Wednesday, September 23 2020
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Treasurer’s Report for The Chronicle
September 21, 2020
The regular monthly meeting of the Finance Committee was held on September 16. Joining me were members Gerry Apple, Christian MacMillan, and Ric Weatherman, along with Rev. Michael. We reviewed our current financial condition and progress on the upcoming annual campaign.
Our Current Financial Condition
Our bank balances at Commencement Bank as of this morning are:
◦ PPP Loan = $106.43
◦ Operations = $8,835.46
◦ Designated = $6,200.43
◦ Capital = $8,783.60
◦ Memorial = $7,718.92
◦ EIDL = $149,900.00
Our Budget Report for August 2020 is not yet complete. We will post it to our website as soon as it is available.
We have received the $70,000.00 withdrawal from our General (Unrestricted) Account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust. We have applied these funds to the following payables, totaling $61,418.05.
◦ Betschart Electric Co* = $1,667.07 (Electrical work on the second floor)
◦ Church Insurance Agency Group = $5,008.08 (Insurance for buildings and grounds)
◦ Church Pension Fund = $2,742.44 (Pensions for staff)
◦ Clint Pehrson* = $3,650.00 (Consultant’s fees for work with architects)
◦ Crystal Springs = $42.07
◦ Diocese of Olympia = $5,000.00 (Monthly Assessment)
◦ Episcopal Church Clergy Benefit = $6,739.00 (Health insurance for staff)
◦ FireTek Design & Installation* = $16,357.49 (Fire alarms on the second floor)
◦ Jerry Campbell* = $1,400.00 (Consultant’s fees for work on annual and capital campaigns)
◦ KMB Architects* = $18,411.40 (Architect’s fees for planning for roof replacement, structural and related repairs to the sanctuary)
We are completing the paperwork necessary to open our new Advisory Solutions Account with Edward Jones and should be able to fund it with the balance of our Commencement Bank EIDL Account next week.
…Bob Le Roy, Treasurer
Wednesday, September 23 2020
SERMON FOR SEPT 20, 2020
by The Rev. Terri Lolcama
Theme: My vocation as a deacon in this life is not about money; it is about God’s love and compassion extended to all people through me.
The last sentence of the parable of the Rich Man in Matthew Chap19:v30, reads, “Many who are first will be last; and many who are last will be first.” It is also the last sentence in today’s parable of the vineyard owner.
It must have been important. For Jesus would not have said it to his disciples and the early Christians at least these two times – perhaps even more times.
In Palestine, the market place was equivalent to the labor exchange – or unions as we call them today.
The parable shows that on any given day in the market-place of a Jewish village; there would be men looking for work as the rains would soon come and the crops would be ruined. Landowners would be hiring many workers at all times of the day – even at the last hour of the day. Landowners had the right to hire anyone they wanted.
The first men hired that day agreed upon their pay of a denarius. This was a very small amount because it would barely support a family for one day.
Throughout the day, even up to the last hour, the owner hired men who were standing idle; just waiting to be asked.
As the day went on the idle workers became desperate for fear they would not be hired. This would be a disaster for them as going even one day without pay would mean their family would go without food. The last men hired were simply sent out to work – nothing more. There was no agreed upon amount for their work. The parable goes on to say; all workers received the same pay no matter if they were hired early or late in the day.
The first hired workers were very unhappy and angry; and they let the owner know it! They wanted to know if he considered them as equals. The owner indicated it had nothing to do with being equal. He said, “You got paid the wages we agreed upon.” The last hired men received what the owner determined to be a fair wage.
The vineyard owner was angry and said, “…Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me?” It was not a matter of justice and equality of pay; it was a matter of generosity. The vineyard owner asked if they were unhappy because he was generous. Evidently they were.
In stooping for others we become great in God’s Kingdom. We wrongly assume the harder we work the greater the reward. It is our responsiveness to Christ’s words that counts. The reward given was based on the owner’s generosity, not by measuring how much each worker accomplished.
How we serve or work is not how much we do or God calls us to do, but on how faithfully we respond to His will. God’s reward is not based on how much we have done nor earned; but is a gift that demonstrates His generosity and His Grace. We owe God everything.
Those who waited all day were labeled as idle. They were idle waiting for work – they were not – lazy. They waited all day because they were desperate to make a living.
How does this translate in our world today? Do we have more workers than work? Perhaps Yes! Perhaps No!
I am of the opinion that almost all people are eager to work for a living. Begging and handouts can be demeaning to those receiving them. These are just a few of the questions concerning our cities and the nation at this time. We may not ever get a chance to talk with those on our streets. How they feel about their situation is unknown to us. Do we label them with our first reactions? What is their truth? What is our truth?
The question for me is, “if I were in their situation how would I define myself? How would I feel?
We might ask ourselves what side of this problem we sit. As Christians do we look with an “evil eye” at those with less than we have.
Do we stand idle in our churches; judging others. Or are we out there trying to solve the problems that exist in practically every city in our country.
At the time this parable was written; idle men were not connected to a group or family. Slaves and servants were connected to a family – day laborers were not. Being unemployed then and today is a disaster. Day laborers may be connected to a group called the homeless. Although not a desirable group, it is a group.
It must be a terrible feeling to have no one to reply on when times get tough from loss of a job or home. Who might you rely on in the event of a disaster?
COVID 19 and terrible natural disasters are happening right now. Thousands are being affected and some will be left with nothing. No home, car, furniture, no food -- perhaps no family.
My concern is that thousands of people every day have no one to help them. They may rely entirely on non-profits or government agencies. There just does not seem to be enough support – probably because there are so many in need.
We too may find ourselves left with nothing and may ultimately end up standing idle on the streets and doorways. Who needs the compassion then?
The landowner of the vineyard was well aware of the need and showed compassion for the workers. This was social justice at its best. The landowner chose to do the right thing at the right time. No judge, no jury.
It was the other workers who took exception to receiving the same pay as those who only worked a few hours. They became the judge and jury. Many stories Jesus told were a “first taste” of social justice and compassion shown to the people of that time.
In Jonah’s story today we learned that he confronted and condemned the social injustices that developed with prosperity. Jonah’s work for God was his work of loving & caring for people. God’s love was revealed to Jonah through the repentance of the sailors. God’s love for us will be revealed to each of us through our repentance and as we move closer and closer to loving and caring for the people. God’s divine compassion is to preserve all mankind. God takes no pleasure in bringing death to the evil.
Many in that era, especially the gentiles, were not treated with any respect. The Israelites believed the gentiles were not worthy because they did not follow the laws of the Jewish faith that had been taught and preached for centuries. They did not want them in the churches.
Theologians have studied this parable and their understanding has changed throughout the years. We are blessed to have those who offer us new and varied ways of thinking and interpreting what we read in the Bible.
CG Montefiore was the founder of Anglo-Liberal Judaism and a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. He was of the belief this parable application is or was the heart of the Christian religion. He calls this parable “one of the greatest and most glorious of all.” Discussions have long occurred about the fact that earlier Christians were more precious and valuable to God. Some in the early churches were not as willing to encourage new members – with new ideas; a new generation of believers with new policies.
We must realize being a long time member does not mean a place of honor. It was a long held belief that the Jews were “the chosen.” They looked down on Gentiles being able to come into the church. In God’s world there is no such thing as a most favored nation. No master race! We are all considered equal in the eyes of God. All are welcome into the Kingdom of God no matter when they arrive.
My understanding is that our United States Constitution was written to follow this “equal for all” principle. And yet today– there are those in our country in very high places of leadership who definitely believe that all are NOT equal. Our country and our church have much to learn about equality. I truly believe all people are valuable and precious in the eyes of God. Let us make no mistake- this belief is not held by everyone.
