A Great Cloud of Witnesses

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Last week, Fr. Paul and I had the opportunity to travel to General Theological Seminary, in New York City, to hear former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams share two lectures about his life as a Christian.  What a powerful witness!  Even as we move forward as Anglican Communion with various disagreements and differences, it was a gift to hear how we are united in our faith in Jesus Christ!  The Archbishop shared about key influences in his life, including Mother Kara’s favorite theologian Karl Barth and one of my own spiritual heroes and former Kentuckian, Thomas Merton.  Surely, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who light our path home to God. The Archbishop also encouraged us to engage with our local congregations as we seek to serve our world.

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Rowan Williams  [Photos: Tommy Dillon]

Rowan Williams [Photos: Tommy Dillon]

In that spirit, Trinity Church continues to forge a partnership with St. Michael’s Church in Trenton.  On President’s Day, I had the opportunity to lead their annual service of Commemoration for General George Washington. In preparation for that service, I did a little research and found out the following about St. Michael’s: 

When George Washington and the Continental army surprised the Hessians on December 26, 1776, some of the fighting of the Battle of Trenton happened in St. Michael’s church yard.   There was hand to hand combat with swords, muskets, and bayonets on church grounds.  Later in the war, the church was used by George Washington’s Continental Army as a hospital…

In 1801, the Fifth General Convention of the Episcopal Church met at St. Michael’s.  One of the most significant actions of this convention was the adoption the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion… Another historical event at St. Michael’s was the Diocesan Convention of August 1815, where The Rev. John Cross was elected the first Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey.

 In 1843, the church added the Warren Street frontage. The Gothic Revival Style of the building façade resembles a castle. The principal sanctuary of St. Michael’s was renovated to resemble Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. St. Michael’s had two turrets and a bell tower. The turrets and towers remain, but the bell tower is no longer standing. Standing across the street on Warren looking up at the front of the church, you will see the likeness of Lambeth Palace. [Source]

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace

St. Michael’s Church, Trenton

St. Michael’s Church, Trenton

Whether it’s their role in the American Revolution, the early foundations of the Episcopal Church and our Diocese, or their place in the greater Anglican Communion, we’re partnering with a congregation that has profound importance in the story of our nation and our church!  I’m so grateful to Fr. Paul and our Vestry for their decision to minister alongside the people of St. Michael’s Church!

In peace,

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Br. Chris McNabb, OSF
Curate

Guest Writer: To Be an Acolyte

Dear friends,

After a wonderful conversation with Amelia Willson, I asked her to write a piece for the ePISTLE about her experience as an acolyte. I have two ulterior motives for this. The first is that I hope others who might be interested in serving as an acolyte might read this and be motivated to take the next step. It truly is a wonderful way to serve Christ and his church. The second is that I hope this article will be the first in an ongoing occasional series in which parishioners talk about their own ministries at Trinity and how their involvement draws them closer to Christ. Because in the end, that’s what we’re about. 

Yours faithfully in Christ,

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The Rev. Dr. Kara N. Slade
Associate Rector

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To Be an Acolyte

Amelia Wilson

I arrive early—a half hour before the service, and in an empty sacristy I choose a cassock and pull it on.  With my back to the pews as I light the tall candles of the high altar, I can hear people making their way to their usual pews.  By the time I’ve finished, the organist has arrived and begun to warm up. Beautiful tones fill the once quiet space.  After lighting the last candles, I head up the aisle, past someone setting the Eucharistic table, a priest or two dashing about, and the ushers pinning flowers to their lapels.  We all greet each other, pleased to see familiar faces and knowing we are all doing our special part in the day’s service.  As acolyte, I am one among them.

I chat with ushers while I wait.  The church fills, and the priests arrive.  The first notes of the opening hymn are struck, and I take up the crucifix, look once to note everyone is ready, and begin my small but sacred part in a beautiful procession for the greatest celebration known to man.  In an instant and for all of us, the mood has gone from happy anticipation to solemn and purposeful. 

An acolyte does many jobs during the service.  I take the plate offerings from the ushers, assist the priest preparing for the Eucharist, and serve as chalice bearer.  All the while I am ever aware that I am surrounded by people I know and love, the priests dedicated to us and their passion to serve Christ, and the sacred mission we share. At the end, I think about all the people I saw that day. I think about the gospel’s message and the homily.  Now the church is empty again.  The energy and enthusiasm are gone with those who came to celebrate Christ, priests and parishioners alike.  It is done and it was all good, and I was a part of it.

Being an acolyte is about being part of the Church’s heartbeat—having a place in the great goings-on.

This is how it feels to be an acolyte.  I am trusted with meaningful tasks, honored to be shoulder to shoulder with priests and all those who work at each service, and thanked for my contributions.  Being an acolyte is about being part of the Church’s heartbeat—having a place in the great goings-on.  It is an honor that I did not earn except to volunteer when I was needed.  But I have my place now, among so many people whom I admire and who serve in big and small ways.  We all pull together and the service becomes a living testament to each other and to God, and the acolyte is there helping to make it happen.  In its own way and for me, it is thrilling.

State of the Union

Dear Friends,

On Tuesday, I, along with millions of others, turned on the television to watch the State of the Union address. I watch every year no matter who’s the President, no matter whether they’re Republican or Democrat. I watch the State of the Union because I’m an American. This is my home. This is where we raise our children. This is most likely where I will grow old and one day die. What happens to our country makes a difference to me, and more importantly to the people I love and those who will come after me.  The state of our Union makes a difference!

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Whether I agree with everything a president or political party says or believes, whether they are “my party” or not, I want the best for our country. I want what’s best for our country, because I believe that a healthy United States is incredibly important to the health of the world.  For good and ill, our actions make a difference and not just within our own borders but around the globe.  

Did I like everything that I heard last night — no. Did I like some of the things that I heard last night — yes. That’s true most every year. And every year half of the gallery stands and applauds while the other half sits on their hands. As a leadership changes, who’s standing and who’s sitting, who’s applauding and who’s not - simply switches sides.

The state of our Union is imperfect. Sometimes we agree with the path we are on as a nation, and sometimes we are vehemently opposed. At times, we take to the streets in celebration while at other times we march with signs of protest. The state of our Union is messy and difficult and complicated. That’s the reality. It always has been — it always will be. 

The key to both realities, on some level, is our willingness to do the hard work needed to maintain the union.

But, so too, is the reality of the Church. The reality of our union as the Body of Christ can be messy and difficult and complicated. As the Body of Christ, it takes work to remain in relationship with one another. It takes prayer and grace and faithfulness for us to remain unified in the proclamation that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. As a nation, it takes all that we have to look beyond our differences and disagreements and to hold to the core value that we are one nation truly indivisible with liberty and justice for all.  

So, what is the state of the Union — imperfect. What is the state of the Church — imperfect.  But, we must continue with faithfulness and perseverance to strive to live more fully into the union and unity that binds us together in one reality as the people of the United States and in our true identity as the people of God’s one holy catholic and apostolic church. 

Peace,

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The Rev. Paul Jeanes III
Rector

Courage to Open Our Hearts

And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.
— Matthew 10:42 (NRSV)

Beloved in Christ,

Recently, I’ve found myself overwhelmed by bad news. The news and the daily stress of living our lives might make us want to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers… or maybe that’s just me?  In these times, it’s easy to shut down the bad news and ignore the struggle of our neighbors — near and far.  I think this is a normal reaction.  The question is can our faith give us the courage to open our hearts to the suffering of humanity?  I think when we root ourselves in private prayer and communal worship, we can do amazing things together, in the name of Jesus Christ!

There is currently a case in Arizona where four church volunteers are facing jail time for leaving water and beans for migrants who might otherwise die from dehydration in the desert.  We can of course disagree on immigration policy — but the decision to jail church volunteers for giving water to thirsty people seems antithetical to the gospel.  It is reminiscent of various cities that have arrested volunteers who give out free food to the homeless.  

When I read stories like this, it’s easy for me to grow discouraged and “hide under the covers”.  However, as an Episcopalian, I am called to a more faithful response. Rather than falling into despair, I can look around and find ways that I can help here in Princeton.  And so, I thought in that spirit, I’d provide a few upcoming opportunities to love our neighbors: 

  • Visits to Immigration Detention Center — Seminarian Intern Micah Cronin and up to 2 volunteers will go with the Reformed Church of Highland Park to visit men detained at the Elizabeth Detention Center. They will leave Trinity at 5pm. Volunteers can expect to be home by 11pm.

  • Serve a meal at Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Thursday, February 7 — Micah and up to 3 volunteers will leave Trinity at 2:45 to help serve dinner at TASK from 3:15-4:50. They plan to return by 5:30 or 5:45pm.

  • Valentines for Food, Arm in ArmTrinity is collecting nonperishable food items until February 17.

  • Absalom Jones Service of Witness to Black Ministry, February 10, 3pm-5pm —Bishop Stokes has encouraged our attendance at a service honoring the life and work of The Rev. Absalom Jones at Trinity Cathedral in Trenton. 

Together, we can do amazing things for Jesus Christ!  

Peace,

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Br. Chris McNabb, O.S.F.
Curate

American Sarum at Trinity

Trinity Church will be host again this year for the International American Sarum Conference. I want to encourage everyone to attend this Conference — clergy, musicians, acolytes, ushers, choristers, lectors, vestrypersons, Sunday School leaders, and any and all people eager to learn about and understand the roots of our liturgy today in 2019.

