Fr Randolph’s Reflections on Advent

Advent, in so many ways, is a strange and countercultural concept. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is probably the busiest of the entire year. Our calendars are filled with both enjoyable and challenging events – parties, family, friends, meals, travel, presents, sorrow, depression, memories, reconnecting, year-end deadlines, semester exams, anxiety, high expectations, disappointments, deep emotions, faith commitments, relational responsibilities, practical worries, hope and joy for the future, celebrations of life… the list goes on and on. It’s exhausting.

In our culture, the month before Christmas is fast and active, but the Church calls us to slow down and wait during the season of Advent. What a concept! Waiting may be just as important as acting. Of course, we will always spend a much greater portion of our day doing things, but waiting is also a critical part of our lives – waiting for clarity, waiting for the right moment, waiting for a response, waiting for inspiration, waiting for someone.

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Fr Ben’s Year-End Message

As we enter the last month of our bicentennial year, I find myself quite reflective. One particular thought has occupied my time, especially as we step back and participate in liturgies from the 1789 Book of Common Prayer. In a world so different than the one of our church founders how is our role in the community, our mission changing?

When Saint James’ first opened her doors, James Madison was president, we had only 18 states, and Edison’s light bulb was still over 60 years from conception as was the invention of the phonograph. Imagine the role the church played in that community. What happened each Sunday at Saint James’ was in all likelihood the most significant cultural and social event of the week. The church had little competition on Sunday morning (or any other day of the week for that matter). Imagine the transcendent beauty of listening to the organ and raising your voice in harmony with the gathered faithful prior to radio, records, tapes, cd’s, much less iPods and streaming music…. Contemplate the power of a well-crafted and delivered sermon in an age without film, television, or the internet. The church truly was the center of a community’s life.

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Table Talk: Week of December 4, 2016

As your children learn about Advent and the story of Jesus’ birth in Sunday School this season, we encourage you to continue the conversation at home. Each week, we will provide you with the reading done in church for the lighting of our Advent Candles and questions that can be used to discuss them. You can use them as you light your own candles or simply as a conversation-starter. 

Reading for the Second Sunday of Advent

Last Sunday we lit the first candle─the candle of hope. Today we add the second candle, the candle of peace. We light it knowing full well that peace is elusive, and in some parts of the world, it is almost completely absent. Yet in this season of Advent, we trust that God is never absent from us. God is always preparing something new. And even where there is war and discord, whether between countries, within families, or within our own hearts, God is present, gently leading us to new possibilities.

(The first and second candles are lit.)

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Table Talk: Week of November 27, 2016

As your children learn about Advent and the story of Jesus’ birth in Sunday School this season, we encourage you to continue the conversation at home. Each week, we will provide you with the reading done in church for the lighting of our Advent Candles and questions that can be used to discuss them. You can use them as you light your own candles or simply as a conversation-starter.

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Adult Formation for Advent & Epiphany

Advent Begins This Sunday!

The Season of Advent begins this Sunday, November 27.

Your Adult Formation Discernment Team is inviting and encouraging the entire Saint James’ Parish to read and discuss What Are You Waiting For?, a book of brief daily Advent meditations written by Christine McSpadden, an Episcopal priest, and published by Forward Movement.

The Formation Team is providing a free copy to the first 100 parish households who commit to reading the daily meditations (two short pages) and discussing them in a group setting before or after worship on Sunday, or with a group of friends sometime during the week.

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2016 Adult Formation Discernment & Survey

Dear Adult Parishioners of Saint James’,

Fr. Ben has asked us to begin a process of developing adult formation programs at Saint James’. The term formation refers to deepening spiritual journeys through learning, praying, and worshiping in a way that both touches our hearts and minds, and allows us to be shaped and formed by God.

Here is our plan:

  • Affirm and support current formation programs.
  • Conduct a parish survey to learn the formation needs and preferences of adult parishioners.
  • Discern and launch new programs for the Season of Epiphany (January 6-February 28).
  • Create a ministry team or committee structure for the ongoing oversight and coordination of adult formation programs.
  • Commission the leaders and participants of adult formation ministries on January 8, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

We are using Survey Monkey for our parish survey, which will facilitate data compilation and analysis. We are asking every adult to complete a survey by November 23. We need to hear from you. We want to hear from you.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

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Table Talk: Week of November 13, 2016

 PreK-K and 3rd-5th

In the reading this week, Paul tells his followers: “Dear friends, you must never become tired of doing right.” –2 Thessalonians 3:13, CEV

The letter to the Thessalonians calls disciples of all ages to work together as the church. We know what God wants us to do and how we should act towards others, but it can be hard to do the right thing. Paul is reminding his followers that they must be willing to work together to help others, no matter how hard it is or how tired they become.

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Table Talk: Week of November 6, 2016

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. 

Yesterday, we welcomed two new members into the church through Baptism. In Sunday School, your children talked about baptism and its role in marking us a members of the church. Baptism symbolizes our entrance into God’s family, the Communion of Saints, just as their names, given by their parents, symbolize their entrance into your families.

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Table Talk: Week of October 30, 2016

Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)

In this week’s Gospel, we again saw Jesus meet with a person who has made choices that had not pleased God.  Jesus’ friends grumble when Jesus chooses to spend time with him.  Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, a group that the people of the time really disliked because many were dishonest. When Jesus enters Jericho, Zacchaeus climbs a tree to be able to see him. Jesus calls to Zacchaeus and tells him that Jesus will be his guest today and Zacchaeus promises to give away half of his possessions and change his ways. Jesus promises Zacchaeus that God has a place for him in heaven.  Those with Jesus, however, don’t understand why he is giving such attention to a “sinner”. Jesus reminds them he has come, not to reward those already following God’s teachings, but to seek out and save the lost.

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Table Talk: Week of October 23rd

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.

This week’s lessons reminded us that none of us are without failing and that we are all dependent on God’s mercy and forgiveness. We are also blessed, however, because we know that God’s mercy will always be there for us, when we are ready to seek it out.

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Table Talk: Week of October 9, 2016

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 summaries, 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.

The Ten Lepers

This week’s Gospel told the story of Jesus’ encounter with the ten lepers.  In it, we hear how Jesus encountered 10 lepers on his journey to Jerusalem, who begged him for mercy. Lepers were condemned to a sad life, they were not allowed to live in the towns because people were afraid of catching their disease. Jesus took pity on the ones who called to him and sent them to see the priests. When they realized they had been cured, nine of the lepers rushed to the priests and home to their families, happy that they no longer had to live all alone. Only one went back to Jesus and thanked him.

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Green Team Update: Earthworms & October 16 Meeting

Dear Green Team,

As you know, the Blessing of the Animals was held Oct. 5. Chosen because of its proximity to the Feast Day of St. Francis, this event honors his love of creation. Last Sunday, Ed led a fascinating Adult Ed discussion on the life of Francis, and the Blessing was a great follow-up.

The Green Team had earthworms blessed as part of our SPOTLIGHT on composting (thanks, Dorothy S!).  During the Blessing service, we read St. Bonaventure‘s comments about St. Francis. In describing St. Francis’ care for creation, St. Bonaventure included this:

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A Stewardship Message from Fr Ben

Do you choose easy or do you choose adventure?

I asked this question on my first Sunday at Saint James’ four years ago this winter. I talked about asking my daughter that question half way through a rather rigorous hike, I encouraged you to consider all the ways that Jesus asked his followers that same question, and whether God might be asking the people of Saint James’ Episcopal Church the same question.

Years later I am ever more convinced both of God’s call to us and our resounding answer, “ADVENTURE!!!”. Here is the rub. Adventure is not easy. Jesus certainly never said it would be.

One of my favorite prayers, attributed to 16th century explorer, Sir Francis Drake, asks the same question of us. Have we arrived safely because we sailed too close to shore… (have we) fallen in love with life and ceased to dream of eternity?

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Table Talk: Week of October 2, 2016

PK-K and 3rd-5th Grade

Sunday’s Epistle was a reading from a letter that Paul wrote to Timothy.  In it, Paul encourages Timothy to be a leader in the church and tell others about his faith, not be ashamed of it, because only by sharing our own faith can we encourage its growth in others. As an example of this, Paul writes about how Timothy’s mother and grandmother helped to grow Timothy’s faith, reminding him of the impact we have on those around us.

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Upcoming Green Team Programs

Oct. 4 is the Feast Day of St Francis. There is much to learn about this extraordinary man who lived in the 12th century and inspired others to honor God’s creation.  When Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) was elected Pope by the Catholic Church in 2013, he chose to honor this man by using his name.

In honor of St Francis, please considering participating in one or more of the following:

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Table Talk: Week of September 25, 2016

PK-K and 3rd-5th Grade

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus from today’s Gospel is one of the many times Jesus spoke to his followers about what God wants from us.

Lazarus, a poor man, begs outside the gates of a rich man, who does not help him. When Lazarus and the rich man both die, Lazarus, who suffered on earth, is found by Abraham’s side in Heaven, while the rich man, who thought only of himself, is found in hell.

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Table Talk: Week of September 18, 2016

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is one of the more challenging lessons Jesus shared with his followers. The manager, caught cheating by the rich man who employed him, is fired. Uncertain of his future, the manager comes up with a plan to help others, reaching out to all who owe the rich man money and changing the amounts so they can pay less, in hopes that they will remember and help him later. He then goes back to the rich man and tells him what he has done, earning his former employer’s praise.

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