Saturday, December 26, 2009
As I complete this article on the first Sunday of Advent, I just read the headline that our nation is about to commit another 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan. Personally, I think this is a bad idea based on what I learned during my study in Southeast Asia, but I am not going to spend this column trying to convince you of my opinion. Rather, I view this as just one more example of how every Advent begins the same--with an apocalyptic tale of destruction.
We hear it every Advent with messages from the Gospels like: "on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world." These are Jesus’ words according to the evangelist Luke. One might almost think Jesus is telling his disciples to be afraid—be very afraid. But if that’s all you hear in Jesus’ message this Advent then you are missing the point.
Advent does begin every year with a message of chaos, a message of trouble at hand. Yet if you pay close attention over the next few Sundays of Advent (for that you’ll have to attend the services) you will hear that the messages get more and more positive. I have said it time after time; Advent is a time of pregnancy. It is not intended to be a mini-Lent. Advent is that time of anticipation and expectation. We are intended to think in terms of, "Yes, things are bad now, but they are going to get better. Our Messiah will come!"
As Christians our faith amounts to nothing if it is not lived in hope. When we hear of wars and rumors of wars, trouble and strife, look up. Your redemption draws nigh. Lift up your eyes to the hills from where your help will come. This is the meaning of our journey through Advent, and when lived in faith it brings all the more meaning to Christmas.
Finally, though unconnected from the above message, let me remind you of the words of Gandhi, "If we all care enough, and we all share enough, then everyone will have enough."
Happy New (Liturgical) Year, and have a blessed Advent as you prepare your heart and home for the coming of the Christ-child.
Peace On Earth This New Year
Written by The Rev'd Daniel C. Gunn
Monday, 07 December 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Wednesday December 16 at 6:00 pm
On behalf of all the people of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral, We are pleased to invite you to our annual Festival Service of Lessons and Carols for Advent.
Fr. Daniel Gunn, Rector of St. Stephen’s, will officiate at this service. The Choir of St. Stephen’s will sing choral music by Palestrina, Mendelssohn, Herbert Howells, Paul Manz, Edgar Pettman, and Paul Edwards. Organ voluntaries will feature works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Marcel Dupré, and David Briggs. All present will join in the singing of stirring hymns for the season of Advent. Nine lessons from the Old and New Testaments will be read by parishioners, staff, and clergy of St. Stephen’s.
A festive reception hosted by parishioners will be held in the Auditorium immediately following the conclusion of the service.
Monday, December 7, 2009
On the micro-blogging/social media site Twitter, there is an interesting series of posts this week in which all sorts of people are answering the question "I am Episcopalian Because..."
Here are a few excerpts:
"When my church says that everyone is welcome and has a home here, they mean it."
"I'm Episcopalian because you can have the beauty of ritual and the freedom of an open mind in one place"
"Advent I Collect: "give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armor of light""
"I became Episcopalian because I liked the music, I stayed because the Jesus of the Gospel readings sang quietly to me of peace and justice."
"you aren't expected to park your brain at the door. Debate with your neighbor, then receive communion together."
"I am Episcopalian Because we're serious about the longing for God-incarnate that's embodied in Advent."
"I am Episcopalian Because that's where God lead me."
"I am Episcopalian Because Leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu"
"I am Episcopalian Because Incarnational Theology, Liturgical Tradition and a willingness to be in the mystery without being compelled to solve it"
Also check out #LaughedInChurch for some good laughs.
Tip of the hat to Cafe news editor Torey Lightcap who started the #LaughedInChurch hashtag on Twitter!
Posted by Peter Carey on December 3, 2009 2:30 PM
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The Saturday after Advent Sunday
December 5, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Anne E. Kitch
My soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
“Where does the term ‘discipline of yearning’ come from, is it yours?” I text my friend. He used it in his sermon, and the phrase has been intriguing me all week.
“Wow, you are scary. Discipline of yearning, did I say that?” There is a pause in our texting as he looks up his sermon notes to see if this phrase is perhaps something he quoted from another source.
“It seems that particular quote is mine though I don’t remember saying it. You can have it if you like.”
“You still get credit for saying it.”
“Must be Holy Spirit credit.”
Sermons are always like that. There is the one that is preached, and the several other versions that are heard. I definitely heard “discipline of yearning.” What would such a discipline look like? This is what I have been pondering all week. I think of yearning as something that enters into my psyche without invitation or intentionality. If I take on yearning as a discipline, I must choose to scrutinize what it is I wait for anxiously. An examination of yearning leads me into those spaces unfulfilled hopes and dreams inhabit. Such a discipline would have me engage with the ache of longing rather than dancing around it. Yep. Exactly.
Last Sunday I was struck by my friend’s caution that we do not so immerse ourselves in the familiar and comfortable spirituality of our Advent rituals that we forget that this season calls us into a discipline of yearning. It is still on my mind. “Vocation of yearning, was that the quote?” I text.
Anne E. Kitch, Canon for Formation in the Christian Faith
Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem
333 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem PA 18015
Saturday, November 28, 2009
How To Make Your Own Wreath (if you couldn't make it to the church's Advent Wreath making event)
The Advent wreath, or circle, of evergreens, made in various sizes, placed on a table. The devotion is usually incorporated during the family meal, or during family evening prayers. Fastened to the wreath are four candles standing upright, at equal distances. These candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of the candles are purple, reminding us of the penitential nature of the season. A rose or pink candle is lit for the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday. The name is taken from the entrance antiphon or Introit "Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice." It is reminding us that the end of Advent is almost here, and we can hardly contain our joy.
The wreath should be in a circle, a symbol of eternity, and a reminder that God has no beginning nor end. The evergreen is a symbol of eternal life.
The appearance of the actual Advent wreath is varied—everyone has their own interpretation of the Advent wreath. The look of your family's wreath depends on how much time and creativity you have to devote. Your family can create their own special wreath, or add personal touches to a store-bought wreath. With this devotion being so popular, one can go into any craft or garden store and buy a wreath. Any religious goods store carries several varieties, and the prices range from inexpensive to very costly.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday November 17, 2009 | 12:00 AM
Maybe it was the brick walls and modest marble columns, or the wood floor crafted from thousands of slats not much bigger than Popsicle sticks.
Maybe it was the half dome above the altar, sporting a semi-circle of petite stained glass windows backlit just enough to give a glimmer of the detail they contained.
Maybe it was the flamed copper “fa�ade pipes” of the organ that can still be deemed recently restored. True, the refurbishing happened seven years ago, but since parts of the instrument are more than a century old, seven years sounds recent.
Or perhaps it was the open-armed angels that emerge from the ornate wooden trusses in the ceiling at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. With elbows gently bent and hands curved inward, the carved heavenly hosts looked like they could be guiding the sound into just the right location for listening pleasure.
Something made the acoustics sing during a special “Evensong” last week that marked what was believed to be the first visit by the Episcopal Presiding Bishop in 190 years.
I know choral church music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – heck, it’s torture for some -- but when done right, I find it spiritually uplifting in a way few other human endeavors match. And, frankly, the Catholic churches I’ve been attending have shrunk so much they rarely have the people power to pull off a full-throated songfest. That’s no reflection on their music ministries; it’s just a reality of our time.
Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori didn’t have much to do other than sit and listen. This wasn’t a Mass, or an elaborate ritual. It was mostly a concert with the crowd occasionally joining in, punctuated by a few readings, highlighted by Jefferts Schori’s sermon.
Faith is a lifelong learning process
She opened by rattling off some of the nations the Episcopal Church calls home. “Greetings from our diocese in Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador … Austria, Belgium, France, Germany … and the other 99 Episcopal Dioceses in the U.S.”
The last comment drew chuckles during a pause, after which she added “They pray for you; I would ask that you pray for them.”
Jefferts Schori acknowledged shortcomings not only of her faith, but of religion in general. The number of Americans who are essentially not connected to any church keeps climbing rapidly, even as the vast majority of us claim to be spiritual.
She stressed that faith is a lifelong learning process. “We don’t learn what we need to know by the time we are confirmed at the age of 12 or 13.”
