Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Coming Attractions

Today I had lunch with Emily our new seminarian intern. September 11, Celebration Sunday, will be her first Sunday with us. She will be putting her bio in our newsletter (which you can read, on our website, but not until early next week.) We went to Ellie Fortella the only one of the Great Restaurant group in Saint Louis I have never visited. It was Great, their name does not exaggerate. But even more great is Emily who will lead a three class adult series in September on Praying the Lord's Prayer, Living the Lord's Prayer and who will preach about once every six weeks and who will lector and chalice bear and assist around the altar. She is gentle and funny and bright and eager to learn and happy to be coming to St Mark's. She'll do some pastoral visits and hopefully during the time she's with us she'll tell us about Mechtild of Magdeberg, the medieval German mystic on whom she wrote her thesis. And we have all of our speakers lined up for All Speakers Great and Small. Pretty exciting!

Monday, August 22, 2005

End of Summer

Yesterday (Sunday) was a surprisingly busy day. On some summer Sundays, many people are away or people choose a lovely bike ride or other outing over church. But yesterday there were lots of people in church. When we offered a "Back to School Prayer," hordes of people came up, from kindergarten to college and we had three teachers, one of them about to start his first year of teaching high school social studies. One reason that church was fuller than usual was that Lindsay and lots of people from Episcopal Campus Ministry were here for Lindsay's last Sunday in Saint Louis. She was the intern at the Episcopal Campus Ministry last academic year and she's moving back to Philadelphia for the next phase of her work and vocational life. Lindsay prepared for confirmation with our class at St Mark's and because she was staying with Marylen our deacon was part of our common life in many other ways. Lindsay and I share our alma mater Bryn Mawr College so we spent a fair amount of time together on and off this year. So Saint Mark's made a good place for a liturgical send-off. We gave her a yellow shawl that the Shawl Ministry had started for Lindsay when she was having a rough time last winter, we prayed for her new life and her safe travel. We should have prayed for Alicia who has been here helping her pack and who will be driving back with her in Lindsay's aging Volvo. I'll miss having her around and wish her well in Philadelphia. She's full of fun and talents and energy and I don't think it will be long before she discovers work to satisfy and delight her.

The other big excitement this Sunday was that just as we got to the end of the offertory hymn, the organ started to cipher. That means that a pipe sounds without any key being pressed. For some reason that I don't know, it always seems to happen with a high pitched pipe it is impossible to ignore. So the organist turned it off and we said some parts of the service we normally sing and sang part without accompaniment. He kept testing to see whether it would stop by itself, surreptitiously turning on the organ blower to see if the offending pipe would sound. But it did. So finally he played the closing hymn on the piano an dmost of the choir (which has been on vacation for the summer) gathered around him to give him moral support.

I preached as sermon which was rather fun to write, playing fast and loose with the gospel for the day. Someone asked for a copy of it and I may post it here later. Right now I have a zillion things to do to get ready to go on vacation Thursday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

All Speakers Great and Small

We got together this evening to imagine adult education offerings at St Mark's for the fall. We designed a speakers series with outside distinguished scholars (the great) who will be announced as soon as they have confirmed that they are available. Then we decided that three of us had something intelligent and intelligible to say, so we were the small. These sessions will be Sunday evenings from 5:30 to 8:00 with supper, a format that has worked really well for us.

But then we fell to fantasizing about speakers we'd love to have if we could afford it: Marcus Borg, John Spong, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Jim Wallis. A Put Saint Mark's On The Map Speakers' series. At some point in its past, either to celebrate the 25th or the 50th anniversary, I forget which, James Pike was a featured speaker at Saint Marks' Church.

This evening we also sketched out two experiential experiences we have yet to calendar, one about brewing beer and the other about baking bread. In both baking and brewing yeast transforms the ingredients into something that is much more than the sum of its parts, a kind of alchemy. We could brew beer on Saint Brigid's day and those who wanted to could plan to drink it after Easter. And bread baking is always appropriate and replete with theological themes.

Here is a poem (prayer) attributed to St. Brigid.

I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the Heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.

I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.

White cups of love I''d give them,
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.

I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake
I'd like Jesus to love me too.

I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around,
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.

I'd sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

Today at the Farmers' Market at the Schlafly Bottlworks, the air was heavy with the sweet smell of fermentation from the microbrewery there. It does make the image of heaven as like a lake of beer quite appealing.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


We had thunderstorms yesterday in the afternoon and early evening with spectacular cloud formations. As the storms began there was lots of wind and at least one big branch down on Donovan between Nottingham and Landsdowne. And then even after the thunder and lightening stopped it rained and rained all night. It was so great! It has been so dry here that the trees look tired and thirsty. I can't remember how long it has been such we've had so much rain, since mid-July at least.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Backblogging again & A few of my favorite things

I posted a lot of entries I had been working on over the last several weeks today. Highlights of this week: Mo the camp counseller is home from her summer job. Anna the office girl has another week of work to go. Our house is full of the twins and their friends, cooking, eating and playing cards and I have promised to teach them Hearts before they all go back to college. We are continuing our festival of locally grown produce, visiting the Farmers' Market at the Schlaffly Bottleworks on Wednesdays and the Greenmarket in the Central West End on Saturdays, thereby getting local lamb and chicken and eggs, beautiful tomatos, squash and eggplant and blackberries and peaches. Yumm. It was at the Greenmarket that I ate my first ambrosial fruit scone from La Dolce Via bakery. It was the lightest and fruitiest scone I have ever eaten. So now I think of excuses to meet people at La Dolce Via at Taylor and Arco where it turns out that the coffee is every bit as transformatively delicious as the fruit scones and the people who work there are nice and they have a child friendly area, which I like in a restaurant even though my days of coaxing toddlers to be good while Mommy eats are over.

The week at St Mark's started with the funeral of a long time member, who requested the St Louis Ragtimers to play at his service. He was over eighty but died of cancer only a couple of months after his diagnosis, which seemed way too soon. Tuesday, the Shawl Ministry had its first field trip. We brownbagged and went to Knitorious, the lovely, friendly knitting shop on Southwest at Clifton. We brought lunch, chatted, Melissa taught me how to do three needle cast off, Mo and I bought yarn for felting projects and a good time was had by all. On Thursday I went berserk and cleaned out the shelves in the office and the shelves in the closet where the office overflow goes. Vestry that night made plans for the fall: refinishing the badly damaged floor around the altar, sending a team to the Congregational Development School, scheduling a small rummage sale for late October, planning for Opening Day on September 11 and Trivia Night for October 15th. Today I met a new parishioner at another favorite coffee location Hartford Coffee on Hartford, just south of Arsenal and East of Grand. My top picks there are the sausage frittata and the lox and bagels. St Mark's is going to start getting and selling Hartford Coffee's fair trade grown and locally roasted coffee very soon. I hope.

I guess none of this sounds very strenuous but it is hot and humid and I am longing for vacation.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Celebration of a New Ministry in De Soto

So last week we went to De Soto, Missouri twice. Once for the memorial service of Chandler Crawford who had been a priest for over 60 years, most of them in one part or another of the diocese of Missouri. He managed to hang onto traces of a New England accent which I always found endearing and he was unfailingly kind to his younger colleagues and quite active at clergy events, etc. The second time was August 4 for the Celebration of a New Ministry of the Rev. Beverly Van Horne and Trinity Church. Beverly has been called to be Priest in Charge for redevelopment. She's working half time. De Soto is still the home of the Union Pacific Car Shops, continuing a long railway heritage. It also has two Methodist churches with women pastors (so Beverly won't be the only woman at the local clergy group) and two funeral homes on the main street which runs parallel to the railway tracks. Beverly invited me to preach at this service which was very flattering. Here is the sermon:

On this joyful evening, when we gather to celebrate a new era in the life of the congregation of Trinity De Soto and your new priest in charge Beverly Van Horne, we heard about God sending the Spirit on the seventy elders so that Moses would not have to shoulder the burden of leadership alone. But I invite you, like Paul Harvey, to listen to the rest of the story.
Our lectionary often leaves out some verses and I’d like to tell you the story we heard from the book of Numbers in its larger context. Before the point where we began to read tonight, we learn WHY God told Moses to gather people into the tent of meeting. Moses, you remember, has led God’s people out into the wilderness. They wanted to go, they were eager for a new and better life. But before too long, the people began complaining and whining, as sometimes happens in the midst of transition and of change, people lose heart on the way to seeing God’s promises come to fruition. God has brought the people out of slavery in Egypt; God has fed them in the wilderness with manna from heaven but is that good enough for them? Oh no. They complain to Moses about the lack of variety in the menu. They are tired of that boring manna, day in and day out, and long for leeks and cucumbers and garlic and melons. They start to talk about slavery in Egypt as the good old days. At least the food was better.
Then Moses starts whining, too. He tells God, this isn’t his idea of ministry, he didn’t sign up for this. The people are acting like babies, he tells God, why doesn’t GOD be their nursemaid. Moses tells God I’m not their Mom, you are, you take care of them. Clergy and congregational leaders often do feel overwhelmed by the demands of their communities, communities in which people sometimes behave, for various reasons, like these infantile Israelites. Leaders can get hooked into the idea that it really is their job to be all things to all people, to be the mom and the nursemaid, instead of trusting all to God and calling one another to speak the truth in love and to grow up into maturity in Christ. . But God’s vision of leadership in community is very different. So, as we heard, God tells Moses to gather the elders into the tent of meeting and God showers out God’s spirit upon the elders, making them all leaders, all prophets whose voices are of value in the life community, whose speech should always be listened to respectfully as if it were the voice of God.
But that’s not all. If we read a few verses further, we discover that there were two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, who, for whatever reason, were not in the tent of meeting but the spirit of prophesy descended on them anyway. They were going around prophesying and Joshua, Moses’ helper, rushed up to Moses, all alarmed, telling Moses to stop them but Moses says to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!!”
I don’t know how our lectionary decided which verses to read and which to leave out but I wish we had Eldad and Medad at this service, because all over the Episcopal Church congregations are feeling the winds of change but are slow to allow God’s Spirit to speak to them from outside the comfy tent, preferring to recreate or to preserve the imagined good old days, planting and cultivating cucumbers and melons and garlic rather than allowing God to shower new gifts of manna upon them from unexpected quarters. But God’s Spirit is trying to shape and to grow our churches, not just from our beloved Prayer Book and Anglican tradition but also from outside the Episcopal tent. We can learn much about church growth, about spiritual practices, about approaches to working with children and youth from other Christian churches, we can learn a lot about the character and longings of our communities, about how to offer a warm welcome to visitors, about how to share the good news about what we have to offer as Christians in the Anglican tradition from secular approaches to marketing and advertising. And most of all, we need to be ready for Eldad and Medad to show up some Sunday in our churches—even right here in Trinity Church in De Soto, ready to hear the spiritual hungers of new comers, ready to listen with respect and even to embrace their ideas (however unlike the way we’ve always done it in the tent of meeting they may be). Even though the book of Numbers says, in a verse we hardly ever read, that when the Spirit rested on the 70 elders and they prophesied, they did so only once, the experience of God’s people and of the Church has been that God’s Spirit keeps on being poured out on our churches, calling us to be thriving communities committed to Christ’s work of reconciling all people with each other and with God, serving our neighbors in Jesus’ name, engaged in joyful worship of the God who ever brings life out of death and invites all people to feast together at the table where Christ is the host.

Beverly: I know that you will resist the temptation to be anybody’s nursemaid or Mom but I know that you will nurture this congregation. You are wise and mature and you will love this congregation, in fact I know that you love them already. By your word and example you will help this congregation live into their baptismal promises, to grow into the individuals and the church community that God already knows them to be.
Be a faithful priest and pastor, present in times of joy and times of sorrow, offering comfort and challenge and gathering all at the Lord’s Table. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, share with the people of this congregation your imagination and your humor. Be gentle to yourself and remember that part time means part time and that God is still God and God’s grace is at work even if you are under-prepared or too tired to take on one more thing. Trust in God and in God’s people and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Keep learning, keep praying. And don’t’ stop knitting.

People of Trinity: Earlier this week, many of us here, gathered to give thanks for the life of the Rev. Chandler Crawford. For an outsider, it was a wonderful snapshot of the life of this congregation: You were showing pastoral care for Catherine and her family and for one another in your grief. You were showing careful and thoughtful hospitality to visitors, you sang and joined in the prayers with vigor. Love and trust Beverly. Be gracious enough to assume that she is doing her best and meaning no harm, even when she does things – as even the best priests inevitably do—that surprise or even hurt you. Speak the truth in love to her and to one another and trust to the reconciling power of God. If you and your new priest Beverly keep your eyes on the promised land, keep your minds and your hearts open to the Spirit, if you embrace change without looking back, if you continue in vigorous faith, open handed hospitality and care for friend and stranger, it won’t be long before this church is as busy on Sundays as it has been this week.