Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Sunday of Advent; wreaths and readings

Readings for the First Sunday of Advent

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

Times Leader opinion - Mark Guydish

A church message with universal appeal MARK GUYDISH OPINION
Tuesday November 17, 2009 | 12:00 AM
Mark Guydish

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.”

The Presiding Bishop - by Bishop Paul Marshall

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

12 Day of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas for Kajo Keji
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

Just Grace; for today

Our church is struggling with the need to help those that are homeless, thru the REACH program (google it and you won't find supportive articles in the local newspapers), helping them to find housing, providing counseling for the families, a single case worker helps to navigate the the local and state forms for assistance along with parental counseling -to keep children (not at physical risk) with the family. Or simply with food for the day, "give us this day our daily bread" (How many of us have food enough JUST for today ? ) We host this program in our church, because of the Pa state budget fiasco they are struggling both with finances for operation and to meet those needs ( only 2 workers verses over 20 families served this year and countless day to day visitors in need). Our struggle is not with; Should we help them?" the answer is - We do it because it is the right thing to do. there is no other church in our city that provides the services that we have. Our struggle is with those that prey upon those seeking help or those that know of the church and its program and exploit it for their own purposes, using the address to elude consequences of their actions, the location for illegal transactions- believing they are "invisible" to city workers, residents and authorities. They are not.
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

St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral on Sunday, November 1st at 5:00 p.m. presented a truly uplifting musical and liturgical experience. St. Stephen’s Choir, combined with the Choir of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, sang the Requiem, Op. 9 by French composer Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), within the context of an authentic Requiem Mass for All Souls’ Day (November 2nd, transferred to November 1st). On this day, we remember in prayer all those who have died and pray for God’s comfort for all who mourn the passing of loved ones.

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