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December Newsletter
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Christmas Message 2017

Music Events
Robert Ludwig

New Year's Eve Concert - Sunday, December 31st at 7 pm Heidi Powell and Richard Hsu, violinists will present a concert of solo and duet music by Bach, Paganini, Kreisler &
Weber. The concert will be preceded at 6 pm by a Eucharist for the Eve of the Feast of theHoly Name, and will be followed by a festive reception in the Undercroft.
 
Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration  - Sunday, January 14th at 4 pm. Anyone interested in joining with our choirs for the Martin Luther King, Jr. service may come to rehearsals on Wednesdays, January 3rd and 10th from 7 - 8 pm in the church. We will be singing Safe Places of the Heart by Robert Cohen, I Believe in the Sun by Thomas Juneau and America the Beautiful by Michael McCarthy.
Christmas Spirit
Ross Moczo

The Christmas spirit is all around us. It is time spent decorating our homes with lights and Christmas trees, wrapping much anticipated presents, sharing gatherings with family and friends and overall, enjoying cherished traditions.
 
It is without doubt, a very special date for most of the world. Regardless of our beliefs, it is a day that manages to mobilize us in different ways, motivating us to recreate an atmosphere of festivity in the company of our closest and dearest ones.
 
It is also a time of giving. A season that brings out the generous spirit in us. Generosity that is not only material, but also one of kindness where we show gratefulness for what we have by helping those less fortunate. For some, it involves donating toys for the sole purpose of knowing there will be a smile on a child's face Christmas morning. For others, it may be volunteering a portion of their time at a shelter to provide some less fortunate a warm meal during the holidays.
 
As we enjoy festivities with family and friends, let us also take time to reflect on the true spirit of this wonderful and joyous season. God is with us in Christ, and through Advent, let us rejoice in the coming of His son, our Lord Christ.
 
Merry Christmas Everyone!
 
Ross Moczo
'Tis the Season
Faith Erhardt

'Tis the season of lists.  And a crammed calendar with all of our regular stuff plus the holiday stuff because you want it that way to savor the season but  - you also DON'T want it that way.  I get it.  I'm living it.  On behalf of the Stewardship Committee, I thought I'd check in with you all.  
 
For those that haven't filled in a card yet, I am you.  The card is in a pile in your kitchen, and each Sunday you are reminded when you see the extra cards in the pews.  You mean to to it, it's what you are planning to do, but life has swept you away in a giant tidal wave of meetings, shopping, work, and Stranger Things 2 on Netflix. 
 
Here's the thing. Do it. You will feel good about doing it, and it will balance the money you spend on a gag gift for your office party.  You know what I mean?  The money that you spend and you think, "Geez, that was like tossing twenty bucks out a window." This card is a promise.  You aren't spending money right now, it's just your word that you will give a bit each week/month/quarter to support our community life at St. John's.  
Christmas service 2016 - photo credit to Lee Souweine
 
When I slow down a minute, I think about what I spend my money on each month.  Is my community life at St. John's as valuable as, say, my Netflix subscription?  If it is, I might consider jotting down an equal amount per month on that pledge card.  Is it worth more? Your gym subscription?  Cable bill?  
 
It's worth a great deal to me.  We all need to figure out how we can pledge, then amount we can pledge.  It looks different for each of us - and that is beautiful.  We have pledges in every amount, from parishioner "from one to ninety two" (this is what happens when you write during Christmas carol season).   The amount is important, but the promise is even more so.  Give us your promise.
 
Lord: thank you for these people in my St. John's community, and their active prayer and support of your mission here on earth.  We are blessed.
Giving Thanks & Being Thankful
Scott Burgess
 
Editors Note: The following is taken from the Thanksgiving Eve Service and in response to the question "For what are you grateful?"

When Mother Rita asked me to speak tonight about gratitude my first reaction was to say, "Thank my lucky stars!"  I mean this quite seriously and quite literally, too, as I am, you see, an astronomer.  I actually am extremely thankful for stars such as P Cygni, T Herculi, V Coronae Borealis, and rho Cassiopiae.  These are all stars that I study with the telescope that resides in the small observatory I built in my backyard in Winterport.  Although I am an experimental biophysicist by training, my true passion in science has always been for astronomy.  It is the science that gives greatest scope to my imagination.  And, even though I have the privilege of teaching astronomy professionally, I consider myself to be an amateur astronomer in the truest sense of the word.  An amateur is, quite literally, someone who does something simply for the love of it.  I treasure the many hours I spend under the night sky quietly observing and precisely measuring the brightness of certain stars.  I study stars whose light output changes over time according to laws of physics we are hoping to better understand.  For me the stars are a never-ending source of fascination, wonder and awe.  As the Psalmist says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge."  (Ps. 19, v. 1, 2.)
 
