St. Mary’s offers numerous opportunities for adults to learn and grow. Spiritual Formation includes programs that challenge you to think differently, help you to expand your knowledge base, deepen your prayer life, and engage you with the breadth and depth of Anglican history and contemporary expressions of the faith.
2017 Lenten Series – Living the Way of the Cross from the Historical Jesus to the Cosmic Christ
This five-week Lenten Study series is designed for all parishioners and friends who would like to know more about Lent, the meanings inherent in the Stations of the Cross, and the traditions that surround our observances and religious practices during Holy Week.
The program will feature teaching by Bishop Marc Andrus, Fr. Don Brown, & Fr. Jeremy Clark-King.
Dates: Wednesdays, March 8, 15, 22, 29, and April 5
Time: Soup supper at 6:00 p.m.; program follows at 6:30 p.m.
Ashes and the Divine Spark
by Deborah Franklin, Altar Guild President and Vestry Member
id=”perspective”Last Saturday found me between storms, on a bench before a flaming cauldron in St. Mary’s courtyard. I got a new perspective on the central ritual of Ash Wednesday.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” – a few solemn words and a swipe of grime across the forehead 40 days before Easter mark the beginning of Lent, the reflective season when we Christians are supposed to quit our whining and preening and remember that we are nothing – nothing — apart from God. That’s what I thought I understood. Then I tried to make ashes.
Every year or so, the Altar Guild gathers up some of the palm fronds waved on Palm Sunday, and puts the bundle on a high shelf in the sacristy to dry. We burn them the following winter to create the ashes for Ash Wednesday — the start of Lent. Circle of Life. Great idea!
Except, this year I couldn’t get them to burn.
True confession: I’d never done it before, and am a little afraid of fire. But I’d downloaded the instructions from the National Altar Guild (God bless the internet!). I had a fire extinguisher at the ready, just in case things got out of hand. Snip, snip, snip – I cautiously put a small mound of frond-confetti into the cauldron, touched a match to it, and stood back.
Nothing. Nada. Instead of bursting into flame, the little squares turned black around the edges and shriveled, but didn’t burn. I doubled the fuel – a full two cups of snipped-up fronds. Still no flame. No ashes.
Finally, exasperated after 40 minutes of snipping and shriveling, I curled long fronds into the cauldron like loose spaghetti, and tossed in a match.
WHOOSH! The combination of air and loose abandon did the trick. The woody scaffolding of each palm frond gave way to black, then silver, then glowing ghosts of fibers — white-hot and tinged with red. Perfect! It took time, but little effort. I watched until the red glow died away, then scooped white flakes of ash into a bowl.
That’s when it hit me. How often, I wondered, have I played it extra safe with my “leaps of faith” and trust in God? How often have I been strategic in waiting and watching, measured and careful with the way I spend the confetti of my time, my money, my energy — careful to guard my heart against disappointment or hurt?
How often have I stayed so close to my own comfort that I’ve missed out on meaningful detours – the chance conversations that might have led to powerful friendships and new ministries? How often have I said no to opportunities (“things left undone,” as our prayer of confession says), or focused so closely on my own pain, that I lost sight of another’s? Or averted my eyes from the homeless young man on the sidewalk outside Walgreens; or given him a little cash, but not risked also stopping to ask his name, his story?
St. Mary’s is now in the middle of a search for new rector, and it’s easy for us all to hang back in this transitional time – to wait and see who our new long-term leader will be, to expect that person to spark us to action, to guide our church community into our next chapter. Maybe we’re overwhelmed or deeply hurt or disappointed, so we step gingerly. Maybe we show up, but hold back a bit; fearful of a mis-step. Maybe, we figure, we’ll just wait to see how it all turns out before trusting in God and our community, before risking our hearts.
An hour last Saturday with that carefully tended, smoldering – and failing — fire taught me that’s no way to live! If, individually or as a parish, we want to do big things, we can’t wait, or force whatever’s happening now to conform to what’s gone before – we’ll smother the spark. We need to open our hearts and be all-in to recognize the divine spark in each other — to see ourselves as God sees us, and prayerfully expect that if we give God a chance, he’ll feed our dreams with oxygen, heat and light, and allow us to do big things in and for our hurting world right now.
St. Mary’s has a long history of strong, lay-led ministries – of outreach to homeless families and young people in transition, of glorious, inspiring music, of vibrant children’s programs. We know how to build an inclusive community, feed the hungry, tend the Earth and each other. We have experience working for justice, standing up for refugees and others at the margins. We build bridges, and so much more. We have what it takes – a vigorous, multi-generational community of families and couples and singles. It’s a community of long-time parishioners and those just arrived – who can all knit together and work spiritual magic in the world, right now.
Don’t wait! Commit! Be all-in. We need you, and you need us. Whether you’re a newcomer, or someone who has worn many, many hats at St. Mary’s and could use a new one, ask God where you can be most joyfully useful in our community right now. Got a new idea for something the church should be doing, a way you’d like to help change the world? Introduce yourself. Share your vision. Risk your heart. Sign up and jump in. We’re meant to live our lives fully, vibrantly — white-hot to the end. We don’t want, at the end of our lives, to have left something back, a fibrous, unburned husk.
One more thing I learned from that burning cauldron: Once God sets us aflame we’re not easily deterred or quenched. At the end of the afternoon, I picked up my bowl of white ash, and noticed it was still warm. I stuck the spoon in and stirred it around a little – tiny red embers, each smaller than a grain of rice, still glowed, still igniting whatever unburned bits of palm fiber they touched.
Life is short, and we do not have too much time
to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us.
So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
If you are hooked on hoops or just joyous with Jesus, you may want to add Lent Madness to your personal Lenten practice. An online outreach program of Forward Movement, which publishes the devotional Forward Day by Day, Lent Madness replicates the format of the annual NCAA basketball tournament, marketed as March Madness, in order to explore the good news of two thousand years of holy women and men. On Ash Wednesday, March 1st, in a veritable bacchanal of brackets, 32 saints will pair off against each other in head to head competition. Through online voting, the first round will be winnowed to the Saintly 16, then to the Elate Eight, and then the Faithful Four. The final two will
then go head to head to win the coveted Golden Halo. The brackets are posted in the copy room at the church, or go to www.lentmadness.org to participate. Lent Madness may not make you a better Christian, but it may result in a more informed one. It is a great way to trick your mind into enriching your soul.
Please mark your calendar for Friday, May 19th through Sunday, May 21st for our Annual Parish Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg. This much loved tradition is a time for parishioners of all ages, from all services, to come together and enjoy fun and fellowship. We can engage in hiking, eating, swimming in the saltwater pool, tasting cheese and wines with, worshiping in the Ranch’s lovely historic chapel, dropping into quiet contemplation, exploring the town of Healdsburg, doing crafts, playing games, s’mores by the campfire, and yes, some fellowship and community! Do it all or just enjoy sitting with a book, basking in the beauty of the wine country. The registration costs include comfortable lodging, all meals, crafts and other supervised activities for the kids, and entertainment for all.
The deadline to sign up is May 12th at noon. We also need volunteers to help at the Ranch; please contact Amy Cebrian at email@example.com if you can help. We have loved going for years and hope to see you at the Ranch!
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
St. Mary’s was honored to welcome former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori. If you were not able to hear her in person, you can listen to audio recordings of her sermon here and the forum she conducted
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes the Jesus Movement.
Watch “The Jesus Movement” on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/183043900?re
Listen to talks from the 2016 Summer in the City Series:
- July 3 - The Rev. Dr. Paula Nesbitt - Spiritual Listening with Indaba
- July 10 - The Very Rev. Mark Richardson - Life of the Spirit and Connection to the Earth
- July 17 - Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus - Stations of the Cosmic Christ
- July 24 - Joel Pomerantz - Seep City
- July 31 - The Rev. Claire Dietrich Ranna - Faith in Action
- August 7 - The Rev. Dr. William Stafford - Julian of Norwich Prophet of Love through the Passion
- August 14 - Lauren MacDonald - On Mary and the Mural
- August 21 - The Rev. Evalyn Wakhusama - Building Dreams at the Nambale Magnet School
- August 28 - The Very Rev. Dr. Don Brown - Struggle and Hope
Communion and Conflict
On Sunday, April 3, 2016, the Rev. Dr. John Kater spoke to a group at St. Mary’s. He is a graduate of Columbia University, the General Theological Seminary and holds a Ph. D. from McGill University in Montreal. He served as rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie, NY for ten years and taught at Vassar College. He was Education Officer in the diocese of Panama from 1984 to 1990, and for 25 years has taught Anglican Studies at CDSP, where he is now Professor Emeritus of Ministry Development. He has lectured widely around the Anglican Communion, was a consultant at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, taught in Brazil, the Philippines and Korea, and serves yearly as Visiting Professor at Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong.