My view is that in a society which tends automatically to rank people, leadership in a spiritual community can serve to level the playing ground. Leaders can lovingly call forward those who shrink back, and just as lovingly invite those who find it easy to put themselves forward to a stance of humble listening. We want to honor all as equal members of the body. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.” (1 Cor 12:26)
During Lent, people usually take on special practices to help grow in their faith. Traditionally, these include fasting, prayer, reading Scripture or spiritual books, and giving alms to help those in need. Sometimes people talk about these as practices of “giving up” and “taking on.” We engage in practices of “giving up” to make more room in our life for God; we engage in practices of “taking on” to fill that space with something that draws us closer to God.
Many people have expressed an interest in belonging to a small group, but do not know where to begin. In 2019, we are offering several cycles of 3-month discernment groups for people who want to explore the possibilities.
I have been thinking a lot about sin and confession lately. No, not because I have done anything particularly wrong recently. I have just been a run-of-the-mill sinner like most of us. Rather, it was on my mind because I was invited to go talk to one of the youth Sunday School classes about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is often colloquially called Confession.
At the heart of everything I do is a desire for Presence. Presence to me means being utterly connected with what IS, with the larger reality, with Spirit, with God, the Divine, the Sacred. It means being completely present to each moment of life as it unfolds, letting go of my past perceptions, fears, and judgments, and being open to the vast and astonishing depth of the gift and lesson of this moment. With each moment, the gift and the lesson are new.
Saturday Breakfast serves a delicious and nutritious meal to almost 300 hungry neighbors on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. These guests are, in social service terms, “food insecure.” Many are also homeless.
Practices are informed by beliefs, but go deeper. They are a way of understanding faith that is more grounded in action, what we do regularly and intentionally to live our faith. At their best, practices shape our lives and nourish our faith. At their best, practices help humanity and all of creation to flourish. At their best, practices are little inbreakings of the Kingdom of God.
Fellowship isn’t just good because it supports other ministry. Fellowship is good in its own right. We need a Theology of Fellowship that reminds us that Jesus called us into friendship with him and with each other. Friendship entails being together not only while working together, but while celebrating and relaxing. Fellowship is about deepening relationship.
I began my ministry in small group development at St. Mary’s one year ago in December. This year of developing the framework for small group ministry has been one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences of my life, and many of you have been part of that. As any of you who have come to a small group training know, I like to end my groups by asking each person to share their highlights of the gathering. I thought at the end of 2018, I would share a few of the many highlights of my first year.
St. Mary's Vestry wants you to know that the following statement was sent in letters to all the local Jewish congregations.
Listening deeply is a way of creating a container so that another person’s soul can grow in this way. When we listen prayerfully to another person, we create a positive container that provides safety and encouragement. The container provides the energy and love God wants each of us to have. Within this nourishing container, the soul can wake up, stretch, and fly. The soul can find its purpose and move towards action in the world.
Remember that feeling of being sick as a kid and your mother bringing you chicken soup and how that soup made you feel better, not just because of the magical properties of chicken soup but because the simple act of being fed made you feel loved? If you were blessed with this care as a child you know the healing power of being fed when you’re sick or in crisis.
Leadership is an inherent human characteristic. The most basic definition of leader is someone who makes things go well around them. This means that if you are in any situation, no matter how simple, and you make something go well, you are leading. Let me give you some simple examples.
There is a beautiful prayer on page 836 of the Book of Common Prayer that taught me how to recognize and offer gratitude. It starts by reminding us to whom we should be grateful: God. Next, it offers some big picture items for which to be grateful: creation, life, and love, before moving a little closer to home by offering thanks for family and friends, and even the challenges we face that lead to satisfying accomplishments. Then, perhaps the most surprising part of the prayer invites us to offer thanksgiving for our disappointments and failures.
We use a program called Journey to Adulthood for our older youth. There is a focus on the students growing up and taking more and more responsibility each year until they basically run the meetings and lessons themselves. It usually starts when our students are in 6th or 7th grade and goes through
There are as many kinds of small groups as there are kinds of people, and humans look for ways to share in so many ways. I’ve often marveled how a group of strangers spontaneously searches for the things they have in common, even if they have to stretch in very odd ways. “I see you like potatoes.” And they can talk animatedly for some time about all their experiences with potatoes.
Our CAP (Confirmation and Pilgrimage) class of high schoolers will be heading to England and France next summer, so I thought now is a good time to share with everyone how we made that decision. It is important to note, first of all, that this is a pilgrimage - not a community service trip, mission trip, or vacation. A pilgrimage is defined as “a long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). This is an important distinction to make as our students embark on this trip - important for them to focus on the journey, and important for the rest of us to know how to support them in the coming year, and while they’re on the journey.
When I read this story, I felt tears in my eyes and my heart was touched deeply. This story was frank yet appropriate for children who might be dealing with a loved one who is ill or dying. The story is helpful not only for grieving children but parents who might be struggling with how to introduce their children to the concept of death and grief. In the back of the book are tips for before the funeral, during the funeral, and the weeks that follow.
My name is Kristyn Dodge. For those who don’t me, I attend the 11 AM service. I just graduated from Northwest Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in History and Christian Ministry.
I have been speaking to people who have had life-giving experiences in small groups at church. I asked them why they liked being in a small group and why they would encourage others to do the same.