Even though studying the stars certainly engages the mind, I find that more than that they engage my heart and my soul.  The stars move me beyond awe and wonder.  They move me to gratitude.  G.K. Chesterton, the English writer, poet and philosopher, once said, "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."   As I stand under the stars on a clear night I can't help but feel gratitude for all the beauty of creation and for God's generosity.  Awe and gratitude hold hands, one flowing into the other.  Albert Einstein perhaps put it best when he said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.  He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is a good as dead - his eyes are closed... To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of religiousness."  As Einstein implies, one's experience of awe and gratitude points towards God. 
 
As much as the grandeur of the universe moves me to gratitude to God for the whole of creation, I also can't help but feel gratitude for my parents whenever I'm out stargazing.  You see, my Father, Jim, recognized in me the spark of curiosity for astronomy at the age of ten and supplied me with books and magazines that kindled my interest and allowed me to grow in understanding.  Likewise, it was my mother, Marilyn, who gave me my first real telescope at the age of twelve.  (I tell you, that was the best Christmas ever!)  That telescope allowed me to pursue my passion in earnest.  Through the years my parents nurtured in me a love of the universe that has made me who I am today.  Both of my parents are gone now, but whenever I'm out with my telescope I still feel their presence, their deep influence on my life, and their abiding love.  These are all things for which I am truly thankful.  Gratitude of one kind, I find, begets gratitude of another.
 
And yet, there is another side to the story that is a bit darker.  As much as I would like to say that I always have a grateful heart, there are times when gratitude has been very difficult for me to come by.  Just as not all nights are clear, not all days are bright.  You see, I sometimes struggle with bouts of severe depression.  It's something that runs in my family.  Ever since I was an adolescent I have been disposed to periods of deep depression.   At my worst moments life has seemed to be a vain and fruitless enterprise that at the time didn't always seem worth the effort.   There have been times when I've felt very much abandoned by God, with no apparent way out of the darkness I was in.  The words of Psalm 22 sum up how I sometimes have felt.  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest."  It probably comes as no surprise that at these times I have had great difficulty feeling grateful for pretty much anything. 
 
For me, recovery from depression is an ongoing process.  Medical care certainly is important, and something for which I am deeply grateful, but there is a spiritual side to recovery as well.  I have learned that there are times when I simply must trust that God is with me, even if I don't particularly feel his presence.  Only in hindsight can I see that God was with me through it all, loving and guiding me in ways that I couldn't comprehend at the time.  For me this is what it means to have faith.  I used to think that faith was all about believing in things for which I had no proof, something very hard for the scientist in me to do.  I've now come to know that having faith means to have trust in God that all things happen as they should and in accordance with his will, even if the plan is unclear or uncertain.  To have faith means to have complete trust in God our Creator.  Faith for me is a bit more than just trust, but trust is the essential element.
 
We live in a time when the kind of trust I'm talking about is difficult to come by.   There are wars and rumors of wars.  Recent environmental catastrophes, both far and near, lead to mistrust of Nature itself.  There are ongoing acts of terrorism abroad as well as senseless acts of extreme violence within our own country.  I don't think that one needs to be clinically depressed to feel deep anxiety regarding the world that makes it difficult to trust.  Yet, this trust is what we are called to as Christians.  And, paradoxically, this trust that leads to faith is the remedy to the problem itself.  As said by Julian of Norwich, one of my favorite mystics, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."  For me this kind of trust isn't an easy thing, but it is a necessary thing.
 
How, then, does one accomplish this?  I think gratitude helps.  Gratitude, trust and faith, they all go together.  Saint Paul gives us clues in 1 Thessalonians when he says, "Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."  These then are the keys: A grateful heart is a joyful heart.  A grateful heart prays always.  A grateful heart is one that gives thanks for all things.  Gratitude begets faith, which is a gift from God.  A favorite saying of mine about faith is by Bill Wilson.  He says that, "Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish."  For me, gratitude is at the heart of a living faith. 
 
Before closing, I would be remiss if I only expressed my gratitude for the stars and didn't express gratitude for those around me who share this life with me.  I am grateful to my students for the trust they place in me as their teacher and for all that they teach me in return.  I am grateful to my faith community for sharing the love of Christ and for helping to show the Way as we journey together.  I am ever thankful for the love and support of my family, especially my lovely daughter, Elizabeth, and my wise and caring wife, Julie.  And, I am thankful tonight for you, as we share this Thanksgiving Eve.  I find that it is in the voices of others that I most clearly hear God speaking to me, and it is in the faces of others that I most clearly see the face of Christ. 
 
