Pastoral Letters

2012-2013 Pastoral Letters

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“Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

(John 20:26b)

Recently the newly organized Order of Lay Preachers at St. Paul's met for fellowship and Lectio Divina. We were contemplating the portion of the Gospel of John appointed for the second Sunday in Easter, from which the verse above is taken. We noted that in his Resurrec- tion appearances, Jesus is known for wishing peace to those he encounters...certainly comfort- ing words given the trauma the disciples had experienced.

Angie Hambling pointed out that in this Gospel reading (John 19:20-31), Jesus comes through closed doors twice. The disciples were shut off in these rooms, behind closed doors, for fear of persecution. And yet Jesus was able to step through their barriers to wish them peace in the midst of their fear. Angie reminds us that even though we shut ourselves off in our own self- erected “rooms behind closed doors,” barriers put in place by our own fears, Jesus is able to come through and wish us peace. This is Good News! That even in our hiding because of fear, Jesus can reach us and extend his peace to us.

As we approach Eastertide, it is helpful to remind ourselves and each other that the Christ we follow is a Risen Christ, able to transcend any barriers we erect to keep him at bay. This means that the peace he offers is something within our reach.

I encourage you, if you wish to know the peace and joy of Easter, to make yourself available to Christ as we walk through Holy Week. I especially exhort you this Holy Week to observe the Triduum, that period of time from the Maundy Thursday Service to Easter Day. Come on Thursday to hear again about the New Commandment. Keep vigil through the night. Experience Christ's passion as it is re-enacted on Good Friday. And finally join us for the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and/or one of the services on Easter Day to experience Resurrection!
Where in your own life are you locked away because of fear? Come celebrate that Jesus is ready to come through those barriers and restore you to wholeness.
Have a blessed and fruitful Holy Week!

Mother Susan+

 

 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:8-10)

e, as the Church, did our work well during Holy Week and the beginning of the Easter festivities. How exultant we were as we proclaimed, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” We were
also full of joy as we celebrated the Baptisms of Chris Scheirer, and Randy and Mason Crist...and it definitely seems as if a well-earned rest is what we might be enjoying. However, we still have a lot of celebrating to do!
During the first forty days of Easter, we focus in our Eucharistic Lectionary on Jesus' post- Resurrection appearances to his disciples and the joy they experience as they encounter the
risen Lord. But then on the fortieth day, we enter another celebration...the celebration of the As- cension of the Risen Lord. If you will look at Bishop Little's letter to the Diocese in Around

Our Diocese (later in this newsletter), you will see his thoughtful explanation of the meaning of

Ascension Day. Pay particular attention to his explanation of how this day is a celebration of the universal presence of Christ.

This year, Ascension Day occurs on May 17, ten days before the Feast of Pentecost. It has been the custom in this Diocese for a number of years to celebrate the Ascension Day with a joint service with the Lutheran Church. This year, St. Paul's is privileged to be the host for this service. So please put this date and time on your calendar: May 17 at 7 PM at St. Paul's!

Then ten days after that, on May 27, we will be celebrating the Feast of Pente- cost...affectionately known as “the birthday of the Church,” that time when The Holy Spirit de- scends on the followers of Christ and every man and woman hears the Gospel preached in tongues which they can understand! It has been our tradition at St. Paul's to present the Gospel reading that day in various languages. If you speak a language, and would like to say a verse in that language, please let Mtr. Susan know.

Also on Pentecost, we will be doing some fun and exciting things with Coffee Hour. Please look elsewhere in this newsletter as Hollie Adamson is presenting those ideas and needs your help!
So, we continue to be busy with our celebrations...our celebration of the Risen Lord, of His universal presence among us, and of the power of the Holy Spirit He has given us. May you be so blessed!

Mother Susan

...the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to ob- serve.” (Deuteronomy 30:14)

By the time this newsletter gets to you, Advent will be upon us. The church is already transformed. The purple lectern hang- ings are up. The Advent wreath stands mag- nificently above the Celebrant's chair. The Stations of the Nativity are on the walls all around the church. While the rest of the world rushes to the malls and cyber shopping cen-
ters, we will gather on Sunday, to begin our own Advent Journey toward Bethlehem...a journey of hope, waiting and watching.

And it's time for you to start thinking about gifts! Gifts?! You say, why would I be encourag- ing you to think about gifts, when our focus as Christians should be on this season expectant of the Incarnation?! Well, I just gave myself the best Christmas present ever! I went to the Dioce- san website and responded to the Bishop's invitation to join the Bible Challenge! That's right, I signed up to be part of a group who will commit to reading the entire Bible in a year. For those of you who went to the Diocesan Convention or read the Bishop's address afterward, you will know that Bishop Little is challenging every Episcopalian in Northern Indiana to join with him and Episcopalians all over the world in a challenge to read the entire Bible during the year 2013. Developed by the Center for Biblical Studies, this program lays out a system for reading a portion of the Old Testament and a portion of the New Testament each day of the year, so that the entire Bible is read in one year. If that feels too overwhelming, there are also tracks to read just the Old Testament or just the New Testament.

I invite you to give yourself the same Christmas present. To sign up, go the website of the Diocese of Northern Indiana and click on the sign-up form which is right near the top of the page. Once you enter your email address, you will be signed up, and as a bonus to signing up, you will become part of a group that receives occasional tips and notes of encour- agement from Bishop Little who will be doing this challenge himself (for the second time around)! What would it do for our church if we got our entire congregation to participate?

Jesus entered into our world as an infant...a gift of incarnation...so that our lives could be transformed. Embrace the story and expect your own transformation as you accept the Bible challenge. Here is an opportunity for you to do something that will transform your life – read the entire history of salvation in one year! – a wonderful Christmas gift, the perfect New Year's resolution. See you on the Diocesan website. It's easy!

Yours in Christ,

Mother Susan

“‘We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching' (Proverbs 15:3, 19.1 -- Rule of St. Benedict). This sense of the constant presence of God is something which St. Benedict is anxious that we should never forget. God's gaze is fixed on us, our thoughts and actions lie totally open to his view, we are always seen everywhere in God's sight (Rule of St. Benedict -- 7.10-13.) Our awareness of God's presence must be the ever immediate reality which underpins everything else. How amazingly uncomplicated St. Benedict makes the way to God. It is totally demanding but it is not out of reach."“ (Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict, Esther de Waal)

While traveling back and forth to South Carolina over the holidays, I read the book cited above. The author underscores St. Benedict's exhortation that praying can never be set apart from the rest of life, because prayer is life itself. Monks did not take a vow of prayer, be- cause it was assumed that their whole life would be undergirded, infused with constant prayer. Prayer was understood to be the Opus Dei, the work of God, and nothing was to be preferred to it. Love, of course, was most important; but prayer, particularly praying the Divine Office, was thought to be the most excellent witness to the community's love of Christ. Human love asks for time and attention in order to be cultivated, and as humans we come to love someone as we come to know that person. The same is true in our relationship with God. Love of Him calls for time and attention to Him, and we come to love Him as we come to know Him in prayer. The beginning of prayer is a dialogue...we begin by entering a dialogue with God. Our first task in this dialogue is to be silent. In this silence, we are watching, waiting and listening. And then we respond, both corporately and personally. Our times of prayer should also be rich with Scrip- ture...prayerful reading of Scripture. The fruit of our prayer should be the realization that God is
present everywhere, constantly keeping us in His sight, constantly moving in our lives and at- tentive to us.

Do you sometimes feel at a loss as to how to pray? Could your prayer life use a boost? We are fortunate in January to welcome to our Adult Education Series Bishop Francis Gray, who will be offering three evenings of conversation about prayer. These will take place on Wednes- days beginning at 7 pm on January 9, 16, and 23 in the Undercroft. Bishop Gray will share with us some reflections about prayer, some of his own experiences of prayer and some suggestions for our own prayer lives.

God desires conversation with us...and prayer is the beginning. St. Paul's has a strong tradi- tion of prayer, its walls having received the voices of countless thousands of Christians over the last two centuries. Please join us on these three evenings in January as we seek as a community to deepen our lives in prayer.
Blessings in Christ,

Mother Susan+

 

 

2010-11 Archive

Mother Susan Haynes
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July/Aug
  • Sept
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  • November
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  • January 2011
  • February '11
  • March '11
  • April '11
  • May '11
  • July '11
  • Sept '11
  • Oct '11
  • Nov '11

January 2010

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A Letter from Jen Fulton about Congregational Development

Hello, St. Paul’s!

