Harry Potter and Faith

If you know me even just a little bit, chances are you know that I have a slight obsession with the Harry Potter book series. I blame whoever bought my cousin Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for her birthday. I remember picking up the book, reading the summary, and thinking it sounded interesting enough to read. I also remember that it did not take me very long to get through the four books that were published at time, and I was hooked. Fast forward seventeen years, three books, nine movies, Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter trip, owning the books in multiple languages, a ton of merchandise, a couple of trips to the United Kingdom, one Harry Potter themed Winter Vacation Bible School, and so much more later, I am still fascinated by the world created by J.K. Rowling. It certainly helps when you have friends to share an obsession with you.

I met Tricia Lyons during my time at Virginia Theological Seminary, and I have gotten to know her a little better over the last couple of years through a mutual friend, who also happens to love Harry Potter. I have experienced Tricia’s knowledge and love for both the gospel and Harry Potter through a sermon preached at our friend’s wedding and as a part of a Facebook group that was gathered to cheer her on while writing the book.

I am so excited that she has agreed to come and share this knowledge and love with us in just over a week. I believe that both fans of Harry Potter and those interested in how this cultural phenomenon ties into the messages of the gospel will enjoy the event. Please consider joining us to learn more! It is an open event that is ideal for elementary school age and up – yes, adults too!

Harry Potter and Faith
Saturday, October 14, 2017
10:00AM to 12:00PM
at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1070 Dutch Rd. Fairview, PA
This event is for all ages, elementary school to adults!

The Rev. Dr. Patricia (Tricia) Lyons will share aspects of her new book, Teaching Faith with Harry Potter, by exploring the connections that the Harry Potter series has with faith formation for all ages. This event will also include Quidditch, Harry Potter trivia, treats, and more! Please join us!

For more information and to register for Saturday’s event, visit www.ststephens-fairview.org.

Tricia will also preach at St. Stephen’s on Sunday, October 15 at both the 8:00AM and 10:00AM worship services. Come hear how she connects Sunday’s scriptures with Harry Potter.

If you have questions, please contact Missy Greene, missy@ststephens-fairview.org.

Wands, broomsticks, and Harry Potter wardrobe are encouraged. Please leave your cats, rats, and toads at home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Rev. Dr. Patricia Lyons has spent twenty years teaching ethics and theology in Episcopal schools and seminaries. Author of Soul of Adolescence and numerous articles and book chapters on moral and spiritual development theory, her passion for melding pop culture and faith formation has made her a sought after speaker across the Episcopal Church and beyond. She had a Master’s of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, a Doctor of Ministry from Virginia Theological Seminary, and is the found of the C.S. Lewis Society of Harvard. She lives in Alexandria,  Virginia and is the Missioner for Evangelism and Community Engagement for the Diocese of Washington. You can also follow her on Facebook as the Hogwart’s Chaplain.

Mischief Managed!

Missy Greene is the Associate for Christian Formation at St. Stephen’s, Fairview. 

Pray Without Ceasing

Ever since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17), I think followers of Jesus have internalized some sort of guilt that we aren’t praying enough. I’ve never met a Christian who felt like they had mastered a really great prayer life, much less one that could confidently say that they prayed without ceasing. I think many of us feel like prayer-failures because we have set ideas of how we ought to be praying and find ourselves always falling short.

My grandparents sat every morning of the world together after breakfast and had their ‘devotional’ time. Papaw would read assigned scripture and a reflection from Guidepost Magazine; Mamaw would name off the missionaries to be prayed for and tell their story from the Baptist Ladies Missionary Aid Society. Then Papaw would commence to praying for everyone and everything he knew and loved, especially that we grandchildren would all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It didn’t even strike me odd at the time that he prayed for my salvation right alongside his tomato crop.

As I became more serious about living out my own faith, I wanted to get more serious about prayer. I decided to emulate my grandparents and set aside morning time to pray, but I never seemed to have the time. Then I committed to getting up extra-early every morning to read the Bible and say prayers – which worked just about as well as my commitment to get up extra-early to go to the gym did.

people-prayingThe truth is, my prayer personality is not the same as my grandparents. Yours probably isn’t the same as mine. Instead of beating ourselves up because we can’t seem to succeed at praying in a certain way, how about we explore what way of praying works for us?

That’s what I did. When I lived in Houston and regularly had an hour commute each morning, drive time was prayer time. As a mother with small children, God got a quick hello during my morning shower and I did my real praying at bedtime, just like my kids. Yes, sometimes I fell asleep before I got through all the God blesses, but I figured God understood.

If you are committed to improving your prayer life, you can do it. You can find what and when and how works for you.

Some tips to try to get you started:

  • When you first wake up, before getting out of bed, just say a quick good morning to God. Mine is, “thank you God for bringing me to this new day. Be with me in it and help me to bring your love where ever I go.”
  • If you take morning showers, review the day ahead, intentionally asking God to be in it and bless it. Sing a favorite hymn of praise, even. That’s prayer, too.
  • If you have a quiet time in the morning or at lunch or in the evening, set aside 20 minutes to read the daily office from the Book of Common Prayer. There are even apps available on your phone with the set scriptures for the day. I don’t say the office at the same time every day, but I almost always get it said. Waiting in a pickup line for kids, or at the doctor’s office or where ever, you can do it.
  • Give thanks before each meal where ever you eat it – it takes 30 seconds and saying ‘God is good, God is great’ is fine.
  • As you lay down to sleep each night, thank God for the blessings of the day and try to leave your worries in heaven to be sorted out.

Try one or more of these, or try something unique to you. Like the Nike ad says, “just do it.”

The Rev. Stacey Fussell is Rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Bradford. 

This is the fourth 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.

I Sincerely Thank Everyone – by Nina Palattella

Nina Palattella is a high school senior blogging about her experience as a Christian. This is her final post. Click here to read Nina’s previous blog posts.

IMG_1673Hello and welcome to my eighth blog post! As the school year is drawing to a close, this will be (at least for the foreseeable future) my last post; it has been an honor to share my various thoughts with all of you through the writings since the fall. In preparation for this entry, I went back and read several of the other posts I have published over the last year, including my very first one that I wrote at the end of last summer; it was fun to look back at the things I had forgotten that I had written about. It was inspiring, too, to read the activities I listed in my first post and think about what I’ve added to it in the past year.

When I graduate from high school in a few days shy of three weeks, I will also have graduated from The Vine, my community’s Episcopal youth group. I feel lucky to have participated in the group for the two years that I could, but I am thankful that such a great program exists for the kids who will still be around to enjoy it. In addition to adults and youth at my church, I know that there are people from other churches and beyond (including readers of this blog) who are hoping for my success, and that’s a pretty great feeling that I am fortunate to have.

Because of my experience writing this blog, I’ve become more aware of just how much of an impact my faith and my involvement in the church has on my life, and because of that awareness I’ve realized how important it is to me that I continue practicing that faith as I get older and gain the ability to make more independent decisions about my faith, as well as other aspects of my life. I’ve accepted the fact that the ways I practice my faith are subject to changes, both minor and significant; the church I currently attend won’t be an option for weekly Sunday services, so if I want to worship with a traditional congregation, I’ll have to seek out a parish (and if I happen to find more than one, I’ll have to decide which one best satisfies what I’m looking for). Maybe I’ll decide that it’s more convenient for me to express my faith more informally and individually for a while, which I think is just as much of a valid choice for anyone.

In less than one month I will return to Camp Nazareth for my final year as a camper, which is both terribly exciting and a little bit saddening. Even though I’m only there for one week of the year, camp and the people I have spent time with there are responsible for a large part of the formation of my faith throughout the past ten years. One of the best things about Camp Nazareth is that I associate it with so many fun times as well as with religion, and I think that’s critically important, especially for children but really for people of any age. Communities like Camp Nazareth and The Vine have helped me stick with my faith because they have showed me the real-life positive impact that my beliefs can have on other people, and they’ve taught me that living a life with Christ can be achieved in any number of ways, many of which are really awesome (like sliding down an enormous soap-covered Slip ‘N’ Slide with not only your fellow campers but the ministers as well).

Of course, anyone who’s read even a little bit of the Old Testament knows that religion isn’t fun all the time. It can cause some people to feel overwhelmed; other people cite the current condition of the world, as well as tragic events, as their reason for not believing in God or higher power in general. I understand that the concept of believing in something as malleable as God can feel like too much—or like too little, depending on your stance in this debate—and I have had flashes of doubt in how I believe and whether it can be enough for me. However, I have always been oddly willing to accept that God is beyond definition and I can only have the most basic idea of what His plans are for me or for anyone. I think that as long as I continue to enrich my life in all the ways that matter to me, such as through education and music and literature, and as long as I work to enrich the lives of others in as many ways as I am able, then I can be satisfied with the life that I am living, both for myself and for Christ. I sincerely thank everyone for following and guiding me through this process, and I wish you all the best in wherever life may take you!

Nina Palattella, The Cathedral of St. Paul Erie

Enid Bishop – A Faithful Servant

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 2.46.32 PM

In early January the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania lost a vital member and stalwart women of faith.  Mrs. Enid Bishop, a winner of the Bishop’s Cross, inspired many by her faith.  You can read Enid’s obituary at GoErie.com.  Her granddaughter, Missy Greene, has written a post, below, describing the influence that her grandmother had on her.

In the field of Christian Formation, we often talk about the importance of modeling faith for others. It is, in fact, a crucial part of our life-long faith development, especially at an early age, but really spans throughout a lifetime. How do we learn to do things if they are not modeled for us first? It is true for all aspects of our life, which is why being in community with other people is so important. In every interaction you are being formed. This is why the vocabulary has shifted from Christian Education to Christian Formation, because it encompasses more than just the formal retaining of information from expert to learner. It’s about the fullness of being formed into a disciple of Christ through everything that we do, formally and informally, intentionally and unintentionally.

226337_10101101302248354_5123029_nI am fairly certain that I would not have obtained a Master’s Degree in Christian Formation in order to work for the church if I had not first been formed by the people around me. There are plenty of people who have had a hand in that, but if I had to pinpoint people, it would start with my grandma, Enid Bishop – and, of course, my grandpa, Don. It is hard to talk about one in this respect without talking about the other, as they were both faithful servants that dedicated their lives to God and the church.

Scan0001As a family, church is just what we did – every Sunday. Church was an extension of our family. The Sunday service was always followed by a meal at my grandparents’ house, crowded around the dining room table. I always got stuck on the corner next to my grandma… always.

But it was not just about attending church and sitting amongst the crowd at St. Mary’s. We were active. Grandma was in the choir, a lector, an LEM, on altar guild, and Bishop’s Committee. Grandpa was an usher and helped with upkeep of the property. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Pray. Sing. It was all modeled by those around us. The message was pretty clear: we come here every Sunday and worship God because it is important and meaningful to us. The grandkids, of course, fell into the roles of acolyte, attended Sunday School faithfully, and did all manner of other things that we were told to do.

Examples of faithful living were not limited to Sundays or inside the church. My grandparents were also very active at Brevillier Village. I have great memories of helping grandpa at the little store on their campus and attending Wednesday Eucharist with grandma. I saw first-hand their willingness to serve others in a place outside the walls of St. Mary’s.

Scan0001 (4)In partnership with Brevillier, Enid set-up a monthly meal program at St. Mary’s that not only served food, but also created a community for those who attended. I remember doing the place settings, checking in the guests, riding in the van that picked up the guests, serving plates of food, and sitting with the people, getting to know them. Each of these opportunities, and so many more, is what helped form me as I grew into my own understanding of faith and service to God, but these opportunities would not have happened for me without the encouragement from my grandparents and parents to be involved.

12419180_1236519759697248_2020819922215803415_oOver the last two months, I have been able to see just how far my grandparents’ ministry reached by all the love and support shown to our family during this difficult time. We are so thankful for all the stories and pictures that have been shared with us from both family and friends. Enid lived a full and happy life, modeling the love of Christ until the very end. I have no doubt that the passion Enid and Don had for serving God and the church will continue to live on through the ministries of their children and grandchildren, as most of us are active members in our church community, and also in those they encountered and ministered to.

It is because of this strong model of faith that I hope to do the same in my own ministry. We are all constantly being formed by every interaction, just as we are forming others by our own actions, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It is important to consider how you will model a life of faith for those around you, so that good news of Jesus Christ can be seen and imitated.

Missy Greene, Christian Formation Associate, St. Stephen’s, Fairview, PA

‘Enamored With India’ by Nina Palattella

Welcome to the new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her fifth installment.  Click here to see the others.

