A Note from the Rector – 8/18/2019

A big welcome and thank you to the Reverend Canon Greg Smith, our guest celebrant and preacher!  Thank you for being here and leading us in worship! 

By the time you are reading this I will be on vacation in Colorado.  Though I am writing this in advance, I am confident that whatever I am doing when you are reading this, it is very enjoyable and relaxing.  Sunday morning I plan to attend Holy Eucharist at Trinity Episcopal Church in Greeley, Colorado. I am told it is good for me to be in the pews every once in awhile!  

Next Wednesday, August 21stmarks the beginning of my third year as your clergy person. The last two years have gone by very quickly and they have been wonderful.  Holy Apostles truly is a place to belong, and Deb, the kids, and I have found our place here. We are so grateful to you all. I am very excited to share more years of ministry and service to God with you.  We love you all very much.   

I am very excited for the beginning of our program year.  It is going to be a busy and fun Autumn. Starting September 8, we will be returning to our once a month services on the second Sunday of each month–with a twist.  Every Second Sunday we will begin at 5PM with Youth Group. This will be a time for students 12 and up to gather together, hang out, and learn more about the faith while having fun.  There will be games, and silliness, as well as conversation about serious questions of faith and life. We are looking for ways to get involved in other youth happenings in the area and around the diocese.  Youth group will be followed by Family Evening Worship at 5:45PM. We need your help to spread the word! 

–      Parents: please tell your youth about Youth Group and encourage them to come.

–      Parents: what is a good way for the church to communicate with youth?  

–      Youth (if you’re reading this): We need a cooler name than “Youth Group” and “Family Evening Worship.” The abbreviation, FEW, totally gives off the wrong vibe.  Do you have any ideas for a better name?      

In Christ,

James +

A Note from the Rector – 8/11/2019

Thanks to all who came to the five liturgy labs that we held this summer.  They were a lot of fun. I felt very rushed trying to cram in as much as I could about each topic in 45 minutes. Those who participated had lots of excellent questions.  There were always lots of donuts. It was a great time.  

I hope that the discussions and experiments have made many of you curious about our liturgy—what it means, what it does, and where it came from. If you’d like to explore some of those questions on your own, I have a few great recommendations for further reading.

Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as a Guide a Spiritual Life by Derek Olsen (Forward Movement, 2016)

This is a really great book.  If you only choose one of my recommendations, choose this one!  It shows how ordinary Christians can connect the liturgies of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer to their daily lives.  Derek Olsen is a fantastic author and this book is written for people in the pews. There is a chapter on the basics of liturgy and liturgical spirituality, and then three major sections: The Church Calendar, The Daily Office, and the Eucharist.  Olsen explains the nuts and bolts of the services in the BCP and how they can change your life.  

The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs (Princeton Univ. Press, 2013)

Alan Jacobs is an Episcopalian who teaches cultural history at Baylor University.  This little book is a cultural history of the Book of Common Prayer starting with 1549 (and before) all the way until today.  It is an accessible and fascinating read.  

The Liturgy Explained by James W. Farwell (Morehouse Publishing, 2013)

James Farwell was my liturgy professor at seminary.  This is a very short basic introduction written to liturgy, especially what we do on Sunday Morning at the Eucharist.  A lot of this will be familiar to those who attended the liturgy labs, although I probably differ from him on a few key points.  His section on the different pieces of the Eucharistic Prayer would be a great follow up to last week’s session. He presents the material very clearly and succinctly.  

In Christ,

James +

A Note from the Rector – 8/4/2019

This Sunday’s liturgy lab will briefly explore the components, significance, and history of our Eucharistic Prayers.  In last week’s note I described the various Eucharistic prayers which are approved for use in our church.  

At the 10AM service, we will use Eucharistic Prayer D, which will illustrate our conversation.  As you will immediately note, using a prayer which is in our Book of Common Prayer and is already used occasionally is not very experimental.  My interpretation of the Episcopal Church’s rules (known as canons) with which I am bound under oath to comply is that it is impermissible to use an experimental prayer during our principal Sunday celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.  

However, during a Eucharist which is not the principal Sunday service, a more experimental Eucharistic prayer may be used as long as it follows the general outline provided in the Book of Common Prayer.  So, this coming Tuesday, August 6 at 6:30, we will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration using an experimental Eucharistic Prayer that I have written for the occasion. See you there!

In Christ,

James +

A Note from the Rector – 7/28/2019

Next Sunday, August 4, is the last in a series of five “Liturgy Labs” that we’ve held this summer.  We’ve gathered before the 10AM service, eaten donuts, and discussed various parts of our liturgy, and then we’ve experimented in our service in ways that illustrate or build on our discussion.  These sessions have been a lot of fun, and were well attended. Thank you to all who have and will participate, help set up, and bring the donuts.  