For the past year, I have had the blessing of working with Mother Susan and Jon Adamson as a member of your Congregational Development Team. I am currently looking forward to my second year of training in congregational development, and am excited by the prospect of helping our healthy, vibrant parish further develop as a living member of the Body of Christ—as Christian community. This, of course, forces us to ask the questions, “What does it mean to live together as Christians? What are we called to do?”

The short answer—and there are many ways of answering these questions—is that as a community we are called together by common doctrine to engage in worship and action. My first actionable task in congregational development is to assess one aspect of our worship together. As Christians we are called to worship in three different but complementary ways. First, we are called to say the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer) both individually and in community. Second, we are called to our own personal devotions. Third, we are called to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday. Mother Susan, Jon, and I are beginning the process of assessing our experience of Sunday Eucharist. This is, of course, our principal act of worship, making it necessary to periodically re-examine our experience to see what works and what may require some rethinking.

Why are we doing this now? St. Paul’s has seen a lot of change in the past two years, including changes in leadership and membership. While our mission, history, and unique identity ground us in crucial ways, the changes we have lived through call us to this assessment of our shared experience of Sunday Eucharist. At this point, Mother Susan, Jon, and I are simply asking questions and initiating conversations to see how we stand together as individuals in community.

What does this mean, specifically? You will find a survey for each adult in your household following this letter. Please take a few minutes to thoughtfully complete the survey. Feel free to come to me, Jon, or Mother Susan with any questions you may have. Then on Wednesday, January 6, we will be celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany. We will be celebrating the Eucharist together at 6:00 PM, followed by a potluck supper at 6:30, and a Town Hall Meeting at 7:00. We are asking you to come to the Town Hall Meeting with your surveys completed; there will be a collection box for you to drop your surveys in as you enter. If you cannot attend the meeting, you may return your survey to a collection box at the back of church or mail it to the church office. However, while we are interested in the data that the surveys provide, we are more interested in the conversations we hope will spring from them; thus, we encourage you to come to this Town Hall Meeting if at all possible. We will spend some time discussing this assessment process and any thoughts that the survey may have generated at this meeting, and look forward to hearing what each of you has to say.

Thank you for your participation in this process! I look forward to taking a deeper look at the experiences of this parish and engaging in meaningful conversations with each of you!

Peace in Christ,

Jen Fulton

 

February 2010

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"Action and contemplation now grow together into one life and one unity. They become two aspects of the same thing. Action is charity looking outward to other [people], and contemplation is charity drawn inward to its own divine source. Action is the stream, and contemplation is the spring. The spring remains more important than the stream, for the only thing that really matters is for love to spring up inexhaustibly from the infinite abyss of Christ and of God...the [person] of simple intention works in an atmosphere of prayer: that is to say [s]he is recollected. His [her] spiritual reserves are not all poured out into his [her] work, but stored where they belong, in the depths of his [her] being in God. [S]he is detached from his [her] work and from its results. Only a [person] who works purely for God can at the same time do a very good job and leave the results of the job to God alone."

(No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton)

For years, these words of Thomas Merton's have shaped much of what I believe about ministry. We are effective Christians only to the extent that we actively live a unity of action and contemplation. If we are going to reach out to others, our lives must first be grounded in the source of all Life—that is, God Himself. If we do not first ground ourselves, then our actions will be selfishly motivated and may in fact cause harm, instead of the good we intend.

The image of the spring as the source of all life and recollection in God with the stream being our action which flows from that is a good one. If the stream is cut off from the spring, however, it dries up and no longer gives life. What can you do to make sure that you remain connected to the Source?

February 17 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent...that penitential time of year wherein we reflect on our mortality...our imperfections...and ultimately our need for the source of Life...the spring which is God. During the Season of Lent, the Adult Education Forum will be meeting in small groups in individual parishioner homes. We will be studying Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. A sign-up sheet is available in the back of the church if you would like to sign up for a small group. We will begin meeting on Wednesday, February 24; meeting times will be from about 7:00 to 8:30 although individual groups may adjust the times as they wish. The books are available for order from Amazon.com. Additionally a link will be available on our website should you prefer to read the book on line. We look forward to seeing you there.

Meanwhile, also make your plans to attend one of two Ash Wednesday services, a wonderful, liturgical way to begin the season. The services are scheduled for February 17 at 7 AM and 7 PM.

God's Peace to All-

Mother Susan+

 

March 2010

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O Be Joyful, Jerusalem!

If you are looking for an excuse to have a slight reprieve from your Lenten discipline, then this letter is for you. Sunday, March 14 is Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent—the halfway point to Easter. The Latin, laetare, is from the introit of the Mass on that Sunday which begins “O be joyful, Jerusalem!” This particular Sunday is known also as Mid-Lent Sunday, Refreshment Sunday, Simnel Sunday or Mothering Sunday. On this day, priests are given the option of wearing rose colored vestments, and the whole congregation is reminded and encouraged that we are making progress toward the end of this penitential season.

“Mothering Sunday,” or “Simnel Sunday” is a Christian festival celebrated throughout Europe. During the 16th century, on this Sunday, people returned to their mother church for a service. This was either a local church, or the nearest cathedral. Those who went “a-mothering” were inclined to gather with their entire families. A popular food to be served was Simnel Cake, a rich cake made of fruit and almond paste. Such cake was eaten to remind Christians that on this particular Sunday, families could gather and there could be a gentle lightening of the Lenten fast or discipline.

So, this year, on Sunday, March 14, we are going to celebrate Laetare Sunday with simnel cake. On Saturday, March 13, we will gather for what I am calling a Lenten Semi-Quiet Day. We will gather around 9:00 for Morning Prayer, Lectio Divina and meditation. Then we will move to the kitchen where we will bake enough simnel cake to serve in coffee hour the next day. At noon, we will have lunch together before cleaning up the kitchen to go home. Please bring your spring-form pan and something to share for lunch.

Please consider joining us on this day to strengthen your own Lenten discipline and to prepare for Laetare Sunday.

Yours affectionately in Christ, Mother Susan+

 

April 2010

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On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them… “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”(Luke 24:1-5)

On my trip to Israel last year, our tour guide treated us to a special side trip. On a road, off the main road, archeologists had recently discovered an ancient tomb dating back 2000 years, clear to the time of Christ! The tomb was intact, complete with the stone used to seal it. We were allowed to peer inside, to share in the experience of the women who looked in to find the tomb empty. We were given the opportunity to try to roll the stone – an impossible task, even for more than one person. Thus we were able to understand the anxiety of the women who wondered how they were going to move the stone. This tomb stands on the side of the road, as in the picture above. Can you imagine the relief of the women approaching the tomb when they saw the stone rolled aside; and then, can you imagine the mixture of fear, panic, unbelief, joy as they realized the import of its emptiness?

Sometimes, I think, in our own lives, we wonder how we are going to overcome obstacles. We have things we want to accomplish, progress we want to make in our own discipleship journey. And yet there are things in the way. As much as we try, of our own will, we cannot remove these obsta- cles. Imagine the relief we might feel to wake up one day and find the stone rolled away, our obsta- cles completely removed. Just how did that stone get rolled aside 2000 years ago? Who did it? Can it be possible that the stone which seals off our own private souls could be rolled away? Is it possi- ble that we could be released into the same life and joy that our Lord experienced in the rolling away of his own tomb’s stone?

The Easter message is that the stone has been rolled away. We are set free from our prisons. The women at the tomb found it empty. What about us? Are we going to choose to stay in the open tomb, or are we going to step into the new life that Christ has prepared for us, leaving behind the tomb with its open door?

