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The Ambassador

The Newsletter of 
St. Matthias' 
Episcopal Church 

Minocqua, Wisconsin

Whoever you are, wherever you find yourself on the journey
of faith, we welcome you.

Mark Your



March 9-April 6

6:00 PM

Lenten Study & Soup Suppers




Please remember to check the server list on the bulletin board at church (or click here to see the latest monthly schedule online).


Also, if you are going to switch dates with someone, please inform both Bill Kane and Michael Tautges at the Church Office.  Thank you!


Ambassador Archives


Want to read a recent issue of the Ambassador?  Just click on the links below.  (older archives can be found on our website)
December Ambassador
January Ambassador
February Ambassador
From the Rector

Lent begins this year on March 2nd. It is the time in our church year given over specially to reflect on how we live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ, both as individuals and corporately. The invitation, in the Book of Common Prayer, to these forty days of prayer, reflection, and fasting/intentional action gives us some insight into the Lenten practices of early Christian communities. It states:
"Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word." (BCP p. 264-5)
After an interesting conversation earlier this week, during which God's love, and good intention for all was discussed at some length, especially in regards to those people whose lives would seem irredeemable because of horrific acts committed, I began thinking more deeply about what it means to reconcile and "restore to the church" those "whose notorious sins" had caused them to be separated from the body of the faithful.
Despite the Christ's teaching about loving our enemies and praying for the salvation of those who have harmed us in many ways it is hard to imagine a murderer, or abusive spouse (for example) being reconciled back into a church community. Forgiveness is one thing, as difficult as it is, we can find healing in forgiving someone who has harmed us because in doing so we release the hold they have over our lives. Forgiveness does another thing - it professes our faith in God, who sees in everyone the potential for goodness. It means, that we really do believe that people can change for the better, not simply make a best effort, but truly change.
Desmond Tutu points out that when Jesus was hanging on the cross he didn't expect those who put him there to ask for forgiveness - he forgave them anyway. The Christ's understanding of our ability to alter our lives in a fundamental way was so great he didn't need the apology. His deep faith extended even to those who nailed him to the cross. This understanding of the goodness of all of God's creation, and our ability to live into that goodness, is fundamental to the salvation he offers to the whole world.
Reconciliation is quite another thing; it requires trust that a wholesome change in relationship is occurring. In the Church's teachings, reconciliation includes a return to good relationship (not a return to the way things were). Forgiveness with reconciliation in the ancient church, included "true repentance, reparation and penitence." In other words, the perpetrator, seeking reconciliation, acted on their commitment to working to heal relationships they had destroyed. What would that kind of work of the spirit look like today? It bothered me at first to think that while they were working on full trust they had to leave the church before communion took place. Perhaps though, this wasn't just to protect the community from Roman spies, perhaps it was to protect the victims and the perpetrators from reentering past patterns of harmful relationships. Passing the Peace in these early communities was literally that - wishing one another the greatest good and carefully, intentionally, seeing Christ fully present in each of those present. If someone had "committed notorious sins" in the community, and allowed back in before making amends this act of trust would have been broken. Can you imagine how joyful everyone was when true healing had occurred and they were returned to the circle?
Forgiveness and repentance, then and now, do not mean that the past has been erased. They are tools for acceptance of the past and moving forward, whether together or on our own. In our society we have ways of helping people regain wholeness when they've been deeply wounded and we have specialists who can help those who hurt others (in many cases because they came out of deeply broken families) regain a sense of wholeness as well. What we are not as good at doing, is the reintegration into the beloved community that can help this healing process deepen on a social, as well as individual level. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, before we can "address this level of suffering, from a place of love, not hate, of forgiveness, and not revenge, of humility, not arrogance, of generosity, and not of guilt, of courage, and not fear, we must learn to see with the eyes of the heart." (Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A vision of hope for our time p. 69)
Is there someone you haven't forgiven? A hurt that imprisons you? During Lent this year, I would invite you to consider forgiving them, so that you can be freed from the burden of hate. You don't need to tell them, especially if it would be unhealthy for you to reenter a relationship with someone who could still hurt you, just find your way out of the hurt you are holding onto. On the other side of this coin, is there someone you need to make amends with, that you have hurt? During Lent this year I invite you to find the courage to make amends, admit your wrong (especially to yourself), and ask for forgiveness, this too is freeing, even if they are unable to forgive you at this time - and please don't expect them to if the wrong was grievous to them. These are two very real ways to prepare for Easter and your own, personal rebirth.
In wonder,
Erin +
We Always Have Lots to Celebrate at St. Matthias'

Did you know...
  • In 2016, the Thrift Shop donated $366,158.00 to area charities, including $40,008.00 to our own St. Matthias' outreach, making it possible for our church to help fund programs such as Caritas, Tom's Community Table, St. Francis Project, Personal Products Pantry, and several other worthwhile programs and projects.  What a blessing our Thrift Shop is to this community!

  • 64 of us celebrated our Winter Survival!  Many thanks to all who helped, and to all who attended this fun evening!

