Diocese of Ohio Mission Group Visits Franklin, PA

St. John’s, Franklin was host to a lively group last week: a mission team consisting of 29 youth and 9 adults from the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, who were in town to assist Mustard Seed Ministries of Venango County (an ecumenical service organization focused on home repair and transportation for those in need), Emmaus Haven (a transitional housing program), and Catholic Rural Ministries with various service projects in the greater Franklin area. Kids camped out in the parish hall basement by night and split into groups to tackle jobs ranging from yard work and housecleaning to building a utility shed from the ground up during the day.

Mary Anthony, director of religious education at St. Paul’s in Medina, Ohio, and one of the mission trip coordinators, took some time out from her work to talk a bit about the kids and the week’s projects.

“There are kids ages 12-19 representing six different parishes from the diocese this year,” she said. “We started coming here back in 2010 when Mother Holly was here. One of the priests from one of our churches in the diocese had found – it used to be called Helping Hands – because Mother Holly started the program. So we came and we really liked it, and this is our fifth year here.”  [Editor’s Note: Mother Holly Davis, who was priest at St. John’s in 2010, began the Helping Hands ministry during her time at the church. It has since been taken over by Pastor Randy Powell of the First Baptist Church in Franklin and renamed Mustard Seed Ministries.]

She went on to say that each year the mission coordinators come up with a list of potential areas to visit, then allow the youth to make the final decision on where they’ll be serving. “I like getting them out seeing different areas and working with different dioceses,” she continued. “We usually give them a couple of ideas, and the juniors and seniors pick. Some kids had been here and told the other kids what it was like. Deacon Dave (Betz) was here and the kids love him.” She turned and pointed out a young man who was visiting with the group during the picnic St. John’s hosted for them on Tuesday evening. “This is one of my former youth that came with us, and now he’s married and lives here in Franklin.” 

Mary’s crew of teens spent the week in Seneca assembling a shed that will be used to store lawnmowers and other equipment for the new Family Service and Children’s Aid Society PPC shelter.  “They’ve literally framed the whole thing top to bottom,” she said. “We started with 2x4s, now we’ve got all these walls and they’ll put them together on site.”  Another group assisted with the cleanup of a building that had previously been a Catholic church, but is now being repurposed as a homeless shelter through Emmaus Haven in Oil City. Deacon Dave Betz of St. John’s is the contact person for Emmaus Haven, and he shared that, while there has been a homeless shelter in Franklin for three years, the former church in Oil City has only recently been purchased and approved as a shelter. Both buildings are intended to house single men and women in homeless situations – definitely needed, since Emmaus Haven gets up to 97 calls a month for people in need of shelter in Venango County. 

This group of hardworking young people certainly were the definition of mission this week: going out into the world and spreading their faith through acts of service. Even more, they were loving their neighbors in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania as themselves. As Mary Anthony said, “We’ve gone some other places in between, but we decided we’d come back. We’ve formed some really good relationships with the people at St. John’s.”

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’  Mark 12:30-31

Making Prayer Beads

In our last video in the Personal Prayer series, Fr. Geoff Wild discussed how prayer beads can be used as part of a personal prayer practice. In today’s installment, follow along as Cheryl Wild teaches how to craft a set of your own!

Materials List:

  • heavy fishing line or Wildfire beading thread
  • cross or crucifix charm
  • 33 beads: 28 “week” beads, 4 cruciform beads, and 1 invitatory bead
  • E6000 glue
  • scissors

Prayer In Motion

The descriptors “introvert” and “public evangelism” don’t usually go together. These “things” never have held appeal for me and the last thing I wanted to do was walk around town and pray for the uninformed and the unconverted.  Yet I had committed to the Rev. Erin Betz-Shank, Bishop’s Warden Heather Armstrong, and the people of Trinity, New Castle, that I’d do whatever their priest did for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday while she was on maternity leave.  That promise turned into my first experience of an ecumenical prayer walk.

Due to Erin’s leadership, laity and clergy from the churches of New Castle participate in a prayer walk around downtown New Castle on Good Friday following a humble, draped cross.  The experience was entitled “Prayer in Motion”. We began with the library and moved to the police station, Salvation Army, United Way, medical clinic, businesses, restaurants, churches, and local government offices. At each location we prayed for the work done in each profession and for those who live the profession.  

The symbolism of the event leapt out of the concrete: in the midst of an economically challenged community like New Castle, this rain-soaked procession was a moving sign of hope. We travelled into the heart of sorrow, poverty, and decay with a message of hope, faith, and commitment. Jesus was here and he was staying.  The Church was here and the Church was staying. The youngest person was about two and oldest near 90. We weren’t many. The torrential rains kept many at home. Yet, we moved, prayed, and asked God’s blessings.

Sometimes these experiences affect those around the troop most. Perhaps that’s so; I hope so. The experience deeply affected me. We are called to show up in many ways: shelter, food, medical care, money, legal assistance, counseling, recovery, and the list goes on. We are also called to show up with faith, hope, and love. What a perfect, as in complete, way to worship on Good Friday: to step into the challenges of redevelopment in New Castle, reminding people that Jesus identifies with the suffering and with those who serve those in need.  Honestly, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful worship experiences of Good Friday ever for this aging Christian.

Thank you, Erin and Heather, for your leadership and holding me to my promise.

The Rev. Al Johnson is Canon for Congregational Vitality and Innovation for the Diocese of NWPA. 

It’s Time for the Waldameer Picnic!

The Diocesan Picnic at Waldameer is just around the corner! This great opportunity for worship, fellowship, and fun will be held on Sunday, June 16, 2019.  It is hoped and expected that those coming to the picnic would also attend the worship service at 11:00 AM. Bishop Sean will preach and celebrate.

Tickets are $25 (with a $100 maximum for members of an immediate family). Tickets will be exchanged at the park for a wristband that allows access to any or all of the following: a buffet meal, an all-day pass for riders, admission to the water park. Children 3 and under are free but require a wristband, so should be included in the reservation.

Congregations are once again being asked to gather money and reservations. Ticket sales must be done in advance using only tickets that are obtained from the Diocese.  No sale of tickets will be permitted at the park.  Reservations from the congregations must be to Vanessa by email or phone (814.456.4203) by noon on Monday, June 3rd.  Tickets will then be mailed to the congregations.

Paul Nelson, former diocesan treasurer and owner of Waldameer, is again generously allowing us to keep all proceeds from ticket sales.  The proceeds will go towards youth ministry in the dioceses.

On the day of the picnic, registration will be from 10:00 AM until 10:50 AM, and it is there that you will exchange your tickets for wristbands. There will be no registration during the service.  Registration will resume and the food lines will open after the worship service is completed. Food will be available until 4:00 PM. You must have a wrist band to eat.

Hope to see you at Waldameer!

Using Prayer Beads

What are prayer beads (and how are they different from the rosary)? And how do you use them as part of a regular prayer practice?  The Rev. Geoff Wild explains in this sixth segment of our series on Personal Prayer:

Stay tuned for part 2 of this video, where Cheryl Wild will demonstrate how prayer beads are made.

Other videos from this series: 
Personal Prayer Part 1 – Developing Your Personal Prayer Practice
Personal Prayer Part 2- Praying with Icons
Personal Prayer Part 3 – Praying the Daily Office
Personal Prayer Part 4 – Walking the Labyrinth
Personal Prayer Part 5 – Centering Prayer

Sharing the Love of Christ

My wife Kathy and I recently returned to Honduras from March 11-24 with a Christian Veterinary Mission team.  I have previously led several teams to Danli in southeastern Honduras and Kathy has often accompanied me.  This time we were leading a team of 6 veterinarians, 1 veterinary technician, 5 family members, 3 Honduran veterinary students, 3 Honduran drivers, and 3 Honduran high school translators.  We traveled under the auspices of Christian Veterinary Mission, an interdenominational professional Christian group, and SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) and were working within the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras to provide veterinary services to animals in the Danli area.  Our local contact was SAMS missionary Jeannie Loving.

Our team carried in medicines, equipment and supplies.  Each team member paid their own travel expenses and we had additional financial support from St. John’s, Franklin, as well as from several individual donations.

The team began each day with morning devotions.  Then, after breakfast, we would load our gear and travel to one of the many rural communities in the Danli area.  Each village that we visited was within the parish boundaries of one of the churches in the Danli Deanery.

Upon entering a village our team would divide into a livestock team and a pet animal team.  We then provided vaccinations, parasite treatments, medications, and surgeries as needed to horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and rabbits.  The services and medications were provided gratis but the local churches collected a donation of about $0.80 to $1.50 for surgical services. We had some very happy church members as the donations for each church were generally greater than a Sunday offering.  In the end we had treated over 1600 animals.