We at St. Paul’s are Easter people. We invite you to join with us as we convey the joy of the Easter good news and its implications for Mishawaka and the world. The stone to the tomb is rolled aside. We stand at the grave and there, even there, we make our song: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

With Every Easter Blessing,

Mother Susan+

May 2010

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It seems like just a few days ago that we were kneedeep in snow, and now summer looms invitingly on the horizon. For many, summer represents a change of pace...a time to slow down...a time to rest and recharge. Summer is and should be a Sabbath time. For the most part, America observes a five-day work week; we are used to having a couple of days off on the weekend. In ancient civilization, however, leisure was something enjoyed only by the wealthy class. The serving or laboring classes labored constantly and were not entitled to a day off. The idea of rest or sabbath was foreign to them. Early in their history, however, the Israelites were commanded to observe Sabbath. In Exodus 20, God institutes the commandment as a way of commemorating two things: 1) God's own work of Creation which ended with a day of rest, and 2) the Israelite's freedom from slavery through the Exodus from Egypt. In other words, the Hebrew people were to recognize that their work was no more important than God's work of Creation and therefore necessitated a day of rest, and also that the Israelites were a free people and should recognize that by enjoying a day of freedom from labor. In order to properly remember these two things, the Israelites were called first to observe a cessation of work and second to increase their attention to God in prayer. What does this mean for St. Paul's? We too are exhorted to observe Sabbath. We have had a fruitful year of labor in the community and in study. As the weeks of school draw to a close, we are winding down our Homework Thursday! Program where we were faithful in providing tutoring, food and mentoring to young Mishawaka high school students. We began new ventures in Adult Education. We studied and increased our practices of prayer and other Christian disciplines. And week after week, we offered superb hospitality to those who joined us for worship. We have done faithful work, but our work is no more important that what God did in Creation, and He rested! Furthermore, we are a free people. We are not slaves who are required to work constantly; an observance of a period of rest is certainly something in which we can indulge. Therefore, as we enter into summer, let us observe a time of Sabbath in the following way. As I mentioned, the Homework Thursday! Program will break for the summer, holding its last day (a graduation celebration for our seniors) on Thursday, May 27. We will be taking a break in three other areas of church life as well. First, Children's Sunday School will not meet during the summer. This year's children's Sunday school program will have its last day on Pentecost Sunday, May 23. Until it resumes in the Fall, children will continue to be present in church for the Children's Homily, and parents are reminded that there are activity bags in the back of the church. The second area in which we will take a modified break is Coffee Hour. We have had many faithful hosts and hostesses who each have taken one Sunday a month to host coffee hour, and it is time for them to have some rest. We will continue to have coffee hour during the summer, but it will be slightly scaled back, affording our hosts some time off to rest and recharge. We will resume our more elaborate coffee hours in the fall. And finally, the third area, is the choir who usually takes a break for the summer. They have certainly earned it and we express our gratitude to them, to Stephen Drendall their director, and to Ginny Timler, the organist. One final reminder: our Sabbath time during the summer is not just a slowing down or cessation of work. We are also exhorted to increase our attention to prayer. I invite you to read elsewhere in The Epistle regarding opportunities for doing this on Wednesdays and Thursdays. You have labored well as a congregation! Blessings on your Sabbath rest. Mother Susan+

June 2010

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//We often think of the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our lives as being something gentle and warm (like the descent of the dove), but in this reading, the Holy Spirit comes violently…a wind that rushes through and fills the entire house. The presence of such a wind has to be transforming. It does not come and leave things the same way as it found them.

Thanks be to God for that! Thanks be to God that the gift of the Holy Spirit to us is transforming. It changes our lives and works things in us that are far greater than we can possibly imagine. As such, we should live our lives with the expectation that miraculous things will happen. God is moving in a powerful way and is not to be ignored.

Recently we requested from you that you fill out a form entitled Combining Our Gifts to Make St. Paul’s the Best It Can Be. Your response was overwhelming! Like the rush of a violent wind, it has filled our entire house and we are ready to be transformed. It is clear that you are embracing the mission of St. Paul’s and carrying it forward.

During our Summer Sabbath, some of us will be gently working to form the groups in which you have indicated your desire to express your gifts. Those who will head up those groups may contact you over the summer to let you know of their involvement and to keep you posted on developments. Then in the fall, we will host a St. Paul’s Town Hall Meeting and we will get started on that work.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we accomplish God’s work. We are enabled by this mighty force, I suspect, to do far more than we think we can. Let us live in joyful expectation of how that work will transform us!

Every blessing—

Mother Susan+

July/August 2010

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To have you as the goal of my longing, God, must be a life-long process. I envision that I will have to have layers and layers of other longings stripped away first. My soul desires much right now that is not of you, and you are covered up—buried and invisible to my self. I present myself to you, O God. Help me to strip away what is false.

This prayer came to my attention the other day and it captured for me our struggle: the de- sire to belong to God, inherent in all of us, but hindered by the worldly desires that seize us.

The Christian journey is of course a process...a gradual walking into God. We are formed in God through years and years of continuing in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. Our belonging to a Christian community enables us to live into this four-fold Baptismal promise: teaching, fellowship, Eucharist and prayers. In the end, we are stripped of all that keeps us from fully realizing God...until the very end of our life here on earth when we will stand completely bare before God and be able to embrace Him fully.

In the Sabbath rest of Summer, be assured that the staff and lay leaders at St. Paul's are dreaming and visioning for the next year. We are working on ways to help you continue your process—your Christian journey to God. Specifically we are working on where to go next with our Adult Education, that which enables you to continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellow- ship.

As you know, our Sunday Bible Study continues at 9 am between the service. For the sum- mer, we are studying the Epistle for each Sunday which for the time being is from Colossians. In the fall we will engage in a study of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. On September 8, we will kick off the year with another St. Paul's Town Hall Meeting, a chance to gather for Evening Prayer, a pot-luck meal and the resumption and revitalization of many ministries at St. Paul's (and of course everyone is involved in a ministry!). Then, beginning September 15, we will begin our evening Adult Forum.

This fall, the evening forum will have two tracks. One track will be a marriage course, a way of looking at Christian marriage, what obstacles Christians face in marriage, and what can be done to strengthen marriages. Any married person may attend. Both parties in a couple do not have to be present, but all couples will take a standardized inventory called Prepare/Enrich which will feed them back information that will be useful in formulating some goals for their marriage. Stay tuned for more information.

The other track offered at this time will be a book study which has yet to be determined. Both tracks will run concurrently. The evening will begin as usual with Evening Prayer, followed by a pot-luck meal, then followed by the study. Both tracks of the Adult Forum will run until about the middle of November. Please begin to pray about your own involvement.

And speaking of prayers, continue your prayers during the Sabbath time. Continue your in- volvement in the Eucharist. Continue your fellowship through worship, coffee hour and interac- tions with other Christians. Gradually, we will realize together the goal of our longing – God Himself!

Blessings and peace--

Mother Susan+

September 2010

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In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. (Joel 2:28 and repeated in Acts 2:17)

This summer, as you may recall, we tried to give our coffee hour hosts and hostesses a break from having to host elaborate coffee hours. We decided that for the summer, we would of- fer only one or two things instead of the spread to which we were accustomed. This worked for a while, but as the summer progressed, did you notice what happened? Gradually, more and more things were added to the table until our coffee hours at the end of the summer looked similar to the way they were before we made the decision to simplify! To what can we attribute this? Some might suggest that we are creatures of habit, and we are doing simply that which is easiest and that which we know. But I believe what one parishioner said when he commented, “I think it's just in St. Paul's DNA to be hospitable!”

In the last few years, I 've heard more and more discussion about what makes up a “church's DNA,” and I am fascinated by it. As I have become acquainted with the parishes in Northern Indiana, I have come to understand that each has its own personality and gifts. I have been de- lighted with St. Paul's ability to be a church of both prayer and works...and yes...hospitality! So many folks who visit comment on our ability to welcome them.

What do YOU think makes up the DNA of St. Paul's? What do you think are our special gifts? And even more importantly, how should we be exercising those gifts for the good of God's Kingdom? On August 26 a group of parishioners began some very important work—the work of formulating a vision for St. Paul's for the next 5 to 10 years. We want you to be a part of that process. How can you do that? First of all, we are asking all parishioners to pray. Through prayer, God will impart His own vision to us. Secondly, we are asking all parishioners to dream. Do not let anything hold back your dreams and wishes. And thirdly, we are asking all parishioners to talk to one another. Through our conversations, we will begin to understand what God has in store for us.

