Christmas in the Present
I am looking forward to the first Christmas since 1979 that I have been with a members of my own family on Christmas Eve. I entered seminary in the fall of 1980. From that time forward I have always been with my parish community on Christmas Eve - frankly, in the Anglo-catholic world of the Diocese of Chicago it was never suggested to me that there was any other option for a person studying to be a priest.Read More
Christmas at Saint Mary's
For a month or more now I have been asking people at our weekly church staff meeting, "What happens here at Christmas time that I need to know about?" Week by week more is remembered and your new rector is slowly being brought up to speed. Bulletins and service registers are checked. Memories are checked with others. I think I am up to speed about what is going to take place and I am very thankful for the help I am getting from my colleagues on the parish staff.Read More
God Can Use You
Sometimes it may be useful to state the obvious. I hope that to many what I am going to try to say in this short article will be obvious and useful. The regular parish community of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is a small one by any standard. There are almost unlimited opportunities for every member or friend of this community to be useful for Christ's ministry in this place. I think you and I should have a strong sense of the possibility that God can and wants to use us for the service of the gospel in this place. I think this is probably true for almost everyone this newsletter will reach.Read More
Eight and Nine
It's been a very long time since two rectors of this parish have been together for a major liturgy here. Perhaps some of our long-time parishioners or members of the wider Saint Mary's community can recall the last occasion. It never happened during Father Wells's (Number Eight) tenure. Because of the long tenures of rectors of this parish and because two of our rectors, Father Brown and Father Taber, died while serving, it just doesn't happen very often. I am very glad it is happening this week.Read More
A New Advent
The first full Advent I experienced as a practicing and committed Episcopalian was the fall of my first year in graduate school in Chicago. The days are short in December in Chicago, short and cold. There was snow. It was a time of intense academic effort in my life; but it was also the time when I seemed to have recovered a closeness to God that I had known as a child. The time itself, like the fresh snow, seemed very pure to me.Read More
From Father Shin: Can we talk?
Unity through corporate worship is the ideal of the Book of Common Prayer and is also the purpose and the hopeful result of liturgy. This unity is achieved not by a democratic process of majority rule, but by transcendence into the holiness of our common life in the presence of God. Probably to the surprise of many the liturgy here at SMV from daily offices to solemn masses is quite faithful to the BCP. The challenge is how to transcend ourselves and live into the mystery of God's presence, the beauty of holiness. It doesn't happen automatically or magically. It happens through intentional prayer, common prayer.Read More
At the Noonday Office for the past few months we have been taking the meditation from the Roman Catholic Office of Readings. These are a series of daily readings from the Church Fathers and other writers. Before that we had been using an Episcopal version of these writings; but the parish had been through them several times and trying another version seemed like a good thing. The next version we tried was one from the Church of England. That too had its limitations.Read More
Vision and Commitment
I don't know very much yet about the life and work of the founding rector of this parish, the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown; but I know I want to know more. I do know quite a bit about the history of the parish where I served before coming here. That congregation built a new church in 1889, not unlike the photographs I've seen of the first Saint Mary's, which was located where Shuberts Alley is today. Of course, there were more statues and lights in Saint Mary's. There was an altar cross and candles in Michigan City - such adornment was generally considered quite advanced, liturgically speaking. There just wasn't anything like Saint Mary's, except perhaps in one or two other pioneering Anglo-catholic parishe
Four years ago I was hospitalized for what turned out to be a bacterial brain abscess. I feel extraordinarily thankful for the healing and the care so many gave to me when I was so very ill that I could do nothing for myself. An MRI showed the abscess the first day I was in the hospital. It took some days and several tests to determine I didn't have meningitis or something else wrong with me.Read More
A Hidden Light
Some Scripture to Begin:
Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
I don't see a lot of movies but I have seen another one, "The Sixth Sense." I liked the movie and was taken in by its surprise. The performance of the boy in the leading role was astonishing. If you see the movie I am sure you will marvel at the casting and the ability of the director to get an extraordinary performance out of him. There were many compelling moments in the movie. One of the most compelling was when Bruce Willis, who plays a psychologist, asks the boy, "What do you want?" The boy responds, "I don't want to be afraid anymore."
The Leadership in Ministry conference I attend twice each year is held at Lost River Retreat Center in Lost River, West Virginia. Over the years the course has been going on, people bring movies to watch that have something to do with how family or church systems work. My all time favorite is an English movie called, "Cold Comfort Farm." This past session I saw another movie that will go on my systems list, "Pleasantville."Read More
Until recent decades the weekly service bulletins of SMV were bound. Some of the bound volumes are in my office, some in the rectory parlor and some in the archive room underneath the church. I discovered through reading one volume in the parlor that the Reverend Granville Mercer Williams, S.S.J.E., had canceled the midnight Mass his first year for fear of irreverent communions. That experiment did not last; so popular was the Christmas Midnight Mass that tickets were requiredRead More
A Brief Reflection
At the end of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus is with his eleven disciples and them alone. Before giving them the Great Commission Matthew says the eleven worshipped Jesus, "but some doubted." Here Matthew is speaking of the eleven, the apostles who were the great witnesses and missionaries of Jesus' resurrection. Of them Matthew says, "but some doubted."
Transitions occur with new rectors in parishes like ours and not just for the reason that there is a new rector. Almost always the transition to a new rectorate begins with a fresh look at the history of a parish community and fresh thinking about how God is calling the community to move into the future. Since the beginning of my work at Saint Mary's I have been thinking and praying about the future. Music is an area where I think we need to have new leadership, leadership that I have chosen.
Saint Mary's is different from many, many Christian communities. Some might identify what is unique about our community with our physical space; others might remark on the emphasis we give to the place of worship in our common life. What seems most important to me about Saint Mary's are not the particulars of our physical space or of our worship but our desire for the liturgical act, that is, the desire for there to be an epiphany of the Body of Christ when we gather.
I'm spending a fair amount of time and energy, but not as much as I would like, meeting new people, trying to see if they sense they are being called to be a part of this community and to see how you and I can help them respond a call to be here. Almost every Sunday someone asks me about how he or she can join the parish. Almost every week now someone asks to join. I'm learning a lot about Saint Mary's by listening to the stories of the people who are coming here.
To Introduce Our Assistant
I have asked the Reverend Thomas Edward Breidenthal, professor of ethics at the General Theological Seminary, to join our staff as "assistant." I want to express to you my personal delight that he has accepted and I look forward to seeing your delight when you have met him. It was easy for me to come to the decision that I should ask the Board of Trustees to make it possible for us to have the very best clergy staff that we can.
Looking into the Future
Recent guests at the rectory have endured me showing some of the historical materials that are in the parlor library. Among them are some bound volumes of service programs from the first few decades of this century and lists of music sung in the church in the nineteenth century.Read More
The phrase "Christian education" is widely used and in general usage brings to mind something of the common classroom experience that is inflicted on most American children. Indeed, most members of the Episcopal Church have sat through classes at some point in time that went into great detail about the names of objects in Christian churches, the sequence of colors for seasonal church decoration and the proper way to address members of the clergy.Read More