Our last Lab will focus in on Eucharistic Prayer.  Like each of the five topics, this one is too vast to adequately explore in 45 minutes of conversation before the service.  So, I am going to offer a couple of introductory remarks now, which will hopefully whet your appetite for next Sunday morning, August 4.

Eucharistic Prayer refers to the prayer which forms the second half of liturgy (the first being the “Liturgy of the Word”).  The prayer begins after the Offering with the dialogue between priest and congregation, “The Lord be with you…” and continues through several key movements, which I will discuss at the class.  Right now, I want to draw attention to the various Eucharistic prayers that are authorized for use in our church, and a little bit about where some of them came from.  

In the early church, the Eucharist was the exclusive domain of the bishop, and the earliest Eucharistic prayers were probably extemporaneously composed by the bishop during the service. Over time, bishops ordained priests to be their stand-ins as churches and diocese grew.  Eucharistic prayers began to be standardized and written down.  

There are technically eight Eucharistic prayers in the Book of Common Prayer 1979.  The first two are used within the service which is called Rite I. Rite I more closely relates to older versions of the Book of Common Prayer and uses Elizabethan (think Shakespearean) English.  Eucharistic Prayer 1 in Rite I is similar to the Eucharistic prayer that was written by Thomas Cranmer and included in 1552 Book of Common Prayer (with some important differences that I will discuss in the Lab).  

There are four Eucharistic prayers included in Rite II, which is the version of the service that we almost always use at Holy Apostles.  These prayers are named A, B, C, and D. All these prayers, except Prayer C, follow a similar pattern. Prayer C was written for the 1979 Prayer Book and is a pretty radical departure from the other prayers.  Legend has it that Prayer C was written by some priests and a bishop over the course of one evening in a Brooklyn bar and laundromat. It would be hard to make that up. Prayer D is an English translation of the 4th century Prayer of St. Basil, and is the only Eucharistic prayer that we share with the Roman Catholic Church as well as Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, and is very similar to a prayer used by Eastern Orthodox churches.

The other two Eucharistic prayers in the Book of Common Prayer are really more like outlines for Eucharistic prayer, which presume that the community will compose certain sections with guidelines and without failing to include certain key elements.  These forms can be found starting on page 400 of the BCP. It should be noted that these prayers should not be used for the principal Sunday service.   

There are also three more complete Eucharistic prayers, and two more forms or outlines for Eucharistic prayer found in the supplemental resource Enriching Our Worship.  These prayers are available for occasional use with the permission of the bishop. These prayers represent attempts to expand the language we use for God and avoid specifically masculine language or imagery. While I endorse the intent, the outcome (in my opinion) is not completely satisfactory.  

Well, that’s just scratching the surface; I hope to see you at 9:15 on August 4!

In Christ,

James +

A Note from the Rector – 7/21/2019

I hope everyone is enjoying this summer, despite the heat!  It has been about 6 months since the parish annual meeting, and I thought I would take this opportunity to give an update on some of the things that are going in the parish and with me.  

Building & Grounds

Our purpose for existing as a church is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, p.855).  Our buildings exist to help us fulfill this purpose. They are not a purpose in themselves, but they do enable us to do the things God has called us to do together: pray, worship, proclaim the Gospel, and promote justice, peace, and love.  

Here’s what is going on with the buildings this Summer:

-Cippilone Heating and Cooling is in the process of installing new baseboard heaters in the parish hall and godly play room.  This will replace the in-floor radiant heating system, which has failed or is failing all over the building.  

-There are a lot of smaller improvements in the works, including fresh paint for the doors, a refresh of the hallway outside the offices, and some improvements to the godly play room.  

-The rectory is also being improved by replacing the heating and HVAC system which was at the end of its useful life.  

A huge thanks to the property committee for the enormous amount of work in planning and executing various projects to keep our physical plant in good condition toward fulfilling our purpose as a community.  We are blessed with a whole cadre of talented, skilled, and hardworking women and men who are able to accomplish a lot with God’s help.

Programs

This year, it has been my goal to focus on bolstering our faith formation/Christian education/discipleship programs.  With the help and leadership of a ton of creative and faithful people, here are a few things that are coming to fruition soon:

-This Fall we are planning to launch the Holy Apostles Choir School, which will meet on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and provide quality music education, after-school care, snacks, and homework help to about 20 children from our church and neighborhood.  This is a big deal! Volunteer opportunities abound at various levels of time commitment, so please do get involved anyway you can!  