The presiding bishop did not touch on any of the issues threatening to divide the Episcopal Church, such as appointing an openly gay bishop, allowing priests to bless same-sex unions, or the ordination of women as priests that, while not new, rankles traditionalists. Jefferts Schori is the first female presiding bishop in the 220 years the position has existed.
I confess, after a lifetime of male-only sermons in Catholic churches, there was something refreshing about hearing a woman’s voice at the podium, but it may have simply been the novelty. It was the universal tidbits in her message that struck me.
When she summed up the Episcopalian mission in a single sentence, I thought the message transcended the moment. Though spoken in a church, it should hold true in any setting; a worthwhile goal for everyone:
“We participate in trying to heal this world. That’s what we’re here for.”
This blog originally appeared on the DioBeth blog site -newSpin on November 18, 2009 and will appear in the December issue of Diocesan Life
November 18, 2009
The Presiding Bishop –– An Appreciation and Reminders for Parish Leaders
By Bishop Paul Marshall
[During her visit to the Diocese of Bethlehem, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was attentive, appreciative, and evocative. She gave feedback. She was encouraging. She could, when necessary change. She maintained a non-anxious presence and she stayed connected. –– The Bishop's column below will appear in the December issue of Diocesan Life.]
November was a banner month for our diocese. For the first time in more than two decades we were honored by a visit from the chief pastor of The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop.
I designed the visit as carefully as I could to insure that she saw our best efforts, our most innovative efforts, along with our challenges and deficits. Bishop Jack and I also individually spent private car time with her so that she would know what the episcopate is like in this diocese.
I need to thank, in order of occurrence, the Standing Committee, New Hope, the Stewardship and Evangelism commissions, the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Grace Church and School in Allentown, New Bethany Ministries in Bethlehem, Trinity Soup Kitchen in Bethlehem, the gathered staff, St. Luke’s in Lebanon, Project REACH and St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, the youth of our Diocese, the assembled clergy, and Good Shepherd in Scranton, all of whom helped give the Presiding Bishop an accurate picture of our life together.
Additionally, so many hands and voices provided hospitality, music, and general assistance (including parking!) with this project. Mother Hillary Dowling Raining and Ely Valentin did the heavy lifting for the visit.
I am also grateful for those who engaged the Presiding Bishop in conversation at the three churches where Evensong, receptions and open forums took place and at clergy day.
There are some aspects of leadership that Bishop Katharine demonstrated that all who lead might think about.
In the first place she was attentive. Every place we visited, she noticed things that were unique about the place and took the time to really look at them. This was even more true with people and programs: she gave whomever she engaged her complete attention.Then, she was appreciative. She worked to understand what was being said or shown, and to see its value. She was verbal in her appreciation and respectful of her interlocutors, whether they were homeless persons or elected officials of the diocese.
She was evocative. We have a little saying in our office that Bill Lewellis developed from an old Wall Street ad. Our version is, “When we listen, people speak.” People tended to hesitate to ask the first question, but Bishop Katharine’s way of listening carefully and respectfully when that question got asked, had other people in the room bubbling away.
She gave feedback. Particularly with the youth group, she took what they said seriously enough to pursue conversation with them. That in turn brought forward more conversation and genuine growth in thought. She taught gently by making sure lights were turned out when groups left a room.She was encouraging. Every church and ministry she visited heard from her that they were appreciated for what they were doing, and encouraged to keep it up. She offered suggestions as appropriate.
She could, when necessary, change. As it became apparent to her in each evening’s discussions that certain remarks at General Convention had perplexed some people and alienated others, in her closing sermon to the clergy she finally just said she was sorry to have not been clearer, and recast the remarks in a way that would make sense to all.
Most important, I think, is that she maintained a non-anxious presence. She never made the mistake of taking oppositional words personally. In the face of some tough questioning, she kept the focus on her vision for the church’s participation in the work of God. This is the hardest skill leaders have to master, and she is one of the best models I have seen of the non-anxious style of leadership. It has none of the excitement of demagoguery, and for that very reason invites sane people to follow.
