Volume 13, December 19, 2019
Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow... or Not!
A week ago I was out of town to take a funeral and I stayed in a local hotel for several nights. One morning at breakfast in the hotel dining room the very nice lady maître d’ stopped by my table to ask if everything was OK.

I replied that the breakfast was really good but the music was starting to distract me a little bit from my own thoughts. I pointed to a tiny black box speaker mounted to the wall next to my table. Blaring out of the speaker at a loud pitch there was the non-stop crooning of Bing Crosby accompanied by the Andrews Sisters singing 1950's Christmas music, carol by carol by carol.

The maître d’ said she would try and do something about it. She ran her hand over the little black speaker box looking for a control switch. Not finding one she noticed a few wires connecting the little box to a wall socket. Satisfied in her mind that there was no other course of action, she simply ripped the wires from the back of the box and left them dangling from the socket. Poof! Bing was gone.

But not really. Once embedded in my ear, I could not shake the incessant lyrics “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” But then I thought, maybe if I call to mind my favorite Christmas carols, the ones you want your church choir to sing, that will displace a 1950's Hollywood Christmas from the forefront of my mind. It worked. (But please note: I actually do enjoy a small dose of Bing Crosby at Christmas—just not at all times and in all places wherever I go.)

My all-time favorite Christmas hymn is ‘Of the Father’s Love Begotten’ by the 7th century writer Prudentius and translated from the Latin by John Mason Neale and Henry Baker. It is hymn 82 in our 1979 Hymnal.

But that was not the hymn that sprang immediately to mind as a counter foil to Bing Crosby. Rather, my heart and mind settled swiftly on ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ —the beautiful Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti turned into a carol and put to a beautiful, haunting anthem setting by Harold Drake in 1911. It is hymn 112 in the 1979 Hymnal.
Christina Rossetti was one of the finest of Victorian poets whose literary talents and output was not limited to poetry. And the great inspiration for her vast corpus of work was first and last—the Bible. Dinah Roe, a scholar of nineteenth century literature, says of Rossetti: ‘Faith was her leading light. Poetry was her vocation.”

For more about this wonderful poet and woman of faith, click here.
Rector's Picks
The introduction to this December Newsletter is largely in praise of a poem turned into a beautiful Christmas carol that millions will sing this Christmastide. Why not some more poetry for the season?
In addition to Christina Rossetti I would recommend the poetry of U.A. Fanthorpe (1929-2009) and especially her delightful little book Christmas Poems (Paperback, 2002). Ursala Fanthorpe began writing poetry as a young girl but only published her first book of poetry in middle-age at 49. She was born in south-east London and was the daughter of a judge, or as she put it, of “middle-class but honest parents”. She taught English at Cheltenham Ladies’ College for 16 years but abandoned teaching for jobs as a secretary, receptionist and hospital clerk. In her poems she remembered many of her patients for whose records she was responsible. I like this poem from her Christmas book:
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Un-invented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
Another poet on my radar this Advent and Christmas is Malcolm Guite (b. 1957) who is also an academic and priest. Ian Markham, the Dean of the Virginia Seminary, chose a Christmas poem by Guite to grace the inside cover of his Christmas card to Virginia alumni this year.
Christmas On The Edge
Christmas sets the centre on the edge;
The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn,
The fringe of empire, far from privilege
And power, on the edge and outer spin
Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars
That edge a galaxy itself light years
From some unguessed at cosmic origin.
Christmas sets the centre at the edge.
And from this day our world is re-aligned
A tiny seed unfolding in the womb
Becomes the source from which we all unfold
And flower into being. We are healed,
The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb,
For now in him all things are re-aligned.
  • Mark DeBolt, In the Queen’s Chamber: Pre-Raphaelite Christmas Poems, (Paperback, 2019).
  • U.A. Fanthorpe, Christmas Poems, (Paperback, 2002).
  • Malcolm Guite, Waiting on the Word: A poem a day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, (Paperback, 2015).
  • Christina Rossetti, The Complete Poems, (Penguin Classics, 2001).
What the Donkey Saw
No room in the inn, of course,
And not that much in the stable
What with the shepherds, Magi, Mary,
Joseph, the heavenly host –
Not to mention the baby
Using our manger as a cot.
You couldn’t have squeezed another cherub in
For love or money.
Still, in spite of the overcrowding,
I did my best to make them feel wanted.
I could see the baby and I
Would be going places together.
by U.A. Fanthorpe
I am Grateful
I am grateful to Fr Donavan Cain, Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Jacksonville for the excellent day retreat he led for the Bishop’s Institute at St John’s Cathedral Saturday, December 14, 2019. Some thirty of us gathered (from many different churches in the Diocese) in the beautiful contemporary Cummer Chapel for the program that opened and ended with prayer.