-We are also launching a new (yet to be named) opportunity for youth ages 11-18 to gather, have fun, and grow together in the Christian life.  We will meet at 5PM on the second Sunday of each month. Family Evening Worship (we’re also looking for a new name) will happen immediately following at 5:45PM.  

-We will be using a new, innovative Sunday School curriculum in the Fall, which includes a lot of interactive material for students, and ways to make preparation easy and fun for teachers.  If God is calling you to teach Sunday School, now is the time to sign up!  

-The St. Faith Preachers Series will be launching on October 6, the Feast of St. Faith, with an exciting guest preacher.  You’ll be hearing more about this soon.

-We are cooking up some exciting new opportunities for adult faith formation, community involvement, and fellowship this Fall and Winter.  Stay tuned!  

Thanks to the incredibly dedicated Sunday school teachers, and parents.  And thanks to the volunteer core that has, through the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit, brought the Choir School from non-being into a real, actual, revitalizing program for our parish.

The Rector

My primary responsibility is to serve this congregation and community: to teach, preach, pray, administer sacraments, and especially to equip all of you to do the work that God is calling us to do.  I also have a responsibility to take part in the councils of the wider church. As with all of us, life requires the important and sometimes precarious balance of work, family, and leisure. Here are few things that are happening on those last two fronts.

-I have been appointed to the Commission on Ministry for the Diocese.  This committee meets monthly to advise and assist the Bishop in the oversight of various aspects of the ministry of the diocese, including the recruitment, training, and ordination of new clergy for the diocese and the Church.  It is a huge honor to serve in this capacity.

-I am also serving on a Diocesan committee which is exploring Prayer Book revision and Prayer Book education.  I will share more information on this work as it becomes publicly available.

-I am almost done co-writing a chapter of a book about partnership and ministry with my friend, the Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton of the Episcopal Diocese of Navajoland.  The book will be published in the Spring of 2020. I also have a couple of other small writing projects this Summer and Fall.

-The Stambaugh family will be vacationing in Colorado from August 13-20.  The Church will have a guest preacher and celebrant on Sunday, August 18.  

Thanks to the vestry, and to each and every member and friend of this parish.  It is an honor, and a great pleasure to serve as the Rector of your church, and to be part of this loving, vibrant faith community.  I love you all and I love the community that we have partnered with God to make at Holy Apostles.

In Christ,

James +

A Note From the Rector – 7/14/2019

Last Sunday, we had a Liturgy Lab discussion about church furniture, and how changing the orientation of the altar, pulpit/lectern, font, and seating change our experience of worship. It was an interesting discussion. 

Then we experimented with the orientation of our furniture of worship during our 10AM service.  Since we were worshiping in the parish hall, we placed our movable altar in the center of the room, and oriented the lectern and baptismal font on either side.  We then sat “collegiate” or “monastic” style with the chairs lined up on either side, facing each other (sort of like the choir seating area is arranged in the chancel of the church building itself).  This had the effect of putting the altar and the Eucharistic prayer right in the middle of everything. The idea was that the presence of Christ is found in Communion, right in our midst.  

While there will not be a Liturgy Lab discussion, this Sunday the experiment continues.  We are going to try a different orientation of our worship space while we worship in the parish hall.  During last week’s discussion, we talked about “praying toward the East.” It was the ancient practice of the church until the 20th century to pray facing east.  Praying facing the direction of the rising sun is symbolic of our hope in the return of God’s son, Jesus Christ.  Our hope is that God’s Son will return one day to judge the living and the dead and to bring about God’s reign of righteousness & perfect peace.  For centuries, this hope was symbolically expressed by facing the east during liturgical prayer. Logistically, this means that the priest presiding over the Eucharistic prayer and the people all faced the same direction (east) while praying to God.  As liturgical scholar, U.M. Lang writes, “When we speak to someone we obviously face that person. Accordingly, the whole liturgical assembly, priest and people, should face the same way, turning towards God to whom prayers and offerings are addressed in this common act of trinitarian worship.”[1]  

This practice ought to emphasize that when the priest says the Eucharist, it isn’t a performance. He or she isn’t saying the prayer to the people, but rather, he or she is a representative of the people offering the prayer and other offerings to God on the people’s behalf.  

Accordingly, our liturgical experiment for this Sunday will be that we will orient the altar and the chairs so that we all face east when we pray to God.  It ought to be fun. I am very interested in hearing from you how this orientation (and last week’s orientation) change the experience of worship for you.  

In Christ,

James +

[1]U.M. Lang, Turning Toward the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer. San Francisco: Ignatius Press (2004), 32.

A Note from the Rector – 6/30/2019

The Scripture that is read at our services is part of a three-year cycle of readings called a Lectionary, a set cycle of Scripture readings that have been used by the Church since the beginning.  We got the practice from Judaism, in fact. Our lectionary is called the Revised Common Lectionary. Beginning in the late 1970s, a committee made of people of various Protestant denominations got together to adapt the Roman Catholic Lectionary for use in other churches.  As with the work of many (most?) committees, it took a long time. The Revised Common Lectionary was finally released for public use in 1992. It was adopted by the Episcopal Church as our official lectionary (replacing the lectionary that was originally published in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer) in 2006.  The RCL Lectionary is a three-year cycle, and in addition for Ordinary Time, the RCL Lectionary provides two tracks (because a three-year cycle isn’t complicated enough!). Track 1 of the lectionary goes through a book of the Hebrew Scriptures (aka the Old Testament) in sequence, more or less. So, each Sunday in Track 1, the first lesson is a portion of Scripture that is more or less in sequence with the previous week’s portion.  Track 2 of the RCL Lectionary jumps around. This was the model of the older Book of Common Prayer Lectionary, as well as the model of the Roman Catholic Lectionary. The idea is that the First Lesson (taken from the Hebrew Bible) relates in some way to the Gospel reading appointed for the day. So for instance, this week’s Gospel reading is Luke 9:51-62. The circumstances of the Gospel story, and several of the things that Jesus says, echo a much older story found in 2 Kings chapter 2. Because of this connection, 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 were chosen to be the First Lesson in our Lectionary. For more details, come listen to my sermon (and/or read the two passages on your own)! There is a deep, but potentially dangerous, theological logic to this game of connecting older texts to texts from the Gospels. What makes the whole thing work is the fact that Christians believe that in Christ, God has fulfilled God’s plan to redeem and renew all of Creation. A big chunk of that plan is revealed in the Hebrew Bible. If Christ is the culmination, fulfillment, and final chapter of that plan, then He is the key to understanding the whole kit-and-kaboodle. So, we use Christ as a lens for reading and understanding all of Scripture.  There is a danger here, which I will discuss another time. But for now, pay attention to the way our lectionary and your preacher connect the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel readings.

In Christ,
James+

A Note from the Rector – 6/23/2019

Today, we return to Ordinary Time.  The Christian life, as represented in our Church’s calendar, is shaped by the rhythms of feasts and fasts.  This cycle is centered on the two great feasts of Christ’s Incarnation: Christmas and Easter. We celebrate Easter for 50 days ending with the Day of Pentecost (June 9 this year). That was followed by Trinity Sunday last week. The Feast of the Ascension (40 days after Easter) and Pentecost (50 days after Easter) both sort of naturally lead to reflection on the mystery of the Triune nature of God, which we always contemplate in our worship, but which we contemplated in a concentrated fashion last Sunday.  Now, we enter a long stretch of Ordinary Time. The liturgical color is green, which puts me in mind of plants and growth. Ordinary time makes up most of the Church calendar because growing in our faith is something that happens, for the most part, in quotidian, day-to-day life experiences. The way we strive to live the Christian life of worship of God & service toward others in the ordinary times of our lives shapes us into people who can rely on God during the not-so-ordinary times in our lives–times of great joy and also times of great hardship, fear, or distress.  God is with us in the feasts and the fasts of life. The task of Christian living is learning to recognize how that is true. That is where the Daily Office comes in.

The Daily Office is the collective name for four services that appear in the Book of Common Prayer: Morning Prayer, Noon Day Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. In his wonderful book, Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life, Derek Olsen devotes a chapter to the Daily Office.   Together, these prayers of the Church are meant to shape our days and hours, as Olsen writes, “the Daily Office helps us see the life of faith as a daily activity that must be consistently chosen from among a hundred other things all clamoring for our time and attention.”

The Daily Office forms the backbone of the prayer of the church.  Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are the “main” offices. Noon Day Prayer and Compline (meant to be prayed at night, or right before bed) are shorter offices, and take between 5 to 10 minutes to pray.  All four offices are primarily composed of Scripture, and particularly the poetry of Scripture. A life formed by these prayers is a life formed by the beautiful as well as the good and the true.