Let me be very clear here. This is not a “retro church” organization that promotes “museum church”. Instead, American Sarum seeks to use the traditions and history of Anglican liturgies to help design newer contemporary liturgies in 2019. In other words, it’s about making informed liturgical decisions based on the Anglican liturgical tradition to enhance our liturgies today.

Leaders for this Conference include the recently retired Precentor of Salisbury Cathedral; the former Director of Music at Magdalen College Oxford, and the former Head of the Royal School of Church Music. People from all over the US and the UK will be in attendance. 

Come learn about the tradition we all love and make some new friends in the process.

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AMERICAN SARUM CONFERENCE

Sound, Light, and Movement:
Liturgical Processions & Stational Liturgy

Sunday, February 17, 5pm Evensong

through

Wednesday, February 20, 12pm Lunch

Open to all, clergy, musicians, and lay people
interested in the history and details of liturgy.

 
 

I hope to see you all there!

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Tom Whittemore
Director of Music

P.S., Please register ASAP!

The Dream Will Come True!

Dear Friends,

This weekend we, as a nation, will commemorate the life and prophetic leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  This year marks the 55th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and prohibiting unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.  We have indeed made great strides  — of course, I say that as a tall white man with all of the social advantages that come with that reality, but perhaps we have not come as far as we might have thought.  

Over the course of the past few years, it seems as if the poison of racism and prejudice is once again being spewed upon our society in a very real, visible, and public way.  This is troubling and tragic.  Even in our own home town of Princeton, police and local authorities were put on full alert because of a planned march by a white supremacist group, the New Jersey European Heritage Associatio; which the NJEHA now claims was a hoax to “punk” us. 

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We, as followers of Jesus Christ, cannot stand idly by doing nothing in the presence of the evil of hate. We are called to be people who unite, love, embrace, and welcome.  

This weekend, as we give thanks for the transformative life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must remind ourselves that the work is not done, not by a long shot.  We must keep the dream alive! The day when we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Someday, one day — the dream will come true! 

Peace,

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The Rev. Paul Jeanes III
Rector

Godly Play

Dear Friends,

One of the most sacred tasks we have as a community of faith is to raise up our children in the knowledge and love of the Lord.  We are to teach them the faith.  We are to share with them the blessed and holy stories of Scripture.  As the book of Proverbs teaches us, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV) Also, in the book of Deuteronomy is it written, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, NIV)  Giving our children the spiritual tools and resources needed to navigate the world is essential!  

Let’s face it, the reality is that we spend a great deal of time, money, energy, and effort preparing our children to be competitive in their sport of choice.  We give them every resource and opportunity available to ensure that they excel academically. Yet, we fall woefully short in providing for them the very resource that will sustain them on the journey of life. That being a solid foundation of faith with the tools of prayer, love of worship and music, knowledge of Holy Scripture and a heart for service. 

I strongly encourage you to join our Church School leaders and children this Sunday morning during Church School time in Pierce-Bishop Hall as we join together to learn our sacred stories.  Come and experience Godly Playcome and see how our children are learning the faith.  Come and join us in this holy time, as we, together both young and old alike, hear and share the sacred stories of our faith.

See you Sunday!

In Christ,

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The Rev. Paul Jeanes III
Rector

No Longer at Ease Here

Dear friends,

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

So ends T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Journey of the Magi,” which tells the story of the Epiphany from the perspective of the three wise men. We tend to think of Epiphany as the happy culmination of the Christmas season, with its traditionally enthusiastic singing of “We Three Kings,” but this day also represents a shocking sort of disruption. Eliot was right, I think, to describe it as an experience of death: the death of certainty, the death of an old and familiar way of being. But it is also, of course, an experience of birth: new life, new hope, and a new identity for the Gentiles who see the glory of the messiah of Israel. 

Epiphany became a time of shock and disruption in a very direct way for me in 2004, when my father died very unexpectedly of a heart attack. In the wake of that event, I came to recognize in new ways how deeply death and new life can become uncomfortably intertwined. Consider also, however, the last line of the Epiphany gospel from Matthew, where he writes of the magi, “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” Here is danger, but here also is the chance for something completely new. Having met the infant Jesus, the wise men are compelled to take another road. And so it is for us, in the dying and being raised to new life that lies at the heart of the Christian life. 

This Epiphany season, the Episcopal Church invites its members to read together a book of the Bible that is intimately involved with matters of life and death: the Epistle to the Romans. If you’d like to see more information and a schedule for reading Romans on your own, follow this link:

May the peace of Christ, who is the light to all the nations, be with you and your families in this season. 

Yours faithfully in Christ,

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The Rev. Dr. Kara Slade
Associate Rector