To the Glory of God and for the Common Good, we make God's love known now and for generations to come through worship and service to all.
It is a beautiful summer day in Maine. The blue of sky sparkles against the bright green leaves of birch and the darker green of pine. Together they simultaneously delight and soothe the soul. The bright reds, yellows, pinks and purples of our flowers display their glory along side them, unafraid of any winter that will come.
These are days to be treasured, savored, enjoyed wherever we may be. These are the d
ays of our green season, the season after Pentecost. They are a time for growth. But they are also a time when often we find ourselves away from St. John's, Bangor. What are the spiritual practices that nourish and sustain us when we are not in church? Do you love to sing from the hilltops? Are walks at night and the company of the stars your community? Do you wake up before the rest of your family for a cup of coffee and some quiet? Do you get on-line and read the Sunday Gospel? Do you have a favorite place or a favorite time for talking to God? For listening? Do you pray Morning Prayer? Do you journal? Do you have a favorite friend or a mentor that you always make time to talk to? Do you garden while practicing the presence of God? Do you make sure you have time to scratch the dog's belly and relax together? What are the practices that make room for God's growth in your life?
These are good summer questions, but they are questions that we'll be pondering again in the fall. Our Vestry has joined with the Forward Movement's ministry of RenewalWorks. It is a ministry that assists parishes to focus on spiritual vitality. What is a parish church if spiritual growth is not central to its life and mission? Details of our house-holding, such as budgets, communication, and programs, require attention, but they lose meaning if they are not connected and infused with spiritual growth. RenewalWorks helps congregations refocus on spiritual growth and identify ways by which God is calling us to grow.
The process begins after Labor Day on Sunday, September 11th with a parish wide Spiritual Life Inventory and a Discernment Team. The Spiritual Life Inventory is an anonymous, confidential, thought-provoking on-line tool that explores respondents' own spiritual life and the church's role in supporting it. The widest possible participation gives us the fullest picture for our discernment and inventories may be filled out at church or at home on-line until October 2nd, our 176th Anniversary weekend. Our congregation's responses are then viewed as a group by RenewalWorks and compared to data gathered from more than 1,800 churches for over a decade in order to give the Discernment Team a picture of the spiritual vitality of St. John's.
The Discernment Team is meant to reflect the fullness of our parish and have representatives from different ministries and groups, similar to a discernment committee that calls a new rector. A team can have as few as 9 and as many as 24 members. Typically a team of 10 - 12 is found to be most effective.
The Discernment Team will meet for four workshops, using the data compiled from the parish inventory. For those workshops, staff from RenewalWorks works with the team through a guided methodology of self-reflection, sharing, and discussion to consider as a congregation where we have been, where we are now, where we feel called to go, how we can get there. The four workshops will run from October until December 1 and the team will present its work at our Annual Meeting in January. The process as a whole works to give everyone in our congregation an awareness that we are on a spiritual journey and that it is a journey that matters to God and to the world.
We are very fortunate that Faith Erhardt has agreed to lead our Discernment Team. Judy Allen and I will also serve on the team and the Vestry has been considering name for other members off the team. If you would be interested in being a part of the Discernment, please speak to Faith or any Vestry member. Meanwhile, consider the habits, practices, and opportunities that feed your soul this summer - and be ready to share them in September.
God's blessings on our summer growth-
Peace, Mo. Rita+
A Message From Our Treasurer
It's that time of year again! We hope everyone has a wonderful summer with family and friends; enjoying long awaited vacations, activities and creating great summer memories that will last a lifetime.
On behalf of the parish community I'd like to thank all that have made a pledge for 2016. We are on our way to reaching our goal for the year. Your generous donations provide much needed support for our adult, youth and outreach programs. In addition, your ongoing contributions also provide for much needed repairs and improvements to our church and preserving an important asset to our community.