Our accompanying family members supported us by preparing the daily lunches for our team and an
always unknown number of hungry local helpers.  One spouse organized our daily devotions. Another was a fluent translator. They also helped with crowd control when necessary and were able to help spread the message that we came as Christians and were representing HIM by sharing HIS love.

We had purposely scheduled our trip to straddle a weekend so that we could attend church services together in a village where we had worked.  This year we attended the new rural church of Santa Maria Magdalena. We were fortunate that we were there on a communion Sunday as a priest is only available on alternate weekends.  We recognized several faces in the church of people who had been to our veterinary clinics earlier in the week, including one canine patient who walked in during the service and napped under the altar.  

For myself, the entire short-term mission experience is a spiritual renewal.  Yes, the work is satisfying. There is satisfaction in sharing your own resources, your wealth, your strengths, your faith, and all of your abilities with others.  We were called to go and share the Love of Christ. Answering that call was a blessing.

Dan Paulo is a member of St. John’s, Franklin. 

Centering Prayer

What is Centering Prayer, and how can it help you quiet your mind and bring you closer to God? The Rev. Adam Trambley explains in this fifth segment of our series on Personal Prayer:

Other videos from this series: 
Personal Prayer Part 1 – Developing Your Personal Prayer Practice
Personal Prayer Part 2- Praying with Icons
Personal Prayer Part 3 – Praying the Daily Office
Personal Prayer Part 4 – Walking the Labyrinth

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down!

You are most likely familiar with the children’s rhyme and game “Ring Around the Rosie” with the final line being the title of this article. One would never think this might apply to an Episcopal priest, but stranger things have happened!

On Ash Wednesday, the priest (Fr. Geoffrey Wild) and I were sitting in our allergist’s office waiting for our injections. An elderly friend and his daughter walked in and sat with us. The friend asked me if my husband would be distributing ashes at a service that day, and I told him he would be. The friend said he didn’t know if he could make it out to the church. The priest-husband offered to get the ashes out of the car and impose them in the allergist’s office. The friend then asked if his wife could be given ashes – oh, and, by the way, she was in the emergency room of the hospital in the same building as the allergist’s office. Geoffrey said he would be happy to do so, so we departed and went to the ER to see our friend’s wife.

I work in Mercer, PA, and Geoffrey drove me to work. He then went to a local nursing home to see one of our congregation members and impose ashes for her. She picked up the phone and called the charge nurse to let her know that Geoffrey was there. After he imposed ashes on the lady and her daughter, he turned around to find a line of folks of “all sorts and conditions” waiting to receive ashes, which he then imposed. The charge nurse told Geoffrey that there was a Roman Catholic priest who would appreciate ashes but who was unable to leave his bed. Geoffrey went to the man’s bedside and imposed ashes for the Catholic priest.

Next Geoffrey drove to Foxburg where he imposed ashes in the church there. Quite a bit of snow and ice were around that day, and Geoffrey slipped and fell on the sidewalk that leads from the church to the parish house. He brushed himself off and continued on his way.

His final stop of the day was at Church of the Epiphany where he held a Eucharist with, of course, imposition of ashes. Following the service, he joined my daughter and me for dinner at a local restaurant. As we were finishing the meal, he said to me, “I think I need to go to the ER!” I thought he was most likely in atrial fibrillation again – but no! He thought he had broken his wrist in the Foxburg fall!

We sat in the ER (where Geoffrey had visited our friend’s wife earlier in the day) Following x-rays, we learned that his wrist was severely sprained but not broken. He received pain medication and a wrist wrap, and we were finally on our way home at 11:00 pm. At that point, he was in a great deal of pain. Strangely, he said, the pain did not start until we finished dinner and he had completed his priestly duties for the day! His wrist continues to be black and blue from that fall!

We marveled at how this day unfolded as he traveled from place to place, doing God’s work. We laughed about the big line up of people at the nursing home and the Catholic priest receiving ashes from an Episcopal priest. Most of all, we thanked God for the many opportunities he gives us for ministry. Geoffrey will forever remember this day, a day when “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” became very real for him.

Cheryl Wild attends both Epiphany in Grove City and Memorial Church of Our Father in Foxburg, where her husband, Geoffrey, serves as vicar. She is also a member of the diocese’s Commission on Ministry.

God and the Five Love Languages

In the last ten years, the concept of the Five Love Languages has exploded. Now you can find books on how to help your spouse, your teenager, your kids, your neighbors, all using the concept of the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Originally, Gary started working with the concept of the Five Love Languages as a way for his couples in counseling to communicate how and what they needed when it came to their love relationships. The Five Love Languages is a concept which gives easily understood and communicable language to one of the most difficult ideas for humans to understand: love.

The Five Love Languages are fairly easy: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Acts of Service. In all of our relationships, aspects of each of these different love languages plays a part. The idea is that while relationships need all of these things, people tend to favor one or another love language in their own lives. People tend to understand love in one way easier than they understand love in another love language. Say for example, Mario and Sarah like each other, but Mario is all about giving gifts and Sarah wants words of affirmation. Neither will feel completely loved in the relationship until they learn how to express and share love in the other’s love language.

Naturally there are also other ways to understand and communicate love, but the patterns of love languages helps us see what could otherwise be missed. Interestingly, when you look at the scriptures, we can see throughout history that God has expressed love for humanity in all of these ways at different times. Through the scriptures and the prophets, God sends words of affirmation to all of God’s people, calling them, “treasured”, and “holy” (Deuteronomy 14:2) In chapter 49, Isaiah makes the comparison that God’s people are more precious than a child to a mother.

Through the person of Jesus, God shows love in physical touch by healing through touch, by crying with others, by allowing people to touch him. Jesus offers love and healing through touch to the Blind man in John, to the hemorrhaging woman, and to countless others. God gives bounteous gifts and receives numerous gifts from the people. The two biggest gifts given in the Bible are the gift of the Promised Land and the gift of the Messiah! Both gifts are given in love and for the redemption of the people. And those are just the biggest gifts! Throughout the Old Testament God is constantly serving the people of Israel as they wander through the desert by feeding them and giving them water, by saving them from their enemies, by sending prophets and judges to guide the people.

God loves us in so many different ways, and they are all evident in the scriptures. It is only when we step back to look and reflect can we see the overwhelming nature of God’s love for us. No matter what way you know and feel love, God is waiting to show love to you.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale is Priest in Charge at St. John’s, Franklin. 

Different Kinds of Love

In today’s world, when love in the Bible is discussed, people typically want to know what word is used in the New Testament Greek. Many of us have heard about the different Greek words for love and their meanings. Eros, philia, storge, agape, ludus, pragma, philautia: sensual love, familial love, long term loyalty love, love for everyone and everything, playful love, practical love, and love of self. Knowing the differences between these words and how they are used in the New Testament helps us understand the scriptures better and deepen our relationship with God. Much less discussed though are the multiple words for love used in the Old Testament Hebrew. Knowing their meanings and usages can also be helpful in understanding the ways of Love between God and people. The four most commonly used words which end up being translated as love found in the Old Testament Hebrew are ahav, yada, raham, and hesed.

Ahav is typically the word used to describe relationships between people, such as between men and women, and parents and children. Ahav is used in Genesis multiple times to describe the relationships between Abraham and Isaac, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Joseph. It has an understanding of attraction and attachment, sometimes in a very mechanical or materialistic way. The relationships of children to their parents is not usually described with ahav. (The commandment to honor your mother and father uses the word kabad, which literally translates to something with weight or value.)

Yada means to know. It is used both in contexts of knowing something intellectually, and knowing someone intimately. In Hebrew you learned knowledge through the senses, through seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, and hearing. Knowing God was an intimate learning through the senses. Knowing someone else intimately, such as being in a sexual relationship with them, was understood as learning about them through the senses as well. Most of the marriages in the Old Testament are described in this manner; Jacob knew Rachel.

Raham is typically used in relationships with compassion or mercy involved. Isaiah uses it to describe the relationship of a mother to her baby, while the Psalms uses it to describe a father’s love for his son. In a number of passages, raham is used to describe God’s mercy to the people, God’s love for them, even when they didn’t follow the commandments.

Hesed is the Hebrew word most translated as lovingkindness in the King James Version of the Bible. Hesed is a steadfast loyalty kind of love, a relationship built on kindness and trust. Many of these relationships in the scriptures are formalized in some way, such as in a covenant. Marriages, the covenantal relationship between Abraham and God, or the relationship between God and the people are all formalized legal relationships described by using the word hesed.

Of course, there are other words which get used to describe love or loving relationships in the Old Testament Hebrew as well. These four, however, are the most common. Knowing the different kinds of love described can help us understand the relationships we read about in the scriptures. Love is an amazing aspect of human and divine life, in all its glorious facets.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale is Priest in Charge at St. John’s, Franklin.