  • Because of your generosity, we were able to 'shower' Cherie & Justin with some wonderful gifts - a changing table, baby monitor, miscellaneous treasures - and enough cash to keep them in diapers... at least for a while!

  • We hosted a truly beautiful Ash Wednesday service for the members of Church of the Pines, Ascension Lutheran, and of course, St. Matthias'.  All three pastors were involved in the service, the congregation had an opportunity to receive ashes, Holy Communion, and to paint a cross on the altar cloth, which will be used during Lent.  Lots of positive comments on the service and our beautiful sanctuary were shared after the service.
Watch for more reasons to celebrate next month.
If you have something to add, please let us know!
Meet St. Matthias':  Emily Field 

Hi! I'm Emily, and live with darling grandmother Moosie (Joellen Hagge) in Hazelhurst. I work at the Great Lakes Inter Tribal Council as an evaluator and community health epidemiologist, where I work with Tribal communities in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
I am a cradle Episcopalian, and was actually baptized at St. Matthias' several decades ago, although I only just got around to getting confirmed this past summer. I have spent a good deal of my time traveling/living/studying all over. I grew up between Switzerland and Boston, went to college in New York, where I studied Arabic literature & environmental studies, and spent 2 years in Lebanon getting my MPH where I was able to work with Palestinian refugees with disabilities.
I have always considered the Northwoods home, and am happy to finally have a way to stay here year-round and work in a meaningful capacity.
  • Color:  Seafoam Green
  • Plant:  Cactus
  • Food:  Turtle Cheesecake
  • Sport to Watch:  Non-Major League Baseball
  • Sport to Play:  Speed Walking
  • Game:  Mensch √§rgere Dich nicht
  • Play or Musical:  Madama Butterfly
  • TV Show:  The Golden Girls
  • Book:  Cities of Salt, by Abdul Rahman Munif
  • Hobby:  Basking in the Sun

Would You Rather...

Be behind the scenes  |  Be front and center
Find the perfect job  |  Win the lottery
Never speak again  |  Always speak your mind
Visit 100 years in the past  |  Visit 100 years in the future
St. Matthias' Pledge and Tax Options 

Not too long ago, a customer gave a donation to the Thrift Shop while shopping there, in the form of a check from his IRA. He was older than +70.5 years, and therefore was required to take a yearly distribution of roughly 4% of his IRA assets, and knew that he could donate a portion (or even all) to a charitable organization and not have to pay taxes on that amount. Somewhat recently, a federal law was passed allowing for such an arrangement.
For those of us in the above age category who are required to take IRA distributions, we have the choice of making part or all of our St. Matthias' pledge payment from that distribution, or taking the full distribution and using pledge payments as tax deductions. In recent years, Karin and I have often used the standard deduction, as we've been relatively healthy with modest medical expenses. Accordingly, tax-free pledge payment from my IRA is an advantage. Furthermore, even if we would decide to itemize deductions, by having our pledge paid directly to St. Matthias', we reduce income that determines how much, if any, our Social Security income is taxed. Of course, every family's situation is unique, and people should consult with their tax consultant. With advice from our Treasurer, Gordon Hermanson, as to how to proceed, we have made that arrangement this year.

 - John Randolph, Clerk of the Vestry 
Parish Updates

Vestry Member Table
Starting in March, and continuing through August, one Vestry member will be seated at a table in the Parish Hall during coffee hour to speak with anyone who has a question, comment, suggestion, compliment, or complaint. In order to receive and respond to information as effectively as possible, the Vestry needs to know who we are hearing from. We will refer to your name when sharing your thoughts with the Vestry, and ask that you discuss matters which you wish to be kept in confidence with our Rector. We truly want to hear whatever is on your mind and look forward to listening to you.  Please come and talk with us!

Vestry Nominations 
At the St. Matthias' Annual Meeting, there will be three Vestry member positions to fill, as Chris Clark, Karen Larson, and John Randolph will be going off the Vestry. In addition, a Senior Warden and Junior Warden will be chosen. According to Diocesan Canons, Vestry terms are for three years. Warden terms are for one year, with the possibility of re-election up to a total of three years of service. Vestry meetings are held once a month.
We hope that St. Matthias' will have the benefit of a range of candidates with different backgrounds and skill sets. We will be asking parishioners for nominations to the Vestry, and self-nomination is encouraged. In nominating a fellow member, it is of course expected that the proposed candidate agree to serve if elected.
Our nomination form is included in this issue of the Ambassador (see below), and we anticipate posting brief candidate bios on the bulletin board well before the Annual Meeting.
Serving on the Vestry is a major opportunity to make significant contributions to the mission of St. Matthias' and the health and vigor of our parish family.
Vestry Nomination Form   

