Opportunities to Move God's Story Along

When Carol and I were much younger, we were searching for a church to attend and one Sunday found ourselves in the back pew of the Church of the Advent. It was the custom at the time for the ushers to pick someone from the congregation to help with communion. I remember Len Sherman asking us to help and after trying to put him off he said, “Look, all you have to do is carry the gifts to the altar.”

Fast forward 10 years, I was teaching middle school kids in Sunday school and we were doing the story of Joseph. I went to the Old Testament and read the story of Joseph. Just to refresh your memory, here is Genesis chapter 37.

IV. THE STORY OF JOSEPH’

This is the story of Joseph.

Joseph was seventeen years old. As he was still young, he was shepherding the flock with his brothers, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah his father’s wives. Joseph informed their father of the evil spoken about them.

Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. *But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.

Now Joseph had a dream, and he repeated it to his brothers“ -‘Listen’ he said ‘to this dream I have had. We were binding sheaves in the countryside: and my sheaf, it seemed, rose up and stood upright; then I saw your sheaves gather round and bow to my sheaf.’ *‘So you want to be king over us,’ his brothers retorted ‘or to lord it over us? And they hated him still more, on account of his dreams and of what he said. *He had another dream which he told to his brothers. ‘Look, I have had another dream’ he said. ‘I thought I saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars, bowing to me.’ *He told his father and brothers, and his father scolded him. ‘A fine dream to have!’ he said to him. ‘Are all of us then, myself, your mother and your brothers, to come and bow to the ground before you? His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the thing in mind.

His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. *Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.’ ‘I am ready’ he replied. *He said to him, ‘Go and see how your brothers and the flock are doing, and bring me word’. He sent him from the valley of Hebron, and Joseph arrived at Shechem.

A man found him wandering in the countryside and the man asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’ ‘I am looking for my brothers” he replied. ‘Please tell me where they are pasturing their flock.’ *The man answered, ‘They have moved on from here; indeed I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan”’. So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. *‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. *‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’

That’s a season-ending cliff hanger worthy of The Game of Thrones and (*spoiler alert*), the story gets weirder from there. As you no doubt recall, instead of killing Joseph the brothers sell him into slavery. He ends up in prison, interprets the Pharaoh’s famine dream, saves the day by storing the kingdom’s food, is reunited with his family, and they move to Egypt to live there until a new Pharaoh

comes who does not remember Joseph. There are many details in this story that resonate with middle school children, such as neighbors talking trash about your family, parents playing favorites, sibling rivalries and strange dreams. But there is one detail that has always fascinated me about this tale and I am struck by the fact that none of this would have happened, not the migration to Egypt, not the plagues, not Moses and the Passover if there was not some man (or woman) standing in a field who paid attention when a confused kid walked by. “What are you looking for?” What indeed.

What we may be looking for is right under our noses. Small opportunities to get involved, little encounters that move God’s story along. We are all tasked with making a difference in the lives of others. President Jimmy Carter said it well, “My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” The Lord works in mysterious ways and we are not always being asked to be Joseph or Moses, Sarah or Mary. Sometimes you just need to carry the gifts where they need to be.

- Kevin Delaney

It’s Not About Winning and Losing, It’s About How We Live With Others

It’s Not About Winning and Losing, It’s About How We Live With Others

I went to a meeting not too long ago.

I go to a lot of meetings. I’m a teacher of the visually impaired, so I go to a lot of special education meetings. I’m a member of the Vestry at Advent, so I go to a lot of meetings for that as well. And, I’m a member of the Missional Ministry Team and we have many meetings in our work together.

I do not need to get into which kind of meeting I was in, because it was a meeting that that began with 2 sides talking at each other, not to each other.

Ever been to one of those? It’s very unfun.

Anyway, my group kept stating their perspective and the other group members (I’ll call them “Group 2”, so I do not have to use the very unflattering They or Them as a label), kept stating their perspective and it was getting very frustrating very fast.

I wanted Group 2 to acknowledge that our perspective was valued and worthy of consideration.

I wanted a ‘win’.

That is what Eric Law, of the Kaleidoscope Institute calls a win/lose dichotomy. In order to feel self-worth or accomplished, we have a need to ‘win’. This can apply to anything. It can apply to games we play or watch with one another, elections, decisions made in government or in organizations, even getting or losing a job.  And, of course, meetings. However, if we subscribe to a need to ‘win’ then intrinsically there is a ‘loss’ somewhere.

That’s when the trouble begins. The losers must blame someone for the loss and winners must protect what they have, as that is also part of the win/lose dichotomy. The result is anger, fear, and frustration ruling the day. Eric Law refers to this as an “unholy fire.”  We forget our connections with each other and with God. We forget what Christ taught us.

How can we stop this kind of thinking?

As it so happens, I’m a member of the Missional Ministry Team. We work with the Kaleidoscope Institute, run by Mr. Eric Law, to learn new ways of connecting and thinking. The goal is to help us create stronger ministry for our Church. Mr. Law’s suggestion for stopping the ‘win/lose’ thinking is to conceptualize how we work as ‘both/and’ nonjudgmental thinking. The basic premise is to ask the question: how can everyone get the most of what they need?

At the meeting I was in, before I got super frustrated, it occurred to me that I wasn’t listening to what Group 2 was saying- I was focusing on what they were not saying. So, I stopped talking for a little bit and paid attention. It was at that point it dawned on me. Group 2 wanted their perspective acknowledged and valued, just like I wanted with my perspective.

The next time I spoke, I used the training I’m lucky enough to have had. I thanked Group 2 for their perspective and for taking the time to meet with us. I repeated the parts of what members of Group 2 said that I guessed (and hoped that I guessed correctly) they valued most. Then I said their points were important and that I agreed with those values.

I did not stop there. I found a possible ‘both’ – the part of their thinking we could all agree on – now I had to provide us with the ‘and’ – the part we could all agree was important for all of us.  I chose to openly hope that the work we were doing would result in success. They agreed.

The frustration at the table went down considerably. The meeting ended rather productively. We were all pleased. We avoided the “unholy fire’ of anger, fear, and frustration.

Sometimes, it is much harder to listen when life does not give us the boosts we want. We need to remember to reach out and listen to the “other side.”  We need to take the time and energy to look at ourselves as part of a community. We all live together and we need to remember that our self-worth needs to be based on how we conduct ourselves, not on whether or not we ‘win’. We all deserve to get what we need.

I like how Mother Theresa put it:

“There is a tremendous strength that is growing in the world through sharing together, praying together, suffering together, and working together.”

 

I hope I can keep remembering this and working at it until it becomes more second nature!

Yours In Christ,

Karen Rodgers, Vestryperson

 

 

 

 

From Our Senior Warden

 

Thank you to everyone who joined in the celebration of the installation of Reverend Dr. Nancy Hauser as Rector of the Church of the Advent. What an uplifting experience to watch the Bishop perform the installation service for someone who has been so special to Advent. Also thank you to all who donated to the capital fund to do major repairs to the PCOC in honor of Nancy.

We are making progress on the necessary repairs to the PCOC. A new roof has been completed, painting is underway that will be completed by summer’s end. The final color will be a stone gray with white trim. Last year we replaced many of the double hung windows and hope to do the big windows/doors in the rear of the building soon. The dying tree in the back of the building has been removed and the big tree near the memorial garden has been thinned of many dead and dying branches. We are not sure whether we will be able to save this beautiful 80 year old specimen. The PCOC study committee continues to meet and will prepared to share its findings with the congregation in the fall.

We have a beautiful campus with many gardens, trees etc. These amenities require much labor to keep them weed free and presentable. There have been some parishioners who have toiled for many hours to keep Advent beautiful. We need additional help to weed beds in front and side of the PCOC, beds along the street entrance as well as the memorial gardens. If we keep up with the work each bed should take less than an hour a week. Please give this some thought and help us keep the grounds presentable. The bench under the big oak tree is a great place to have lunch or just sit and watch the day go by after you finished weeding.

Once again rain, although a blessing impacted our May Fair. I large group of volunteers worked hard parking cars, cooking food,  selling tickets ,and running bounce houses ,and slides. Let’s not forget the dunk tank. Thank you to all the kids who braved the chilly water so their “friend” and family could enjoy hitting the target and dumping them in the tank. Hopefully next year will bring a warmer day and a bigger crowd. Be thankful for what we have.

The sun was shining on the Pentecost picnic. Kevin Delaney managed to cook up some great hamburgers and hot dogs and parishioner brought many great side dishes and salads. The deserts were fantastic. I must point out the chocolate cake that almost put me in a coma. Thanks to all who attended to make this a special day.

One reminder, many of us go on protracted vacations in the summer and worship at other churches. However the expenses at Advent continue no matter the time of year. Please check your pledge and try to stay current so we can continue to meet the obligations of the church.

In this time of turmoil around the world let’s pray for peace and understanding!

God Bless

George James

 

 

From Our Fiance Warden

 

 

Over the last few years the vestry has been concentrating on good financial stewardship of church finances.  In last years vestry retreat the major take away was the following:  Advent is a church with a long time horizon, measured not in months or years but in half-decades, decades and many decades.  With this mindset, a small recurring financial expense annually, turns into large amounts of dollars.  For example: An expense of $200 per month over a decade results in $30,000.00 of cost.

 

Also discussed was the large cost associated with the main sanctuary, the aging mechanical and structural systems.  Over the next few decades costs for upkeep of the sanctuary could exceed the annual operating budget of the church.

 

It is incumbent on the vestry, whose main job is to have financial over site of the church, to start planning in half-decades and decades and plan for these expenses to be able to pay for them when they arrive.  Nancy and George are committed to start this planning and savings program and you will hear more about it in the next year.


Christopher Pepe

Liturgy and The Book of Common Prayer

Liturgy literally means the “work of the people,” but over the years a “liturgical church” has come to mean one that uses a set form for the words of its rites while “non-liturgical churches” rely on the leaders to lead the service without scripts and to offer extemporaneous prayers.  The Episcopal Church, with its “Book of Common Prayer,” is definitely considered liturgical under this definition.  But although our services are set and follow specific forms, they are not rigid and invariant.  In many ways, we have the best of both worlds.  We have words that beautifully and thoughtfully present our tradition and understanding of the scriptures, and yet we have many choices in what forms we use and opportunities for clergy and congregation to offer their own words in response to the Holy Spirit.   

 

Our current prayer book is very rich in its variety.  In addition, the priests and congregations have flexibility to design their own Prayers of the People and even to use different forms for the Eucharist.  Most liturgies have a Rite I version and a Rite II version.  Rite I uses the traditional language of the church (with its roots in Elizabethan English) while Rite II uses more contemporary language.   And there is still variety in the different Rites.  Rite I offers two forms of the Eucharistic Prayer, and Rite II has four forms.  In addition, there are six formal versions of the Prayers of the People for Rite II but these can also be offered in other forms.  Advent uses Rite I at the 7:45am Eucharist, a simpler version of Rite II at the 8:45am service, and Rite II at the 10am service.  In some years we have used Rite I at 10am during Lent.  

 

While most of us have preferred services (times and/or prayers), it is valuable to explore the different forms and to attend different services.  It may be that you need an earlier start to the day or that you decide to sleep in and go to a later service.  Or you may just want to try a different form.  One of the benefits of this change is that the words we usually say by rote now are fresh and may make us think more or hear things differently.   That is one reason we vary the Eucharistic Prayer during the year.    

 

The “Book of Common Prayer” is very rich indeed. There are beautiful services that don’t require a priest to lead them (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Compline).  There are devotionals suitable for personal use during the day (see pp. 137-140).  The psalms are there and services for all kind of occasions.  We will be using a version of the “Celebration of a New Ministry” (p. 559) when Nancy is installed as Rector tomorrow.  There are prayers for every occasion and need (pp. 814-841) and an Outline of the Faith (Catechism).  If you don’t have one, you can purchase one from Amazon or view it on line at http://www.bcponline.org . So explore the book and experience the richness it offers.   

 

Bryan Bente