316 Hello there and welcome to my fifth blog post! I hope that you all are staying warm and safe. I have now entered into the second semester of my senior year of high school, which is both exciting (that’s so little time!) and excruciating (just get me out of here!) With all of the news coverage about the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall in places, it seems hard to believe that, at about this time last year, I was experiencing drastically different weather as well as a radically different way of life—I was in the midst of a trip to the state of Kerala, India, with my family and eight other parishioners from The Cathedral of St. Paul. That trip was a life-changing experience like no other and the subject of this blog post.

I enjoy traveling, but before this trip I had never visited another continent, let alone a country as seemingly other-worldly as India. I was wary due to the preventative medicines my family had to take for foreign ailments such as dengue fever and malaria, and I was also unsettled by the knowledge that I would have to be alert about things that all my life I had taken for granted—such as not drinking the water and not eating the fruit. The journey to our destination consisted of three flights totaling approximately 20 hours with layovers in three different countries, and, combined with the time difference of plus ten-and-a-half hours, it took almost two days for us to actually get to India. Our trip officially started when we were picked up at the Cochin International Airport, a busy place even at three-thirty in the morning, and taken to a “refreshment center,” which, despite its designation, defied all western expectations of refreshment. It was a small house adjacent to the travel agency office, occupied by a family and possibly other travelers. Though my brother and I were exhausted—I would be awake for forty hours straight—our mother instructed us to keep our shoes on when we laid down on the bed, so sleep was impossible. At one point during our short but hazy stay, a woman walked around and appeared to be counting all of us; we learned that she was determining the number of guests for whom she needed to make food.

389 Despite the frightening introduction, I quickly became enamored with India and all its eccentricities. I took pictures of practically everything I encountered, from a goat that I saw standing in the middle of the street to a tree made of Communist flags, crowned on top with a golden hammer and sickle. I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater and tried many new cuisines, including idli, a Southern Indian dish of rice patties that I ate every day for breakfast and still long for every now and then; however, I was equally delighted to encounter the familiar macaroni and cheese on the menu of a restaurant recommended to our group by our driver, a citizen of the region, who served not just as transportation but also as a saving grace in more than one instance. We visited the Eravikulam National Park and encountered the Nilgiri tahr, an endangered species of sheep whose population is limited to certain areas of the southwestern Ghat Mountains. The dean of my church and his wife, 147who had visited India and this park before, said that they had seen only a few of these animals from a distance on their previous trip, but they walked among us freely. I rode an elephant and hiked to a tea plantation, one of many near our resort in the beautiful mountain city of Munnar. I learned that, in an unfamiliar place, even the mundane activities become exciting; traveling through the city was a stressful and seemingly perilous act, and without the benefit of our driver I guarantee that I would not be here to write this post.

203            Without a doubt, the most spiritually enriching part of our journey was our visit to the St. Paul’s CSI Church of South India; as I have mentioned in previous posts, with the help of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Erie, our sister church in India was able to revitalize their church building, and on this trip we delivered to them a donation to help them build a Sunday school, which is serious business in India. Our group was greeted by a procession of musical instruments, bright colors, decorative umbrellas and a village full of parishioners, all of whom wanted to greet us and thank us for our generosity. The church building was filled with people for the service, which was spoken almost entirely in Malayalum, the predominant language of the state of Kerala. The time of our visit was also that of a local festival; after the service, we had the pleasure of staying for an additional celebration, during which I had the opportunity to drink directly from a coconut. Although I may not have been able to communicate at 206length with many of the people I met, their faith, gratitude and excitement were plainly evident, and I was overjoyed to be present in their company. This is true of people whom I encountered throughout our stay: my brother readily became friends with boys whom he met through a shared love of soccer, and strangers whom we encountered at different places we visited wanted to ask us our names, where we were from, and possibly even invite us to take photos with them. It was their welcoming attitude that made a foreign place seem not so much different than any other place I could call home.

Nina Palattella

india

Upcoming Event: Following Jesus in the Seasons of the Soul

Following Jesus in the Seasons of the Soul

Saturday, December 5, 2015 – 9am-12pm

St. Mark’s Church, 4701 Old French Road, Erie, PA

Light refreshments provided

No Cost to Attend

Click here to register

Nancy 0804 SmilePlease join Nancy Beach and our diocesan family as we enter Advent Season and explore how, as One Church, we grow in our discipleship through the seasons of our soul: restlessness, loss, new beginnings and abundance. In every season there are lessons to be learned. Besides a faithful Christian life, Nancy brings with her many years as Arts/Worship Leader and Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. She currently coaches and consults with congregations and communities around the world. Her purpose with our diocesan family is this: we desire to grow as disciples and leaders and she can, in the anticipation of Advent and with God’s Grace, open our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work in the everyday of our very human lives. Come join us on December 5 as we follow God and Bishop Sean’s vision of One Church.

