Book Review: “Walk in Love” by Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe

This article originally appeared at The Black Giraffe blog on Tuesday, April 17. 

When I read a draft of Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs and Practices, I was elated.  Here, finally, was the book about the Episcopal Church that I had wanted to give to inquirers for my entire ministry. The love that Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe have for their church infuses the entire volume, and their desire to explain their beloved church to others is thorough, readable, and insightful.

Three qualities make Walk in Love particularly valuable to anyone looking for a book about the Episcopal Church.  First, this volume focuses on the key elements of who we are from the perspective of what is most important to us, instead of trying to differentiate us from other flavors of Christianity.  The book opens with the liturgy and the sacraments, which are the central elements of our worship and a key experience for our common life.

Second, this volume is thorough, covering a lot of ground to describe many important aspects of our faith. After the sacraments, Gunn and Shobe look at how we pray at different times, our basic beliefs, how the church is structured, the Trinity, and how we live out our faith more deeply. At 338 pages, the book is long, but the chapters are short, with each section broken up into easily digestible pieces.

Finally, the book is accessible, with a clear organization, personal stories, reflection questions, pull-out boxes, and a writing style that doesn’t assume any particular background. Reading Walk in Love is like having two dedicated guides leading you through their favorite community, explaining what is happening, why it is happening, and why it is so important to them.  Gunn and Shobe are sharing how the Episcopal Church embodies and proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ.  Their work is generous and expresses the breadth of our traditions, lifting up aspects of our life that could be recognized in almost every Episcopal congregation.

The cover design is beautiful, and the binding is solid, especially for a large paperback volume.

As I noted in the blurb I gave to the editors after my initial reading, I believe that this book is the most comprehensive, and comprehensible, guide to Episcopal faith and practice available. It is perfect book for new comers, long-time members, and anyone in between.

Forward Movement is also publishing a free curriculum called Practicing Our Faith that is based on Walk in Love.  This curriculum will be available in the spring of 2018.

To order copies of Walk in Love, including bulk discounts, or to find out more about Practicing Our Faith, go to:

https://www.forwardmovement.org/Products/2463/walk-in-love.aspx

The Rev. Adam Trambley is rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon. 

Lenten Preparation – Books for the Journey

Ash Wednesday is only a week away, and here at the Forward we’re preparing for Lent by slowing down, cutting back on screen time, and committing to prayer, introspection – and a LOT of reading!

We recently polled people from around the diocese for suggestions on texts that would be useful guides on our Lenten journey, which you’ll find collected below. It’s an eclectic mix of authors, books, poetry, meditations, and some guided Bible exploration. We hope that you will find something here that speaks to your soul and provides some spiritual food for thought.

Have a blessed Lent, and happy reading!


Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis 

In this book Lewis talks about his coming to faith in part through the experience of “Joy” which is distinct from mere pleasure or happiness and is in fact an apprehending of the presence of God. My favorite quote from the book is “a young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” I think a corollary is also true, “a Christian who wishes to remain in charity with his/her neighbors cannot be too careful of his/her reading, either.”  – The Rev. Stacey Fussell

Final Words from the Cross by Adam Hamilton

The author leads a study and discussion on the traditional last statements of Jesus.  He shares several stories, historical information and questions for discussion, as well as guided prayer for 6 sessions.  A DVD, leader’s guide and book are included – giving the leader adequate and formational support.  It is a good study and intentional focus on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for Lent.  – The Rev. Erin Betz Shank

Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom

One of the books that has most deeply influenced my life as a Christian is Beginning to Pray by Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony Bloom.  Bloom invites his readers to journey along the road of prayer with him, understanding all of us (including himself) as beginners to prayer.  Bloom addresses a large variety of issues related to prayer in a short approachable book including: a feeling of the absence of God, orienting ourselves towards fullness of life, managing our times of prayer, and the power of being in relationship with the living God.  May this book impact your prayer life as deeply as it has mine.   –  Craig Dressler

The Shape of Living by David F. Ford

In this book David Ford explores, from the Christian perspective, the challenge of living a Christian life in the world of the overwhelmed. He theorizes that we are ALL overwhelmed and suggests ways to explore living in this new reality.  – The Rev. Canon Al Johnson

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown 

In a season that tells us to “remember that you are dust,” it’s good to be reminded that while we are imperfect, we still have value, and God and others love us despite our imperfect natures. This early book by professor Brené Brown not only discusses imperfection, but provides ten focus guideposts to assist us toward embracing more wholehearted living – cultivating calm and stillness, gratitude, authenticity, and more.   – Megin Sewak

Pauses for Lent by Trevor Hudson

[Trevor] offers a daily Scripture, prayer and questions for the day for reflection and prayer.  Lent is about repentance, and so even though I have not used this resource, I think it may be a good option to help us ask the tough questions for how we must change our broken ways into God’s image and intentions.  – The Rev. Erin Betz Shank

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

– Recommended by The Rev. Elizabeth Yale

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd

This is an excellent read for anyone searching to determine what the next step is in their spiritual life. She especially believes that patience poses an essential posture in seeking a deeper relationship with God.  – The Rev. Canon Al Johnson

Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryokan by Mary Lou Kownacki

This book of spiritual poetry is a conversation between a 19th century Buddhist monk and a 20th century Roman Catholic Benedictine from Erie.  Thought-provoking, inspiring, and occasionally funny, these poems dig deeply into an all-embracing compassion that spans centuries, traditions, and human hearts.   – The Rev. Adam Trambley

Falling Upward by Richard Rohr 

Carl Jung wrote that ‘one cannot live the afternoon of life according the program of life’s morning,’ which is the topic of Falling Upward.  Rohr invites his reader into a journey that only the second-half of life can bring, when God calls us to go more deeply into ourselves and unlearn much of what we have constructed about our world.  For those willing to take that risk, an incredible journey of falling up into God awaits.  Whatever your age, Rohr provides space for you in this short, but thoughtful book.  –  The Rev. Melinda Hall

The Spirituality of Imperfection by Kurtz and Ketcham

This book explores the spiritual life from several perspectives besides Christianity.  Filled with moving stories, testimonies, and insights, the authors invite us to open our hearts and mind to that which lives beyond us in the world of the Spirit.   – The Rev. Canon Al Johnson

God’s Abiding Love: Daily Lenten Meditations and Prayers by Henri Nouwen

I have a booklet that I’ve used for the past couple of years that I read every night during Lent before I go to sleep – it begins with a passage from the Bible, followed by a small dissertation and ends with a one-sentence prayer.  It gives me a sense of calm and peace, if even for a few minutes, during a season that isn’t for me anyway and of trying to do something during Lent.   – Anne Bardol

Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith makes an excellent Lenten companion.  This slim book is filled with Nouwen’s insights, and his stories lead the reader to consider her/his own self and faith journey.  Each chapter concludes with prayer and journaling suggestions, offering a guided way to spend time in silence and reflection.  – The Rev. Melinda Hall

The Three Marriages by David Whyte

This is a wonderful book that explores the three vocations of everyone’s life: the call to work, the call to self, and the call to relationships.  The premise:  “We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way.” – The Rev. Canon Al Johnson

Teaching Faith with Harry Potter: A Guidebook for Parents and Educators for Multigenerational Faith Formation by Patricia M. Lyons

With over 400 millions copies sold worldwide, translated into 68 languages, a movie franchise worth more than $25 billion, and a universe expansion with the release of the Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them movies, Harry Potter is a language that A LOT of people speak. Through the Harry Potter story and characters, J.K. Rowling’s story, and some personal reflection, Patricia Lyons brings out the messages of faith that permeate this cultural phenomenon. It is a great read for HP fans and those who might be curious about its ties to faith. – Missy Greene

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

Just because Lent arrives, doesn’t mean life slows.  For the busier soul, perhaps a daily dose of Mary Oliver’s poetry, particularly my favorite of her collections, A Thousand Mornings, would be an excellent addition to one’s day.  Oliver’s poems are centered in nature but take the reader to beautiful, soul-filled places.  Although not explicitly religious, I never read Oliver without encountering the sacred. – The Rev. Melinda Hall

The Good Book Club – Forward Movement

For those who would like to spend more time with the Bible, Forward Movement is now offering the Good Book Club – a free guided reading of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, with additional suggested readings and a downloadable discussion guide for groups. Learn more about the Good Book Club and sign up for updates here.


Do you have reading suggestions that didn’t make it on the list? Feel free to share in the comments section below! 

A Different Kind of Fast

There are times when life seems to flash by in a whirlwind – particularly so when in the midst of holiday seasons. It feels like we just wrapped up our Christmas celebrations, and yet in just a few weeks we’ll be heading to church for Ash Wednesday services! This year, instead of blinking and finding out that it’s practically Easter, I’m attempting to be more mindful and actually experience Lent, rather than letting it flash by.

As part of a previous Lenten series on the Forward, Fr. Adam Trambley shared a two-part article about fasting. In it he mentions how the act of fasting can lead to self-control in other areas:

If we can deny ourselves food for a day, maybe we can also deepen our self-control in other aspects of our life. Maybe we can control our tongues when a piece of juicy gossip or a harsh word is on its tip.  Maybe we can turn off the TV or the Facebook feed when we should really be saying our prayers before bed.

That final line is definitely food for thought. If you are like me (or just the average American adult, according to Nielsen media analytics), you spend close to 11 hours a day immersed in media: web surfing, checking Facebook, binge watching shows on Netflix– we’re plugged in most of our waking hours. It’s difficult to concentrate, let alone engage in thoughtful self-examination or meditate on the word of God, when trying to keep up with the influx of information coming through the screen day in and day out. I’m definitely guilty of checking my Facebook feed before bed, and my husband will often start streaming an episode of Agents of Shield after he’s supposedly settled in for the evening. It’s not restful, and definitely not prayerful.

While I don’t plan to commit to a complete ‘digital fast’ this year (which would be a little difficult in my line of work!), I do want to take some steps to cut down on mindlessly surfing social media and reclaim some of that time for more God-centered activity. My current thought is to set aside one hour each evening before bed for prayer, reading, and journaling (or as I like to think of it, meditating on paper). No more Words with Friends after 11 pm!

If you too are interested in stepping back from the screen this Lenten season, near the beginning of February we’ll be posting an article with reading recommendations to give you a jump start on your journey. Do you already have a book in mind that speaks to your soul? Feel free to share the title in the comments section!

Megin Sewak is Assistant for Communications for the Diocese of NWPA. 

“Who Are You, God” – ECW Annual Retreat

The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania’s Episcopal Church Women will host their annual retreat at the Chautauqua Institution Episcopal Cottage on September 23rd beginning at 8:30 am.  The retreat will include a viewing of the movie “The Shack” followed by discussion led by the Rev. Bonnie Skellen.

All have been impacted and hurt by the disease, dysfunction, and destruction of this broken world. All of us are in need of healing and restoration. Every intentional movement toward wholeness is connected to relationship, to spiritual friendship, and to the discovery of the beauty God has created within you, within your humanity, and within your community. Come and explore the triune God, not in some cathedral or stronghold of your own making, but in “the shack” of your pain. It is there that you will be confronted and comforted with the real relational truth of who God is and who you are.

Overnight accommodations for Friday/Saturday are available at the cottage on a first come, first serve basis. Registration is $30 for Friday and Saturday, $20 for Saturday only, and is due by September 18th.  To register, download the Registration Form and mail to Joyce Gieza at the address listed.

 

Falling Into Quiet

My daughter and I have very different views of summer vacation. When the goodbyes are said on the last day of school and the bus pulls away for the final time that year, she sees three months of relaxation, time in the sun, and that word dreaded by parents everywhere – boredom. I see a calendar crowded with activities: summer soccer league, football and marching band camps, Fourth of July parties and the obligatory nine hour drive for a visit with the in-laws, summer reading at the library and the ever-growing list of house and yard chores that depend on warmer weather to complete.