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Oh, and don't forget to look up on a clear night.  The stars are amazing! 
Decisions : The Second Installment
Lisa Romero

Editors Note: The First Installment of this article can be found in the September Newsletter.

Here is the next chapter in my speaking about Haiti:
 
I arrived in Haiti on a hot day in June. Really, no matter the month, it is a hot day in Haiti... My bags packed with supplies to replenish the shelves of the mission as well as some items requested by the missionaries who are there year round. There is no postal service in Haiti. No mail in and no mail out... No Amazon prime when you need a package quickly.  I was prepared... but I wasn't.  I was not at all prepared for the level of poverty I saw as I rode through the city of Titian in a dilapidated  pick up truck which had reached its prime a good 20 years earlier. The driver, intent on getting me to the mission in a timely fashion, was driving in a way that makes drivers in Boston look like Drivers Ed instructors.  I had nothing but my faith in God to get me there in one piece. Traffic is utter chaos. There are people packed into pick up trucks with extended tops (these are called tap-taps)...I would estimate about 25 people per tap-tap. People lie on the roof, hang off the back and jump on and off like circus performers. I found myself holding my breath on numerous occasions as I watched the death defying feats of the travelers headed to the marketplace.  25 minutes into my arrival and I was already praying. God is good. I was delivered to the Mission of Hope compound in one piece.
 
I met up with my friends daughter Alyssa at the compound. She had been in Haiti for a week already as she was serving as an intern for the summer. . Despite the poverty surrounding the compound, the scenery was beautiful. I spent some time praying for the upcoming week and the people I would be working with as well as meeting in in the villages. Alaina and her church group arrived just before dinner and we spent the evening catching up and learning about our mission to the villages in the upcoming days. We turned in, wary from out travels. I was hot, but grateful for my journey. 
 
My first day in Haiti serving...I started the day recalling Jesus demonstrating servant-hood in John 13:3-7 as He washed His disciples feet. My morning bible study reminded me that everybody is called to be a servant to God. We started the day with a tour of the compound. This winter I will share with you pictures and information about this amazing organization. We passed the orphanage, the school, the clinic and the various other program buildings on campus. We also passed the church. Such a simple building that gives so much to the people of Haiti. We boarded buses and headed to the villages. Our village was Labek. & years ago is was devastated by the earthquake as were so many villages. Samaritans Purse came and erected tarp homes for the Haitians. Stick houses made of blue tarps... Like we would and here at Mardens. These were to last a few months... 7 years later they are still being lived in. Labek is a village called "blue to block". Mission of Hope has successfully converted all of the blue tarp homes to concrete block homes. While in the villages we met with residents and took surveys about their home lives, medical needs and nutrition as well aster belief of God. The people of Label were inspiring, their faith unwavering. it was amazing to hear them have such a love of God. later that afternoon we hosted a VBS at a local church for the youth.We sang and danced and told the story of Noah and the ark...we wore animal masks and the children had such fun. I was so happy to be a part of this. My heart was so full. I returned to the compound exhausted and fulfilled. I was looking forward to the next day. 
 
Our translators were dedicated servants of the Lord and were such happy people. They took us 
into the village each day and met with the residents, sharing His word with them. During the course of the week we set up and delivered 34 water filters, planted several mango trees, hosted several bible camps and delivered goats to villagers in need.I met the sweetest, brightest most beautiful people... and children. I smiled and laughed, listened and cried with these people. They had nothing and each and every day they were willing to share with us insome manor. I wondered how they faced each day... no food, no shelter, dirty water, heat, humidity and sometimes sickness... and yet they did it with a smile. I remember one person telling us her favorite bible verse was "The Lord is my Shepard I shall not want." as she stood next to a pile of rubble that was once the home she was married in, delivered her babies in and raised her family in. Now forced to live in a tarp home, she professed her love of God and thanked him for all she had. I was humbled. During this week I saw hunger, homelessness, extreme poverty, sickness and spiritually lost. I learned to pray in a way I had never prayed before. I surrendered myself to God and I asked Him to break MY heart with what breaks His. I Prayed for God to give me His heart of compassion for these people I am serving. I asked for divine compassion for thes
e people. In 1 John 3:16 it says "This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for  us. We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." I was loving these people I  was serving. The Spirit of God was leading me and my eyes and heart were opened. 

We planted a mango tree for this mother... telling her the story of how  like her love of God, if she nurtures the tree and feeds and waters it... it will produce fruit. Just like her relationship with God... she says she knows it will grow now since it was planted in His name. 
 
Next month I will let you know how Haiti has forever changed me. I am always willing to talk about my trip if you have questions please feel free to reach out to me. And than you for reading about this life changing event.

