Volume 7, Number 47 | February 10, 2020
January/February Newsletter
Rector's Letter
“Believing that God forgives my neighbor is part of believing that God forgives me. We have already seen that we truly come to believe God’s forgiveness of us only when we forgive ourselves. The same is true with our neighbors. We truly grasp the reality of God’s forgiveness of erring humanity - us and our neighbors - only when we begin to join in the process and share God’s work of forgiveness.” L. William Countryman

The above quote comes from the book Forgiven and Forgiving by L. William Countryman, which will be the focus of the Lenten group that will be meeting on Sundays at 1 pm in the back lounge of the Parish House at 234 French St, beginning March 1st. Forgiveness is at the heart of the cross and the heart of our Christian faith. Yet even so we struggle with it. It is both simple and complex, easy and difficult, and the class will be a chance to wrestle together with what forgiveness means for us and for living our faith. How do we embrace the ministry of reconciliation that God has entrusted to us? The class is for anyone and everyone and especially recommended for anyone who is considering renewing their Baptismal vows (including by Confirmation or Reception into the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion) in Eastertide on May 3rd at 4 pm, at the Cathedral of St. Luke, Portland. Please consider joining us - contact the parish office ( office@stjohnsbangor.org ) to reserve your spot.
Forgiveness has been on my mind not only as I look forward to Lent, but also from our recent Bible study at Vestry when we read the parable of “The Unjust Steward” from Luke. You recall that it is about a steward who learns he will soon lose his job. To gain friends for himself later, he uses his job while he still has it and begins cancelling the debts of people who owe his master. The master commends him for being shrewd - more shrewd than the children of light. Jesus then urges his listeners to use their wealth to likewise make friends - adding that “if you cannot be faithful with wealth then who will commit to you true riches?” (Lk 15). At Vestry we all agreed that the parable is confounding. Jesus’ commending a lying cheat seems strange. We wrestled with it for a while and I’ve been wondering about it since. In its Lucan context, it takes place in a long discourse with many parables and stories, some of which are concerned for the poor and our own attachment to wealth and security. The unjust steward parable seems to be part of these stories and concerns, and yet perhaps it is more. It follows immediately after the parable of the prodigal son.
The older brother who stands outside the feast and cannot forgive is the last image before the unjust steward. Luke seems to be drawing material and spiritual connections. Bringing relief to the poor, forgiving material debts, is not unrelated to forgiving spiritual debts, forgiving the injuries done to us. And we are to be engaged in both. “If you cannot be faithful with wealth then who will commit to you true riches?” In context, the parable urges us to use the time and resources we have to set others free - from economic oppression and just as surely from spiritual oppression. Forgive, forgive, and forgive - with whatever time or resources you have at your disposal.

As I contemplate that this is likely our last Lent together, I hope that we can use the time and resources we have to set each other free - to forgive and make amends for anything that may lie between us. We are all human and we all fall short. Sometimes we cause pain and don’t even realize it. I ask and pray that if I’ve harmed you that you will forgive me, and that if there are things that I need to hear or that you need to say, that you will use this Lenten time. As in past years, I will be in the chapel on Saturdays in Lent at 4pm, available for the sacrament of reconciliation, or just for conversation - including our own reconciliation. For we are “Forgiven and Forgiving”, God’s saints and sinners both. We forgive because God has forgiven us first. And for God’s grace at work within us and between us, may his holy name be praised. 

Wishing us all a blessed and fruitful Lent-

Yours in Christ, 

Officer Bios
Vestry Bios
Sunday School & Youth News
As our children and youth worked together so beautifully this year to put on our annual Epiphany pageant, I found myself pondering the many and varied pageants I’ve been a part of—my own turn being a reluctant teenaged angel of the Lord (in a red dress, because I really wanted to wear my prom dress again), the first year I tried to help pass a microphone from small hand to small hand, the year my own child grabbed the baby Jesus from the manger. A good Christmas pageant is not a Broadway production.
It offers the young the opportunity to lead liturgy and to share the good news of the birth of Jesus, but it also evokes all kinds of emotions and helps us to experience the mystery in a different way. This year as we took the pre-pageant pictures I could sense the great joy the children felt—joy in sharing the story, joy in the love they have for one another, joy in wearing a costume and getting to run in church. But intermingled with that joy is a mix of other strong feelings. Those little sheep in particular often show us a full range of human emotion: joy at wearing the costume, wonder and surprise and excitement as they enter the church full of people—doubt, as they wonder where they are supposed to go. Reluctance to move (or to speak, or to sing…) Fear, when they realize that dad isn’t right there. Sometimes sadness, or anger—and with toddlers, as with the all of the rest of us, sometimes we can figure out the source and sometimes not. It is beautiful and it is chaotic and it is often messy. By the end when the narrator says, “and Mary his mother kept all these things, pondering them in her heart,” my own heart usually feels very full, as I find myself imagining Jesus’ birth and all of the many feelings and worries and thoughts that must have crowded Mary’s heart and mind. The pain and fear and messiness of birth, the worries about where to go and how to get there, the tiredness she would have felt. Feeling the absence of family, and perhaps some sadness. But most all the absolute sense of joy and wonder, from the new life and the new birth, from the presence of Jesus among us. 
I’m thankful to live this again each year, and enter into this mystery in this beautiful, chaotic and messy way. I’m thankful for Sophia directing our pageant this year, and I’m thankful for each of our children and youth who brought their whole selves into the sharing of this mystery with us.

Coming this winter:
Our Children’s chapel will focus on Gospel stories as we work our way towards the holy time of Lent. I hope to schedule a parent meeting to talk about our program and about service opportunities in particular. Please let me know your thoughts and ideas.
Our younger youth continue exploring the Way of Love through movies, time together, and service at the Humane Society.
Our senior youth group is in the homestretch toward confirmation, planned for May. We’ll have a short retreat this February, and will be studying the sacraments as we work towards making a decision about confirmation this spring. 
Education & Formation 2020 Program Year
Epiphany is upon us and Lent is fast approaching. St John’s is once again offering a variety of programs to consider making part of your observance of the Seasons.

The Way of Love : Practices for a Jesus Centered Life , Sundays in the undercroft following the 10 o’clock service, Feb 2 nd – Apr 5 th . This new curriculum of the Episcopal Church is designed to lead us deeper into our faith and to challenge us to live into it in new ways.  The Way of Love identifies seven steps in our individual and corporate strivings towards a trusting relationship with God. We will explore one of these steps each week:
Turn : Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus, February 2 nd
                Learn : Reflect on Scripture each day, especially of Jesus’ life and teachings, February 9 th
                Pray : Dwell intentionally with God each day, February 16 th
                Worship : Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God, March 1 st
                Bless : Share faith and unselfishly give and serve, March 8 th
                Go : Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus, March 22 nd
                Rest : receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration, March 29 th

There will be a final wrap-up session on April 5 th - Putting it all together : Living the Way of Life

Pot-Luck and Presentation: Martin Luther King, Jr, Still a Prophet for Our Time , February 9 th & 23 rd , 4:00 – 6:00 pm at the Rectory (21 Grove St, Bangor). On February 9 th we’ll watch the movie Selma . Before our next meeting, we’ll read Letter from Birmingham Jail . On February 23 rd we’ll again share a meal and discuss both the movie and the letter.  Selma is available for viewing on popular streaming services and MLK’s Lette r can be downloaded from the internet. Come to one or both. 

Book discussion: A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace , by William Barry SJ.  Thursday Evening , March 5 th – April 2 nd , 6:00 – 7:30 pm in the Bangor Room. Fr. Barry, a renowned spiritual director, explores the premise that God wants to relate to us as a close friend. Grounded in Ignatian spirituality, he offers reflections on experiencing the presence of God, with brief, personal meditations woven throughout. This will be a great way to travel through Lent in community.

Book discussion: Forgiven and Forgiving , by L. William Countryman. Sundays at 1 pm March 1 st – April 5 th in the Back Lounge (234 French St). Come for food for body and soul as we explore together Countryman’s affirming understanding of forgiveness as the natural response to the abundant love of God. Countryman does not neglect the possible difficulties, complexities, and pain involved.

Lenten Quiet Time: March 29 th , 4:00 – 6:30 pm at St Patrick’s (Brewer). Led by our own Fr Howard LaRue , we’ll begin with worship in the church, followed by a series of meditations interspersed with silence and time for personal reflection. We’ll conclude by sharing a meal of soup and bread prepared by the clergy of St James (Old Town), St John’s, and St Patrick’s.
If you need more information about any of these programs, call the church office (947-0156) or speak to Pat Sprague.

St. John's Episcopal Church | 207-947-0156 | stjohnsbangor.org