Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Glimpse of God's Kingdom

          As with many other adult Americans this past Monday, I took some time to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001.  Aside from the shock, devastation, and number of people who either lost their lives or suffered injuries that day, what stood out in my mind were the people who reached out to help others in need. There were the churches, mosques, temples and private citizens who opened their doors, where not only survivors but also first responders and those seeking  their loved ones. There were citizens and emergency workers who rushed to the crash site in Pennsylvania in the hope of lending assistance to any injured. The same was true in Washington, D.C. In other parts of the country, people rushed to blood banks to donate blood, people flocked to churches to offer prayers. Hundreds of people across the continental states began making plans to go to New York to be of assistance. People left the comfort of their homes and families to spend  long exhaustive days in the wreckage searching for the missing.

          Over the past two or three weeks, we have watched with dread as the two hurricanes slowly made their way towards Texas and Florida. Even before the storms struck, people from nearby states were opening their churches and homes to people who would be needing shelter. As with 9/11, first responders from states near Florida and Texas made their vehicles and gear ready to go and offer aid. Utility workers left the comfort of their homes to travel southward to help with the restoration of power and water supplies. Nurses and doctors headed south to provide medical assistance. All the while, across the country, individuals sent money, clothing, food supplies and water to those areas affected by the Harvey and Irma. In hospitals and nursing homes, staff left their homes and families for days at a time because they would not leave their patients.

          As I have reflected on these tragedies the past few weeks, a recurring thought has come to mind: I have seen glimpses of God's kingdom in the sacrificial work of thousands of people trying to help strangers in their times of need. Is that not what Jesus calls us to do; to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? So I wonder, how much change could I bring about in this world if I were more diligent in helping others?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Search For Meaning - Even In The Very Young - by Amanda Tudor

     On April 25, 1986 the Alpine village of Mogno was engulfed by an avalanche. The snow slide demolished the community’s focal point; the 17th century church dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The community commissioned Mario Botta, renowned church architect, to design the new chapel. What’s probably not surprising to most is that his design aligned the new church spire with the exact spot of the nave of the former church. What the architect wrote about his design – that’s what caught my attention. He said, “The design arose from the

need to bear witness to something greater than one’s own life and
​ [to]​
overcome the sense of loneliness that permeates modern society.

     As I read the architect’s reflection on his design and this comment about this sense of loneliness that permeates our society, Godly Play popped into my mind. For those of you that are not familiar with Godly Play, it is our Sunday school curriculum for 3 year olds through 5th graders and we have used this framework for over 25 years here at Christ Church Cathedral.      You see, I have been a Godly Play teacher for several years now and more recently I have been the lead teacher for the class of 3 & 4 year olds. Not only is the goal of Godly Play ​to ​help children (and me, as a teacher) learn to use religious language to know God and find direction in life; the language of Godly Play gives us a way to confront this sense of lonliness that permeates our society.  
     Now you might be saying, W​HOA.  What are you all doing on Sunday mornings!?  Let me reassure you - Godly Play provides a cornerstone in the lives of our children (and in me, as a teacher) and this work is vital to our spiritual growth!

     During Godly Play
we discover meaning
​through amazing stories.
e understand more clearly what it means to be free because we have been forgiven
​, and​
through God’s Grace,
​we ​
​can ​
forgive ourselves and
​forgive ​
each other
​actively talk about how
 we are not alone
​ -​
 God is with us!
e build our relationships of love and listening to each other and we know we don’t have to suffer in loneliness. 
​Every week we make time to sit together in silence, 

​because we are not 
able to understand why things happen the way they do, but we trust in God no matter what.

Godly Play transforms me every week and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

     If you have children in the Godly Play program and you’ve wondered, what exactly is going on in those classrooms, we want to invite you to join us in a few weeks for special orientation time. Please stay tuned for the date and time of an orientation.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Virginia Bishops on Charlottesville: What We Saw, What You Can Do

Virginia Bishops on Charlottesville: What We Saw, What You Can Do

On Saturday our hearts were broken.  An angry group of neo-Nazi and fascist protesters came into Charlottesville, Virginia, armed and armored, looking for trouble.  The violence and loss of life suffered in their wake signaled yet another escalation of the hate-filled divisions of our time.  The peace of a beautiful university town was shattered.  The images that some had of America were broken.
The echoes of the heartbreaking tragedy that was Charlottesville will remain with us for a long time to come.  We have every indication that we will be seeing more of this.  Angry white supremacists seem already to be organizing to bring their ugly and racist rhetoric to other towns and cities across our Commonwealth and across the United States.   Angry resisters are more than ready to meet their violence with violence.
It’s hard to imagine a time when the Church is more needed in the public square.  It’s hard to imagine a time when our need would be greater for God to take our broken hearts and break them open for wise, loving and faithful witness in Christ’s name.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are admonished to heed God’s call to love our neighbors through prayer, through speaking out and through other concrete action for the sake of all, particularly the poor, the oppressed, the judged, the demonized.  That witness was on display Saturday in Charlottesville in the peaceful march by hundreds of clergy leaders from Charlottesville, from our Diocese, and from other religious traditions in Virginia and beyond.  Such witness must continue.
There will be more rallies and more divisions. We must be prepared to meet those challenges, not with violent confrontation, but by exemplifying the power of love made known in concrete action.  As your bishops, we commit ourselves to action of the kinds we list below.  We invite you to join us and to share your actions with us so that we can grow together in wisdom, faithfulness and love.
Whatever we do we may not, we must not, be quiet in the face of evil during this violent era of our lives together.
Faithfully yours,
The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick

Concrete actions in the face of white supremacists and others whose message is counter to Christ’s embracing love.

  1. Be clear about the issues.  Make distinctions of the following kinds:
    • All individuals and groups in this country have a right to free speech. All have a right to their convictions and to speak those convictions publicly.  Individuals and groups do not have a right to assault, attack or cause violence against anyone else based on their views – or for any reason.
    • The issue of removing Confederate monuments is a complex one with a number of legitimate points of view. Reasoned discussion and decision-making processes are called for. Using these points of view to justify violence is wrong and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
    • Many Americans lovingly cling to their heritage, which provides them with pride and identity. Some suggest that the white people who gathered to protest in Charlottesville were there to proclaim and protect Southern heritage.  However, Nazi and fascist flags, symbols, salutes, slogans and uniforms are not and never have been part of the heritage and history of the American South.  We as a nation suffered over a million American casualties in order to defeat the Nazi regime.  We have been clear as a nation that the Nazi worldview is evil, and we must remain clear.
    • As Americans and as the Church, we believe that inclusion of all persons in our common life is central to our identity. We seek to welcome and include all people.  We understand that there is a wide range of legitimate perspectives on the issues that are most important to us.  We do not, however, welcome, include or legitimize all behaviors and all words. Some words and actions are simply not acceptable.  We need to keep making distinctions about what behaviors and actions we will not tolerate.
  2. Write to your representatives in the Virginia General Assembly:
    • Urging them to enact legislation to track hate crimes in the Commonwealth. As it stands now, we do not have the tools we need as citizens to track what seems to be an escalation of violent acts and therefore to respond appropriately.
    • Urging the Legislature to form a task group, in the language of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, “to propose how Virginia can create an environment that welcomes and offers opportunity to all people of color, Muslims, immigrants, women, LGBT and poor white men.”
  3. Create conversation groups in which you can get to know people from different backgrounds or with different political perspectives from your own. Talk to one another.  Listen deeply to one another.  We as a society have forgotten how to talk and listen openly.  We in the Church can help rediscover the skills.
  4. Pray.
    • For the civic and religious leaders of Charlottesville, for all citizens of Charlottesville, for all the people who live and work in the Charlottesville area.
    • For those who died in Charlottesville on Saturday: Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, and for their families.
    • For all who were injured in violence in Charlottesville on Saturday.
    • For those with whom we disagree.
    • For peace in our nation and in the world.
  5. Pray alone and in groups. Join in the prayers of those who pray from different traditions or styles from your own.  Hearing the prayers of others can expand and deepen our own praying.
  6. Do a moral inventory of yourself.  How do you feel about free speech?  Are there limits?  If so, where do they lie?  What is not acceptable?  What resonance do you have with exclusionary rhetoric either on the right or on the left?  As Jesus said, “take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)
  7. White people, speak out against white supremacy.  It is we white people who must speak to white supremacists to make clear that we do not agree with them, that they do not speak for the “white race.”  Our silence will be heard as complicity.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

At the Close of Day

As we approach the last day of our residency at Exeter, I feel that this trip will last us for a lifetime. The trebles have showed true courage over the past few days unlike any other choir and trip I have participated in. I have never felt so connected with these people in all aspects of the choir.

When we finish our last two services, I feel as though the only way I can describe this week is with the song of Simeon.
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel."

Lastly I would like to thank everyone who has said thanks to the choir all the way to the Ballings planing this amazing experience.
"My Soul doth magnify the lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in god my savior"

- Ben Gillig, Cathedral Mens Choir

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

An Opportunity for a Connection

Few are sleeping, we're only about a third of the way along in our flight. This is my 7th trip and the 13th Cathedral in which  I will have been fortunate to have sung with these choirs. Each flight is similar: excited anticipation prior to take-off, then the slow settling to the close seats, the food (surprisingly tastey this trip), then the resignation to the length of the flight. More than any of that, I sense a feeling of eagerness to share with new listeners our gift: the sounds of praise and adoration to the Holy Trinity. The songs aren't new, but our singing them will be to those who hear. There is a certain eagerness for those whose live we will encounter at Exeter Cathedral to feel the words of the hymns, psalms, canticles and anthems that will be familiar to their ears, but coming from our united voices. We will walk the path of countless choristers before us and lend our voices to the aural history of that sacred space, and it will be a sound uniquely ours; that blend of these particular choristers at this particular time. There is no way to tell who will hear these holy sounds and maybe, just maybe share the joy of God's love with us as we sing. We pray that the Holy Spirit surrounds us and finds hearts to open and fill with that love. An opportunity for a connection awaits, may we find the Grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ to rise to that noble task. Thanks be to God for the challenge,  may we serve Him with our best.

Richard Giles, Cathedral Mens Choir
Cathedral Choir Tour, Exeter 

Follow the tour at http://cathedralchoirtour.blogspot.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/groups/55472388008/

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Always Keep Learning

It's summer! No more school.....time to relax, go on vacation, watch tv, catch up on sleep. Summer is the time to chill.....right? Well, yes, summer is more of a time to relax and go on vacation, but it is also a new season of your life. What exciting adventures, ideas are out there for us to learn?

As a child, we spend years in school, passing into each new grade as we grow older. School seems to be the place to learn. But does learning really stop when you are done with high school, college, or even getting your PhD? In the most recent issue of The American Organist, the president of the American Guild of Organists, Michael Bedford, wrote an article about how education doesn't stop when summer starts. He states, "Life's lessons do not end with high school or college. Education is an ongoing process that breaks through the barriers of the formal classroom and forges its way into our everyday world." Life is our classroom, in which every day we have the chance to learn something new.

Last week at choir camp, one of the head choristers asked the choristers during morning prayer this question: "What is your goal for the day?" What a great question to ask ourselves every morning. Each day we should have the desire to learn, to set a new goal in our lives and in our work.

The great thing about learning is that you are never done. We cannot comprehend how much in life there is to know. We shouldn't just rely on what we already know. We need to continue to stretch ourselves, find news things to explore, and dig deeper into ourselves and our work. Summer can actually give us more time to learn and educate ourselves on something different. As the American philosopher, John Dewey, stated, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." Life is an adventure. Enjoy it, embrace it and always keep learning. 

"Let the wise listen and add to their learning, 
and let the discerning get guidance."
~Proverbs 1:5

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Something New

Spring is my second favorite season. I love the cool but clean, fresh air;  the blossoming flowers and the brand-new leaves on the trees; the excitement of spending time outside; and the hope of adventure that can fill one’s heart. Spring is a time of new life, of transformation, and of different things to come.

In May, many people complete a chapter of their lives with graduation and set off on something brand new and exciting. Ten years ago, I graduated from Asbury University. As an alum, I still have strong connections to my class identity. At Asbury, you receive a class name and colors, a class hymn, and a Scripture verse that represents your class name. I am part of the Transforming Class. Our class verse is 2 Corinthians 3:18, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 

I believe that we are always changing and growing as a person and becoming more like God's image. Life is meant to teach you about yourself and develop your gifts and talents. We are meant to grow and cultivate a relationship with God to become more like Him. We are meant to be transformed in life, not remain stationary.

Transformation should not stop when you reach a certain age or a certain level in your career. Transformation should continue every day of our lives. We all have things to learn about ourselves, about others, and about God. The danger is to stop uncovering the depths of your heart that God created. Revelation 21:5 states, “Behold, I make all things new.” God wants us to continue growing in Him and when we do that, we find out more of who we are, who He created us to be. We are transformed into who He intended us to be. We become something new.