Summer in the church isn’t a slow time, either. Every year after Pentecost and the end of formation classes church secretaries catch their collective breath and say, “Oh, good – now things will ease up a bit!” Of course, then it really begins: wedding season is in full force, church cleanup days need scheduled, there’s preparation for Blessing of the Backpacks and the beginning of the new formation year – constant activity.

The news is also full of activity during these months. We’re somewhat blessed in our area when it comes to summer weather, but in many places the season often brings with it extremes of heat and storms, and we’re called more than ever to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need. (Episcopal Relief and Development is doing important work now in the areas hit by Hurricane Harvey. You can learn more at their website here.)

With all this and more going on each summer, I can’t say that I find the season to be either slow, or particularly relaxing. There’s far too much to do, and so little time to do it in! It’s easy to become discouraged and let what should be a joyful time instead turn into just another day to get through. I’ve decided this year, though, that I’m going to break the cycle.

Now that school is in session and life is falling back into a semblance of a routine, I’ve begun taking moments where I “fall into quiet”. When the bus has pulled away from the curb and I can no longer see my girl waving goodbye from the window, I take my cup of coffee and walk to the far end of the house, away from any hustle and bustle on the road. I stand in the doorway looking out over the backyard, enveloping myself in peace, birdsong, and quiet, preparing for the coming day.

It’s in the quiet moments, when the distractions and noise and business of life are put aside, that I really feel the presence of God. When it’s quiet, really quiet, I can hear the voice that says, “Come to me, you who labor, and I will give you rest.” Then, refreshed, I take a deep breath, finish my coffee, pick up my to-do list, and continue the work of the day ahead, because I’ve been reminded that I’m not laboring on my own.

Summer may not always be relaxing, but I hope yours has been full and joyous, and that you’ve found moments to “fall into quiet” with God when you’ve needed them most. God’s peace to you.

Megin Sewak is Communications Specialist for the Diocese of NWPA. 

Cleaning Our Spiritual Basements

Basements were standard in the houses of my youth.  The two flat where my grandparents lived on the South Side of Chicago had a basement – a real basement with dirt walls, piles of coal and coal dust, narrow stairs to walk down, a healthy musty smell, and two bare electric lights.  Our family homes on the South Side also had basements, as did both our homes in Hinsdale.  My Mom was an ardent cleaner of basements.  Whenever she was stressed, blew her top, or felt overwhelmed by life, (I see this now; didn’t see it then), she cleaned the basement.  If I was the cause or recipient of her unhappiness, her move to the basement was sweet relief.  There was no telling how much time she would spend down there.  My guess; it all depended on precipitating causes.  She certainly had many to balance.  The metaphor didn’t strike me until many years later in life.

Psychology and spirituality both refer to the house as a metaphor for the self.  If your “house” has a basement, then going down to clean the basement was going down into those recluse and hidden parts of herself where she could be alone and address them in her way.  You know why I think this?  Because, fundamentally, the basement didn’t change very much!  There might be the occasional bag of items for Goodwill or a slight reorganization, but the actual cleaning fell to me.  The basement was her place to sit within those places of herself where only she and her God would be.

Lent is time to have courage to sit in our spiritual basements, which only we know.  Perhaps it’s time to give away a few items that are no longer needed and gather dust?  Perhaps it’s time to clean up some old gifts and find a new expression for them?  Perhaps it’s time to wipe clean the slate of sin, guilt, shame and resentment and prepare for walking back upstairs on Easter Day?  I don’t know.  You’ve got your basement and I’ve got mine.  Our spiritual houses are built upon them.  Jesus tells us in scripture that God built them and lives in them also so we have nothing to fear.  Time to clean the basement!

Canon Al Johnson is the Canon for Congregational Vitality and Innovation for the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. 

The Personal Nature of Prayer Life

Your prayer life is like a fingerprint – no one has the same.  Our journey through life says it all.  I must admit though, “writing” about one’s prayer life comes close to asking about one’s sex life!  To me it has been a private matter, but when asked to share about prayer, I wanted to do the subject justice by telling how I arrived at this point of life at the tender age of 79.

I grew up in the church and received Christ into my life at 26 years of age through reading an old book, “Transforming Friendship” by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead.  I accepted Jesus as leader of my life and bridge to God, our Father, by His sacrifice on the cross. I had a conversion experience,  was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and several years later experienced the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” during the Charismatic renewal in Pittsburgh.  During this time I was in a prayer group of about 30 plus people for a period of five years.  This was an intense time of Bible study, personal growth and prayer.

The first reality I discovered after my conversion experience was that Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit wanted a “relationship” with me.  It was an intimacy of mind and heart that was so overwhelming.  What developed then was a “trust” – that no matter what my thoughts were, I could speak to this Trinity with total honesty, provide an open mind and be assured that I would receive guidance, comfort, forgiveness and spiritual grace.

My family then moved to north central Pennsylvania and I became very active in my church, becoming LEM II, choir, altar guild, vestry and ECW leader.  I also attended several classes at the Diocesan School for Ministry and was appointed to the Diocesan ECW Board as the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative.  I attended Cursillo and gave a couple talks at the Diocesan Mission Conference.  It was during this period that I wrote a prayer/poem, Special Friend.  All this activity occurred during 30 years.

Looking back I must confess – studying the Bible had been like reading a history book and just provided verification for my conversion and spiritual experiences.  The BCP (Book of Common Prayer) was not a book I turned to for “spiritual uplifting”.  Also, prayer came with difficulty – whether said out loud or in my mind.  I never seemed to have the “right words” and I didn’t feel comfortable praising God either – “why did He need praised?”

But, nevertheless, Our Lord had a Way – a niche and I never saw it coming.  I believe it began when I was preparing a talk and was searching the BCP when I came across the definition of prayer (page 856).  “Prayer is responding to God, by thoughts, by deeds with or without words.”   Now that put me into a Receiver position, i.e., I did not have to make up beautiful words to pray – instead I was to receive and respond.  God was the Initiator – but how was I to respond?

This quest led me into Contemplative Prayer.  I read Thomas Merton’s  “Open Mind, Open Heart” and listened to Thomas Keating’s lectures on “Centering Prayer.”  I did not have to “make up” anything – just be quiet!  I also learned that God did not need me to praise Him for His benefit or ego.   God wanted me to praise Him for my benefit.  My praise was to open my heart to Him.  Again, the BCP: ( page 857),  “……God’s Being draws praise from us.”  Now that was a very good reason to me!

The “speaking in tongues” gift that I had received over 50 years ago also served the purposes of praising God – in a prayer language. Occasionally, when I could no longer think of what to say, I could use my voice to express what my heart felt.  It was like expressing love using your voice and you knew that what you said was right and not orchestrated – you did not have to think about what to tell God how or what you wanted Him to do; you just provided the sacrifice of your time and voice.  This I could do out loud or silently.

Also, if ever I have the opportunity to participate in “laying-on-of-hands” for prayer ministry, I encourage it.  There is a special intensity which breaks through and creates community and sharing of one spirit.  It is like a marriage of our spiritual selves together for the common good.

I have now arrived on my prayer journey.  Now upon hearing Scripture and BCP prayers in church,  I know they have been written by others who have been inspired.  My approach to prayer now begins with honesty of mind and heart.  As I begin to be open in prayer, I usually like to “name” what I am thinking.  I try to find a word to best express what is bothering me or the reason I think this or that.   It is kind of like confession.   I then turn that thought to God’s will for healing, forgiveness or release.  I lift up names in petition knowing that God knows their needs.  I like to practice silence in the style of contemplative prayer – just basking in His presence. “For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough” (Claire, Outlander by D. Gabaldon, Chpt. 38). Occasionally, I use my prayer language – especially in times of joy.  I also delight in His blessings and gifts of ideas or humorous coincidences that could only come from God’s unique Grace and Blessings.  Prayer has become a very safe and loving place.  Amen.

Diane Pyle is a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Emporium, and the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative on the Diocesan ECW board. 

Why Do We Pray?

We sometimes find ourselves – whether as an individual or part of a group – alone in the mission field. By alone, I mean the individual or group, though in the midst of hundreds or thousands around us, were alone as we jumped on an idea and did not bring God into the mix. I’ve had the experience of a group trying to engage God’s people in the field of the world in what WE determined was a useful way…but the small group missed the mark. We organized, we consulted, we analyzed, we came up with a plan and even had the “post event” ready to go…but all fell flat. Why…we didn’t understand – what did we do wrong? Come on… we did this for God, it was for His people, it was good, and it was a great plan. But why did it fall so flat, flub, not even a hint of some redeemable good for all the work and effort we put in?

Some might say that we could look under all the rocks and be alert to what God has in plan that we don’t see just now. Yet, there is something inside of us that knows that our efforts did not remotely come close to benefitting God. There seems to be no benefit for the work and we might have burned out a few good folks along the way or might have used a few favors from friends or colleagues as well.

This might have happened to many of us…we had this great plan. We had the best intentions…we truly wanted this for God…all the best goals were considered. But it reminded me of trying to buy a present for someone close to me at the last minute without the opportunity to ask, or consider what was best for that dear person, a person that counts on us and knows us and has been generous with us. What we did find and offer at the last minute wasn’t a gift that was needed…but a cover-up for not taking the time to really find out what the person wanted or needed.

workplace-1245776_640We do that to God some days…He can be short-changed based on our busy lives. In His or Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s name we come up with some goofy things that we think are needed for us to do. We may spend a lot of time thinking about it, planning about it over multiple meetings. We may ask or include a lot of people and we may spend a lot of money on doing whatever we came up with that we should be doing, but it is just a cover-up for something we are lacking.

So, what are we lacking…maybe it is as simple as getting to know and spend some time with God? We know the best gifts are rarely the most expensive items, they are things that are just needed (generally not wanted). God needs us to understand Him as the people He created. We need to know who God is to us. We need to know who God wants us to be. How does He wish us to engage the world He has laid before us?  These may seem like difficult questions, but think about our best friend in the world. Would it be difficult to answer any of these questions? It probably would not take very long…because we know that person, we are close in all the positive ways and intuitively understand them. We can be close to God in the same way…through prayer.

We do embrace God for many things in prayer. He wants us to come to Him with our concerns, He wants us to lay our troubles at the foot of the cross, and He wants us to lift up our concerns for ourselves and others. Because He knows us…inside and out…just like the creator He is…there are no secrets. To Him, we are an open book with all chapters (past and present) highlighted, marked and read. The question of the day…can we say that we understand God as well as He understands us? Have we taken the time to know who He is? Sure – a good Bible study is great, important and helpful for many reasons, but have we taken time to listen? Listen for His words directly to us and not through anyone else, just from Him, in whatever way He chooses to communicate…but are we there to hear Him?

We live in a time that is a mixture of responses from the world. The world feeds us with information that seems very personal, because the world has invested time and money into understanding just who we are. The world does this most likely because they want something from us (probably our money). God invests in us as well for a very simple reason, He loves us.

Just simple time with Him…quiet time…praise time…study time…it is our time together. Listen and watch for Him in everything and everywhere. The easy part, there are no rules …just make the time, any time, any place. Clear our minds of our stuff, our wishes, our wants, our agenda…what is God saying to us? No analyzing, no judgement, no comparison to the past or present…just listen. Leave what we know, what we have done and just how smart we are…and just listen.

He does love us, He does know us, He is as present today as in the beginning. Just listen and you will then see and know.

The Rev. Randy Beck is Deacon at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Greenville, PA. 