Nancy Beach

Nancy has always been a passionate champion for artists and leaders in the local church. For over 20 years she served as the Programming Director for Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, building a community of artists who sought to create transformational moments in Sunday morning church services. Nancy also served as a Teaching Pastor, periodically bringing the weekend message. Currently, Nancy serves as a leadership coach with the SlingShot Group, helping church leaders and teams to flourish in life and ministry. Nancy also uses her teaching gifts to cast vision at conferences and workshops, for both artists and women in leadership.   In her book, An Hour on Sunday, Nancy expresses the core vision and values which she believes are foundational to any effective arts ministry. Nancy’s second book is titled: Gifted to Lead: the Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church.

Nancy and her husband Warren live in the village of Barrington, Illinois with their dog, Beanie. Their two daughters, Samantha and Johanna, are both theatrical artists.

Trusting the Call

This is the first in a 3 part series highlighting the stories of the three members of our diocese who will be starting seminary this year.  Click here to see the second installment about Nick Kuchcinski.

1381374_309843139154662_231990307_nNicholas Evancho is a smart young man with a strong faith. He grew up in a single parent home attending the Presbyterian church where his mother was an elder. He began playing the organ at the age of 8 and read the Suma Theologica (the 3000 page compendium by Thomas Aquinas) for fun when he was young. He graduated Valedictorian from his high School in Hamburg, N.Y. and headed off to Grove City College for pre-med. He received a rude awakening and found his faith challenged by the theology at Grove City College. Now, almost 4 years later, he is going to graduate a changed man.

Nicholas is one of three members of our diocese beginning seminary this year, our diocese’s first seminarians since 2010. He has always been interested in religion and was very supported by his mother who took him to church and Sunday School. Nicholas thought about becoming a priest in high school but didn’t think he would actually go through with it. He felt that becoming a doctor was a more financially stable profession. However, the call kept gnawing at him. He continued to play the organ at his home church in New York and continued meeting with the Presbyterian pastor there who made him believe he had what it took to become a priest. It was on a trip to Boston that he attended Trinity Church in Copley Square (a 280 year old Episcopal church) and felt called to become an Episcopalian. This led him to Church of the Epiphany in Grove City and to his own epiphany.

Church of the Epiphany became a refuge for Nicholas. They not only helped him with practical things like rides but they also helped him emotionally. He had a hard time at college and it became a place where he could talk. He often had tea with Epiphany’s deacon, the Rev. Tricia Lavery when life got stressful. “They have given me more than I could have asked,” Nicholas says. He has found a church home there as well. He has played the organ, served as an acolyte, sung in the choir, led morning prayer, and been a Eucharistic Minister and a Eucharistic Visitor. Church of the Epiphany is also where Nicholas found answers to the questions about his faith that were started when he began to attend Grove City College. It “gave me a more loving interpretation of what I always believed.”

It turns out it was only a surprise to himself when he discerned the call to the priesthood.  Looking back he remembers going to graduate school fairs and spending more time talking to the seminaries than to the medical schools. His mother, who Nicholas describes as “the biggest influence in making me believe I could make it to where I am now,” was not surprised at all by this decision. Early on during a bible study at Church of the Epiphany, after a comment Nicholas made, Cheryl Wild (wife of the Rev. Geoff Wild, the vicar at Church of the Epiphany) said, “And thus spoke our next Episcopal priest.” Nicholas remembers thinking she was insane at the time. Then Nicholas attended the diocesan convention during his sophomore year. Getting to meet all the clergy and getting to participate in the church cemented the decision for him.

Nicholas is a changed man: “I finally decided to let my judgment go and trust that the rest would be taken care of.” He no longer needed the notion of financial stability through becoming a doctor. Nicholas will attend Virginia Theological Seminary this fall. He anticipates enjoying the Chapel as well as the tight knit community there, eating and worshiping together every day. He also looks forward to having his faith and views challenged so he can grow and be sure his faith stands up. We too are eager to see the priest Nicholas becomes.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania