Advent Update on Family Ministries

by jen taylor, interim director of family ministries

First and foremost, I want to be sure you all know how incredibly grateful I am to have been offered the opportunity to work with all of our wonderful children and families at Saint James’. Over the last few weeks, I have been familiarizing myself with the Sunday School curriculum, learning where to find things and trying to get into the swing of things.

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Adult Formation Syllabus: Learning More About Christianity

Adult Formation at Saint James’

Adult formation is learning about the faith and being formed by the triune God through the following:

  1. study of religious sources [Bible, Prayer Book, tradition, etc.]
  2. prayer [contemplation, lectio divina, centering prayer, examen, etc.]
  3. meaningful conversation [honest, open, focused, non-judgmental, shared, helpful, respectful, etc.]
  4. participation in the life of a faith community [learning groups, St. James’, The Episcopal Church, etc.]

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Photos from Haiti: October 2017

In late October 2017, a small group from Saint James’ visited North-East Haiti. This was not a mission trip; rather, we traveled there to learn about how Saint James’ could be a long-term partner in the work that Haitians are already doing to improve the educational lives of children.

Our goal was twofold.

First, we went learn about primary education in northern, rural Haiti and to connect with Haitians improving the educational opportunities of children there, especially in an Episcopal context. We were able to board for a week at St Barthelemy Episcopal School in Terrier Rouge, where we gained insight into the potential of an Episcopal school in this region and what a transformative impact it can have on a small town.

Second, we went to seek out and connect with an Episcopal primary school in the area, with the goal of providing long-term financial support and establishing a lasting relationship. We found this in St Luc Episcopal Church & School in Trou du Nord.

Because the largest ministry of Saint James’ is our school, and because Haiti is the largest diocese in the American Episcopal Church, it seems a natural fit that we use our material resources and intimate knowledge of the challenges facing an Episcopal school to do what we can to support a similarly-sized school in Haiti, where the effects of quality education can be absolutely transformative to individuals and to a community. 

These are images from our trip.

PHOTOS BY HAITIAN BOYS

“Each of the following photos was taken by a Haitian boy in Terrier Rouge. Three boys took an especially keen interest in my camera: Jeff, Dervilien and Hermetz. All three are students at Ecole St Barthelemy, and each boy is either nine or ten years old. At various points during the week, I was able to hand my camera to them and they took it from there. I think these are the most valuable images from our trip, because they show what Haiti looks like to Haitian children themselves.” -Coy

Daily Life in Terrier Rouge

Though only about 20 miles from Cap-Haïtian, the second-largest city in Haiti, Terrier Rouge is a quintessentially rural town of 10,000-15,000 residents. We got the distinct sense that everyone in the town knows everyone else. Almost no one lives on the outskirts of the town; to live in an isolated house would mean unacceptable isolation from the life of the community. Most structures in town are made with cinderblock and concrete, the ideal building materials in a place where air-conditioning is almost non-existent and where, despite the rarity of any rain at all, flooding is an ever-present risk from those storms that do make it over the mountains.

Ecole St Barthelemy

Ecole St Barthelemy was founded in 2001 as a preschool with just 30 students. Since then, it has grown into a student body of 1,100 students ranging from preschool all the way through the upper secondary-school grades. From the two graduating classes so far, each of the 40 students has gone on to university, an astonishing feat in a country where only 32% of the population has even some secondary-school education, much less university experience. The school is run by Pere Jean Bruno, a retired Episcopal priest. He also chairs the board of Esperance et Vie, a nonprofit which funds the school, a local medical clinic and community improvement projects. Almost all students at St Barthelemy cannot afford the <$100-per-year tuition and attend through scholarships, funding for which stems mostly from donations by individuals and churches in the United States.

Ecole St Luc

St Luc’s school was founded in the early 2000’s in Trou du Nord, a town somewhat larger than Terrier Rouge and about five miles away. Unlike St Barthelemy, St Luc has not had the blessing of such steady funding or a singular driving force like Pere Bruno to push it forward. Ecole St Luc currently enrolls about 250 students from preschool through the first year of secondary school. This number will greatly reduce by the end of the school year; many families cannot afford the tuition for the entire year, and must pull their kids out early. Of its $40,000 yearly budget, about $15,000 has been funded by an Episcopal Church in Maine, though this source of funding will drop to about $5,000 next year. The priest of Eglise St Luc, Pere Sadoni Leon, has put special focus on improving the quality of education at Ecole St Luc in the two years since he arrived in Trou du Nord. All new teachers graduated at least from secondary school in Cap-Haïtian, where the quality of education is generally much higher than in towns further east.

Eglise St Luc

On Sunday morning, we attended church at Eglise St Luc, the Episcopal church that runs the school. Pere Sadoni invited Fr Ben to give the sermon. Although the service is in Haitian Kreyòl, the primary spoken language in the country, the order of the service is almost identical to an Episcopal service conducted in English – a testament to the multilingual reach of the Book of Common Prayer. There were some marked differences from a typical American Episcopal service; drums formed a musical backdrop for many of the prayers and liturgies. The Prayers of the People, especially, were a vibrant expression of reverence and fervor. While only 20-30 parishioners attended on this particular morning because of some confusion about the time of the service, Pere Sadoni says about 70 people count themselves members of St Luc, most of whom attend every Sunday.