This is the fifth installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

Invitation to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil – March 17 & 18

altar-boy-1190759_1920The conviction that praying shapes believing is part of our Anglican heritage.  Prayer is a core practice of our Christian faith and serves as both a foundation and covering for our common mission.

I invite you to join me in prayer for our diocese at St. John’s, Sharon, on March 17-18 from noon to noon.  We will set aside 24 hours to pray for each other, our common life and mission, and our communities.

Please join us as you are able.  I recognize that not everyone will be able to join us in Sharon, but I hope that you will offer prayer from wherever you are during that time.

+Sean

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The schedule for the prayer vigil is below.  As you can see on the schedule, we will be praying from noon to noon with services and events planned throughout the vigil.  All are welcome to join us for any portion of the vigil, whether that be attending a single service, coming just to pray on your own for a time, or being present for the full 24 hours.  There will be food provided throughout our time.

We will also have a form on the website for those who would like to submit prayer requests to be prayed over by our intercessors.  You are welcome to submit as many as you would like.

If you have any questions about this event or submitting a prayer request, please contact Vanessa.

Schedule for Prayer Vigil
March 17-18
St. John’s, Sharon
12:00 PM       Stations of the Cross
2:30 PM         Centering Prayer teaching and prayer time
5:30 PM         Evening Prayer
7:00 PM         Healing Service
10:00 PM      Compline
11:00 PM       Oral Reading of Book of Revelation
12:00 AM      Private Prayer/Intercession over submitted prayers
7:00 AM         Morning Prayer and Praise
9:00 AM        Prayerwalk & prayers for community
11:00 AM       Eucharist
12:00 PM      Lunch with St. John’s Family Kitchen (if you wish to stay)

Receive Advent As A Gift

advent-1812702_1280As we prepare to enter another season of Advent, we are given the gift of waiting.  So often, we focus on what we want, but Advent invites us to focus on what God might give us.  Instead of expending our effort on choosing what we would like and striving to get it, our energy goes into preparing our hearts to be open to what is coming.  This preparation is much harder work, but ultimately more fruitful.

One of the lies we tell ourselves is that if we work hard enough, what we think is best will come to us.  Really, though, however hard we work, we are always handed a jumble of broken leftovers from the pursuits and plans of others.  We can toil desperately to make that mess into the gift we have decided we deserve to be given.  But we cannot create what we truly need to satisfy us.

Advent provides the space for us to strip down our projections and put away our projects so that we can see where the divine gift for us is to be found in the midst of life’s pains and paradoxes.  We shut off the flashing lights and neon beacons so we can simply see the stars around us.  We step out of the buzzing cacophony and make space for silence where the still, small voice may beckon.  We close the Facebook feeds and the commercial messages to open the prophets and the psalms preparing us to recognize what we can’t yet imagine.  We stop jockeying for candles-141892_640position and simply sit beside our brothers and sisters until these erstwhile allies and enemies become nothing less to us than the true image and likeness of God.

Advent helps us hand over our wills, our imaginations, and our desires so that in the crucible of waiting they can be purified into hope.  We cannot learn hope until we have learned to stop and let go of everything except for God’s coming to us.  Then God’s coming will fill every nook and cranny of our being, occupying our every thought and hunger. We will be able to recognize the Messiah come into the world because we will have become nothing more than a Messiah-shaped outline waiting desperately for God to fill us.

The waiting of Advent allows us to recognize and receive the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace amid shepherds and Latin-speaking IRS agents two thousand years ago.  That same waiting allows us to recognize and receive the body of Christ in the gifts placed on the altar and in those gathered around it, as well as in the least of our brothers and sisters for whom whatever we do we do also for Jesus.  Our Advent waiting will also allow us to recognize and be received by the Son of Man in his crucified glory at the last day.

Our souls are saturated with so much stress and striving that we cannot wait to wait.  Receive Advent as a gift and dive into it deeply.  Wait until we can’t imagine wanting anything but Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

The Rev. Adam Trambley is rector at St. John’s, Sharon.