I cannot write this sermon without taking a moment to honor the life of one of our finest Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She gained the respect of men and women for her work of equality for all.
As we read this parable many centuries later since its original writing; we read more into it. SURLEY, in it there is the comfort of God. Which means no matter when a person chooses to come into the Kingdom of God; no matter what race, color, ethnicity; early or late in life – it does not matter. Everyone is precious and loved by God. That may be our only comfort.
Compassion shows forth in the way the vineyard master paid his workers. There is an element of human kindness or tenderness in this parable. The infinite compassion of God is expressed so well.
When we make judgments and perceptions of others we really don’t know - “Perhaps we haven’t arrived yet.” There is no racism in God’s world and yet, each of us show a face of racism at times in our life –“Perhaps we haven’t arrived yet.” In our huddles of life and the church, we say we are accepting. “Perhaps we haven’t arrived yet.”
Accepting everyone into the life of the church is the goal. 1 - Perhaps we have arrived when we can do it without judgment. 2 - Perhaps we have arrived when we show God’s compassion to everyone. 3 - Perhaps we have arrived when we have figured out how to accept and care for those who enter our doors.
We must not let anyone stand idle at the door. The doors must be open for all to enter and have a home to practice their faith. The church is our home away from home. It may be the only “home” for some.
Two questions we might ask ourselves – HOW? And WHEN? How best can we get this done? Do we have a plan? What is our challenge and where do we begin? COVID 19, death of many black men and women, and all the horrible fires have had a lasting effect on us and how much we can accomplish. We find it more difficult to bring social justice into our community.
Currently our church doors have been closed, even to us. The sanctuary is empty except for a few service participants each Sunday. Many services are still recorded and many are streamed live. I pray this will be enough to sustain us. The Palestine men stood idle each day; waiting to work. We are waiting to serve and yet find ourselves standing idle. Sharing the Gospel with others is primarily done via online programs. Better that way than nothing at all. Moving forward can be a challenge.
The vineyard owner’s compassion led him to give the men work at the last hours of the day. His heart was touched by God; he felt compassion for those standing idle and he reached out to them; offering no reward. They were eager just to have the work. During this difficult time as we stand idle; what is our God asking of us?
Will we step forward with generosity to help those who have lost so much – possibly everything they ever owned? Consider where you might give some of your time, talent and treasure. How best can we be generous to those who have lost so much? The generosity of God is real in this parable.
God invites us into many opportunities of service; each ranks the same with God. Here are two lessons to think about:
#1 ---The first lesson is not the amount of work or service given. It is the love in which it is given that matters. If our service is all that we have to give, then it ranks the same with God.
#2 ---The second lesson is even greater---All that God gives is of grace. We cannot earn what God gives us.
In the parable, the master went beyond justice to give all that he had to give. His love radiated to the men who only worked a few hours yet received the same pay for their work.
There are two great truths:
The first is the character of a working man.
The second is the right of every man to have a living wage for his work.
The Kingdom of God extends to everyone by invitation; the opportunity to serve; whether we are equal and deserving or underserving. The reward for everyone is equal. In Matt 5:45 God “sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”
The Supreme Lesson of this parable is: “…the whole point of work is the spirit in which it is given and the spirit in which it is done.” The last hired were willing to leave the reward to the master.
Compassion for others by a landowner or boss is essential. However, it may not exist in today’s world. As a Christian we work for God, for the joy of serving God. Our reward comes purely from God’s grace and our place in the Kingdom of God does not matter. It is God’s gift to us. The Good News in this passage is that God’s compassion and love are always faithful. It is the paradox of the Christian life that, those who aim at reward lose reward, and those who forget reward find reward.
God promises and delivers but one reward for all---represented by a single denarius (basically enough for one’s “daily bread,” Matt 6:11. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “…give US our daily bread…” God’s compassion provides equally for all of us! Reminding us, “The first will be last and the last will be first.”
Wednesday, September 23 2020
The Gospel of Luke has been known in Latin American Theology as the gospel showing the Tenderness of God.
Today Luke instructs us, in one of those extraordinary moments when Jesus references the Old Testament, considered by the Jews to be the absolute Law and the only authority for religious life, in answers to concerns about eternal life.
Jesus establishes a fraternal dialogue with a Jewish teacher of law who tries to prove Jesus' knowledge of Israel's tradition and religion.
What must I do to inherit eternal life? or Who is my neighbor? these are questions that we have asked ourselves many times in the past and also in this day.
But Jesus in today's parable gives a master class to the teacher of law. Focusing his response on the well-known and venerated text of the Shema: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. "
This means that the love of God and love of our neighbor have an inseparable relationship at the moment of understanding our mission as Christians. That is why Jesus' dialogue continues with the teacher of law, because he still did not understand what to do to inherit eternal life.
Who should we love? this is the key question of today's gospel.
Jesus tells us a biblical story, with instruction to love our neighbor. The teacher of the law then asks him: «And who is my neighbor? ». This is the question of one who only cares about fulfilling the religious law of Israel. That is why he is interested in knowing who he should love and whom he can exclude from his love. The teacher of law does not think about the sufferings of others.
On the other hand Jesus, who lives alleviating the suffering of those he meets on his way, breaking the law of the Sabbath or the rules of purity, responds with a story that denounces provocatively all religious legalism that ignores the love of those in need.
The story goes: On the road down from Jerusalem to Jericho, a man has been assaulted by bandits. Assaulted and stripped of everything, he remained on the road half-dead, abandoned to his fate. We do not know who he is. Only that he is a "man." It could be any of us, any human being who suffers from violence, illness, discrimination, misfortune or despair.
"By chance", continues our story, a priest appears on his way. The text indicates that it is by chance, as if the priest had nothing to do with a human being in need there. Rather, that priest must devote himself to worship and prayers, placing his identity in a religious life that he cannot see beyond the walls of the Temple or the Church. And that, as a result of this, their interpretation of life and society where they live can be really poor when it comes to understanding the relationship between faith, religious life in the temple or the Church and the needs of others. That is why the priest goes along without stopping, because his compassion cannot go beyond the words and the empty prayers recited during the worship in the temple.
But the Levite also come along; just as the priest he also feels identifies only with the needs of the Temple and his inner world. Forgetting that: “Faith is concrete action of what we say”. That is why the Apostle James reminds us in his letter "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works".
That is why when religion is not centered on God the friend in our life or God the father of those who suffer, we can run the risk of becoming religious without a heart.
Finally, a good Samaritan appears in our story, a foreigner excluded because of his racial identity. And all of us who have carefully read the Bible know that there was intense racial hostility between Jews and Samaritans. The Jews were forbidden to say (Amen) at the end of any prayer presented by a Samaritan. The Samaritans were considered strangers.
But the good Samaritan instructs us in an important lesson for life. It does not matter where we are from or what our nationality or our religious identity is. The most important thing is to be a loving/ caring neighbor for others.
"Neighbor", in the Old Testament, is equivalent to "brother", that is, to any member of God's people, of the same covenant. To be a neighbor of someone is to enter into a friendly or loving companionship with him or her. From a prophetic perspective, "neighbor" means "the other", not just the "brother". That is why Luke does not enter into theoretical controversies; he is more concerned with making the saying: "do the same," and you will live. What matters is the rule of life, and not the dissertation. Hence the exemplary account of the behavior of the good Samaritan.
Jesus shows us that the neighbor is not simply the "next", nor only the brother of blood or of faith: he is also the needy, the helpless, whether patriotic or foreign, friend or enemy. The great commandment of love for God is united in Scripture to the commandment of love of neighbor. This second commandment is a sign and faithful reflection of the first. Neither the Jewish priest (concerned about the cult) nor the Levite (obsessed with the law) discover their neighbor. And they do not understand that what God wants is "acts of mercy."
