Farnham & St. John's
The Weekly Message

I find myself getting a bit irritated when I hear folks talk about “church” as being empty and that congregations are in “exile.” Some lessons are hard to learn. But one thing I have learned during this pandemic is that the “church” is not a “building” – it is a “body.” Very much alive, working hard to breathe in peace, breathe our hope. Breathe in hope, breathe out peace. It’s made up of all of us, “One body, one Lord, one hope.”  

It may be the “bleak mid-winter” as one of our season’s song recognize, but your “church” is in motion. Here are some ways:
  • The young people of St. John’s and N. Farnham have stuffed 31 BIG stockings as part of our Richmond County’s effort through the Salvation Army to help kids this Christmas.  Here’s a picture with Ben, Gracie and Jamie Heltzel, Miriam Sisson, Elena and Eva Milsted on the parish house porch at St. John’s where they gathered around big tables outdoors to put everything together. What a great job, kids!
  • Some of the ECW ladies will be ringing the bells outside of Tractor Supply, as they have done in past years, again as part of the Salvation Army Christmas drive.
  • Both churches are supplying a bountiful array of “shelf goods” for the Warsaw United Methodist Church and the Farnham Baptist Church Food Pantries who will welcome food pantry clients this week.

  • Your donations to the Priest’s discretionary fund are helping people as they call with utility bills, need some help for Christmas for their families. Your donations are also helping with financial contributions to local food pantries or other local organizations who are stretched thin trying to meet the needs of people in need during this specially trying time.
• Your Cemetery Committee at St. John’s has worked hard to make sure veterans’ flags are withstanding our winter weather and assuring that the cemetery areas are clear for when there is a funeral – as there was this week for one of St. John’s much loved members, Mary Hertling. Immediate family and a few old friends, gathered around her gravesite to say goodbye as the beautiful time honored words of our
Episcopal burial liturgy were offered and earth to earth was cast around the beautiful wooden box holding her ashes.
  • In this Epistle you are invited to gather for a couple of Advent fire-side chats on two Wednesday late afternoons. We will be physically distant for these but close visually and with voice as we Zoom together. Another thing this pandemic has taught us is that our essential human need to “be together” is as critical as food and shelter.

  • Sunday Advent service music, prayers and homily will continue the remaining Sundays in Advent and be available by video as sent out weekly. And a special Christmas Eve event is being produced by the young people of St. John’s and N. Farnham. Music, dance, readings and a Christmas story by our talented young people will remind us of what Christmas is all about. Tune in to this video offering as a special gift this Christmas eve. Watch for the link to it as we get closer to Christmas.
  • Crêche scenes are being placed in both sanctuaries as they have been in past years. Yes, it will be a “silent night” in our church sanctuaries on Christmas Eve, as it was in a long ago stable until a baby’s cry broke through the night. Somehow the vision of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus figures in those quiet sanctuaries we hold dear in our hearts, just seemed to be the holy, hopeful thing to do this year.  
A new year waits. Each step we take, each caring act, each loving thought, each beat of our heart, each act of love plays a part to bring about peace in a world that desperately needs hope and healing. We are the church alive, the body of the faithful, the hearts, hands, feet of a God who wants the world to be filled with light and love. Onward, together, dear friends, as a body may we move towards this vision!

A Special Memory

We began this new section last month. Do you have a special memory to share? If so, please send it to torrence.harman@aol.com

A Favorite Memory by Miriam Sisson our youngest member at North Farnham Church

My favorite memory of going to church was going to church on Christmas Eve. I loved all the beautiful songs. The church would be so decorated! Christmas is my favorite holiday. Not just because Santa comes but how Jesus was born. Going to church on Christmas Eve is very special to me because almost my whole close family comes. Gaga, Pop Pop, Grandma, Mommy and Daddy come. After the church service we all come home Gaga, Pop Pop, Grandma, Mommy and Daddy and have holiday cheer! When I was little I loved to look at the Nativity that is in the church and I still do! The candles were so pretty at night when the lights were turned down low in the church. I love it when we talk about the Christmas story at church. But my favorite thing on Christmas Eve at church is when we sing “O little town of Bethlehem.” 
Sermon for the 1st Sunday of Advent
N. Farnham & St. John’s Episcopal Churches
November 29, 2020 – The Rev. Torrence Harman

“What is it like to wait for God?”

We’re at the first Sunday in Advent and it’s a waiting time. Isn’t that what Advent is all about – waiting for God – for God’s Son to come and be with us? Or maybe it is a time God is waiting for us – watching and waiting for us to be prepared for this coming. Will we be?

We have had a lot of experience with waiting this year.
Here is how another minister introduced a sermon for this first Sunday in Advent 2020. I couldn’t have said it better.

“Virtually this entire year has been a time of waiting. We’ve waited during lockdowns and quarantines. We’ve waited on masks and respirators and toilet paper. We’ve waited on test results for the coronavirus, wondering whether we were positive or not. We’ve waited endless weeks and months, not able to visit our loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, in order to protect them. We’ve waited on kids going back to school and waited to see if jobs would hold out during the crisis. We’ve waited on unemployment checks and stimulus checks. We’ve waited in line to vote and waited to see if our mail-in ballot went through, and then waited on the results of the election. We’ve waited for a vaccine. And we’ve waited and waited and waited to go back to church in the old ways that were familiar and comfortable to us. 2020 has been nothing but a year of waiting.” (from“Sermons that Work”) Continued here        
This week Bishop Porter Taylor, an Assistant Bishop for our Diocese, offers a reflection on the idea of what we are waiting for as we prepare for Christmas. "Learning to Walk in the Dark" is an important theme for us for this particular Advent, yet with implications for any future time that may be disrupting and challenging for life. Torrence

From the Diocese -
Learning to Walk in the Dark 
Bishop Porter Taylor
"I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting."
                                       -- T.S Eliot, "East Coker"

Advent is always such a strange way to begin the liturgical year because it's always counter cultural. In this Covid 19 world, there's a pull to focus on how we can get back to where we were. We not only are waiting for Santa, but we are waiting to return to "normal." We aren't merely dreaming of a White Christmas; we are dreaming of a way of living that has largely evaporated.

However, there are simply not enough decorations or Christmas music or presents bought on the web to still the anxiety or restlessness within nor to help us believe that what we have gone through is merely a dream. No, Advent is a reorientation. We must learn to walk in the dark. We must let go of our agenda to make the world behave. We must look for new birth in unexpected places. Most of all, we must let go of our personal sense of agency and fall into the hands of the living God. When we run out of what we can do, it's time to be still and discover what God can and will do.

In this strange Covid season -- mixed with the increasing awareness of our country's racism, and the political divisions -- I do not wish to be the Grinch stealing our Christmas. However, the work of Advent is the road to rediscovering Incarnation. We must abandon our customary ways of filtering reality and learn to walk in the dark, looking for new light and pray that the Word becomes flesh in this time and in our lives.

I do not want to take away our pre-Christmas traditions, but I do want to remind us that we are not waiting for anything under the tree and not even for the end of the virus. We are waiting for the reign of God. This is when the lion and the lamb lie down together; it's when there is no more war; an end to poverty; racism evaporates and the Beloved Community is here; the common good becomes the major agenda for all.

Because we cannot make any of this happen by ourselves, we pray "your kingdom come, your will be done" over and over. God has given us a vision of God's desire for God's people. Our job is to hold onto that and move toward that vision and pray for it and believe in it -- realizing God always does the heavy lifting.  The final words of the Bible are "Come, Lord Jesus" because we do not know how to make the world new.

This is what we do know. God is God is God. Let us remember God's dream for God's world and align ourselves to it. Let us do what we can in this moment to prepare for it. Most of all let us put all our hope in it by remembering God's promises and praying "Come, Lord Jesus."
The Return of Torrence's Fireside Chat

Join me for an Advent Fireside Chat on Wednesday, December 9th and 16th from 5 - 5:45 p.m. as we Zoom together.

I'll be sitting by the fire in the Clopton Parlor at St. John's with a cup of tea or hot cider. Won't you share this time with me?

We'll talk together about this 2020 Christmas season and share thoughts of how to live into the four Advent themes of HOPE/PEACE/JOY/LOVE in this strange unsettling time.

I HOPE you can join in,
  that we can find PEACE warmed by the firelight,
    know JOY in simply being together,
      and share the LOVE that binds our hearts together as we look towards the coming of the Christ child,
         who comes into the world, yet again, to bring LIGHT into our lives.

Zoom instructions for Advent Fireside Chats
Dates: Dec 9, 2020 and Dec 16, 2020
Time: 5:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Click here to join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 874 6422 3213

For Audio, only - Dial 1 301 715 8592. Use Meeting ID: 874 6422 3213
The Haven is in need of individual microwaveable meals for its program participants. Some of the folks that they serve are staying at hotels with limited access to a large fridge and stove/oven. So, they need help with the donation of microwaveable meals and other snacks or non-perishable items for program participants to eat. These could be a single meal of frozen chicken nuggets or other kid-friendly meals that you find in the frozen aisle of your local grocery store. Instant noodles, soups, or other canned meals are very useful as well. If you plan to drop off any donations, please call (804)333-1099 to let them know when to expect you to ensure that appropriate safety measures can be practiced.
Our services going forward are e-mailed videos which will be sent on Saturdays.

December 6th
The Second Sunday of Advent

December 13th
The Third Sunday of Advent

December 20th
The Fourth Sunday of Advent
The Parish Prayer List

for those in need of God's comfort and healing
Courtenay Altaffer
John Barber
Martha Berger
Randall Bone
Sue Bowie
Nancy Allin Bush
Constance Edwards
Bob File
David Gallagher
Regina Griggs
Barbara & Harry Grander
The Rev. Howard Hanchey
Weir Harman
Billy Hooper
Rebecca Hubert
Marcia Jenkins
Stephanie, Nick & Donovan Kaywork
Jim & Sharon Krider
Mary Douglas Lawton
The Rt. Rev. Peter Lee
Susan Lewis
Frank Lynch
Susannah Marais
Pat Merkel
Tommy Neuman
Judi Newman
Kirsten Palubinski
James Rynd
Bennie Shepherd
Debbie Belfield Stacks
Scott Strickler
Waldy Sulik
Billy Tennyson
Roclyn Tennyson
Matthew Yates
Rose Mary Zellner and
the family of Mary Claycomb
and for those serving in our armed forces.
Royce Baker
David Berger
Ryan Berger
Allen Crocker
Randy Crocker
Court Garretson
Cameron Heidenreich
Dan Heidenreich
Charles Jones
Daniel Kirk

Mark Lawton
Scott Longar
Luis Loya
Christopher Strickler
Gavin Wade McClung
and Travis Pullen
Please e-mail any updates to the prayer list to parishchurchnews@gmail.com Replying to this e-mail will send it to Torrence.
December Birthdays & Anniversaries

1st – Brenda Harhai
3rd –Micheline Conn
9th – Vanelia Gallagher
9th –Elena Milsted
16th – Torrence Harman

17th - Brother Mark Jenkins
30th – Lynn & Ed Elliott
There are no in-person services this coming Sunday. We will e-mail a video service on Saturday and subsequently post it to our website farnhamwithstjohns.org, youtube and facebook pages.
Farnham Church
St. John's Church