St. Matthias' has a Board of Directors that is called a Vestry. The Vestry meets monthly in order to guide the decisions and activities of the parish by discussion and informed decisions. Each Vestry member is expected to:
  • Serve as a liaison to at least one existing St. Matthias' team
  • Assist in Vestry projects
  • Provide reports and updates on projects and teams
  • Provide input regarding decisions and future planning
The Vestry is made up of the Rector, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Clerk, and five other representatives elected from the congregation. The Rector chairs the meetings. The Senior Warden is the lead lay Vestry representative, and liaison between the Rector and the parish. The Junior Warden assists the Rector and Senior Warden by overseeing facility maintenance. One of the Vestry members is selected as Clerk and records the minutes. The church Treasurer also attends the meetings.
Each year, at the Annual Meeting, new Vestry members are elected. Below the dotted line is a nomination form for those interested.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I, __________ , would like to nominate myself,

or (and please be sure to obtain approval before nominating someone),

I would like to nominate __________ ,

...for a three year Vestry term, beginning May 21, 2017, and continuing until the Annual Meeting in May, 2020. Vestry members are expected to attend most Vestry meetings, and a day-long retreat, generally held in January, and to represent St. Matthias' in a positive Christian spirit.
I feel __________ (yourself or other) would be a good Vestry member because:

(fill in here)
Organ Improvisation 
Written by Le Ganschow
Recently, I have been thinking about the role of improvisation in church music. The question arose for me after talking with several parishioners, who said they sometimes found it difficult to sing some of the hymn stanzas because they had trouble hearing the melody line. Sometimes organists alter these inner hymn stanzas through improvisation, which might be confusing to the congregation unless they are familiar with the hymn. During the service, the congregation might hear unexpected variations in other music as well. Also, organists might do an improvisation on either prelude or postlude, for example, playing variations on a hymn tune.
A simple definition of improvisation is: "performance given extempore, without planning or preparation." Another definition is to: "play... extemporaneously, by inventing variations on a melody, or creating new melodies, rhythms and harmonies." (Wikipedia) Perhaps the clearest examples are seen in jazz. When listeners hear a famous jazz musician, such as Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis, they likely will take for granted that a musician will 'take off' on a given tune and extemporize.
Parishioners may not have a similar comfort level or even recognize improvisation when they hear it on the organ. Yet improvisation is considered an important art form in organ musicianship. In this article, I present a brief background on organ improvisation, and ask our new Director of Music to comment on his use of improvisation in our services.
Historical background. Some say improvisation has lost its prominence as a necessary skill in an organist's repertoire. Yet historically, most well-known keyboard composers and players have counted improvisation as one of their most important skills. Wikipedia, for example, says that "throughout the eras of Western art music tradition, including the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, classical and Romantic periods, improvisation was a valued skill." Famous composers and musicians, including J.S. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt, were recognized for their skill at improvisation. During his lifetime, Bach was considered the "greatest improviser on the organ in Europe." (The Daily Improvisation, Eric Barnhill, 2006)
A well-known story about Bach: A famous French organist came to town to compete against Bach, but after hearing him improvise in a 'warm-up', the organist immediately left town.
French organist Marcel Du pré w as said to have "astounded American audiences in the 1920s by improvising whole organ symphonies on themes listeners submitted before his concerts." (NY Times, Organ Improvisation as an Art Form)
Today's Reformed churches encourage the "old art of improvising". (Reformed Worship, Issue #41, September, 1996) They say there is a "crying need for live music, for spontaneity and creativity" that cannot be replicated using prerecorded music (a common practice these days, particularly in small churches). The American Guild of Organists includes improvisation among the skills required of an advanced level organist, and AGO regularly holds national competitions in organ improvisation. At the Paris Conservatory, students take a required course in Improvisation, and France is said to "keep alive a tradition that has made its organ virtuosos admired he world over." (NY Times, Organ Improvisation as an Art Form) At some churches though, organists use improvisation as bridge music - a kind of filler - to connect parts of the service.
Regarding improvisation in services at St. Matthias', I asked George, our new Director of Music, a few questions about how and why he uses improvisation and how he learned to use it. George said he uses improvisation regularly "as the spirit moves me." In his view, improvisation "enhances the music and makes the congregation better listeners." George said he learned basic techniques of improvisation as an undergraduate at Westminster College. He also learned from hearing other organists use improvisation. In particular, he mentioned Pierre Cochereau, principal organist at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris from 1955-1984. George said that Pierre often used 'motives', little snippets of a hymn tune, that he then expanded through improvisation. A budding organist can learn to improvise, though the techniques appear to come easily to some musicians, but are more difficult for others. George said there are two main formulas in the formal study of improvisation. Both involve considerable choice of variation of melody and chords, and can become quite complex.
Hopefully, this brief introduction to improvisation will entice members of our congregation to listen for improvisational variations within our services. Musicologist Robert Levin summarizes the role of the improviser and potential of the listener as follows: "I think the most important thing in performing a piece of music, and likewise, even more so in the listener's apprehension of what's going on, is a sense that anything that's happening could have been something else. A performer's ability to spontaneously summon an improvisation requires a combination of discipline and fantasy, as well as a willingness to share and communicate with the audience in a magical way." (Improvisation with Robert Levin, NPR)
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