Whoever fulfills the Christian law of loving his neighbor complies with the whole law, since this universal love is the culmination of Jesus' will and testament. And although in our society the confrontations and antagonisms abound over who is our neighbor today. The Gospel invites us to always prevail in acts of compassion and mercy.
When we practice in our personal lives: compassion, mercy, love, reconciliation and respect for one another we become as or like the good Samaritan.
We have seen for decades throughout the world, that hate produces more hatred, that racism produces more racism, that fanaticism produces more fanaticism. Recall the genocide in Rwanda that ended the lives of between 800,000 and more than one million people injured in 1994, in a racial war between clans. Before the genocide, Rwanda was considered one of the nations with the largest number of Christians in the central African continent. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Rwanda commented, in an interview, that during the genocide, Christian leaders of some denominations, who were in charge of preaching and praying for the churches and the country, were the first to take up arms in response to the violence. Although, it is fair to say that many other Christians lost their lives in a peaceful attempt to stop the violence. This is a sad story that reminds us, to act so that such hurt never again occur.
The Apostle St. John reminds us in his letter that no one can love God unless he loves his brother and his sister first. That is why today the Gospel invites us to a deep reflection, invites us to remember that: those who sow love will reap love. The gospel invites us to remember the words of the Apostle St. Paul when it states: do not be defeated by evil but overcome evil with good.
The invitation for today that we remember the International Day of Peace is to be a Samaritan to others. Be a Samaritan church for others. A church that heals the wounds of those who have been mistreated, a church that gives back hope to those who have lost hope, the church that shares hospitality with strangers and that denounces injustice anywhere in the world.
Finally, I would have liked if St. Luke finish the story in today's Gospel. What would have been the reaction of that Jew to know that a Samaritan had become his neighbor?
"Go and do the same." Jesus tells us today. The whole message of Jesus is synthesized in something so practical and concrete. There are no great concepts or elaborate theories. The message is clear and focused on practice, a loving and compassionate practice.
That is why it is said, with reason, that: “compassion constitutes the test that verifies the authenticity of the spiritual path of any religion in the world”.
To reach God, who is our goal, we need to stand on the path together with our neighbor and become good Samaritans for the needy. Amen.
Wednesday, August 26 2020
In 1983 I began attending a 12 Step group called Happy Hour that met in the Guild Room. The meeting was so popular we often had to break up into two or three different rooms to just give everyone a place to sit. Smoking was still permitted back then and lots of people smoked, so you can imagine the cloud we generated over the course of an hour--it must have looked like the church was on fire when we opened the windows to air the place out!
Eventually Happy Hour moved to another location, and in the intervening years various 12 Step Groups have come and gone. Four were meeting here when the building was closed, and three of them continue as virtual meetings on Zoom. My job came in a roundabout way as a result of my involvement with one of the groups.
I was known to the office from having rented the parish hall for regional 12 Step assemblies over the past few years. Last summer I noticed that there had been a change in the church cleaning routine, and when I returned the key I mentioned that I was available if needed. A few weeks later I got a call asking if I was still interested, and shortly after I met with Fr. RC and was hired on an interim basis.
Now, nearly a year later, I remain grateful for the work and honored by the trust invested in me. The building can be a challenge--it's a blend of the Forties, Fifties, and Eighties, and the complexities of its various incarnations have baffled me from time to time. Fortunately I have an excellent mentor and can get help when I need it.
Alas, by the time I'd gotten into the swing of things everything had changed. The bustling activity slowed as we adjusted to the new reality of the corona virus, but we did adjust, and today services, meetings, and events are shared with the community over the internet through the resourcefulness of the clergy, vestry, volunteers, and staff. I admire those who continue to make it happen under demanding circumstances and give you my thanks.
