bon mots from Jo+

September 25, 2022

Remember the story of the widow who was gathering wood to cook the last bit of her stores for herself and her son before they were going to lie down and die of starvation? Elijah happens upon her and asks her to cook him some bread. He gives her the promise of never-empty jars of oil and flour. But first the widow must take the risk. (See I Kings 17:10-16.)

When faced with diminished resources (like after damage from a hurricane or the restrictions of COVID) what do we at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea do? We get creative. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We stretch our funds to sustain our services and outreach ministries to feed and clothe the hungry and provide bikes for those without transportation and keep up the air conditioners and pay our staff and our bills, all with Vestry approval. Our Vestry has taken necessary steps so that we had enough. Indeed, we have had more than enough. Our Blue Door Ministry has expanded reaching more and more clients in the last two years and recently has added more care for our brothers and sisters. During COVID our Bike Ministry was able to provide for the needs of so many with what we had and could repair. God has been good to us. We have seen an abundance of goods and volunteers, enough to sustain the church and her ministries, and more than enough to share. But first we had to take a risk. We had to trust God to provide enough. And God has given us more than enough!

Trusting in God to continue to bless us, where do we go from here? The first draft of the 2023 Budget is being prepared. It will be approved by the Vestry and presented to the congregation at our Annual Meeting of the Parish on December 11th. Our “Next Steps” that came out of 20 weeks of intentional listening to the Holy Spirit and each other during the “Listen and Hear. Hear and Listen” discernment. The “Next Steps” that came directly from all of us, have been shared with the entire congregation twice recently, but I include them again here:

  1. The vestry will provide a detailed financial report to the parish twice a year.
  2. Provide a report to the parish on the cost of operating and maintaining our facilities, including the anticipated cost of unanticipated problems (e.g., failure of another air conditioning unit).
  3. The vestry, with the advice of the development task force and the consent of the rectors, will appoint a “property working group” to review and recommend workable options for management and possible disposition of one or more of our four plots encompassed in our property.
  4. The vestry will direct the property working group to evaluate and make recommendations to the vestry, parish, rectors, and bishop, prior to the next annual meeting.
  5. Clean out all buildings and dispose of unused and unnecessary items
  6. Finish painting the outside of the church
  7. Replace our antiquated sound system with a modest state-of-the art audiovisual system that will work both in the sanctuary and for streaming.
  8. Reformat the parish hall with round tables for fellowship (if the old sanctuary is used for Sunday services).
  9. In preparation of the 2023 budget, the vestry will consider
    1. establishing an endowment fund to be used for specified purposes
    1. conducting a capital campaign to fund renovations and maintenance of our facilities
    1. expanding our stewardship program
  10. Expand the development task force and task it to
    1. Orchestrate performing arts and other fundraising events in our sanctuary.
    1. Renew our efforts to gain media coverage of our ministries and activities
  11. Expand our coordination with other churches in providing for the needy
  12. Initiate discussions with other churches concerning providing housing and/or shelter for the homeless.
  13. Re-instate greeters for Sunday morning services
  14. Revise and reinvigorate use of name tags
  15. Task the development committee and ministry leaders with developing strategies to increase the number of committed volunteers at the Blue Door and Bike Hop.
  16. Offer an educational series on the liturgy and history of the Anglican/Episcopal Church.
  17. Have an “instructed Eucharist” occasionally
  18. Conduct our Sunday service in the old sanctuary (parlor) on a quarterly basis.

In March and September, we will review our progress and a report to the congregation after six months and then again after a year. At each review, we will discover which steps we have taken, which were, perhaps, unrealistic, and which should be modified or supplemented to conform to the new circumstances.

During our “More Than Enough” stewardship program, Don, our director of music will teach us a new theme hymn for our stewardship program that we will sing every Sunday for the month leading up to our dedication or commitment Sunday. We all will hear from our priests, then from the wardens, and finally from our stewardship committee with pledge cards, a copy of our budget, and our “Next Steps.” Our pledges – our promises to God and St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea – will be collected on Christ the King Sunday, which is the last Sunday of this church year, Sunday, November 20th. There will be a celebration after service that day in the parlor; it will be live and virtual. So let us mark our calendars and plan to come and thank everyone for pledging to support the church and the community, celebrating that we really do have more than enough.

September 11, 2022

While studying the Gospel for this Sunday, I was introduced to a new religious order, the Oratory of the Good Shepherd (OGS) that is a dispersed community of Anglicans, ordained and lay, bound by a common rule of celibate chastity, responsible spending, and direction of life. Daily they pray the Divine Office, attend Mass, and spend an hour in private prayer. There is an association of “companions” of OGS who support their aims and live by a simplified version of the Rule. There also are Sisters of the Good Shepherd (SGS), priests and lay people living in dispersion under religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas includes 23 Religious Orders and Christian Communities in the worldwide Anglican (Episcopal) Communion including the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities organized under the Canons of The Episcopal Church. The worship practices and standards of living are quite diverse, but all embrace celibacy, community of goods, and obedience to a Rule and Constitution.