We realize summer activities do not allow all of us to attend weekly services. I'd like to remind everyone of the ONLINE GIVING OPTION we introduced last Fall for making convenient, safe and simple charitable contributions anytime and at your convenience. Contributions can be made for any amount on a one time or recurring basis.
You can simply go to our
and scroll down where you'll find the
on the left side of the page. You can make a one-time donation or if you'd like to use the site for future giving, simply create an account. The process is simple, safe and convenient.
We are very grateful to everyone for your continuing support and volunteering services that help make St. John's Episcopal the wonderful community that it is. May EVERYONE have a wonderful summer!
Youth Trip to Boston
Diana Meakem & Nancy Dymond
The youth group from St. John's embarked on their annual missions' trip last week from Wednesday, June 22 - Sunday, June 26. We served meals to the homeless alongside well-established local ministries in Cambridge, MA. The youth who went on this trip were John Connors, Maddie Marks, Rachel Miller-Treat, Megan O'Donald, David O'Donald, and Sonia Steadman. They were led by Diana Meakem, Nancy Dymond and Rob Powell.
We participated in Cambridge church feeding ministries, two in Harvard Square and one in Central Square. We helped prepare spaces, cook meals, arrange the food pantry, serve food, and eat with the Cambridge area's homeless and food needy communities. We also helped with set-up and clean-up. At the end of each day, we walked to the beautiful St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) Episcopal monastery to join the monks and other souls for Compline-a service the youth called "the calm in the midst of chaos."
On Sunday, June 26, before returning home, we participated in the Outdoor Church, which means at the Porter Square T (subway) stop in Cambridge that many homeless people participate in. There was a shorter Episcopal service with Eucharist, and we sang a hymn to begin the service. Afterwards, we helped hand some coffee and donuts we had brought, as well as donated warm socks, for those who wish to receive these gifts of love. Last year's trip was very successful and our brothers and sisters in Christ expressed joy and gratitude to have St. John's hard-working, respectful youth return to lend their hands in service.
By the way, we did take some free time to enjoy the area. This year we spent time at the Museum of Science (just ask the teens about the spiders' exhibit!) and attended a cool planetarium exhibit about moons. We also walked part of the Freedom Trail and enjoyed delicious authentic cannolis from the North End. Last year's trip was a wonderful time of faith in action, a chance for the youth to bond and get to know each other better, as well as have daily worship and reflection time. Please pray that we will bring what we learned home back with us to bless our community at St. John's and in the broader Bangor area.
We're excited to share more pictures, reflections, a video, and even an email from one of the ministries we worked with in the next newsletter! Please feel free to ask anyone who went to Cambridge where they saw God during our trip.
In case you are interested in any of the ministries where we served, what follows is a detailed itinerary of our trip:
Many thanks to Christ Church, who graciously allowed us to stay in their basement during our time in Cambridge. Their central location is not only close to a T stop, but will allow us to walk to many of our service locations.
-We served at
First Church's Friday Cafe
, then spend an afternoon exploring at the
Museum of Science
-the teens' choice for a fun afternoon activity. We finished the evening with an Italian dinner in the North End.
-After walking the
in the morning, we headed over to St. Peter's in the afternoon to volunteer at their
program for dinner.
We finished Sunday morning at the Outdoor Church. After a time of reflection, we packed up and headed home in the afternoon.
|Boston Youth Trip 2016
Music Summer Intern
It has been well documented in recent years that there is a very real shortage nationwide of organists and music directors for small and large churches. There are many related reasons for this - some churches have moved to a pop secular-inspired style of music, compensation for organists is not competitive with other fields, and far fewer students are studying organ and church music.
At St. John's, we are helping train the next generation of leaders of church music by having a summer music intern, Julia Alexander, play the piano to lead hymns and service music during our Sunday services. Julia is an exceptionally talented high school junior. She sings and plays the piano, flute, trombone, guitar, and ukelele. This past year she has been an active member of the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Bangor Area Children's Choir, and was selected from singers over eleven states to be a member of the American Choral Directors Association Eastern Division High School Honor Choir. Julia is also an active member of St. John's Catholic Church. We thank Julia for her musical leadership at St. John's throughout the summer. Please make her feel welcome in her summer ministry with us.
A Gift of School Supplies
When Toys 'R' Us was asked for a donation for St. John's fundraising auction, their generous donation included a large cachet of school supplies. St. John's in turn decided to donate a large portion of those supplies to St. James Episcopal Church in Old Town. St. James has a vigorous outreach program and has built a relationship with several agencies that help the neediest children in the area and their families. The church has a special relationship with the Penobscot Indian Women's Mission. Because of the spirit of generosity and cooperation at St John's and St. James, lots of children will start off the school year in September with the tools they need and the confidence they deserve. Many thanks to all involved.
Centering Prayer Returns
A Centering Prayer (CP) group will be meeting each Thursday in the oratory (parish office building) from 5:45-6:30. CP is a contemplative spiritual discipline that seeks to develop the prayer habit of resting in the presence of God. It is an adaptation of a method of prayer that has been practiced in monastic communities for many centuries. Perhaps its best known advocate today is Fr. Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk, who recommends that CP be done in two 20-minte sessions daily. The Thursday group here at St. John's will provide support for developing and maintaining this daily prayer practice. Each Thursday session will begin with a 20-minute period of Centering Prayer. Folks can leave immediately following the CP period, or they can stay for discussion or instruction. Short sessions of other methods of prayer (e.g. lectio divina, Ignatian meditation, Psalm chanting) may also be offered, depending on the interests of the group. This group presents an excellent opportunity for silent meditation following attendance at Evening Prayer. Thursdays, 5:45-6:30 in the oratory at 234 French St.
Good News 2/4
Rite I: Challenges of Language
We don't speak Elizabethan English. That can be a barrier to our participating fully in Rite I.
There are ways around and over this barrier. Before addressing those, a few thoughts on why the effort to understand Archbishop Cranmer's language is worthwhile:
As noted in the first part of this introduction, the Book of Common Prayer is a monumental landmark of devotional expression. It is ours; as Episcopalians, we are its stewards. Think of the Folger Library in Washington D.C., devoted to preserving, promoting, and presenting the works of Shakespeare. The Folger doesn't discourage readers from exploring writers other than Shakespeare. To the contrary, it promotes a wide and diverse exploration of the world of literature. But first of all it makes sure the works of Shakespeare--history's finest, deepest, most influential writer--are read, performed, and understood. We at St. John's are called to do the same with our own heritage.
There is a devotional advantage to praying in unfamiliar language. If the prayers we read are truly impenetrable they will elude our understanding, but if they are expressed in beautiful and distant language, they can give us access to thoughts and feelings contemporary language cannot evoke. God is right here, at all times, but he's not limited to our everyday perceptions. If we don't perceive God as near and familiar, as friendly and affectionate, but also as strange, distant, and elusive, we're missing much of the challenge and reward of Christian life.
One bridge to Elizabethan language is to listen to it abstractly, as if it were music. The prayers of the people and the prayer of consecration are good examples: the words are rhythmic, without a wasted syllable; they flow and wash over us as listeners; they draw us into the mystery about which we speak. Our world of pain, hurt, and consolation; Jesus' fellowship with his friends; his dreadful sacrifice; and our participation in the deepest mysteries of existence, all are evoked by these beautiful words even if we're not sure at a given moment what an "oblation" is.*
Another bridge to understanding is to use our knowledge of Rite II to provide translations of difficult passages. Rite II is much more than a simple translation of Rite I into contemporary language--it alters some concepts, reemphasizes others, and replaces others altogether--but the basic sense is the same. Dictionaries and other secondary sources are available for deeper exploration.
There are a few specific features of Rite I language that may be confusing or offputting. They must be addressed so they will not be barriers to Sunday morning devotion.
Terms of Royalty
The North American colonies won a war to break free of monarchy. In the 241 years since the first shot of the American Revolution was fired, the people of the United States have fought and died to rule themselves, without kings, queens, princes, or hereditary aristocrats. What does it mean to us, then, when we refer to God as, among other terms, "thy divine Majesty"?
Looked at closely, this expression does not support the institution of monarchy; it upends it. In context, what we say throughout The Holy Eucharist is that those who would act as supreme rulers are not. Pharoah, who held the Israelites in bondage, is not absolute monarch--Jesus is. Caesar Augustus, who ruled the Palestine of Jesus' birth and whom Roman citizens worshiped as a deity, is not absolute monarch--Jesus is. Jesus, who talked, ate with, touched, taught, and comforted the sick and the outcast, who loved them then and loves us now--is king and ruler over all. This subversive sentiment is at the heart of Rite I.
Thee and Thy
These terms seem distant. Even if we understand that God is ruler over all, is it necessary to address him in such elevated terms throughout the service?
Some Christians believe this is exactly what we should do: address God in these words to express our unremitting subordination. But that's not what Jesus did in speaking with his father, and it's not what we do when we use these terms.
"Thee" and "Thy" are not terms of exaltation. They are terms of intimate familiarity: ways to address family members and close friends, not business associates or the socially elevated. Jesus spoke to his father in these terms and, in Rite I, we address the father in the same way.
No one writing a liturgy today would state in the creed that Jesus Christ "became man" because the biological precision of that term would be overridden by the more important point that Jesus became human--like all of us in our humanity. A confession written today would not address God as "maker of all things, judge of all men." The historical presumption of male gender priority is deeply offputting to most Episcopalians today.
Archbishop Cranmer wrote in words of genius, but we know important things he did not. We know as Cranmer did not that God made all of us different but equal, that he did not ordain limited life roles for us, and that we are all meant to live into the fulness of God's love, free of social restraints. We know, for that matter, that although Jesus referred to God as his father, God cannot be confined to a single gender.
We need to reject the presumption of the priority of maleness. Having rejected it, we should feel free to partake of the riches of our historic liturgy, just as we continue to read the Bible, Shakespeare, and virtually anything written before about 1970. We know things Cranmer didn't, but he knows--and is ready to teach--things he does know that we need to hear.
The language of Rite I can be enabling rather than offputting. With effort and concentration, we will make ourselves receptive to its gifts.
the act of making a religious offering)
General Adult Formation
Over the summer we will be setting the schedule of adult formation offerings for the fall (2016) through early summer (2017). Some things have been decided on, others are still under consideration. One thing that can be reported already is that because the six-part Walter Brueggemann dvd series, Embracing the Prophets, was so well received when it was shown this past Lent, it will be re-offered on Sundays in the chapel at 11:30, beginning mid-September. Another likely highlight of the year will be an audio presentation of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. Using audio resources for Christian education and formation is new for us, but it opens up a raft of possibilities. In addition, we will be placing much greater emphasis in the coming year on on-line opportunities for adult education, formation, and community building. A full listing of adult formation programs will be published later in the summer.
Your input is needed! If you found a book to be particularly meaningful, please let us know its title. Happily, our parish is filled with readers who are always on the alert for recommended books, be they religious, spiritual, or just a good read. Your recommendations may become part of an Advent, Lent, or Eastertide book discussion. They will, at the very least, be published in this newsletter. If you own either an audio or video program that you think the parish would benefit from listening to or viewing, please consider lending or donating it to the St John's resource center.
Summer Retreat Opportunities:
The following links are to only a few of the many New England spiritual retreat centers. A more complete list will soon be posted on our website.
Campion Renewal Center
, Weston, MA. Jesuit run, Campion offers many retreat opportunities, with an emphasis on Ignatian spirituality.
Marie Joseph Spiritual Center
, Biddeford, ME. A variety of day, weekend, and week-long programs, including an upcoming (end of July) retreat focusing on the mysticism of Teresa of Avila.