itself as based in communist ideology, which provoked an atheistic and dictating system of government that saw the Cuban church as a potential enemy.
We all know that the basis of communism does not believe in God, therefore, after the declaration of the Cuban government the impact became rapid and profound on the whole Church. 90 percent of pastors, priests and other leaders responsible for serving the churches in Cuba were forced to leave the country for fear of repression and the new conflicts between the Cuban government and the Church. The government, in an act of showing its absolute power, took without permission, schools, college, clinics, some churches and convents and even other properties that belonged to the Cuban church, without considering how this would affect the mission of the Church towards the Cuban people and respectful relations between both parties.
But the Cuban Church did not lose the Faith, given all these pressures and others that I could not count in this reflection because the reflection would be endless. The church asked itself a concrete question, “what should we do at a time of so much crisis, of so much darkness, of so much pain”? The answer was: "the only thing possible in this historical moment is to pray and continue our mission as far as the limits allow."
For more than 30 years the churches in general lost more than 90 percent of their members. People were afraid to say they were Christians or even visit a church. It was a dark moment, full of questions and insecurities. But in the face of difficult times, the Cuban Christians who remained in the churches decided not to close the doors, not to be intimidated by teasing, threats and fears. Many churches continued their services with just 5 people in the temples. It was a horrible situation.
30 years of prayer and faith seemed like 100 years. But the answer came to the Cuban Church. In the 1990’s, a group of Pastors, priests and leading lay members called “Pastor for Peace” from USA, arrived in Cuba in a caravan that was preparing to support the Cuban people with donations for schools, hospitals and other Government institutions. For the first time, we began to see religious leaders in a respectful conversation with the Cuban government.
In my opinion, the concrete action of this group of Christians opened a door so that the Cuban churches could again stop feeling pressured in a certain way, and above all, that people could return to the churches without fear of negative consequences.
That is why I believe in prayer. If we put all our faith in it and if we fully trust that whatever our need or concern is, we can, through prayer, feel a certain rest about our daily concerns.
Our Father and today's parable are an invitation to insist on our desires and needs through prayer to God. We should not worry how God will solve our requests, but we must put all our faith and our hope that there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.
"Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Today's readings are certainly a great invitation to trust in God, an invitation to have God very present in our lives and to be able to present our fears, our worries, our needs without fear, but with and in faith.
As I always say: "Faith requires action" and I repeat today: "prayer sometimes also requires our action." Not only do we pray to sanctify God's name as a Christian community, to ask for forgiveness for our faults, we also pray for our daily bread and for God's kingdom to come to us.
But we must understand that in order for the Kingdom of God to be a reality amongst us, it is necessary that everyone receive our daily bread without exception. It is necessary that everyone learn to forgive themselves and to forgive others who have sometimes been difficult with their bad actions. We need to show our hospitality with our neighbor, even though sometimes this is difficult to practice.
Then we will live together the gospel of prayer: where God is a loving father to all, where his name is sanctified by our good deeds, where forgiveness and mercy go together, where with 4 loaves and 2 fish all who need will eat, where Justice and Peace mark our road, where sadness will become joy; where we understand that although the horizon may appear close, God always, always give us a new dawn. Amen.
Wednesday, July 22 2020
Preparing for Live-streaming: The last month, we’ve been assembling the equipment needed to start streaming our Sunday liturgies live from church—a major step toward providing worship online that feels as much as possible like the liturgy as it would be experienced in person at our church. We’re finishing up that installation now, and we should be ready to stream the liturgy live this coming Sunday, July 26, in both English and Spanish. It’s almost overwhelming how much we’ve had to learn, and how many challenges we’ve had to think through, in order to get to this point! And we will no doubt have hiccups along the way—we have at every stage of this pandemic so far—but this change is worth making, so we can provide a better worship experience for each of our members.
