21 June 2018
Dear St. Mark’s Folks:
There are two common sayings in Twelve Step Spirituality that I believe can help guide us as we do the work of discernment about how St. Mark’s will continue to live out is mission and ministry in the uncertainty that faces us and, frankly, faces an increasing number of congregations in many different traditions. Those two sayings are:
These two sayings are invitations to the traditional Biblical practices of Sabbath-keeping (3 Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a Sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements. )and pilgrimage or sojourn (3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.)
Today officially marks the beginning of summer. As George Gershwin famously put it in his masterpiece Porgy & Bess, it’s ‘summer time and the living is easy.’ It is a wonderful sentiment that often is elusive and seems more like a dream than a declaration of how things truly are.
Summer is a time when we tend to slow down a bit and relax. Many of us are planning getaways for various lengths of time. The children are out of school and the rhythm of life changes for any number of reasons. We have more time to savor the sun. The warmth of the earth nurtures the growth of local (or even our own garden’s) produce that often bursts upon our taste buds and helps us connect with the earth that we can often take for granted.
This is also the time in our liturgical calendar where we can get lulled into a bit of a trance by the hazy, lazy days of ‘Ordinary Time’ once we turn the corner of Pentecost (often right around Memorial Day) and move into that ‘long, green season’ in the church.
There is certainly a place, actually even a commandment, to support this sort of slowing down, it’s called Sabbath keeping and is quickly becoming a lost practice in our lives. Sadly, sometimes the church is no different.
I shared with the vestry the other night that clergy are not immune to the seduction of busy-ness as a measure of our worth. Sabbath, true Sabbath, does not come easy to us. Doing nothing is often equated with ‘wasting’ time. The reality is that we cannot and should not be perpetual motion machines.
That being said, Sabbath cannot be a substitute for action in response to the Gospel.
We are currently in a season in the Lectionary when we will read a great deal of Mark’s Gospel. I would say there’s some providence in that given our circumstances and that Mark is our patron.
As this ‘long, green season’ unfolds I would bring your attention to the rhythm of Jesus’ ministry. Particularly in Mark Jesus alternates between withdrawal (often for prayer alone) and active ministry (feeding, teaching, preaching, healing). As I have mentioned to before these are complimentary and necessary partners in the work of ministry in general and particularly in a season of discernment around questions related to vision, mission and direction for both individuals and congregations.
While this summer will be a time for us to live together into our new schedule of worship, formation and fellowship (Sabbath-keeping) it will also be a time that we will need to gather to share honestly about the big questions facing about finance, resources and facilities (navigating the pilgrim’s way). I hope and pray that you all will dedicate time to both Sabbath and discernment as the summer unfolds and we seek clarity on what God’s vision is for St. Mark’s.
May our rest and Sabbath give us strength and clarity for the holy sojourn ahead of us.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Le 23:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 26:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
St. Mark's Moves to a Single Sunday Service Beginning June 17th at 9:30 am After three parish conversations, prayerful consideration and the input of Sunday staff, the Vestry and Leadership has set forth the following trial schedule for Sundays beginning on June 17th and running through Labor Day weekend.
This week's Old Testament Reading is an important one for people of faith, especially for those who are seeking direction and a new sense of possibility in relationship to the Living God.
Samuel, the son of Hannah, has been dedicated to the service of YHWH as was typical of first born male children in Judaism as it was practiced in his time.
Part of the story has to do with how the life of the People of God had grown stagnant due to a relative lack of God's speaking to and inspiring to Israel about their call and purpose as they lived out the covenant made between them and YHWH.
Water is kept from becoming stagnant when it is kept in motion. Our Baptismal Font at St. Mark's is a good physical reminder of the importance of water in motion. Remember that Jesus referred to the water we receive from him like this, "The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 4:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Part of the life of a healthy and faithful parish is a commitment to keep seeking the next chapter in its life. We are called to fight against stagnation and to keep the water moving.
Life at St. Mark's is not stagnant, but we are part of a tradition in America that has, in some ways, gone stagnant. The expectation of Churches to each be housed in independent, single use buildings is bleeding many small and medium sized congregations dry financially and in terms of the energy of the congregation to support the building.
Often the support of the building comes at a cost to ministry to those who are outside the church's wall. The Most Rev. William Temple, former Archbishop of Canterbury, once said, "the church is the only organization that I know of that exists primarily for those who are not its members."
To live into this promise it is important that we return again and again to the promises of Baptism to be of service to others, seek justice, respect dignity, participate in the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread and the prayers, and repent and return to God when we screw up.
As we continue on our listening, prayer, discernment and commitment to God's call for us may we all remember to be bold in asking for the fullness of God's vision to be revealed in the spirit of Eli's request to Samuel in the text quoted above this reflection
22 May 2018
Dear St. Mark’s Community;
As we prepare to turn the calendar to June and really get into the summer season, I’d like to take a bit of time to reflect on my favorite Celtic Saint (maybe my all time favorite saint) Brendan the Navigator. I believe that Brendan’s life of faith, courage and adventure may have lessons for we at St Mark’s as we set forth on a journey of discernment about the future life, mission and ministry of our community.
Brendan was born in County Kerry in Ireland in the village of Fenit near Tralee adjacent to the Dingle Peninsula in 484 CE. He was baptized by Bishop Erc of Ardfert and dedicated to the church by his parents and raised by a nun named Ita. Ita’s grave is on the site of Brendan’s baptism.
After a profound call and a deepening of his conversion during an experience on Hungry Hill in County Cork on the Beara Peninsula, he established monastic quarters at the foot of Mt. Brandon on near Dingle, in Ardfert and in Clonfert in County Galway. Brendan’s monastic community, like that of St. Brigid, housed both men and women, unlike the vast majority of those in mainland Europe.
Brendan’s most enduring legacy is detailed in the Voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator. This written legend details the seven-year journey of Brendan and companions chosen from among those in his monastery to set out to a place Brendan had heard of from another monk who called it The Promised Land.
The journey across the seas by Irish pilgrim saints is not unusual. Preceded by Columba, Columcille and others, Brendan fits into the tradition of the ‘white pilgrims’ who set out on the seas in coracles, leather-hulled boats without rudder or sails and trusted the winds, waves and Spirit of God to lead them to the site of their missionary adventures. These pilgrims or ‘white martyrs’ (indicating exile) knew that they would likely never see their homelands again.
Brendan was different. Brendan set out with a destination, albeit an amorphous one, in mind. He also built and provisioned a craft large enough for at least 14 other monks. His boat, a curragh, was made of oak, elm and oxhide and had sails and a rudder. The Dingle people of Ireland, being good sailors, knew how to navigate.
Sometime between 512 and 530 Brendan set out on two journeys, the second of which would last seven years and made a repeated cyclical voyage that followed the rhythm of the liturgical calendar. The particulars of the second journey are fascinating and informative. There is evidence to suggest that perhaps Brendan and his companions reached North America fully 900 years before Columbus.
What might be informative for us and help us to understand the journey that we are on is that Brendan chose to travel in community, he returned to share the story of the journey just as the earlier pilgrim monk did with him.
We are embarking on a journey that is the result of the circumstances of the church in this age. Just as the church grew and changed over the centuries due to the context of its mission, so are the Church in the 21st Century faced with new circumstances that require us to adapt so that we might seek where God has called us to go in order that we might share the faith that is in us.
The boat that we are climbing into, like Brendan’s, has sails, a rudder and a community with a shared vision of what is possible if a group of people commit themselves to prayer, trust in the wind of the Holy Spirit and keep their home firmly placed in the grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
Set firmly in the liturgical tradition of the Church, bound by prayer and nourished by the mystical Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we can be assured of God’s presence and blessing on the journey, regardless of the ultimate destination.
As we embark on our journey of discernment about where and to what God is calling us, perhaps we could offer this prayer regularly as individuals and as a community. This is Brendan’s Prayer….
Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home? Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?
Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honor? Shall I throw myself wholly upon You, without sword and shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on? Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?
Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land?
Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean? O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea? O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?
(Ascribed to Saint Brendan the Navigator before sailing across the Atlantic.)
--Padre Warren +