Do you want to know more? Then plan to attend the St. Paul's Town Hall meeting on Wednesday September 8 at 7 p.m. (following Evening Prayer at 6 pm and a potluck dinner). At that time, we will tell you more about the visioning process and also kick off our ministries teams for the year.

Blessings to all of you as we dream and vision,

Mother Susan+

October 2010

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He had gone down to the river to meditate and reflect on the day. Having arrived early for choir practice a couple of weeks ago, Brad, one of our parishioners, was taking advantage of a pleasant evening to sit in the Memorial Garden for peace and quiet. He became aware of the presence of another person...a man...obviously distraught...heading for the river bank. The man paused, stepped down the bank, then turned to Brad and asked for help. Brad approached him and offered him a hand up. He guided him to sit down on the bench where he spent the next thirty minutes listening to this man's story. Skilled in listening, Brad was able to connect with this stranger as a human being and provided enough space for him to turn his life from the direction it was heading, toward a more positive place. For this stranger who had stumbled onto St. Paul's property, Brad was able to provide a safe haven.

SAFE HAVEN...these words have been spoken on more than one occasion in our past two meetings of the St. Paul's Visioning Committee. Many believe that St. Paul's, tucked between the busy traffic of the Lincoln Highway on our front and the scenic banks of the St. Joseph River to our back, has the potential to become a safe haven to pilgrims on the way. The image of safe haven has begun to surface into our consciousness, but for Brad and the man whom he befriended, the haven was a reality.

As we continue with our visioning, we are not sure where this image will take us; but we are prayerfully discerning God's direction. Just how is it that St. Paul's can be a safe haven within the community of Mishawaka?

We have one idea already. St. Paul's is pleased to announce that we have formed an exciting partnership with the Literacy Council of St. Joseph County. We learned that the Literacy Council has a waiting list of adults who want to learn how to read but who have no one to tutor them. Several St. Paul's parishioners have stepped up and volunteered to become trained as tutors. We are also hopeful that St. Paul's can lead the way in showing other area churches how they can make a difference in the literacy levels of our community. We can begin to live the words of the Psalm above by providing a safe haven of relationships through which individuals can learn to read. For someone who does not yet know how to read, what higher rock is there than to learn?

Very soon, we will be announcing training dates for those who want to tutor. It is not too late to join our group. If you are willing to spend a little time each week helping an adult learn to read, then you are ready to provide a safe haven. Please let us know by speaking either to Mother Susan or to Jude Keltner. You can also help by contributing to training costs. Two training sessions will cost the group $500. We are working now to raise that money. You may contribute by making a donation to St. Paul's Church and noting in the memo that your contribution is for the Literacy Project.

And by all means, pray for St. Paul's as it engages in its ministry of safe haven. There are many pilgrims on the way, and we remember our patron's council who advises us not to neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for we could be entertaining angels unawares. Brad showed this kind of hospitality a couple of weeks ago. Are we not all called to that?

Blessings and peace--

Mother Susan +

November 2010

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I don't remember exactly how it began, but when my daughters were growing up, we played a game where “silly” was a bad word. Whenever any of us would slip up and say it, someone would exclaim, for example, “Dad, Mom just used the “s” word!” We have had a lot of laughter over that through the years and especially over how surprised the girls were when they learned that there actually is an “s” word to be avoided; and it isn't the word silly. This is the time of year when we talk about another “S” word that some would just as soon avoid, and that is the word, Stewardship. You are perhaps expecting such a conversation. We are approaching the end of the year – that time when we start thinking about financial offerings and budgets. Here is the place where you are expecting to be exhorted to give and to give more. When my husband and I had been married five years, we made a bold decision to begin tithing. We understood about tithing being the Biblical standard for giving, but even more than that, we wanted to give back to God in gratitude. Good things were happening in our lives, and we were thankful! It took us a couple of years to get our contribution up to 10% and at first it was only 10% of our take home pay. Today, however, we give 10% right off the top of each of our gross salaries. Our financial tithe is divided between St. Paul's, St. Elizabeth's (where my husband serves) and St. Thomas' Church in Plymouth (the church that raised each of us up for ordination). We pay those tithes electronically each month, asking the bank to make those payments first. I can imagine your response: “You are priests! We expect our priests to tithe!” However, Tom and I made these decisions as lay persons, and we have simply carried those habits into our priesthoods. Many years ago, I could not have imagined that I could tithe. However, now that we are doing it, I will say we have not missed the money. We have adapted quite nicely to living on 90% of our income. Great things are still happening in our lives and we are thankful! Which brings me to the whole point of my talking about the “S” word. This is not about guilting you into tithing. Instead, it is an invitation to encourage you to consider those places in your lives where you are grateful and then to imagine what you might give back to God in order to express your gratitude. Ten per cent may seem like a lot, but consider this. Look at what you were able to give last year and then challenge yourself perhaps to give ten per cent more. For example, if you were able to give $500 or $1000 to St. Paul's, is it possible that this year you could increase that to $550 or $1100? Give it some thought, but whatever you do, let it be done out of love and gratitude. And while we are talking about giving, I encourage you to think outside of the box. Some simply cannot give financially, but have found ways to give to the church through the offering of their time and talents. I thank God for you, because through those offerings you are enabling St. Paul's to have a tremendous impact in our community. As we approach Stewardship Sunday (November 21), I encourage you to consider your other gifts of time and talent and how you will offer them as well. God showers abundance upon us. Many gifts we receive each day. In gratitude for those gifts, what will we give back to him?

Yours affectionately in Christ, Mother Susan+

If Christ is the revelation of the whole meaning of humanity, if the meaning of human life is solely and entirely to be found in the fact that I am a child of God, then everything in my life becomes relevant or irrelevant in proportion as it tends to my growth as a member of Christ, as a child of God, and to the extension of Christ in the world of humankind through his Church. —Thomas Merton, The Good News of the Nativity

Last night at our Vision Committee meeting we talked about the four marks of the effective early church, four marks which incidentally still indicate an effective church today. These marks are 1) constant prayer, 2) fellowship, 3) breaking of bread, and 4) the Apostles' teaching. Yes, you probably recognize these as being part of our Baptismal Covenant. A church which is healthy and vibrant will engage in these four activities. Every week at St. Paul's we offer activities that help us to live out our promise to do these things. We offer the Eucharist, the Daily Office, opportunities for fellowship and study. We welcome you to join our community and encourage you to engage in these activities for your own Christian Formation.

During the season of Advent, on Wednesday evenings, we are offering another opportunity for your continued formation, one that will support your life of prayer, study and fellowship. Beginning at 6 pm, we will offer Evening Prayer and Stations of the Nativity (see more about this elsewhere in The Epistle). Then, following a light supper, we will have a time of prayer and reflection on our Advent Study Book Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton. This book is based primarily on writings of the contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, and is a useful guide to deepen your prayer life during the season of Advent. The book is divided into four sections (for the four weeks of Advent) and focuses on the themes of Hope, Salvation, Compassion and Tenderness. We will reflect on these together as a community. The book also contains meditations for Christmas as well which you may use on your own at home.

In the first section of this book, Merton is quoted as saying, “We live in a time of no room, which is the time of the end. The time when everyone is obsessed with lack of time, lack of space, with saving time, conquering space, projecting into time and space the anguish produced within them by the technological furies of size, volume, quantity, speed, number, price, power and acceleration.” If this sounds like your life (and I have to admit that sometimes it does sound like mine), then consider setting aside Wednesday evenings in Advent as sacred space and time, where we can enter once again into the mystery of the Word Made Flesh and prepare for His Advent.

Advent Blessings,

Mother Susan+

January 2011

The mystery of Christmas therefore lays upon us all a debt and obligation to the rest of humanity and to the whole created universe. We who have seen the light of Christ are obliged, by the greatness of the grace that has been given us, to make known the presence of the Savior to the ends of the earth. This we will do not only by preaching the glad tidings of his coming, but above all by revealing him in our lives. Christ is born to us today, in order that he may appear to the whole world through us. This one day is the day of his birth, but every day of our mortal lives must be his manifestation, his divine epiphany, in the world which he has created and redeemed. (Thomas Merton Christmas Sermon)

What a wonderful idea—Christ is born in us today! The carols proclaim it. Our theology preaches it. We are manifestations of Christ's salvific presence in the world! Within our reach lies the opportunity to cooperate with God's salvation work for the whole world.

Later in his sermon, Merton goes on to describe Christ's saving work as being “to reclaim souls who have lost their identity.” Imagine what great news this is for those among us who are lost, who no longer know who they are or what they are about! Is it possible through our own lives—through Christ being born in us—that we would be able to point such folks as these in the right direction, back to God Himself?!

The Incarnation then becomes the way in which we claim who we really are, that person God created us to be. No longer are we to hide behind the masks of our culture, of the identities the culture lays on us, of the identities we think we ought to be. Instead, we are liberated to embrace who we are and to become that in which God delights, that which He created and proclaimed as good. And we can show others how to do this as well!

As we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, the Nativity of our Lord, and move toward the Feast of the Epiphany, may we realize the Revelation of Christ in our own hearts: that which claims, liberates and releases us to assist God in drawing all people to Himself.

Puer natus est pro nobis...

Christmas Blessings!

Mother Susan+

February 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, In a sermon the other day, I mentioned that recent research has shown that “congregations with a strong commitment to social justice and with direct participation in community outreach ministries are more likely to be growing than other congregations.” I also strongly suggested that in order to commit to social justice and direct participation in community outreach, one needs to be totally immersed in and in possession of the good news of Jesus Christ. It's a balancing act: good news/good deeds! When the two are in balance, a person is living an effective Christian life. How is your life going? Are you in balance or could your life use some spiritual adjustment? I can recommend two things. First, return to prayer. Find some time each day to spend with God, reading, meditating and praying with Scripture. Through the reading of the Daily Office and the Lectionary which accompanies it, Anglicans have a rich resource that will ground them in prayer and Scripture. Second, is there a way which you can participate directly in some form of community outreach? Let me recommend one. On February 20, hundreds and hundreds of people will gather, regardless of the weather, in downtown South Bend for the 2011 St. Margaret's House Winter Walk. Here's how it works: you sign up to walk and get people to sponsor you. You complete the walk, and your sponsors make a donation to St. Margaret's House in honor of your efforts. And at the end of your walk, you wind up at St. Margaret's House where you can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies! The St. Margaret's House Winter Walk was founded on the idea that we are in solidarity with the women of St. Margaret's House when we walk a mile in their shoes. That's how long the walk is, just one mile. But the women of St. Margaret's House often walk longer than that, in very wintry weather, just to get to St. Margaret's House—a day shelter for women and children...a place where women can become empowered to take charge of their lives and become successful. It seems like such a small thing to do...just walk a mile. I hope you will join me, as I intend to do it. If you cannot walk with me, please consider sponsoring me or another walker from St. Paul's financially. Registration forms with more information are in the Parishioner's Corner in the back of the church. I look forward to having you all join me in being part of Team St. Paul's in the St. Margaret's House Winter Walk 2011! Blessings in Christ-- Mother Susan+

March 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In his book, Fill All Things: the Dynamics of Spirituality in the Parish Church, Robert Gallagher lifts up the Benedictine Promise as a framework by which parishes can understand their life and work together. The three elements of the Benedictine Promise include stability, obedience, and conversion of life. When parishes pay attention to these three elements, their lives together are integrated and transformative.

But what do we mean by stability, obedience, and conversion of life? A parish culture that is marked by stability finds God in the here and now...in the relationships and the patterns of our life together, especially seen in Liturgy, prayer and worship together. A parish culture that is marked by obedience finds God in listening deeply to the world; to Scriptures; to the church, now and through the ages; to each other; to the creation; and to the deepest longings and prayer of our heart. In such a parish, we are open to listening to and responding to one another, our bishop and the larger church. “Listening to” does not necessarily mean agreeing with, but it certainly means making space for each other to be heard. A parish culture that is marked by conversion of life is one that finds God on our journey together and in the new places we will go as a parish. Out of our life of stability and obedience, we are able to see and act on new challenges and opportunities for mission and building up the Body of Christ (Fill All Things, p. 93)

As parishioners at St. Paul's, I invite you to look for stability, obedience and conversion of life in our walk together. Throughout the liturgical year, we celebrate the life and teaching of our Lord through rhythmic re-occurrences in the calendar and in the lectionary. We hear the stories of Jesus again and again; and we worship the Trinity through Prayer Book liturgies that are familiar and dear. We celebrate the presence of God in relationships with one another even as we struggle with the occasional challenges that come from being in community together. All of this is our effort at stability. We engage in obedience when we come to Adult Education offerings and endeavor to listen to one another through reading and conversations about issues of God, Church and our communal life. We make an effort to hear and understand even if we are sure we do not agree. Out of these efforts, we are occasionally confronted with conversion of life when we meet God in new and unexpected places. In such a place, we are open to transformation.

As we engage in life together here at St. Paul's, let us ask ourselves and one another these questions: How is God present in our life together? How do we see Him moving in our relationships and circumstances? What listening are we doing? What is it that we are wanting to avoid hearing? In what ways are we responding to others and how are they responding to us? Out of these answers, then, can we discern a call to a new way of life? Can we see God's presence in new possibilities?

We are called as the community of St. Paul's not by accident or happenstance. We are together, all of us, to manifest God to our community, from those who have been here their whole lives to those who are passing through just for a few years. God has knit us together for a purpose. Are we listening? Are we paying attention?

Daily I give thanks for your presence in our parish and pray God's blessings upon your walk.

Yours in Christ--

Mother Susan+

April 2011

Lately I have found myself reflecting on the vision that God intends for St. Paul’s Church. We are a healthy congregation doing good work in our church and in our community. I assume that the spirit has been poured out upon us and that we historically have dreamt dreams and seen visions about God’s intentions for us.

Next year, St. Paul’s will celebrate 175 years in Mishawaka. That makes us one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Episcopal parish in this Diocese. This would be a good time for us to open ourselves anew to God’s spirit to discern if He has a new, fresh vision for us. As we do that, I would like us to consider four things that happened to us this past year. These are not the only things that happened, of course, and some of us may not even be aware that they did happen, but I want us to consider them and see if God is calling us to something new.

First, as some may remember, St. Paul’s was present last year on the Eve of the Easter Vigil when we played a big part in rescuing a teen-aged girl from the icy waters of the river behind us. We became a life-giving and in fact life-saving place for this girl. Later in the summer, one of our parishioners intervened, again on the banks of the river, with a man who was contemplating suicide – providing a safe place to talk and a direction for him to pursue continuing his life rather than ending it. Last December, during one of our evenings that we featured The Stations of the Nativity, a young girl and her uncle showed up, destitute, hungry, completely out of money and needing to get to family in Grand Rapids. Again, a parishioner intervened, took them under his wing, bought them supper and filled up their truck’s empty gas tank with gas. And just last Sunday, another parishioner assisted a man whose car ran out of gas right in front of our church doors as services were starting. She took him to the Speedway station down the street, where she purchased a gas can. As she was filling the can, it occurred to her that the station where she was pumping the gas, was on the hill that once was home to the original St. Paul’s Church.

St. Paul’s Church…a haven. Some might even refer to it as Riverhaven…that place at the crossroads of the St. Joseph River and Lincolnway East…a place where people can come to seek refuge, help and direction for their lives. What is God asking us to do? I don’t necessarily have the answers, but I do sense that God is trying to get our attention. I invite you to spend some time in prayer and reflection on these and other things that happen in the life of St. Paul’s and then see if God gives you a vision. And then let’s begin…you and me and all of us…to have a conversation.

Yours in Christ--

Mother Susan+

May 2011

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

A new field of research that is attracting quite a bit of attention in the United States and Canada is the field of neurotheology—the study of the way spiritual experience affects the brain. Researchers have begun to notice that there are differences in brain functioning in the brains of those who devote large amounts of time to prayer and meditation. These reserachers, through the use of imaging called brain SPECT scans, have documented differences in the flow of blood to various parts of the brains of those who are praying or who report that they are connecting with the divine versus those who are not. What they notice in these individuals is that those who have a well-established prayer or meditation regimen show increases in abilities to attend, to concentrate and to show compassion. Further, they have increased antibodies in their system...that is, their immune system is stronger. It's as if prayer is a guardian against infection!

Neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has specialized in studying neuroplasticity, that is the ability to change how the brain functions. He spent years studying the brains of Buddhist monks who had logged decades of time in prayer and meditation and found them to be have increased blood flow amounts to the area of the temporal lobes of the brain, that part of the brain responsible for attention, concentration and certain emotions. He wondered how much time it would take for a relative “amateur” to achieve this remarkable neuroplasticity. After initiating some experiments, he discovered that even after only two months of a discipline of prayer and meditation, novices were able to change how their brains function for the better.

This should come as no surprise to Christians. We are exhorted to “pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians). While the writing in Thessalonians is that of Paul, it is inspired by God who designed us and knows what it takes to keep us running in our best condition. Prayer is a necessity if we are to work at our best. God calls us into relationship with him and exhorts us to continued conversation with Him so that we will excel and keep our whole bodies running in excellent health..

At St. Paul's we have many opportunities to pray through our Sunday worship and through the Daily Office. Additionally, however, beginning Wednesday, May 11, following Evening Prayer, we will observe a twenty-minute period of silence in the church for those who wish to practice additional meditative, personal prayer. You will not be obligated to stay...you can come for Evening Prayer and leave at the conclusion of Evening Prayer, but the silence will be maintained following that for those who wish to have a “container” in which to practice another kind of prayer. You may choose to do any kind of prayer during that time, intercessory, petitionary, centering, meditative, praying with Scripture, praying with prayer beads...whatever suits you so long as silence is maintained. At the end of 20 minutes, the bell will be rung and we will leave in silence.

Pray without ceasing...we hope you will join us for our own experiment in neurotheology. As we continue to connect with God at St. Paul's we will be continuing to live as he calls us.

Blessings in Christ –

Mother Susan+

“And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?...in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power.” (Acts 2:8-11)

During the first part of the Easter season, many of our Gospel lessons described the different ways in which Jesus appeared after His Resurrection to His disciples. In each of these accounts, the identity of Jesus was hidden until a certain thing happened which opened the eyes and understanding of those who beheld Him. Mary did not recognize Jesus in the garden until He spoke her name. Ten of the disciples did not recognize Him until He showed them the marks of the nails in His hands. Thomas did not recognize Him until he was invited to touch those marks. In other appearances, the disciples did not recognize Jesus until He broke bread with them or invited them to cast empty nets on a different side of the boat, nets which then came up full to the point of breaking. In each of these accounts, Jesus seems to understand just what to do in order to open the eyes of the one from whom He was hidden. One begins to suspect that maybe Jesus is willing that ultimately all should recognize Him and be saved.

But God doesn't stop with revelation simply to the disciples. On the day of Pentecost, God continues his mission of revealing Himself to others in ways that can be understood. As the Holy Spirit is given to the Church, each person, regardless of origin, hears of the amazing deeds of God's power in his own language. God is revealed to all persons in ways that they can understand. No one is left behind. What Jesus began in His Resurrection is continued through the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

How does Jesus reveal Himself today? Does He look the same to everyone? Does He come to everyone in the same manner? Or does He seek to reveal Himself to us where we are? At a recent Church Development Institute weekend, Bishop Little taught a lesson on Evangelism and then had participants sit with partners or in groups of three and share personally how we had come to know Jesus. In the practicing of the telling of our stories, we came to know that to each of us, Jesus had been revealed differently. He had come to some of us suddenly in a dramatic point of conversion. To others, He had been revealed gradually over a lifetime. To each of us, He had come in just the way we needed.

Does the Holy Spirit speak just one language today? Or is the Holy Spirit still setting us all on fire, so that enabled by His flame and passion, we can be open to being the “language” through which God might communicate Himself to someone else?

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Blessings in Christ–

Mother Susan+

September 2011

Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.
It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.
It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spec- trum of options for choice and commitment.
It is not an educated intimidation of good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fear- ful hearts so that the words can find roots and bear ample fruit.
It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity for others to find their God and their way.
The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness – not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs,
speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.
–Henri Nouwen

 

Hospitality is not just about offering donuts, coffee, crackers and cheese during the church coffee hour. Instead, it is about offering “space where change can take place.” The hospitable church un-
derstands that men and women long for a place where they can be transformed into whomever God calls them to be. The hospitable church is willing to be that place...the empty container where people can “sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances.” The hospitable church rec- ognizes the diversity of gifts with which God endows His children and weaves the expression of those gifts into its community fabric. The hospitable church knows that freedom is giving brothers and sisters permission and encouragement to offer their gifts.

Next year St. Paul's is preparing to celebrate 175 years of ministry in Mishawaka. As we consider our history since our birth in 1837, we are amazed at the stunning way in which God has sent people to St. Paul's with exactly the gifts that the church needs for its vitality, growth and ability to continue its minis- try. St. Paul's has partnered well with those who have come here to worship; St. Paul's has been the hos- pitable place where people have been able to realize their God-given vocations and to express them. Be- cause God has intentionally drawn us together in community for His purposes, there is no need to com- pete with one another. “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body –Jews or Greeks slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:13) Every person who comes to St. Paul's with every gift that he or she brings is needed for building the Kingdom of God.

God has blessed us with 175 years of ministry, and how shall we respond to such a gift? We are called not to rest on our laurels, but to strive even more to be the body of Christ present in this commu- nity. We have been empowered as children of God to make manifest the love of Christ for His entire world. As Jen Fulton reminded us in her most recent sermon, God uses whatever is “at hand,” however flawed or weak, and transforms it for His glory and His purposes in the world. Our job is to make our- selves available to Him and open to His transformation.

What are your gifts? Has St. Paul's been the place where you can offer them? If you feel you have a gift or a passion that has not yet been incor- porated into the St. Paul's community fabric, speak to Mother Susan or to the wardens. We want to be the place where you become free to be who you are! There is definitely a place in the Kingdom for you and for what you offer.

Blessings and love in Christ,

Mother Susan

OCTOBER 2011

The other day, while in the church looking for something during the week, I passed the flower sign-up chart and something caught my eye. I noticed that the Adamson Family had signed up for flowers three Sundays in a row. Curious, I stopped the read their notations. On November 6th they want flowers on the altar in thanksgiving for the memory all the saints of the past that have worshipped at st. Paul's. On November 13th, they want the flowers to be on the altar in prayer for the strengthening of those who are currently worshipping at St. Paul's. And on November 13th, they want flowers on the altar for all those in our neighborhood who will in the future come to faith at St. Paul's. I have pondered their generosity and this idea much during the last few weeks. What a wonderful way to commemorate and express gratitude for the stability of community life at St. Paul's – with the understanding that we are part of a l.ong-standing tradition that has last 175 years and is now ready to march into its next 175 years.

During October, we will be reflecting on the abundance of our life in God as we experience it through the community of St. Paul's. During this time, we will be asked to remember with gratitude God's abundant hand of favor toward us and to express that gratitude in a pledge of commitment as part of our stewardship efforts. Then on November 13, we will have a time in worship when we can walk to the front of the church to place our written commitment in the basket on the Stewardship Ingathering Sunday. How humbling to know that as we stand with our commitments at the foot of the altar, we are standing where hundreds, perhaps thousands, have stood before us and where hopefully hundreds, perhaps thousands will come after us.

The Bishop challenged us during his visitation, as we celebrate175 years of ministry next year, to ask ourselves this question: In another 175 years, when St. Paul's is celebrating 350 years of ministry, what will people say about the way we have impacted the community? What kind of difference will St. Paul's have made?

As you consider your commitment to St. Paul's for its 175th Anniversary year, I challenge you to consider the abundance with which God has graced us and to celebrate that abundance with your own offering....for the saints who have been here, for the saints who are here now, and for the saints who come...