Finally, her mission is to stay connected. The Presiding Bishop is required by canons to visit dioceses once in a nine-year term. That averages out to about twelve a year. Ours is the eighty-ninth visit she has made in only three and a half years. She leads the church by being present in it.I think, then, along with all the fun we had during the week, we also had the opportunity to see an expert leader in action and we all felt a desire to rededicate ourselves to our ministry and mission.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The World Mission Committee is again sponsoring the 12 Days of Christmas for Kajo Keji. Instead of giving Aunt Mildred a sweater she doesn't want, why not give a gift in her honor to those really in need? Items range in price from $5 for a net ball to $250 for a scholarship. Deadline is December 15th.
Forms can be found in the back of our church and in the side entrance vestibule for your convenience.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
How do we still maintain our mission of living, and serving Christ's love in our community while discouraging or removing the elements that, by their mere presence, conflict with city and legal authority, putting at risk those who need the services and those that worship at St Stephens. Splitting mauls are wonderful tools - if you are working with wood-
but not with sentient beings. Perhaps there is no clear cut absolute answer - just grace, for today.
Monday, November 2, 2009
We are truly privileged that the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, the Right Reverend Paul Marshall, was with us as Celebrant and Preacher for this extraordinary event. Also participating was the Reverend Canon George Loeffler, Deacon and Chaplain to Bishop Marshall, and the Reverend Daniel Cube Gunn, Rector of St. Stephen’s.
The combined choirs from Nativity Cathedral and St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral were conducted by Canon Russell Jackson, Organist and Choirmaster at Nativity. Canon Mark Laubach accompanying the choirs at the organ. Soloists were Carol Tome, mezzo-soprano, and Charles Unice, baritone. Also joined by Christiane Appenheimer-Vaida, violoncello.
Maurice Duruflé’s exquisite setting of the Requiem utilizes the traditional plainsong melodies, set amid lush harmonies and sonorities. It takes a well earned place of honor with other fabled musical settings of the Requiem mass by Verdi, Mozart, Berlioz, and Fauré.
Canon Mark Laubach, Organist & Choirmaster
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Many of you have commented to me since diocesan convention with your enthusiastic reaction to the Missa Luba which
St. Stephen’s Choir sang at the Eucharist on Saturday morning. A number of you asked for more details,
so I thought I would post something here about what we sang, how we came to do it, and who were our wonderful guest
musicians (conductor, tenor soloist, percussionists) that morning.
What we sang was the Missa Luba (I believe Luba refers to the language of that part of Africa), which was arranged
and composed by Fr. Guido Haazen (d. 2004), a Franciscan Friar from Belgium, who arrived in the Congo in 1953 as a missionary.
The Missa was first performed and recorded in 1958, and uses traditional Congolese music. Bishop Paul has been eager to have
this sung at a diocesan liturgy for as many years as he’s been our bishop, and finally this seemed to be the right time
and opportunity to do it. I’m sure we’ll do it again in the future, and I hope to have more of my singers here for it
(too many of my choir members had unanticipated conflicts with this weekend, unfortunately) and fix the spots that didn’t
quite go 100% well! This music is not exceedingly demanding of the choir, though it goes better with more singers, and it’s
so very different from what a group like ours is accustomed to singing. So it was a bit of a stretch for us, both in terms of
numbers and stylistic awareness. But I think we felt as though it went quite well, and that the hours of preparation were all
very much worth the experience.
In Missa Luba, the greatest musical demands fall on the shoulders of the tenor soloist and the percussionists, all of whom
need to have some sensitivity to stylistic idiosyncrasies in performing traditional African music. We were supremely blessed
with a tremendous tenor and talented and knowledgeable percussionists. Our tenor soloist was Lazaro Calderon, a native
Puerto Rican who is now based in Manhattan and studies at Juilliard. (BTW, Lazaro will be making his Carnegie Hall debut
in a month, singing the lead role in Cavalleria Rusticana, I believe!) Lazaro came on the recommendation
of Andrew Krystopolski (a former organ and church music student of mine at Marywood University, class of 2005 – now
full-time organist & choirmaster at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Essex Fells NJ), who ended up conducting the mass
at my invitation. I thought Andrew would enjoy doing it and would “get” that style far better than I ever could, and I was
absolutely right. He was thrilled to be asked, and I was relieved to have one less job to do in a very busy weekend.
