Br. Chris Leaves for Guatemala

Before seminary, I was part of a team providing pastoral care to migrant horse groomers.  It was a wonderful experience.  I also struggled to understand the men as they shared their heart breaking stories of migration.  As a result of these experiences, I began learning Spanish.  It’s been a long road — due to the generosity of Trinity Church, I’ll be taking a big step forwards fluency.  

On May 26, I’ll travel to Antigua, Guatemala for four weeks of Spanish Immersion. I’ll be staying with friends of the Jeanes family; a parishioner very kindly donated their airline miles. Additionally, the tuition of all day Spanish lessons for four weeks is quite inexpensive.  All of this has made my trip possible.  I’m grateful to Fr. Paul for letting me combine all my vacation and continuing education time into this four-week venture.  

According to the Episcopal Church’s Strategic Vision for Reaching Latinos/Hispanics, the United States is the second largest Latino country in the world — second only to Mexico.  Yes, the United States has more Hispanics than Spain!  Later on in the same report, we read:

In the midst of various challenges resulting in the Episcopal Church’s membership decline, our church also faces the unprecedented opportunity to embrace the changing times with excitement, zeal, and hope. The dramatic increase in the numbers of Latinos/Hispanics in communities throughout the country should be seen as an evangelistic opportunity and hope for the church.

The ability to speak Spanish will significantly increase the impact of my ministry in the years to come, providing a welcome to people who might not otherwise have felt at home in the Episcopal Church.  I’m so grateful to Fr. Paul, our Vestry, and the entire parish for making this possible. Hasta luego!

La paz,

Hermano Chris 

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The Power of Testimony

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On Saturday, May 4, the Body of Christ tragically lost a wonderfully creative and passionate young woman, Rachel Held Evans. “Raised in an evangelical household, she spent much of her adult life challenging the harmful role that conservative American culture plays Christianity” (New Yorker, May). Only in her death did I become aware of her most important role and prophetic place in our faith. Below I offer an excerpt from her last blog

Life eternal grant to Rachel, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon her.

In Christ,

 
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The Rev. Paul Jeanes III
Rector

— The Power of Testimony —

Rachel Held Evans

“There is deliverance in the music, there is healing in the music, there is love—there is love—in the music.”

Tiffany Thomas had reached a crescendo. As the twenty-nine- year-old pastor concluded her riveting and rhythmic testimony about how the hymns of the black church drew her to Jesus, the nine hundred people crammed into Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis rose to their feet and cheered.

That weekend, a dozen speakers, ranging from pastors to artists to teachers to scientists joined Tiffany in responding to the question, Why Christian? Why, with all the atrocities past and present committed in God’s name, amid all the divisions ripping apart the church, in spite of all their doubts and frustrations and fears about faith, are they still followers of Jesus? What makes them continue to believe?

My friend Nadia Bolz-Weber and I posed the question at our inaugural “Why Christian?” conference in 2015 because it’s a question that weighs on us every day and it’s a question Christians don’t ask one another often enough. As each speaker approached the microphone to share their stories—some with the practiced cadence of working preachers, others with a quiet vulnerability, and all with the conviction of people whose faith has been hard-won—it became clear that there simply remains no greater apologetic for the Christian faith than a life caught up in the story of Jesus.

“I am a Christian,” explained Episcopal priest Kerlin Richter, “because having a body wasn’t always good news for me, but then I met Good News that had a body. In Jesus, I met a God who spits and kisses, who yells and cries. I am a messy and embodied person, and this is a messy and embodied faith.”

“I am a Christian,” declared Austin Channing Brown, an author and activist whose work focuses on racial justice in the church, “because God knows my pain, not in an abstract way, but in a real, bloody, enfleshed way.”

“I am a Christian,” said Rachel Murr, a researcher and counselor, “because the gospel is good news for gay people too.”

“I am a Christian,” explained Baptist preacher and human rights activist Allyson Robinson, “because I don’t always know if this story is true, but I choose to live my life as if it were. I choose to live as if the things Jesus died for were worthy of God’s sacrifice and therefore worthy of mine.”

When it came time for me to share, I spoke honestly about my doubts about the Bible and Christianity. I confessed my uncertain- ties about raising children in this broken and beloved community we call the church. I explained how gatherings like these help restore my faith because they pull me out of my head and into the lives of others, into the big, colorful, messy, and magical story of Jesus.