Today’s Liturgy Lab experiment involves using the office of Morning Prayer as the Liturgy of the Word in our 10AM Holy Eucharist.  If you were here for the first Liturgy Lab last week, you’ll remember me talking about the “logic of liturgy.” The basic logic or structure of our normal 10AM Eucharist is two-fold: Liturgy of the Word (readings, sermon, prayers, etc.) and Liturgy of the Altar (Holy Communion).  Today, the second part (starting with the Offering) will be the same as normal, the first part will be the office of Morning Prayer. Most of the same components will be present: the readings, the psalms, the prayers and the sermon, but the order in which we do these things will be significantly different.  Our Liturgy Lab discussion at 9:15AM Sunday morning will be devoted to further exploration of these changes and the history and meaning of our common worship. Come for the donuts, stay for the surprisingly interesting discussion.

In Christ,
James+

A Note from the Rector – 6/16/2019

Happy Father’s Day!  Today is our first Liturgy Lab of the summer.  As is true of all good experiments, one never knows for sure what the outcome will be, but with God’s grace we will hopefully avoid any explosions or poisonous gas clouds resulting from an experiment gone awry.  

One of the several components of our experiment will be our monthly practice of Healing Prayer.  Normally, we do this on the second Sunday of the month. For the past several months that practice has been interrupted by major feasts–last week, it was the Feast of Pentecost.  Rather than try to cram too much liturgical action into such important days, I think it is better to have healing prayer on a subsequent Sunday (like today). However, we are going to change (shudder!) how we do it for this Liturgy Lab Sunday.  It is our normal practice to have healing prayers AFTER everyone has received Communion. Those who wish, normally come back to the altar rail and receive the laying on of hands and/or annointing with oil. Today, Healing Prayer will be offered before the Peace and right after the Confession.  There is a method to the madness, but you’ll have to come to Liturgy Lab at 9:15 Sunday morning to find out what it is.

Healing prayer itself is a New Testament practice.  The Epistle of James, for instance, says this: “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.  The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15; for a hint about why we are moving it within the service order, look at verse 16).            

In medieval Europe, particularly during times when the bubonic plague was rampant, healing prayer with laying on of hands and anointing with oil (anointing with oil is also called “unction”) came to be associated with the end of one’s life–because, well, if you were sick with the plague, most likely you were not going to recover.   Over the years, anointing the sick morphed into (or conflated with) anointing the dying and dead, a practice known as extreme unction. In the 1540s, Thomas Cranmer took medieval liturgy, translated it into English and edited it into the first Book of Common Prayer. He tried to recover the New Testament sense of healing prayer: that is, you pray for healing, expecting healing–whether that be spiritual healing, physical healing, or both.  In other words, he wanted to differentiate between healing prayer and prayers for the dying. Thomas Cranmer’s Reformation buddies didn’t like that part of the original Book of Common Prayer and the service of healing with anointing of oil was removed from subsequent versions of the Prayer Book. That is how things remained for about 300 years in the Anglican world (Church of England, and it’s “children” including the Episcopal Church). In the earliest 20th century there was a revival of interest in healing prayer and anointing the sick with oil.  This revival coincided with the early Pentecostal movement that emphasized healing, and with Christian Science and similar movements, which rapidly gained popularity in both the US and the UK. The Church of England and the Episcopal Church took note of this renewed interest in healing, and the Episcopal Church included a service of “Ministration to the Sick,” which included anointing the sick with oil in the 1928 Prayer Book, and again, with minor changes in the 1979 Prayer Book. The prayers for anointing in this service are derived from Thomas Cranmer’s prayer that he composed in 1549 for the first Book of Common Prayer.    

In Christ,
James+

A Note from the Rector – 6/9/19

Happy Feast of Pentecost!  I love a good cookout. Thank you to Suzanne Lees for coordinating this event, to all those who brought side dishes, and to Meg and Todd Delevan for grilling!

Today, we are celebrating our wonderful Sunday School.  I am so grateful to every one of our Sunday School teachers.  They are a dedicated and loving bunch of people, and the care and time they spend with our children is an incredible gift to the parish – one that will reap benefits in our children’s lives that we cannot even predict or fully understand.  In 1 Corinthians 3, St. Paul is talking about the role different teachers and preachers have in the spiritual growth of the church in Corinth. He uses the familiar agricultural metaphor of planting and watering to talk about the role he played in the growth of the church in Corinth in conjunction with the role that another person, Apollos, had played.  He writes: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.”  None of us can predict the impact that our time and talent will have on future generations. All we can do is the work that God lays before us: to love and nurture those God has given into our care, and then trust that it is God who will bring about growth.

Thank you especially to Jamie Grant and Joe Zorc who have been co-coordinators of the Sunday School this year.  This year, long time Sunday School teacher Peter Patton was elected to the Vestry, and he has taken over the role of Vestry liaison for the Sunday School; a big thanks to him as well.