It’s a “Grape” Day in the Kingdom at Holy Cross

IT’S A “GRAPE DAY” IN THE KINGDOM!  The pie-baking, goodie-making marathon at Holy Cross Episcopal Church is about to begin for the 2017 Wine Festival.  Supplies are being gathered and workers are being recruited for this, our largest annual fundraiser.  We have been involved in many outreach ministries over the past year and proceeds from this event will help to further that mission. The decision as to which outreach ministries to support  is made by the congregation when we know what our final total is and how we want to distribute funds. Previous beneficiaries have included: Shared Hope (an agency working against human trafficking), Heifer Project (we’ve purchased 2 arks at  $5,000 each), Women’s Care Center, Common Ground (a local youth ‘hangout’ for youth of the community to gather safely for fellowship), LakeArts Foundation, Hurricane Sandy relief, Community Christmas boxes, and the North East Food Pantry.

Our grape pies have become known locally and beyond.  Each year everything is usually sold out (last year being no exception) and folks were still stopping by and phoning in to see if we had any left.  Unfortunately we were not able to accommodate them then.  This year, however, the production total has been raised to have enough for everyone. Our new oven will hopefully enable us to increase our quantities.  Pie baking will begin on Thursday, September 21st, and pies will be available for sale that day beginning at 1:00 PM from the church parish hall located at 51 West Main Street.  They will also be sold from our tent located on the corner of West Main and South Pearl Streets beginning Friday, September 22nd through Sunday, September 24th.  Sunday sales begin at 12:00 following the morning worship services which we cordially invite you to join us at either 8:30 or 10:30 AM.

The cost of a pie is now $13.00 and are available in both regular and sugar free.  We welcome advance orders. Please call the church at 814-725-4679 and leave your name, telephone number, the number of pies you would like and the day you will pick them up. Our tent will also feature our annual array goodies of Swedish rye bread, caramel corn, peanut butter and chocolate fudge as well as an assortment of treats to satisfy a variety of tastes. A coffee and slice of pie combination, along with other refreshments, will be available if you want to stop and take a break from all the festivities around the community.

The star of Holy Cross’s Wine Festival participation is our gal who is dressed as a human bunch of grapes – Holy Cross’s ambassador for this event.  She’s been interviewed by the local and regional newspaper and has even become a celebrity in a photo shoot for a wedding party. Stop by, take a picture and say hello…

We have a lot of fun during the harvest season in North East at Holy Cross and welcome the opportunity to ‘welcome you’  to endulge yourself with some of the treats we offer.  Stop by, say ‘hello’ and you will understand what we mean when we say IT’S A “GRAPE DAY” IN THE KINGDOM! 

Anne Bardol is the treasurer and parish administrator of Holy Cross Church in North East, PA. 

“There and Back Again” – Adventures in Episcopal Communications

I’m not a “big crowds” person, generally. I don’t go to concerts, I skip school reunions, and I avoid the mall on Saturday afternoons as though my life depended on it. That being said, you can probably imagine my trepidation as I stood outside the airport waiting to catch the bus headed to the Episcopal Communicators conference in downtown Cincinnati. (I know, I know – a SHY communications person? We really do exist, I swear.) Talking back and forth with hundreds of people on Facebook and email is one thing, but meeting them in person is a somewhat more nerve-wracking experience, especially as a first-time conference attendee.

I sat at the bus stop nervously checking the conference and metro schedules on my phone, and whether it was the look on my face or the fact that I was obviously an out-of-towner, two young guys waiting for the same bus took pity on me. In the thirty minutes it took us to get from the airport to the hotel, they’d explained to me which stop was mine, gave me at least four recommendations on where to eat,  told me where they were staying in case I needed anything, and sent me off with wishes to “have a great time!”. Grace pops up in the oddest places, but it’s usually when we need it most.

There was just enough time after I’d checked in for me to drop my bags in my room and try to tame my humidity-frizzled hair before registration closed, so I did a quick check in the mirror and then made my way to the conference floor to pick up my nametag.  (There were a few large groups meeting in town that week, and for the first day and a half of the conference one would regularly see people looking around at other’s nametags to be sure they were heading towards the correct meeting room.  Several of us in the EpisComm group made conversation with the Tasters’ Conference people down the hall, though we never did figure out how to sneak in so we could be part of the vanilla bean tasting. Maybe next time!)

I suppose my initial worries about the conference were unfounded – in a room full of professional communicators, it’s almost impossible not to be drawn into conversation unless you’re actively working at it. There were roughly 150 people from all corners of the country in attendance, and the noise level in the room could be described as ‘lively’. I slipped into an empty seat about halfway between the door and the announcer’s podium, and within moments I’d been introduced to everyone at the table, and another first-time attendee from southern Florida (who was simultaneously updating his Facebook page in both English and Spanish) asked me which workshops I was planning to attend. I was in!

As we chatted I wondered how long it would take the EpisComm President to get everyone quiet so we could begin the plenary session – a minute? Two? Would she have to bang a gavel? My speculations were wildly off.  At three o’clock sharp she stepped up the microphone, coughed politely, and then said, “The Lord be with you.”

“AND ALSO WITH YOU!”  rang out from every corner of the room, and then there was silence. Amazing!

It’s even more amazing when you consider that this response, and the liturgy as a whole, is something we all share in spite of our manifold differences. The Episcopal Communicators are quite a mixed bunch. Over the course of the conference I met a delightful young lady from Oregon state and a gentleman from London, a woman who was the sole communicator for her small parish in Maryland and another who was head of communications for the entire state of Minnesota, men and women, baby boomers and millennials, Episcopalians, Catholics, and one woman who regularly attends a Quaker service (!). So many differences, but all united in their purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

The thing that really sold me on the greatness of conferences is that you have an incredible bank of talented people all within reach, sharing their ideas and resources freely. Jana Riess, the keynote speaker and author of The Twible, was a wealth of information during her addresses, and between times she made herself available to anyone who wanted to chat (or get their book copy signed).  As for workshops, there were at least two media teams that had tips on how to tailor your church’s social media presence; Scott Gunn of Forward Movement gave a tutorial on how to take pictures with basic point and shoot cameras; Episcopal Relief and Development had a highly interesting discussion on the Asset Map (which is a fabulous resource for churches) – and this was just from the professionals during formal workshop time. Conversations were happening EVERYWHERE – at the breakfast table, in the elevator, at the yarn store (knitters gotta knit!).  The spontaneous discussions were just as productive as the workshops, in some ways – comparing situations with others ‘on the ground’ and seeing what each of us does differently can be both eye-opening and instructive. As someone relatively new to diocesan communications I wasn’t sure that I would have much to offer others, but in the course of conversation it happened that we spawned some new ideas for reaching out to college students, and I had some input in a promotional video concept for Taize services. (Don’t discount your contributions out of hand – God may have plans you’re unaware of!) Plus, as a result of those spontaneous meetings we were all able to share contact information for continued collaboration outside conference time, so the fun didn’t end when we said goodbye Saturday morning.

No one, and no church, should be an island – if we want to share God’s story and be part of the Jesus Movement, we need to take a chance and come out of our shells a bit. So, from my shy self to you, a word of recommendation: communicate!

And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15    I think you’ll be glad you did.

Megin Sewak is Communications Specialist for the Diocese of Northwestern PA. 

O Come, Divine Messiah!

advent-policeThe above cartoon recently popped up on my Facebook feed. It’s by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, and depicts ‘the Advent police’ citing people for putting up Christmas ornaments and singing Christmas carols during Advent. Silly, right? Normally I would just chuckle and keep scrolling, but for some reason this particular image made me stop and really look.

Can you imagine if there really WERE an Advent police? I know for a fact that the dollar store downtown would be awash in violations, since I’m pretty sure I recall the Christmas aisle being set up the week before Halloween this year. Think of all the fines that could be set aside for mission funds! (Just kidding.) Then again, how many of us are really able to go the entire four weeks before Christmas without trimming the tree or humming a few bars of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ when we hear it played over the store loudspeakers while doing our Christmas shopping?

As a former (recovering?) church organist and cantor, I find Advent to be one of the most fascinating times in the church year. Though the calendar year is drawing to a close, it’s just the beginning of the liturgical year – a time of quiet, preparation, and yes – anticipation of the coming Savior. The days are shorter, the hymns on Sunday a bit quieter than during the season after Pentecost, and the readings talk about waking from sleep and preparing the way of the Lord.

One hymn in particular makes me marvel every year: ‘O Come, Divine Messiah’.  If you’re not familiar with the tune, please do look it up on YouTube. The music is light, just a tiny bit bouncy, but combined with the lyrics it’s an amazing summation of the anticipation and longing of the Advent season. We wait in the dark and quiet of these weeks of December, yearning for Jesus to come to Earth for our redemption and to bring joy and light into our lives.

“Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.”

I finally made a note in pen at the top of my sheet music to tell the choir not to speed up at that point, because every. single. time. we sang that piece they would get so excited it was like trying to hold back runaway horses. “Hurry, Jesus! We’ve been waiting for so long!” Women in their 80s were singing with all the enthusiasm and impatience of my two year old daughter – “Now, Mommy? Now?”

It’s a busy time of year, and many of us have to-do lists as long as our arm, making our physical preparations for the coming of the Lord. Try to take a few moments this week, though, to quiet your mind and enjoy that thrilling anticipation that comes from having to wait.

“O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.”

Megin Sewak is Communications Specialist for the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. 

Be Part of the Conversation

yoga-1146280_640I detest pigeons.  But more than actual pigeons, I really detest the pigeon pose in yoga.  It involves folding one leg under you in such a way that stretches your hip, while the other leg stretches behind you and your arms and head rest on the mat.  Ideally that’s what it involves.  When I fold into pigeon, there is nothing ideal about it.  Without fail, my leg goes to sleep, the numbness disintegrates into pins-and-needles, and I begin wondering whether I will lose my leg altogether from a lack of blood flow; by the time I exit this pose, will I look more like the one-legged maimed pigeons of cities than a stretched and rested human?

With such manifestations of yogic skill and grace, you may wonder why in the world I continue to attend the Monday yoga class offered in my town.  It’s twofold, an intertwining of personal spirituality and corporate kingdom spreading.  Engaging with me can be a hyper experience, as I frequently bounce between ideas and exhibit a rather deplorable lack of focus.  Too often my thoughts are racing ahead to the next minute, hour, or week instead of being focused in the task or moment at hand.  It isn’t conducive to really good thinking or praying; it doesn’t foster listening to others or to God- or even to myself.  So along with reading on the topic, I have chosen to take up yoga to practice mindfulness.

To a degree, it is working.  Depending on the pose, I can focus on my breathing better than in the past; I can sometimes translate that skill beyond the studio into the ‘real world.’  But that’s not the sole reason I’m at the yoga class.  Last summer at Holy Trinity, we began exploring our identity and adjusting our programs and worship to live into that identity.  As a congregation, we developed our core values, penned blue-and-brewsthem, refined them, and hung them on the wall; they guide us in all decision-making.  We decided to ‘go public’ about being a congregation that embraces all people and began reimaging and rewriting worship services to include the musical talents of several parishioners and to reflect language we use in everyday life.  Formation activities moved outside our walls, to an arts café and a bar/restaurant; we have embraced learning as a key element of who we are.  Additionally, we began teaming up with local organizations to sponsor events that outsiders may not think churches sponsor, chief among them Blues and Brews with the arts group, but also concerts and our animal blessing.

Great as all that may be for our life together, it is not about us.  It is all aimed at reentering the conversation happening in our town, a conversation about economics and politics, loss and hope, drugs and alcohol, football and wrestling, bike trails and beer, questions and longings and spirituality.  Is this new or different?  No, it is not.  But it is a new orientation for us, one that is exciting and challenging.  Much of it is about listening to people, putting ourselves in different places so we hear many stories and better understand what God is doing here so we can partner with God in that work.  That’s why I torture myself with the pigeon pose: to meet new people, learn about their lives, and listen to their spirituality.  And that is happening, slowly.  Investing in a community and others takes time, more time than I would like.  But hopefully I’ll learn a little patience through the yoga and learn to listen more deeply to the people I meet and to God.  And together with the others at Holy Trinity, we can be part of the conversation happening in our community.

The Rev. Melinda Hall is vicar of Holy Trinity, Brookville. 

Father Adam’s Guidelines for Using Smartphones in Church

1. Smartphones (and tablets and other electronic devices) are permitted in church and you are free to use them. 2. The goal of using Smartphones is to allow you or others to be more involved in the service, not to distract you.  (Letting people know where you are, sharing a photo, taking notes, or live tweeting the sermon is great.  Looking at grumpy cat photos, not so much.) 3. Turn off the sound and don’t distract other people with whatever technology you may be using, including your voicebox – which is perhaps the oldest social medium. 4. Better to post something on social media during the announcements, hymns, or times when there is more noise or movement.  Better to put down the device and focus during the Gospel and the Eucharistic Prayer. 5. God loves you and is glad you are in church.  Do what you need to do, but try to maintain a spirit of worship and act like a mature adult, even if you aren’t chronologically an adult yet. 6. Regardless of these guidelines, do whatever your parents tell you to do (even if your parents are now in their sixties or seventies).  The Ten Commandments trump Father Adam’s Guidelines.

The Rev. Adam Trambley, Rector, St. John’s, Sharon, PA

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