Lisa Romero
BIRCHES HAIKU

Inez Toothaker

White birch trees cluster
in circles of harmony
sharing their sunspace.
It's Christmas Time 
Ciro Olivares

It's Christmas time across America
A few more days to go
It's Christmas time across America
Sure hoping it will snow
People everywhere are hustling and bustling
Rushing to every store
Shouting and swearing, trying to get a bargain
Always having to buy something more
 
Something inside me says something's a little wrong
What is the meaning of this day
Where is our welcome, for God's gift to mankind
Maybe all the rushing has made us lose our way.
 
People always having a million obligations
Not having the time to even think
People never going to church nor to praying
What a shame, what a sham.
 
For the coming of a King
Is not an ordinary thing
People please prepare your souls
Get ready in a way
That will give God Glory on this day
And every day that follows it evermore.
Announcements & Looking Ahead
Upcoming
St. John's has members who would like to come to Sunday services but have no transportation. There is a special need for rides on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day services. We would like to meet the needs of riderless parishioners. If you need a ride to church or are willing to be the driver, please contact Jane Zenk (866-1148 ) or the church office. 

Advent 4 is December 24 th and we'll have Sunday services at 8 and 10 before getting the church ready for Christmas Eve services, with music beginning at 3:45.  Help is needed this year more than any other year on Advent 4.  Please plan on helping in some way in the church (such as setting out poinsettias or hanging wreaths, changing the colors on the altar) or by helping us meet our commitment to provide lunch at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.  The family that normally cooks lunch and serves with the youth group on 4 th Sundays will be away visiting family.  If you can make providing a meal (or part of it) for 40 a part of your Christmas offering on December 24 th , please speak to the rector or deacon.  Thank you!

Please join us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! On Christmas Eve, our early service begins with a Carol Prelude at 3:45 pm with the service starting at 4 pm.  The nighttime service prelude starts at 10:30 pm with the service beginning at 11 pm.  Christmas morning start your day with the 10 am Patronal Feast. 

Extra help is needed for our monthly serving at the soup kitchen We are scheduled to serve the fourth Tuesday of the month at the Salvation Army, from 10 am to 1:30 pm.  Our next scheduled date is Tuesday December 26th.   For more information, please see Nancy Henry or Deacon Ann.

The Feast of St. Stephen will be celebrated December 26 th at 7:30 am in the Chapel.  

The Feast of St. John will be celebrated on December 27th at 12:15 pm in the Church.   

The Feast of the Holy Innocents will be celebrated on  December 28 th  in the Chapel at 7:30 am.  

The Parish Office will be closed  the week of December 25th and will reopen on Tuesday January 2nd.
 
Violin Duo Recital , followed by Festive Reception - Sunday December 31, 7 pm at St. John's Episcopal Church, 225 French Street - Heidi Powell and Richard Hsu, violinists  Music by Bach, Paganini, Kreisler and Weber. Join us for this free concert of music as a part of Bangor's  Downtown Countdown . The concert is preceded at 6 pm by a Eucharist for the Eve of the Feast of the Holy Name.  Donations will benefit the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.

December 31st, at both the 8 am and 10 am services, is our yearly  Christmas Lessons and Carols.  This year, plan to wear your favorite Ugly Christmas sweater as we celebrate Christmas together.

Morning and Evening Prayer have moved to the Oratory in the St. John's Community Center and Parish House (234 French St) until Easter.

Please join us at the 10 am service on January 7th as St. John's has its Annual Epiphany Pageant  followed by a Pageant Party in the Undercroft.

Extra help is needed for our monthly serving at Second Saturday, hosted here in the Undercroft.  We are scheduled to serve next on January 13th from 11:30 am-1:30 pm.  You don't need to sign up in advance, or even commit to coming monthly, just stop in to help out when you can.  For more information, please see Nancy Henry.

Please plan to join us for our special service "A Service of Light"  on January 14, 4 pm; a Celebration of the Life and Witness of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Guest Speaker Richard Blanco, U.S. Inaugural Poet for President Obama's Second Inauguration. Enjoy music performed by St. John's Choir, All Souls Congregational, Destiny Worship Center, and Bangor Area Children's Choir.
 
The next meeting of the St. John's Women's Book Group will be Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 2 pm at the home of Marisue Pickering, 6 Longwood Court, Orono, 866-2606.  Because of various schedules and the fact of no meeting in December, we are breaking with tradition and having our meeting the third Tuesday of the month! Notice that the meeting is at 2 pm to allow for daytime driving. New members are welcome. Questions may be directed to Jane Zenk 866-1148 or Marisue.  Jane White-Hassler recommeded the book:  The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian D. McLaren, published in 2007.  It is available in many places, in many formats.
St. John's Episcopal Church | office@stjohnsbangor.org | http://www.stjohnsbangor.org  | 207.947.0156