Yours in Christ,

Mother Susan

November 2011

"There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want." (Proverbs 11:24)

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." (Luke

6:38)

As a child, what did you learn about money? Chances are, those lessons, learned early in life, shape how you handle money today. My husband shares that his father had a very simple plan for handling the
family finances: He gave ten percent of his earnings to the church and placed ten percent of his earnings in savings. Then he simply purchased what the family needed out of the remainder of his priestly salary. My husband recalls that, while they did not live a particularly luxurious stan- dard, they lacked for nothing. My husband has replicated that financial plan within our own household and I can testify that while we also do not live luxuriously, neither do we lack for anything. In fact, compared to others in the world, we live abundantly!
The Scriptures above testify to this spirit of giving: if we do not withhold our gifts for the purposes of the Lord, then we will find that we can live lives of abundance. However, if we withhold our gifts out of a spirit of fear that we will not have enough, chances are we won't.
At a recent clergy retreat, I overheard Bishop Little quoting some research that the average Episcopalian pledges two and a half percent of his/her annual income to the church. If that aver- age could go up to even five percent, the research suggests, then the church would have more than enough income to support itself and to be able to give money away abundantly. I don't know right now how St. Paul's pledgers compare to the national average, but I do know that you have always been generous and we have always had enough. Our parish is not in debt, we are able to pay our bills, and we have a heart for outreach and caring for our neighbors.
As Stewardship Sunday approaches on November 13, please consider your pledge prayer- fully. You will have the opportunity to place your intention of giving statement in an offering basket during the course of worship. Whether you chose to give a percentage of your income, or just a set offering, I pray that your gift will be from your heart with gratitude for what God has done for you. Children, also, will have the opportunity to declare an intention of giving through non-perishable food items. In this way, we are beginning to teach our children impor- tant lessons about resources and stewardship.
Then, when worship is over and our intentions of giving for the year 2012 have been de- clared, we will gather to celebrate what God has done for us by having a potluck meal in the undercroft. I suspect that then, we will understand how abundance has been poured into our lap, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
Lovingly in Christ,

Mother Susan

2008-9 Archive:

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January 2009

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So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

The summer before my 4th or 5th grade year, Apollo 11 was the first manned mission that landed on the moon. The rocket ship that was part of that expedition, upon its return to Earth, actually went on tour in the United States. For one evening only, it was going to be on display on the grounds of the State Capitol in Columbia, SC where I lived. My family went down to see it. We were able to get close enough to touch it. I remember rubbing my hand across a kind of cork ring that went all the way around the bottom. A tiny sliver of cork fell off into my hand. I carefully wrapped it in a piece of chewing gum foil that I had in my pocket and took it home to place in my jewelry box. There was something about being able to touch that rocket and have a piece of it in my possession that made me feel as if I had been to the moon myself.

By the time you read this article, I will either be in the Holy Land or will have just returned from my visit there. Many have told me that I will be a changed person by virture of walking the land where Jesus walked. I suspect I will be changed. Even now as I prepare to go, I cannot possibly imagine what it will be like to have the opportunity to wade into the Jordan River, to swim in the Dead Sea, to have the Eucharist on the shores of Lake Galilee, to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the Mount of the Olives…to stand at the Place of the Skull…to walk the streets of Bethlehem. Something about being able to stand physically in the place where my Lord stood physically is at once incomprehensible and overwhelming. Will I feel more connected to Him? I suspect I will.

At the same time, my mind and heart know that Jesus is so much more than the physical place where He lived. Through the gift of his Holy Spirit, he gave us a way to grasp Him even in the absence of his physical body. Jesus dwells in more places than the physical land of Israel. Over the past five months, as I have gotten to know you, I have come to love you very much. I have also come to recognize you as the dwelling place of Jesus. I will be excited about my trip to the Holy Land and will probably speak of it ad nauseum upon my return. But rest assured, I will be equally excited to return to you, to recognize the Christ in you and to join with you as we do the work of our Lord.

February 1 is the date of our Annual Parish Meeting. At this time, we will begin the dreaming process of how we can better be the presence of Christ in our community. Many of us have some great and exciting ideas. I look forward to seeing those come to fruition as we work together to become even more deeply the dwelling place of Jesus.

Yours in Christ,

Mother Susan+

February 2009

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March 2009

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REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST, AND TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN

My daughter, Rebecca, woke up on Shrove Tuesday and asked at breakfast, “Am I going to be able to get my forehead ‘ashed’ this Lent?” Startled, I looked at her and suddenly remembered that for the last few Ash Wednesdays, I had been commuting to the Cathedral in South Bend from Culver and had been unable to take the girls out of school to bring them to Ash Wednesday services. For the last couple of years, my husband’s schedule had been such that he too had not been able to get the girls to Ash Wednesday services. Touched, I asked Rebecca if it was important to her to receive the sign of the cross on her forehead. She replied that it was and that she would even give up TV and computer time on Wednesday evening to come to the service. And so she did, and on our return home, she thanked me for having brought her to the service.

Children can teach us so much about spiritual life. The fact that a ten year-old understands that being reminded of her mortality is an important spiritual discipline (even if she wouldn’t use those words) is remarkable. Her insistence on receiving the Imposition of the Ashes was a reminder not to take the ritual lightly myself. What is it about receiving a smudgy black cross-shaped mark on our forehead year after year that is so important? We are reminded of our mortality…of our dependence on God. Sometimes humans don’t want to be reminded of that, do they? Who really wants to understand that we are made of the dust of the earth and that in the end, it is to that dust that we shall return – and that our existence depends on the grace and love of God?

Paradoxically, our head can understand that the sign of the cross is a mark of freedom. We understand that the very transient nature of our presence in this physical realm sets us up for the ultimate freedom of eternal presence in the arms of God. Sometimes it’s hard, however, for our heart to get to that understanding. As a consequence, engaging in this simple, ritual act of humility seems mundane and out of place in a culture that embraces and encourages being in control.

I invite you during this holy season of Lent to look for those places in your life where your desire to be in control impedes your life in God. Is there some place within the recesses of your spiritual heart that you can begin to let go and let God gain control? Perhaps there are a few minutes each day that you can surrender yourself to Him in prayer. As you brandish the mark of the cross on your forehead, can you also carry it in your heart…a sign of the knowledge that we are mortal…that we need God…that we are humble enough to let Him be in charge?

Did you get your forehead “ashed” this Lent? Was it the beginning of your journey to freedom? I pray for you a good and Holy Lent.

April 2009

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May 2009

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June 2009

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She loved butterflies. That was one of the things we learned about little Shayla Aston whose Memorial Service St. Paul's recently hosted. As you know, Shayla (age 4) and her six year-old sister, Shianna, were struck by a car on May 8. Shayla was declared brain dead within hours and gave organs to save the lives of eight other children. Shianna remains critical and unresponsive. Because the family had no place to gather to celebrate Shayla's life, St. Paul's opened its doors, not only to Shayla's family, but to an entire community struggling to grapple with the grief of this tragedy.

A couple of seemingly inconsequential things happened on the day of Shayla's Memorial Service – things on which I now seem led to reflect and pray. The first thing that happened is that people dressed in butterflies. Not on purpose, either. Well, yes, there were some things we did do deliberately. We asked Jan Frieden to decorate the church with purple and yellow flowers and with butterflies – our attempt to honor Shayla's memory. But we didn't tell people how to dress. I was amazed at the number of people who came to me during the luncheon to tell me that they felt led to put on clothing that either had butterflies stamped on them, embroidered, or sequined. They didn't understand why at the time, but after Shayla's service, they suddenly understood. Even Shelly, Shayla's mother, recognized and commented on the powerful message of rebirth that butterflies represent. And in the face of tragedy, we need to be reminded of rebirth, don't we?

The second thing happened when I visited Shayla's sister at Hospice House in Elkhart. As I walked up the sidewalk to the front door, I noticed that I had to walk carefully in order to avoid stepping on caterpillars crawling all over the place. I smiled, knowing that very soon these caterpillars would be disappearing into cocoons and beginning their transformations into butterflies. It was a little early in the year to be seeing butterflies, I knew, but the changes were going to begin happening soon. As I stood outside the door, waiting for the staff to buzz me in, I looked up at the brick wall of the building and saw something quite startling. There was a caterpillar on the wall, standing very still. Next to the caterpillar was a cocoon, attached to the corner of a brick. And next to the cocoon was a tiny light yellow butterfly, with its wings spread out across the brick to catch the warmth of the sun. How odd, I thought, to be seeing all forms of this transformation at the same time. And yet there they were, caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly side by side,,,three manifestations of the same reality. Normally, we would see these things consequentially as they occurred, but here I was being permitted a glimpse of their reality simultaneously.