Worship Schedule: Starting this weekend, we’re going to stream two Eucharist services each week from the church. The English liturgy will stream at 10:30 AM, and the Spanish liturgy will stream at 12:30 PM. Both liturgies will be available on our website as soon as they’re over, as well as being archived on both YouTube and our Facebook pages. While we’re not going to be streaming the 8 AM liturgy for now, I expect there will come a time in the Fall when we’ll start doing that as well. We’re trying to build to that, making sure that we have everything working before we take that next step and add to the schedule. And doing the Spanish liturgy at 12:30 instead of 6 PM makes it possible to have the same folks running the technical part of it, while also having the liturgy available at 6 PM when everyone is accustomed to it being. It’s not ideal; we’d prefer to have it be live at 6 PM, but this is the best way for us to balance staffing needs and pastoral needs at this point.
August & September: I’m going to be away from St. John’s starting July 31 until September 30, taking my vacation with my family in August, and spending time in retreat in September. I was originally scheduled to visit the ecumenical monastery in Taizé, France in the second half of September, but that appears to have evaporated along with so many things since Covid-19 began to spread in the US. I don’t know exactly what that retreat will look like at this point; so much has to be tentative, with the way everything keeps changing in response to infection rates, but I hope to spend some concentrated time alone, in reflection and prayer, and to come back on October 1 ready for the new program year.
While I’m away, Fr. Michael will be the clergy-in-charge at St. John’s | San Juan. Though he’s a relatively new deacon in the Episcopal Church, he has extensive ordained experience from the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cuba and is fully prepared for this season of our common life at St. John’s | San Juan. I’m delighted to announce that Fr. Brian Gregory will be joining us each week to preside at the Eucharist, in both English and Spanish. Fr. Brian was a curate at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Sammamish, and most recently was a missionary working in Guatemala City, until he and his family had to move back to Washington on short notice at the beginning of the pandemic. Fr. Brian will work with Fr. Michael and our liturgical staff to provide a beautiful, engaging worship experience each Sunday.
The Tri-Parish Picnic: It has been our custom in the last few years to gather Labor Day weekend for a single worship service and picnic with our sibling parishes St. Benedict’s of Lacey, and St. Christopher’s of Steamboat Island, often with our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, presiding. We still have that liturgy scheduled for September 6, and Bishop Rickel is still planning on coming to Tumwater Historical Park to preside at the liturgy.
At the same time this remains at best an aspiration rather than a firm plan. At over six weeks away, there’s no way to know what to expect for Labor Day weekend, so we’re developing backup plans with Bishop Rickel and the other congregations, so we’re ready if we need to shift plans at the last minute. Keep watching our two newsletters, The Messenger (weekly) and The Chronicle (monthly), for more information on what the plan is closer to Labor Day weekend.
I will be holding you all in my prayers over the coming months, and look forward to being with you again on Sunday, October 4! I am deeply grateful for this privilege of rest and renewal, and am eager to come back and tell you about my experiences, and to hear about all of yours once I return. Enjoy the rest of the summer!
Tuesday, July 21 2020
As it happens, I didn't have to wait long: my twin sister and I recently turned 138, though neither of us really shows it. Still, time and experience do mark us, and I have begun to wonder if I'm getting a bit long of tooth--or has the world changed in ways I cannot entirely fathom?
There is something strange in the air these days. Last week someone I know "trolled" me on social media regarding my relying on expert advice about the corona virus. His rudeness took me aback. In the past I'd thought him to be a reasonable and courteous fellow; this was so unlike what I'd seen before I had to wonder what had changed him.
Perhaps it was too much time on the internet, a slippery place with many examples of willful orneriness, placing individual wants over the needs of the community. I understand the value of liberty--I cherish my freedom and the rights of others--but I also love my neighbors.
The media amplifies the divisions in society, but that's distilled for their outlets and doesn't reflect my experience of everyday life; for the most part I see people pulling together, not tearing each other apart. Gratefully I see that spirit here at St. John's, where we foster values of love and service and faith and humility. That shared commitment transcends our differences and contributes to our sense of belonging. It's what makes us so resilient in a time of crisis.
I see those values in action all the time. Just last week I got an email from Karen Bray, letting me know that she and George had tidied up the area around the columbarium in preparation for Hope Duncan's service. And I wonder how many times has Ric Weatherman climbed up the bell tower to get the rope unstuck, or gone up on the roof? Or what of that lively group I encountered in the kitchen late one night last autumn, cooking up a batch of Vestryshire sauce?
Over the years countless challenges have arisen and countless members have said, "I can help with that." The generosity and spirit of goodwill that populates St. John's buoys me up in these challenging times. Sometimes it even gets a smile out of me, which brings me back to my special nickel.
Among other duties I empty the green waste bin in the Sacristy. Shortly before the church closed I happened to find a few non-plant items in the green waste, so I fished them out and taped a note to the bin suggesting that the Altar Guild owed me five cents for the extra work. Then the church closed, my duties changed a bit, and I forgot about my little joke until a couple of weeks ago, when I found a nickel taped to it.
I laughed out loud when I found it, and since then I have deposited it in the bank of goodwill, confident that it will pay ample dividends. Naturally I acknowledged receipt of payment with another note, promising not to spend it all in the same place.
Tuesday, July 21 2020
Project Plan Under Permit Review
Construction Cost Estimates
Hazardous Materials Abatement
Our plan is to do minimal ACM abatement in Part I to save money. KMB and FORMA are working now with Advance Environmental, the firm that did the February “hazmat” survey, to identify the most feasible, cost-effective ways to perform the abatement work. In addition, they are looking at possible options, and associated costs, for doing more than minimal ACM abatement.
ACM abatement entails certain set-up costs - such as erecting scaffolding, installing a pressurized enclosure, protective equipment for workers, etc. – no matter how much ACM will be removed. Given these unavoidable costs, we may have an opportunity to abate more than the minimum ACM in Part I at a cost-effective price. This would allow us to avoid those same set-up costs again in Part II, when we’ll likely need to abate more ACM. It all depends on the incremental cost increase – we’ll know when we see the numbers. If affordable, there may be a good argument for abating all ACM in Part I.
It’s worth noting that beyond simple cost considerations, we may wish to consider the exposure risk and our comfort level with leaving known, friable ACM in place until sometime in the future.
Another way we can save money on abatement is to hire the abatement contractor ourselves, rather than through the general contractor, which typically adds a 10% markup on sub-contractor work. For example, we could save about $11,000 per $100K of abatement work by contracting directly. (I am not saying here that the abatement work will cost $100K; we don’t know that number yet.) We must do abatement before the other Part I work starts, but do not need a city-issued building permit, only a state permit from the Department of Ecology.
Please let me know if you have questions about this report.
Chair, Renovation Committee
Tuesday, July 21 2020
...As your Vestry continues to carry out its duties via Zoom, here are some of the major points of discussion that occurred during the July 16, 2020 Vestry meeting:
COVID-19 has forced all of us to change things in some manner. Anticipated activities have been postponed or cancelled or held virtually. Our vocabulary has expanded or evolved to fit the pandemic. The word "zoom" doesn't just refer to something or someone speeding past us anymore. Many changes or adaptations have been required to adjust to this health crisis. One obvious adjustment we've made has been our need to offer worship services differently.
Every Sunday morning Lin and I sit in our living room with the laptop on the coffee table waiting for the 10:30 service to begin. We log onto the website a few minutes early and watch the countdown on the screen clicking off the minutes until the service starts. With a keystroke somewhere, the service is underway. We enjoy seeing Jim work his magic at the organ and hearing our talented choir members share hymns with us. Familiar faces read scripture and offer prayers. Fr. R.C., our Curate, Rev. Michael, or our Deacon, Rev. Terri, inspire, comfort and motivate us to do better with well chosen words.
These virtual services just don't happen, of course. They have required a change in the way in which we get things done. Right now each segment is filmed beforehand, submitted, then edited and pieced together to provide us the fluid worship experience we enjoy every Sunday. Yes, there are glitches with the internet, and we see unwanted pauses in the streaming, but we're working on improving that.
And sometimes events of importance that demand acknowledging or immediate attention take place just prior to putting it all together, and things have to be revised at the last minute. Words in a sermon may have to be added or changed. Additional prayers may need to be included. The unexpected happens.
At present, Fr. R.C. is the person who has been putting this all together. Truly an accomplishment! I suppose we should add Producer, Director, Photographer, Editor, etc. to his title. He's devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy in making sure St. John's | San Juan has the best worship experience possible at this extraordinarily difficult time. Thank you, Fr. R.C., for all you have done to keep our worship experiences going during this unprecedented time! Those actions really underscore your dedication and commitment to St. John's | San Juan. I also know how exhausting this has been, even though you are not likely to openly admit it.
As you are aware, Fr. was to take some Sabbatical time during the summer. Then COVID-19 reared its ugly and deadly head. His Spanish immersion class in Mexico for two months was cancelled, but hopefully, he'll be able to complete that at a later date. Other highly anticipated plans to spend time with family, meet and travel with colleagues and friends from around the United States have collapsed due to the pandemic. A trip to London to better connect with our Anglican roots and a journey across the channel to visit cathedrals in France and spend some rejuvenative and reflective time with monks in a monastery in Taize, France are jeopardized, if not lost.
With all that has happened because of this health crisis and in recognition of all the leadership, vision and energy Fr. R.C. has unselfishly given to St. John's | San Juan at this time, the Vestry agreed, without hesitation, that after Fr. R.C. uses his accumulated vacation time in August, he could use the month of September as a month of Sabbatical time. Fr. will begin his vacation on August 1 and will complete his Sabbatical on September 30. He will return to us October 1. We wish him continued health, safety and peace as he takes some much deserved time away! And, as always, we extend our sincere "Thanks!" for all he has done.
While Fr. R.C. is away, the Rev. Brian Gregory will be presiding over services, as Rev. Michael's ordination to the priesthood has been unavoidably delayed. I know you will join me in spirit as we welcome Fr. Brian to St. John's | San Juan.
Until next month, stay safe and well,
Tuesday, July 21 2020
St. John’s Episcopal Church
The regular monthly meeting of the Finance Committee was held on July 9. Joining me were members R.C. and Gerry Apple. We reviewed our current financial condition and discussed our presentation earlier in the day to the Diocesan Joint Finance Panel seeking approval to retain the proceeds of the loan we recently received from the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Also, the Committee reviewed and recommended Vestry approval of an amended contract from Jerry Campbell to provide consultant services for the upcoming annual as well as capital campaigns.
Our Current Financial Condition
Bank Balances as of 7/9/2020:
Our Budget Report for June 2020 can be viewed by following this link. As of June 30, our year-to-date operating deficit was -$28,811.09, a positive variance to budget of $33,810.89.
Pledge payments slightly (-$2,933.29) below budget in June, resulting in a year-to-date shortfall to budget to -$13,612.28 (10%).
A payment to bring us current on our Diocesan Assessment for 2020 was made on July 10.
Following last month’s approval by the Vestry, the Diocese, pending final approval from Bishop Rickel, has approved our acceptance of the $150,000.00 loan from the SBA through the EIDL program subject to the following conditions: (1) an independent audit (paid for by the Diocese) by a mutually-agreed upon auditor will be conducted in January 2021 and shared with the Office of the Bishop for the fiscal years ending in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020; (2) loan funds cannot be used until after completion of the audit; (3) a quarterly report must be sent to the Office of the Bishop stating where the loan funds are being kept and how they have been used in the preceding quarter, and (4) the Vestry of St. John’s, Olympia must pass a resolution at the next meeting stating that the funds from the EIDL will be used exclusively for operation expenses.
The Vestry approved a resolution drafted at the request of the Diocese stating that St. John’s will conform entirely to the requirements of the EIDL program and use the use the proceeds from the loan exclusively for normal operating expenses.
Annual and Capital Campaign Consultant
Following the Vestry’s approval last month of a contract from Jerry Campbell for his services as consultant for our capital campaign, Jerry and I have talked further, and he has agreed to provide consultant services for our upcoming annual campaign as well. The fee for Jerry’s services for both campaigns will be $11,200.00. (Note: Our original estimate for capital “campaign support” through the Episcopal Church Foundation was $44,950).
The Vestry approved contracting with Jerry Campbell and paying him a management fee in the amount of $11,200.00 for professional services associated with directing the St. John’s 2021 Annual and Capital Campaigns.
…Bob Le Roy, Treasurer