Saturday, December 24, 2011

December hauntings

by the middle of December - I had so many things looming at me. Toys for Tots (how was I going to manage the distribution???) CEO food order, cleaning out a space for the homeless shelter, Clothing Closet donations, food storage, freezers needing to be repaired, wanting to be in NC to help my mom put back the living room and move out the furniture from the dining room for contractors to repair floor and paint.

A song kept haunting me - just the first few words, but I could not grasp what it was. I couldn't find it on my CD's, when I finally got a chance (or remembered) to look. I knew the version I wanted was by Mannheim Steamrollers: Veni Veni, I finally found it on itunes, downloaded the entire album (my copy I realized was a cassette) Listened to the song I had been looking for, but it wasn't quite right. Beautiful song, but not what had been haunting me.

So many families signed up for toys, 250 children, needed two cars to pick up food at CEO warehouse, including produce (tangerines, onions, carrots, broccoli, cut/packaged fruit) cleared out minor items from the space for shelter, luncheon with the ladies, Lessons and Carols service, updating Facebook, Youtube.....

That's the song!! Listening to the whole album I heard the song, grabbing my cell I checked out the name... Of course. I hadn't needed Veni, Veni (O Come, O Come) I needed to hear:

Still, Still, Still
one can hear the falling snow.
for all is hushed, the world is sleeping
Holy Star it's vigil keeping.
still, still, still
one can hear the falling star
Sleep, sleep, sleep
'tis the eve of our Savior's birth
the night is peaceful all around you
close your eyes, let sleep surround you.
sleep, sleep, sleep
'tis the eve of our Savior's birth
Dream, Dream, Dream
of the joyous day to come
while guardian angels without number
watch you as you sweetly slumber
dream, dream, dream
of the joyous day to come.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Meditations - Anne Kitch

Expectant in Bethlehem
Advent Meditations 2011

by Anne E. Kitch
First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2011

Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come . Mark 13:33

I’m not ready.

The morning rain carries with it the edge of cold to come. The air sighs with sadness at this turn toward winter. Advent is upon us and neither my house nor my spiritual life is prepared. Earlier this week I was looking forward to a lovely meditative day of clearing away the detritus of fall, unwrapping the family crèche, making our Advent wreath. I have had the candles for the wreath for months. My friend and I bought them on a golden summer afternoon as we strolled through small town shops and artist studios. She led me to the hand-dipped candles that she buys every summer for her own Advent wreath. I bought some too, choosing with care, enjoying the exquisite colors. I remember this moment now, when my wreath is not ready and the quiet meditative day to reflect and prepare is long since beyond my reach. Life happens.

I’m not ready.

I remember another morning when I stood by the front door, my suitcase already in the car and a large plastic bin on the floor in front of me. I was sure I could fit one more item into it. I was about to leave to lead a retreat and I was overwhelmed by the certainty that I was not prepared. Despite all the work I had put into it, doubt lingered. More candles? Another book of prayers? A change of shoes? My husband gently held me in his arms. “Perhaps you are not ready. Or perhaps you could look at it as if you have been preparing for this moment for your entire life.”

I’m not ready. I have been preparing for this moment my entire life.

The testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you-- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:6-7

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Meditions from Anne Kitch

Expectant in Bethlehem
Advent Meditations 2011

by Anne E. Kitch
Saturday of the First Week of Advent
December 3, 2011

Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:23-24

“I want to get the clean water.”

“What about food for school children or mosquito nets?”

“Let’s help the kids in school.”

My oldest and I are pouring over the “Gifts for Life” catalog from Episcopal Relief and Development. This has become an Advent tradition for us. The donations we make to ERD will become Christmas gifts for the teachers and coaches who have mentored my children.

My daughter is the instigator of this particular practice of giving in our house. Several years ago, when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she looked me straight in the face and said, “All I really want is world peace.” I decided to take her seriously. The Gifts for Life catalog had just arrived in our mailbox that day. Some coincidences seem rather well timed. I suggested she could act for justice and peace in the world by choosing to provide water or food or mosquito nets to children who really needed them. She responded with enthusiasm.

Yet it was not I, but rather an entire community that taught my daughter to be a giver. A parish that held an annual Living Gifts Fair. A church school teacher who introduced a lesson on wants versus needs. Her own generosity.

Her generosity continues to refresh me, like a mountain stream.

Find the Gifts for Life catalog online at the Episcopal Relief and Development website.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas trees given away in West Pittston

Dear Bakery Friends,

On Saturday evening, Trinity West Pittston's grounds turned into a Christmas tree lot as we invited our neighbors affected by the September flooding to choose a Christmas tree or wreath to brighten their holiday.

About 60 families came by to choose from an assortment of trees and wreaths delivered fresh that day from a nearby tree lot. With the sounds of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" filling the air and ample supplies of hot chocolate and cookies baked by parishioners from Trinity and the Episcopal Church Women's group from Prince of Peace in Dallas, we tried to make our guests feel welcome as they chose a tree.

For some, getting a tree freed up money to use on other things. For others, it replaced an artificial tree that was lost to the flooding. Many of those who stopped by told tales of losing not only their trees but all their Christmas decorations which were stored in basements or garages that took on water during the flood.

One woman shared how she thought her tree and ornaments were okay because they were stored on high shelves in the garage and well above the flood water, but when she went out to get her decorations she discovered that the flood water had toppled the plastic storage tubs containing the decorations from the shelves into the water. Someone who probably thought they were being helpful hosed off the boxes and put them back on the shelves but didn't open them or clean what was inside, and all her decorations were ruined. "I was so upset. We had so many nice things and they were all caked with mud and mold," she said. This woman was able to choose from some Christmas ornaments and lights donated for those affected by the flood and took home not only a tree but some things to decorate it with. "It might be a Charlie Brown tree without enough ornaments, " she said, "but it will still feel like Christmas."

We were initially surprised by how many residents chose wreaths instead of trees, and saddened to learn that the reason was that many of them were living in circumstances that just don't leave room for a Christmas tree. Some are living in cramped trailers, and many are still living in one room in a hotel or with relatives or friends. One woman said she couldn't take a tree because her house doesn't have any floors -- the entire first level had to be stripped to the support beams to eradicate mold. "I don't have any place to stand a tree, but I can still remember Christmas when I look at my front door," this woman said.

Our neighbors also had the opportunity to browse a selection of new and gently used clothing and salon beauty products provided by Covers of Love, a local non-profit that heard about our efforts and asked to join us, as well as some of the clothing and bedding donated by St. John's Hamlin during our furniture distribution. We also had more than 80 cases of water and a dozen cases of bleach sent to us by Churches of Christ Disaster Relief and a selection of Christmas ornaments, toys and new household items donated by Trinity parishioners, as well as some of the gift cards collected at the Diocesan Convention and sent to us afterwards by other churches. Our neighbors were pleasantly surprised and very grateful to receive so much help when they thought they were only getting a tree.

Over and over, we were thanked for still being there when others have moved on. But the thanks didn't warm our hearts as much as knowing that about sixty families will have a merrier Christmas right when they most need to take a moment to step away from stress and loss and feel the spirit of Christmas around them. "If you weren't giving these away, I wouldn't have stopped working on the house tonight to run out for a tree. I don't know if I would have ever stopped," one man accompanied by two grade school aged children told us. "We're going to decorate this and have cookies and milk under the tree before bed. Tonight, we can just forget about the flood and think about Christmas."

Our thanks to Ciampi's Greenhouses for assisting us with a good price on the trees and for donating the wreaths; to Father Earl Trygar, his wife Helen and the parishioners of St. Mark's Moscow for the generous cash contributions towards the purchase of trees; to the ECW at Prince of Peace for the beautiful trays of homemade cookies, as well as the candy canes and small gifts we were able to hand out to the children who visited; to the Churches of Christ for the water and bleach; and to all of you who contributed gift cards that we were able to share. Our neighbors are grateful for the help you are all providing, and we are grateful for your support as we continue to try to ease their burdens. Our parish Community Resiliency Team will meet soon to discuss the projects we've just completed, assess the needs we've learned about and plan new ways to help. We'll keep you posted -- please keep our neighbors and our efforts in your prayers.

Janine Ungvarsky
FLOODCare Coordinator
Trinity West Pittston

P.S. We were also fortunate enough to have a video journalist from local television stations FOX56 and WBRE stop by during the evening to film a report that ran on the 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts. The text of that report can be found below. The attitude expressed by Ms. Edwards is very typical of what we hear from our neighbors: they are doing without so much but are very grateful for what they do have and for any help they receive.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Letter from Father Daniel - from December newsletter

As I have for several newsletters now. I find it hard to focus my attention on one topic. I want to rant about the Penn State scandal; I want to rant about the encroachment of popular culture on our Advent Season; I want to tell you of the wonderful opportunity you have with Ten Thousand Villages; and finally I want to tell you about my renewed desire to return to Kajo Keji. Let me see if I can briefly talk about them all.

I am appalled by how much the Penn State scandal has lost its focus. The issue is not that Coach Joe Paterno was fired, but that he, and all the others, did not call the attention of the authorities to the fact that a child had been molested. As one who is not an avid sports fan, I can't understand hero worship in this sense (Even Gore Vidal doesn't deserve such deference(He said tongue in cheek.).) As a priest I find it even harder to understand. I am under an obligation to report such abuse if I even hear a notion or it, which by the way, makes hearing Confessions even harder for both me and the penitent. We need to keep the "main thing the main thing." I do not apologize for offending anyone. "JoePa" is not a victim, but he did facilitate the activities of a potential predator. Now that this is out of the way, let me move on.

The Advent Season approaches. W will hold my usual rant against the commercialization of Christmas, as most you you know already. I will remind you that this is the season to prepare our hearts to receive Christ again. I especially emphasize that it is the time to receive Christ, not the baby Jesus. Jesus could only come once: Christ can come to us again, and again. Think about that.

The next reminder that I want to give you is that this year we are again hosting Ten Thousand Villages. This is a unique opportunity to purchase fairly traded merchandise from around the world. Since we know that most people purchase Christmas gifts, we thought that Advent would be the obvious time to host the fair. You can shop with us knowing that at least 90% of your money will go directly to the person who made your item. The other 10% will go to a local charity. You can't say that with any commercial store.

Finally, I want you to know that i have a desire to return to our brothers and sisters in Kajo Keji. I have talked with Bishop Paul about this and he encouraged me to contact Bishop Anthony. Bishop Anthony said that he could use me in the College and elsewhere. I will continue to pray about this, and I ask you to join me. Short-term missionary work can be useless or productive depending on it's focus. When I was 15 years old I helped clear a mountain-side which began as a playground and became the foundation for a school in Ecuador. But I have known other instances where short-term mission work was little more than sightseeing. If I return, I want to make something worthwhile out of it.

In these thoughts may we find truth. Amen