 

Notes on Chapter 13: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter THirteen, “Francis: A Natural Spiritual Genius”

Quote from page 191, 204

If your only goal is to love, there is no such thing as failure. Francis succeeded in living in this single-hearted way and thus turned all failure on its head, and even made failure into success. This intense eagerness to love made his whole life an astonishing victory for the human and divine spirit, and showed how they can work so beautifully together. That eagerness to love is the core and foundation of his spiritual genius….

Love is not love until you stop expecting something back. The moment you want something in return for your giving, all love is weakened and prostituted. This is the nature of the divine energy that transforms; it is inherently contagious, and it is holiness itself. This is Francis and Clare.

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(Brief!) Adult Formation Survey

Looking ahead to Epiphany and Lent (January 7th through March 24th, 2018), the Adult Formation Ministry Team wants to have your input on what kinds of learning groups would best suit your situation and schedule.

We have been using learning groups at Saint James’ as a way to provide a structured and supportive environment in which meaningful conversations about our faith can take place.

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Notes on Chapter 10: Learning More About St Francis And Creation

Eager to loveChapter Ten, “Entering the World of Another: Francis and the Sultan of Egypt

Quote from page 153

The connection that Francis makes with “the enemy” in his lifetime might end up being his most powerful statement to the world about putting together in inner life with the outer, and all of its social, political, and ethnic implications. He also offers an invitation to – and an example for – the kind of interfaith dialogue that provides a much-needed “crossing of the borders” so we can understand other people at even basic levels. Like few other incidents in his life, Francis’s meeting with the Sultan of Egypt took him far beyond the usual saccharine portrayals of him. Francis’s kind of border crossing is urgently needed in our own time, when many of the exact same Christian-Muslim issues are at play all over again.

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Notes on Chapter 9: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter nine, “The Legacy of Clare: Living the Life at Depth

Quote from page 138-139

Clare’s letters and writings are so consistently upbeat, positive, hopeful, encouraging to others, and lovingly visionary that we can only conclude that she faced her demons down, dove into the negativity that all of us avoid in ourselves and in the world, and came out the other side as clear light or Chiara. Clare allowed herself no place to run or hide, and lived for forty years in one little spot of earth, outside the walls of Assisi, called San Damiano. She was both a master and mistress of letting go of all that was unnecessary or unimportant. She went inside instead of outside, and subsequently discovered the outside  to be a perfect mirror for the grace she had already found within – and vice versa. Clare went deep instead of far, low instead of high – and thus redefined both high and low. Breaking all records, the formal process for her canonization began only two months after she died.

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Ministry of the Month: Learning Starts Early + Gobble, Gobble, Run or Wobble 5k

NOVEMBER 2017 MINISTRY OF THE MONTH

On Saturday, November 18, the third-annual Gobble, Gobble, Run or Wobble 5k & Kids’ Fun Run will wind through the streets of Old Town Warrenton. You can register for the race here.

While the event is an absolute blast, complete with a turkey mascot on a bicycle, it also serves a much more profound purpose: funding efforts to increase access to preschool in Fauquier County through a Saint James’ initiative called Learning Starts Early.

Learning Starts Early (LSE) is an outreach ministry with a simple vision: that each child is a beloved child of God, and that each child should enter kindergarten ready to thrive and grow academically, socially and emotionally.

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Notes on Chapter 6: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter Six, “An Alternative Orthodoxy: Paying Attention to Different Things

Quote from page 81-82

One of the earliest accounts of Francis, the “Legend of Perugia,” quotes Francis as telling the first friars   “You only know as much as you do.” His emphasis on action, practice, and lifestyle was foundational and revolutionary for its time and at the heart of Franciscan alternative orthodoxy (“heterodoxy”). For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship.

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2017 Stewardship Letter from the Senior Warden

Dear Saint James’ family,

As your senior and junior wardens, we are writing this year’s annual pledge campaign letter. Newcomers and visitors reinforce what we all feel when they observe that we are a church that radiates meaning, purpose and vitality. The vestry bears the responsibility for the finances of the church, and as their officers, we can state with confidence that our budget is designed to support what makes Saint James’ exceptional.

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Notes on Chapter 5: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter five, “Contemplation: A Different Way of Knowing

Quote from page 61-62

I believe the very foundation of what we mean by holiness or, in this case, mysticism, is that [Francis and Clare] knew and loved from a different source; they knew by participation in a Larger Knowing that many of us call God. Or, as Paul says, “They knew as fully as they were known” ( 1 Corinthians 13:12)

This kind of shared knowing, which is nothing but full consciousness is what many of us mean by contemplation. True contemplatives surrender some of their own ego boundaries and identity so that God can see through them, with them, and in them – with a larger pair of eyes. It is quite simply a higher level of seeing, and, if you do not like the religious language, you can just call it consciousness, or deep consciousness. But you still have to let go of your small, egoic self to get there (John 12:24). “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Conversation Question

  • What could you let go of and how could you let go in order for you to experience a closer union with God?

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Notes on Chapter 4: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter four, “Home Base: Nature and the Road”

Quote from page 47

Creation itself – not ritual or spaces constructed by human hands – was Francis’s primary cathedral, which then drove him back into the needs of the city, very similar to Jesus’s own movement between desert solitude and small-town healing ministry. The Gospel transforms us by putting us in touch with that which is much more constant and satisfying, literally the “ground of our being,” and has much more “reality” to it, rather than theological concepts or the mere ritualization of reality. Daily cosmic events in the sky and or the earth are the Reality above our heads and beneath our feet every minute of our lives: a continuous sacrament.

Conversation Question

  • How might the cathedral of God’s Creation be an environment in which you can be transformed by the Gospel?

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Notes on Chapter 3: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter THREE, “Living on the Edge of the Inside: Simplicity and Justice”

Quote from page 33-34

Francis and Clare were not so much prophets by what they said as in the radical, system-critiquing way that they lived their lives. They found both their inner and outer freedom by structurally living on the edge of the inside of both church and society. …

Francis and Clare’s agenda for justice was the most foundational and undercutting of all others: a very simple lifestyle outside the system of production and consumption (the real meaning of the vow of poverty), plus a conscious identification with the marginalized of society (the communion of saints pushed to its outer edge). In this position you do not “do acts of peace and justice as much as your life is itself peace and justice. You take your small and sufficient place in the great and grand scheme of God. By “living on the edge of the inside” I mean building on the Tradition (“from the inside”) but doing it from a new and creative stance where you cannot be coopted for purposes of security, possession, or the illusions of power (“on the edge”).

Conversation Question

  • How does Francis and Clare’s life of simplicity and justice connect with your lifestyle?

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Table Talk: Week of September 24, 2017

Whether or not your children were able to make it to Sunday school, you can still engage them in this week’s story.  Please read the summary, look up the story online,  in your bible, or a children’s bible,  and begin the discussion.  Increasing your child’s biblical knowledge will be foundational in their faith development.  What a gift to provide a child.  Adults also reap the benefit of digging in deeper to these stories. 

In Sunday School this week, your children learned the Parable of the Sower. In it, the Sower spreads their seeds on many different soils. Those seeds that landed on rocks, or among thorns, or were eaten by birds, did not grow. Only those seeds sown in the good earth were able to push their roots into the ground and grow to be harvested.

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Notes on Chapter 2: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter Two, “A Happy Run Downward: The Inner Authority of Those Who Have Suffered”

Quote from page 20

I believe both Francis and Clare had this kind of inner authority, and it is still part of their essential message for the world. They lost and let go of all fear of suffering, all need for power, prestige, and possession, and all need for their small self to be important, and they came out the other side knowing something essential – who they really were in God and thus who they really were.

Conversation Question

  • How does letting go of power, prestige, and possessions enable you to know who you really are “in Christ”?

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Table Talk: Week of September 17, 2017

Whether or not your children were able to make it to Sunday school, you can still engage them in this week’s story.  Please read the summary, look up the story online,  in your bible, or a children’s bible,  and begin the discussion.  Increasing your child’s biblical knowledge will be foundational in their faith development.  What a gift to provide a child.  Adults also reap the benefit of digging in deeper to these stories. 

Thanking God

This week, our Sunday School students reflected on the story of Job. Job was a very wealthy man, who loved and praised God, giving him thanks for all that he had, which please God. What was truly remarkable, however, is that Job praised God even when things didn’t go his way. Job lost his wealth, his family, and his friends, but he refused to blame God or renounce him. Job remained steadfast in his faith when tested by Satan, and for that God rewarded him.

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Table Talk: Week of September 10, 2017

Whether or not your children were able to make it to Sunday school, you can still engage them in this week’s story.  Please read the summary, look up the story online,  in your bible, or a children’s bible,  and begin the discussion.  Increasing your child’s biblical knowledge will be foundational in their faith development.  What a gift to provide a child.  Adults also reap the benefit of digging in deeper to these stories. 

God’s Gifts

This Sunday, our students learned about God’s first gift. In the creation of the world, God gave us the gift of light, the oceans and the land on which we live, the plants and animals which feed and support us and he gave us life.  Creation was a process, taking place over time with each layer receiving the same care and attention. Starting from nothing, God created a world teeming with life.

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Sunday School Starts Tomorrow!

Sunday School start time is changing! Beginning this Sunday, September 10, we will no longer be asking parents to drop off their children for Sunday School children before the service. Instead, you should bring your children into church with you and they will all process out together at 10:15 am, when Father Ben starts the announcements. Thank you in advance for helping us make this transition!

Please reach out to Laura Updyke  at laura.updyke@saintjameswarrenton.org if you have any questions.