Communities of Women include:

Community of St. Francis

Community of St. John Baptist

Community of St. Mary, Eastern Province

Community of St. Mary, Southern Province

Community of the Holy Spirit

Community of the Sisters of the Church

Community of the Transfiguration

Order of Julian of Norwich

Order of St. Helena

Sisterhood of St. John the Divine

Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity (SHN)

Sisters of St. Anne – Bethany

Society of St. Margaret

Communities of Men

Order of the Holy Cross (Benedictine)

Society of St. Francis

Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE)

St. Gregory’s Abby (Benedictine)

The Society of St. Paul (SSP)

Communities of Men and Women

The Order of the Ascension

Canonically recognized ommunities

Anamchara Fellowship

Anglican Order of Preachers

Brotherhood of Saint Gregory

Community of Celebration

Community of the Gospel

Community of the Paraclete

Companions of St. Luke (Benedictine)

Little Sisters of St. Clare

Rivendell Community

Sisters of Saint Gregory

Society of St. Anna the Prophet

Third Order Society of St. Francis, Province of the Americas

Worker Brothers of the Holy Spirit

Worker Sisters of the Holy Spirit

Associates include those seeking canonical recognition

Community of Francis and Clare

Companions of Our Lady of Walsingham

The Communion of the Mystic Rose

The Community of the Mother of Jesus

August 28, 2022

August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed aloud of a day when “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus shared his dream of a time when a person’s worth would not be defined by status in this mortal world. He dreamt of a place where the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind would all sit at table together with him that day – and with us – because they are our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.

I was at the Library of Congress doing research for my then employer CBS who had made the very first and only recording of the “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., at what was unmistakably the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Dr. King had delivered that speech many times with subtle and not so subtle changes. One copy is under glass in the main hallway of the Library of Congress. After I filled out the exhaustive request form (where I promised my first-born if I walked away with the document I was asking to study, but never to copy) the staff went into the vault, and then they handed me a legal file folder with pages of a yellow legal pad written in Dr. King’s own hand with marginal notes he had made for the August 28th march for freedom. I was afraid to touch the paper. I asked for gloves. Then I read the words that we all recall as a turning point in our lives in this country.

When the word of the Lord is read, I often get the same feeling of wonder and awe as I did at the Library of Congress that day so many years ago. Clearly in the Gospel according to Luke Jesus was speaking of radical hospitality when he spoke up at that dinner party, the sort of hospitality that defines all Christian virtues that the Letter to the Hebrews addresses. Jesus instructed the Pharisees – and us – to invite all people to the table where he presides as the host and head of the table. Jesus took his own commandment to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” one step further; he treated others better than himself. That is what radical hospitality means. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, which literally means “love of the strange” that is love of those who are strange to us for whatever reason. Many ancients rarely strayed far from their places of birth. “Life was hard and mobility was limited. One way the world became “larger” was to open one’s home (however poor) to those that came from “outside.” (Commentary on Hebrews by Eric M. Heen, PhD) Hospitality was provided then, by those who had “love of the strange,” because they were more than curious about the wider world. And in caring for them, both the hosts and the guests were fed. So it is in the church. When we show love to others that we encounter Christ. Hospitality nourishes us as well as our guests, perhaps more.

A confluence of articles moved me to write about radical hospitality: the Gospel of the day and the Letter to the Hebrews, yes, but also articles that parishioners have shared with me this week, an article in the Friday, August 19th Destin Log about the New Life Church that began in the pastors home five years ago and then grew into a local warehouse (They move into their newly constructed church building at the beginning of 2023.) and the instructive bulletin from a mission church in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, Saint Elizabeth’s that welcomes all people – “single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds, if you sing like Andrea Bocelli or sound like Texas grackles, if you are “church shopping”, if you just woke up, or if you just got out of jail, whether you are more Catholic than the Pope or haven’t been to church since Joey’s baptism. They welcome crying newborns, squirmy toddlers, those who are over 60 but are not grown up yet, and teenagers growing up too fast… soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, veterans, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-foodies, those in recovery, folks who are still addicted… whether you are down in the dumps or don’t like organized religion… we welcome those blew all your offering money at the track… those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or just came because Grandma is in town…those who could use some prayers… those who are inked, pierced or both… those who have had religion shoved down their throats or who just got lost and ended up here by mistake… tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts, and you.”

Our bulletin reads “all are welcome wherever you are on your journey of faith.”

Our Lord said that the Pharisees were to treat others, even the despised in their society, not only as they would themselves, but better than they would treat one of their own. I wonder, would we have belonged to that large class of people who would have been excluded from the Pharisee’s banquet? Are we the poor? the crippled? the lame? the blind? When have I been poor in spirit? I have been, often. Is my faith crippled? Sometimes, yes! And am I lame, unable to get where I want in life? Recently, yes. And where is my blindness? To whom have I been blind? All in all, I am rather certain I would not have made it onto the invitation list for the Pharisee’s dinner.

Jesus teaches that all are welcome in the Kingdom of God, for surely the Pharisee’s dinner party is an allegory for the Lord’s heavenly banquet. In spite of our crippled faith and our blindness to the needs of others, we are welcome. All are invited – all those who are welcomed at Saint Elizabeth’s and at the New Life pastors’ home. But, I wonder if we might be surprised at who will be sitting at table with us in God’s house. I think we will see all “sorts and conditions” of people at the Lord’s table. And the Kingdom of God must be a place where the sons of former slaves and the daughters of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the Lord’s table. Dreams do come true. They do. But we have to make them come true.