Of course it's not the same as being together in person. I miss seeing the people who make St. John's such a vital place, the happy noise of the school upstairs, the choir practices and orchestra rehearsals that filled the sanctuary with glorious sound, and so much more, and yet I know the St. John's community is out there, loving and faithful and committed, eager to return when the time is right.
Wednesday, August 26 2020
Our building permit remains under review at the City of Olympia. So far, the city reviewer has not asked questions or requested modifications – a good sign. I expect approval by the end of August. Remaining fee due is $7,727.
I contacted Lonny Mason, project manager at Forma Construction, about our project and the process for engaging them contractually. Initially, we can contract solely for preconstruction services at standard rates, then add the actual bid cost to the contract later, after the results of our capital campaign show what we can afford. Forma often structures contracts in this way to reduce the risk for both parties.
Lonny is sending me a standard AIA contract template for review, along with contact information for reputable asbestos abatement contractors Forma has worked with in the past. He agreed that doing the abatement work as a separate contract would save us money.
Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM) Abatement
Last month, I reported that KMB had sought clarifications on the hazmat survey recommendations from Advance Environmental (AE) to better understand how ACM abatement would be done and its associated cost. AE has submitted a revised survey report. Its findings are unchanged, but it now provides more useful information for planning and price comparison.
We learned that the ACM does not permeate the entire depth of the plaster on the east, west and south walls of the Sanctuary. It is only present near the surface of the plaster, beneath the visible paint layer. Abatement can be done by wetting the surface with water, then scoring and scraping off the wet outer layer, leaving most of the underlying plaster intact. It is not necessary to remove all the plaster down to the underlying wood furring or bare concrete.
KMB also had AE mark up a plan drawing to show the perimeter of the areas within the Sanctuary where ACM is present and requires abatement. We can now share the revised report and drawing with abatement contractors to obtain three price quotes:
Because abatement work is not weather-dependent, it can be done any time prior to the start of Part I construction. If the church remains closed due to the pandemic, the fall or winter may be the ideal time to schedule this work.
Please let me know if you have any questions or further guidance as we move ahead.
Chair, Renovation Committee
Wednesday, August 26 2020
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Due to scheduling conflicts, the regular monthly meeting of the Finance Committee was cancelled.
Our Current Financial Condition
All our accounts at Columbia Bank have been closed and the balances transferred to corresponding accounts at Commencement Bank. Our bank balances as of August 18, 2020 are:
Our Budget Report for July 2020 can be reviewed by following this link. As of July 31, our year-to-date operating deficit was -$81,994.13, a negative variance to budget of -$64,796.30. The negative variance in July is attributable primarily to:
At current levels of giving and personnel costs, we are barely generating sufficient revenue to meet payroll and have little left to apply to other expenses. We have two additional sources of funds: The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) loan proceeds and our (endowment) account at with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust.
One of the conditions for Diocesan approval of our acceptance of the EIDL loan is we would not spend any of the proceeds until completion of an independent audit, currently planned for some time in January 2021. The EIDL money is currently being held in a segregated account at Commencement Bank pending our investment of some or all the funds until such time as they may be needed to apply to certain operating expenses.
Several months ago, the Vestry adopted a strategy of withdrawing funds from our General (Unrestricted) Account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust to pay for costs relating to work to replace our sanctuary roof, undertake related structural repairs, and prepare for our upcoming capital campaign. We have, so far, withdrawn a total of $180,000.00 and applied the funds to architects’, contractors’, and consultants’ fees and expenses. From the onset of this work in 2017 thru August 18, 2020, these fees and expenses total $259,770.37. As of June 30, 2020, the balance in our General DIF Account was $263,982.53.
The Vestry approved the withdrawal of $70,000.00 from our General DIF Account, with $50,000.00 to be used to reimburse our Operating Account for capital expenses previously paid from the Operating and Designated Fund Accounts, and the remaining $20,000.00 combined with the current balance ($13,783.60) in the Capital Campaign Account to be applied to anticipated expenses relating to architects’ fees, enhanced building security, and sprinklers. As with earlier withdrawals, we intend to reimburse the General Account with interest from funds raised in our capital campaign.
…Bob Le Roy, Treasurer
Wednesday, August 26 2020
Despite the difficult circumstances with which we are all being forced to deal, your Vestry continues to do the work needed to keep St. John's | San Juan the place we seek during times such as these. We met Thursday, August 20, to continue work on that mission.
At that meeting, Deacon Terri Lolcama, Sherry Sulivan and Andre Unicume, all members of our Outreach Committee, approached the Vestry with the idea of displaying a "Love Your Neighbor" banner on church property. The banner, displaying our logo, would be printed in Spanish on one side with English on the other. Similar projects have been successful across the United States, and, as one Vestry member pointed out, now would be a wonderful time to display something of such a positive nature when you consider the disruption and sometimes turbulent period we have experienced.
Terri, Sherry and Andre are pursuing details of the project with hopes of being able to display that banner in the near future. There may even be a possibility of selling individual yard signs for parishioners to purchase and display. We look forward to hearing more about this project from our hard working Outreach Committee. By the way, put me down for one, no make that two signs!
50th Anniversaries are really significant events. Vestry member Mary Bruce celebrated 50 years as a parishioner at St. John's | San Juan. What an accomplishment! Thank you for all you have done for our church family during that time! Mary had technical difficulties joining us visually, but was able to attend via telephone. We all sent applause, cheers and virtual hugs to her!
We also celebrated the attendance of Columba Fernandez, who attends our 6:00 p.m. service on Sunday. We were certainly excited to welcome her and look forward to more opportunities to strengthen our ties with members of our San Juan community. Thanks for taking the time to join us, Columba!
For those interested in serving as a Lector, please contact Rev. Michael at email@example.com and Evie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mary Law would appreciate being CC'ed should you volunteer to read. You can CC her at email@example.com.
If you are interested in learning more about our most current financial status from Treasurer Bob LeRoy, please click here.
While speaking of money, I would personally ask you to remember El Hogar, Outreach Committee work, and other projects close to your heart during this time. Valued services continue to be needed, meals need to be prepared and served and bills must be paid. Be sure to indicate where you want your money to go by writing the name of the service on the memo line of your check or in the approapriate space if you choose to give online. Please remember to let Rev. Michael or Evie know of your celebrations by email.
Lou MacMillan's Renovation Committee report may be accessed by clicking here. I know we're all anxious to return to in-person services and are looking forward to replacing that roof! It's still exciting to think about that, and maybe even more so now.
Over the past few weeks, we are all aware that our live streaming efforts that had been going so well have been hampered with technical difficulties. Primarily, those issues seem to revolve around sound.
Lin and I have found that printing off the Order of Service and Rev. Michael's sermons before the beginning of the service helpful. We may miss some words, but it's the spirit of the service that is our focus. Remember, people are working so hard to make all this happen!
While we have overcome problems with delays or pauses with the streaming, those have been replaced with audio issues. Please know church leadership is as equally frustrated as you, and is working with our dedicated Audio-Visual team to resolve the problems. Tim Tayne and Troy Atwell have graciously agreed to tackle this awesome responsibility. I'm sure you join me in thanking them for their efforts!
Moving to the actual live event has proven to be a steep learning curve, with a far more involved system. Placing and adjusting microphones appear to be causing some of the problems, from what I understand. This is simply not a "Turn it on and go." situation.
Romans 12:12 tells us "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."
Lin and I will be traveling around parts of Washington this September in our motorhome for a bit. I'll be speaking with you again in October.
Until then, stay safe and well!
Wednesday, August 26 2020
Today's Gospel refers to an ancient and venerable feast within the Christian liturgy: The Feast of the Transfiguration, which in some places is also known as the Feast of the Savior. This celebration is about remembering that glorious moment in which three disciples (Peter, James and John) had the opportunity to see Jesus Christ transfigured and resplendent, a moment of deep spirituality, which they would never forget in their experience with Jesus. That is why St. Peter, being very old, remembers it in his second letter (2 Peter 1: 13-21): "We hear this voice brought from heaven while we are with him on the sacred mountain."
The Transfiguration of Jesus confirmed the faith of the apostles and went to them as a light "that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the light is born in our hearts."
The Transfiguration of the Lord raises a question that is fundamental in Christianity: faith is for the apostles something bright, like immense joy, that no one can steal from them.
But today's Gospel account instructs the attitude of the disciples on their way of following Jesus. When we hear "This is my beloved Son; listen to him": This affirmation of God our father, proposes to the disciple a receptive attitude for listening. Listening not only includes the word, but also the acceptance of the new Servant of God our Father, who is nothing more than, the enlightened Jesus on the sacred mountain.
The art of listening.
Sometimes human beings no longer have time to listen. In a fast and busy life, we find it difficult to approach silently, calmly and without prejudice in our hearts to other people, with the willingness to listen to the message that person can communicate to us. Locked in our own daily problems, we pass by people, without just stopping to really listen to anyone. We could say that the contemporary human being is forgetting the art of listening to others and to each other.
In this same idea, it is not so strange that Christians have forgotten that being a believer: "is to live listening to Jesus." And yet, only from that listening does the life of a Christian take on its true meaning and originality. Even more. Only when we listen to Jesus, is when true faith in God is born in our hearts.
The experience of listening to Jesus can sometimes be disconcerting. The words of Jesus on many occasions, is not what we expected or had imagined. It may even happen that, at first, the words of Jesus in the gospel disappoint us, in our pretensions or expectations.
When we hear that Jesus says, love your enemies (we would think: “it would be that Jesus went crazy”, love who hurts me)… or when Jesus tells us in the gospel: “all that you wish for yourselves you must also wish for your neighbor”. These are hard words sometimes difficult to understand. That's why I always say being a Christian is a path of constant challenges that reminds us that no one can love God, the virgin or any other saint unless we love our neighbor first.
Then our life begins to illuminate with a new light. We begin to discover with Jesus what is the most humane way of facing life's problems. We realize where the big mistakes of our daily lives are. But we are not alone anymore! Someone close and unique, like Jesus, frees us again and again: from discouragement, wear and distrust. Jesus invites us to seek happiness in a new way, trusting unlimitedly in our Father God, despite our sin.
How do we respond today to that invitation addressed to the disciples on the mountain of transfiguration? "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." We may have to start by raising from the bottom of our hearts that prayer repeated by the monks of Mount Athos in Greece: "Oh God, give me a heart that knows how to listen."
Let us remember these two important points of today's Gospel:
1) We must remember that we must not only listen, we must not only pray, we must also act. Saint Francis of Assisi said: "acts speak louder than words." We must have actions that speak of God's love for others. The disciples in today's gospel not only saw Jesus but did the things that Jesus commanded them.
2) The disciples were transformed along with Jesus, they changed their idea about Jesus, but they also changed. This is a personal call for each of us ... sometimes we want others to change, but we must understand that change must begin first with us.
Finally, the central point of today's Gospel text: is the order to "listen to Jesus." Listening is what characterizes a disciple, his ambition is not only to be with Jesus, but to be a servant of the truth, in a position to always listen to God in that sacred space of silence.
In this last weeks of Summer, I would like to invite everyone to be purposeful during these days about reflection and personal and spiritual discovery that are coming. May we listen to Jesus every day through the words of the gospel, through personal and community prayer, through communion and liturgy.
Together with the apostles Peter, James and John, we take advantage of the opportunity to contemplate, with calm and attention, on the presence of God and Jesus that can open us to recognize God's love, power and goodness for each one of us. Amen.
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!