Lazaro was a joy to work with, as were the drummers, Monica Spishock, Robert Burns, and James Curtis. Although the choir
and I had been preparing the Missa Luba since late August, we put it all together with Andrew, Lazaro, and the drums after
Evensong on Friday night.
I am truly proud of the St. Stephen’s Choir members who worked so hard in putting together both Friday’s Evensong
and the Saturday morning Eucharist, all the while preparing the Duruflé Requiem for November 1st here at St. Stephen’s (5 p.m.)
and again on November 8th (4 p.m.) at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and while preparing for the
Presiding Bishop’s visit for Evensong on November 11th! In this past week alone, our singers were here for 2½ hours on Thursday
evening, about 3½ hours Friday evening, about 2½ hours Saturday morning, and then again for about 2 hours on Sunday morning!
Their dedication and enthusiasm inspire me – they truly do model discipleship in action!
I would also like to thank all those from throughout the diocese who were here for the convention. Speaking for Fr. Daniel Gunn,
our wardens, vestry, staff, and parishioners, it’s a great privilege and honor for us to host convention and other diocesan events
here at St. Stephen’s. For me personally, it’s a particular joy to reconnect with so many “old” friends and make “new” friends,
and to accompany such enthusiastic congregational singing. (This means I can let the organ “wail” just a little louder
(perhaps a “guilty pleasure”?), and together we can create some uplifting moments in our corporate worship. As Bishop Paul often
says, “Church can and should be fun!”)
And finally, my deep thanks to Bishop Marshall, Archdeacon Stringfellow, and all the members of the Liturgy and Music
Commission who worked so hard on so many fronts to make the convention liturgies so well planned, smoothly executed, meaningful,
spirited, elegant, and reverent.
Canon Mark Laubach, Organist & Choirmaster
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Pro-Cathedral of the Diocese of Bethlehem
35 South Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barre PA 18701
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
|Written by Daniel C. Gunn|
|Wednesday, 07 October 2009|
If not a Democratic God, at least a Democratic Church
A few years ago I wrote an academic philosophy paper in which I argued that “God” is a democratic ideal. To attempt to summarize a twenty-plus page paper in a few lines would be futile, but in short I argued that the way we think about God is the triumph of a majority vote. Those who are in the minority with their views on God are the ones we label “heretics.” Orthodoxy, then, is whatever a majority of people believe. When I presented the paper to a scholastic theology society I was very nearly branded a heretic myself. I still think there’s merit to my idea. Recently while preparing to give a talk to a college class on the Episcopal Church I found myself making a similar argument. I told them emphatically that we are a democratic church even as we are also a hierarchical church. Certainly we have bishops, but our bishops are elected by the clergy and laity of the diocese. And yes we have a Primate, but that person is also elected. Even as rector, though the bishop appoints me, the Vestry first elected me. It is amazing to see how God can take the independent opinions of individuals and shape them into something to be used for good. This fall you have the opportunity to see our democratic church at work from every level and angle. Beginning with Diocesan Convention you can witness God at work through individuals. Even if you’re not a delegate you can volunteer to help make us a successful host. Then later in the month of October we will gather as a parish family for our Annual Meeting. At that meeting we will elect new Vestry members and delegates to the 2010 Diocesan Convention. You will also have the opportunity to hear about the state of your parish from the leadership and committee chairs. Finally, in November our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Ph. D., D. D. (I have been advised to just call her Bishop Katharine) will be with us for an Evensong, reception, and question and answer session. She will preach at the Evensong and following the reception she will make herself available to answer any questions you might have, time permitting. I think I’ll dig out that old paper of mine on the “Democratic God,” and give some thought again about how God works mysteriously through flawed, broken people. This fall will be a good time to think on this, even if it makes me a heretic.