Suddenly I was reminded of those words we say in the funeral liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer: “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.” I give thanks to the people of St. Paul's for stepping up to respond to this tragedy. The Gospel was certainly proclaimed not only in word, but very powerfully in deed and witness. This is a tragedy, yes, but our response enables us, once again, even at the grave to make our song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Mother Susan

July/August 2009

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"Action and contemplation now grow together into one life and one unity. They become two aspects of the same thing. Action is charity looking outward to other men, and contemplation is charity drawn inward to its own divine source. Action is the stream, and contemplation is the spring. The spring remains more important than the stream, for the only thing that really matters is for love to spring up inexhaustibly from the infinite abyss of Christ and of God….the man of simple intention works in an atmosphere of prayer: that is to say he is recollected. His spiritual reserves are not all poured out into his work, but stored where they belong, in the depths of his being, with his God. He is detached from his work and from its results. Only a man who works purely for God can at the same time do a very good job and leave the results of the job to God alone" (Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island, pp 70-72) [Italics mine].

The other day, I stumbled across this quotation from Thomas Merton that I had inscribed in an old prayer journal of mine. The words have as much meaning today as they did when I wrote them five years ago. In my spiritual journey, I have learned many times, that God calls me to work; but he does not necessarily call me to experience the results of that work. He calls me to action but only to action that is grounded in my own firm presence in His heart.

Summer is a time of slowing down in the lives of most churches. It is a bit of Sabbath in the midst of busy Christian lives. The calendar is sparse, some groups do not meet and attendance at Sunday services can slow down. This is not a bad thing. We need to experience the rhythm of work and Sabbath in our corporate lives. Sabbath time is a time for rejuvenation, rest and a new realization of our dependence on God.

Rejuvenation comes through resting in God. We talk about resting in God all the time, but what does that really mean? Merton suggests that we truly rest in God when we are able to abandon any manifestation of an outcome of our works. We are resting in God when we are able to leave the results of our work in God’s hands…when we don’t necessarily have to see those results. If we are resting in God, then we can step back and let God bring about the outcome. If we are resting in God, then we will always have the spiritual reserves necessary to do any kind of work to which God might call us.

This is exciting news for us as we head to the fall and to the anticipated launching of our new outreach effort with Mishawaka High School students (see article elsewhere in this newsletter). We have discerned that God is calling us to this work, and so we must be faithful. We must also be prepared to make sure that we are taking the necessary steps to remain in the heart of God. To this end, at the same time, we have decided that our Adult Education Forum should focus on the discipline of prayer. If we are grounded in a solid life of prayer, I think we will find that resting in God will come more easily for us. Watch next month’s newsletter for a more detailed explanation of this upcoming Adult Education Forum.

Meanwhile, God’s blessings and peace during this Sabbath time,

Mother Susan+

September 2008

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Letter of Introduction to the Congregation of St. Paul's

To my brothers and sisters in Christ at St. Paul’s Church,

            With joy I greet you in the name of our Lord!  Words cannot describe the pride and excitement I feel when I tell others that I have been called to be the new Rector of St. Paul’s Church.  God has indeed called us both to be pastor and people, and I am confident that he has amazing things in store for us.             Eugene Peterson in The Contemplative Pastor says that a priest, as he or she begins a new pastorate, should be mindful of one very important thing:  The new rector needs to remember that God is already present in that church and has been at work there for a long time, long before he or she has ever been called.  The priest’s task, therefore, is not to rush in and change things, as if it is his or her job to unpack God out of a suitcase and introduce Him to a congregation for the first time.  Instead the new priest’s job is to immerse him or herself deeply into the life of the parish in order to discern where and how God is working and what He is trying to do in that parish – then to look for ways that he or she can cooperate with what God is seeking to accomplish.  So…discerning God’s presence and movement among you, and then joining in and cooperating with that movement…that is going to be my first endeavor.  To some extent, I have already discerned how God is moving among you, particularly in your love for and commitment to worship and outreach.  My heart cries, “Yes!” when I hear God’s invitation to join that!  I also have heard your longings for a more systematic approach to Christian Education and Formation as well as to congregational development – again, I say, “Yes!” to that call.             And I do want to know you better.  In order to do that, I will be calling on you in the next few weeks and months to meet with me, both individually and in groups.  When I call, I hope you will say, “Yes!”  Meanwhile, I hold you in my daily prayers, and hope you are doing the same for me.  My husband (Tom) and I, our two daughters, Sarah (13) and Rebecca (9), along with our dog (Poly) and cat (Jaboo) are making the move to South Bend, and moving one’s lives and possessions is often trying to say the least.  With joy and excitement, I anticipate seeing you in September.

Yours faithfully in Christ,

 

Mother Susan (Or, if you prefer – Pastor Susan)

Read more about Mother Susan...

October 2008

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Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

Questions have I! Two in fact! I’m not going to tell you ahead of time what they are. But, in order to ask them, I’m going to invite you to my home one evening for dessert and coffee. Then, while we’re “breaking bread” together, and continuing in fellowship, I’m going to ask my questions; then I’m going to sit back, munch on cheese cake (or something equally yummy) and listen to what you have to say. So, when I call your home to extend the invitation to come to mine, please say yes. I will be calling everyone in the parish, including those who are only peripherally associated with the parish as friends. I anticipate that this may take a while, so be patient if you do not hear from me right away. But when I do call, I hope you will come because the more you participate, the more successful my questions will be.

As I have said before, God has been at work here at St. Paul’s for a long time, accomplishing extraordinary things for His Kingdom. I am impressed with what a “well-tended garden” it is, full of thriving plants of all kind. I want to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to me, so it is important that I spend some time getting to know exactly what is planted in the garden. I hope you will help me. So when the phone rings, say YES!

Mother Susan

No letter in November.

December 2008

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Suddenly across the airport, I saw his face among the bustling crowd; but I was not prepared for the tumultuous feeling of joy that would wash over me when I recognized him.  All of the worry, anxiety and moments of longing and loneliness suddenly melted away from their frozen crevices within my soul.  While we were dating, my husband and I attended the freshman year of college in different universities.  I especially struggled with not having the person I had identified as my soul-mate around to experience the “day-to-day-ness” of our lives together: and so, on a lark we had pooled our money to buy me a plane ticket to visit him.  In the days prior to my trip, my anticipation grew.  During the hours and moment of my flight time, I was giddy with excitement.  I was so immersed in expectation that I couldn’t imagine that actually arriving and seeing my boyfriend could possibly be as exciting as this expectant jubilation.  As I deboarded the plane and scanned the crowd, my heart was in my throat, and when I saw his face, my heart and voice cried out together, “Yes!”             Advent is like that.  It's a time when our anticipation mounts and grows as we imagine what it will be like when we are suddenly reunited with Jesus at His coming.  As time passes, we envision that reunion and how complete and whole we will be when it takes place.  No such reunion takes place, however, without some deliberate, intentional preparation.  Advent is that time when we prepare...when we plan the trip, so to speak.  We want to be ready so that when we see His face, we will recognize Him.             What can you do to prepare?  Here are some suggestions.  First, make sure you are spending time with Him.  Even if it's just five minutes in the morning, invite Jesus to join you for your cup of coffee and talk to Him.  If you are already doing that, why don't you try adding the reading of Morning Prayer from the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer?  This will give you a good healthy dose of Scripture.  Next, select a good spiritual book with which to spend some of your free time.  If you don't know where to begin, find someone whose spiritual path you admire and ask that person what books have influenced him or her.  Talk to a spiritual friend about what is going on in your walk with the Lord.  And then, find a charitable project to which you can give some time and energy.  When you do all of these things in your life, you are on your way.             This journey will lead you during Advent to the place where Jesus is, both in your heart and incarnate.  When you recognize Him, your heart and soul will together cry, “Yes!”
May you have a blessed Advent,

Susan+