Fr Caine spoke to us about the spiritual practice popular in the Middle Ages but suggested by both the Bible and the early Church fathers of remembering one’s death: Memento Mori. The practice is particularly appropriate for Advent and Lenten devotions. Fr Caine was introduced to this practice via Lenten book Remember Your Death: Memento Mori by a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP. Her book centers on helping readers to meditate on the Lord’s call to repentance, conversion and the hope of resurrection.

Fr Cain shared with us a method of reviewing one’s day in the presence of God—more an attitude than a practice but all the same setting aside time in one’s busy day for thankful reflection on where the Lord is in the midst of our activity. The practice is called ‘the Examen’ and is part of the Ignatian spirituality that is formative to the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus.

The Examen takes about 15 to 20 minutes and is essentially contained in these five steps as they unfold in order: 1) ask God for light; 2) give thanks; 3) review the day; 4) reflect on and face your shortcomings and 5) look forward to the day to come.

Our Saturday retreat ended with some beautiful songs and ballads that Fr Cain sang and played on his banjo. The haunting lyrics reminded us of how big a part the idea of being a pilgrim in this world on the road to a better country played in the music of those who settled in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Reflecting on 2019 and Welcoming 2020!
By Dale Beaman, MPH, PCC, Executive Coach and Leadership Development Expert
We are just days away from entering 2020 and a new decade! Have you created your personal leadership vision for the coming year? To gain insight into creating your leadership vision, one word comes to mind – Clarity. I believe clarity is key to any leader’s development and ability to have an impact. As renown author, Brene Brown would say, “clarity is kindness.” It diminishes the confusion for you and those that live and work with you. You must be clear about where you are headed, what is your vision, and what is your purpose. 

To help you begin to discern your 2020 vision, I’ve included a few reflective questions. Give yourself permission to think about what you might want for your health and well-being, family, and ministry.
Leader Reflections:
  • Start by reflecting on 2019. What were your accomplishments? What were your set- backs? What did you learn from these experiences that can guide your 2020 leadership vision?
  • What is most important to you now? 
  • What is the most important area of focus for 2020?
  • Now, imagine that you are at the end of 2020. What accomplishments do you want to be celebrating? In your personal life? In your family? In your ministry?
  • What is a theme or word that you could choose that would keep you focused and excited about the year ahead? What scripture could support your theme?

Moving into the new decade, we look to the future with great anticipation and excitement. Wishing you peace and a joy-filled 2020 and beyond!
Yoga and Christian Contemplative Prayer Retreat
The Bishop's Institute for Ministry and Leadership invites you to attend a Yoga and Christian Contemplative Prayer Retreat: My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord. The retreat will be led by Megan Cochran and our retreat chaplain will be The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead. We hope you will enjoy us for this rejuvenating retreat at Camp Weed in Live Oak, FL.

Imagine being surrounded by over 500 acres of north-central Florida’s most beautiful nature, while listening to sacred Christian music, calming your body in a loving yogic practice, quieting the mind and preparing to share the communal silence of contemplative prayer in the presence of your Creator.

Megan Cochran is an experienced yoga teacher and leads the Church on a Mat service in Cummings Chapel at St John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville. Kate Moorehead is the Dean of St John’s Cathedral and the author of a goodly number of books including most recently Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty and Meaning (October, 2019). Allison DeFoor is Canon to the Ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida and he will preach and celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday morning of the retreat.

Start the New Year by experiencing the delightful blending of the physical practice of yoga with the enduring traditions of Christian contemplative prayer. Learn how to cultivate inner stillness and receptivity to the Indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit.
No yoga experience needed. This retreat works for those trying yoga for the first time and for those who regularly practice yoga. Chair yoga is an option.

Upcoming Events
December 21, 2019

Silent Night & The Fernandina Connection
4 - 5pm
Story and Song Bookstore Bistro
1430 Park Avenue
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

Join us this Saturday, December 21 at 4pm at Story and Song Bookstore in downtown Fernandina Beach as we honor Bishop John Freeman Young. Bishop Young translated the beloved hymn Silent Night to English in 1859. We hope you’ll join us for this festive evening.
December 20, 21 & 22

Live Nativity at Church of Our Saviour
5:30 - 8:30pm
12236 Mandarin Road
Jacksonville, FL 32223

Join Episcopal Church of Our Saviour this coming weekend on an interactive, walkthrough Live Nativity. Walk through the story of Jesus's birth, as you see the people in a new and exciting way. We invite you to attend Friday, Saturday or Sunday from 5:30 - 8:30pm in Jacksonville, FL. The event is free to attend, but a love offering is appreciated. This is a great event for the entire family. Click here to learn more: https://bit.ly/2M2kZRu