“I am a Christian,” I concluded, “because the story of Jesus is still the story I’m willing to risk being wrong about.”

I had forgotten the power of giving testimony, of publicly recounting our unique “gospels according to . . .” We can know a person for decades, share a pew with them in church every Sunday, without ever knowing their testimonies, without ever asking them, “Hey, why Christian?” We can spend a lifetime singing hymns and reading the Bible without honestly answering that question for ourselves.

Jesus invites us into a story that is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our culture, bigger even than our imaginations, and yet we get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of our particular moment and place in time. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God.

May we never neglect the gift of that. May we never lose our love for telling the tale.

The Easter Paradox

Paradox is at the heart of our Christian faith.  As we continue celebrating Easter, we remember the most profound paradox in Christianity — that death leads to new life. 

This past week, I travelled to New York City to see long time choir member, Nicholas Gordon confirmed at St. John’s Episcopal Church. On Sunday, we saw Mother Kara become the Canon Theologian for the Diocese of New Jersey. It was a wonderful time of celebration in our community!

Even as we celebrated these accomplishments, I found out that Rachel Held Evans died at 37 years old.  Rachel was a prominent author who spoke about her evangelical upbringing and finding a home in the Episcopal Church.  Her death, especially at such a young age, was shocking.  She once wrote, “Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.  Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth.  We might just create sanctuary”. 

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Earlier his morning, I read about the passing of another great hero in the church — Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche passed away at the age of 90.  Vanier served in the Royal Navy in Canada and upon discharge, he felt called “to do more”. He went to help a priest in France, who worked with people who have developmental disabilities. Vanier was shocked how people were thrown away and treated as garbage.  He created L’Arche — where people who have developmental disabilities can live with others in a true family like setting.  Amidst this model, incredible healing has occurred, all around.  Vanier wrote in his book Community and Growth, “I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.” Talk about paradox!  As I said before, Christianity is full of paradox.  

Krista Tippet, of On Being, interviewed Jean Vanier a number of years ago at an Episcopal retreat center in rural Maryland.  As we seek to make sense of the Easter paradox, of Rachel’s death, and Jean Vanier’s passing… I pray Vanier’s words will heal you as they’ve healed me.

Your brother,

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Br. Christopher McNabb, OSF

Second Chances at Easter

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

— John 21:15-19, NRSV

I defended my doctoral dissertation on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. I remember this fact only because I said a Eucharist for that feast day the morning of my defense. Since my dissertation was about how liturgy and the sacraments should re-order our thinking about time, I wanted to practice what I wrote — by liturgically offering my work to God before I offered it to my committee. I’m reminded of that event this week partly because my installation as Canon Theologian of the Diocese is coming up on Sunday, and my graduation from Duke is happening the week after that. It’s a time for joy and celebration, as well as for gratitude to each one of you for your support of my ministry at Trinity Church and beyond. But I’m also reminded of it because the Gospel for that feast day is the same one that appears in our lectionary this Sunday.

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In Sunday’s Gospel, we hear Jesus telling Peter that one day, someone will fasten a belt around him and take him where he doesn’t want to go. Even though that’s a phrase that comes to mind every time I put on my cincture before the Eucharist, and I think it does capture something of what priesthood is about, that’s about Peter. It’s not about me. Finishing a dissertation is not analogous to martyrdom. I am one of those rare people who actually had a great time in graduate school — so much so that I did it twice! And even though priesthood, and theological scholarship too, can be a walk to the cross, perhaps it is not for any of us to desire suffering for the sake of the Gospel. It comes to us quite independent of our desires or our efforts, and perhaps rightly so. 

Instead, what I want to note is the shape of Jesus’ call to Peter. Feed my lambs.  Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. Follow me. Three times, the risen Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” And three times, Peter says yes. Three times. The one who denied his Lord three times gets a second chance to make it right. In the form and the pattern of Peter’s betrayal, in the wake of his greatest shame, the risen Christ shows us that in him, everything really can be redeemed. Peter is called to follow once again, and to be that rock upon whom the church will be built, because the God we serve is a God of second chances, new life, and new birth. 

I wouldn’t be writing to you today if it wasn’t true. Alleluia, Christ is risen! 

Yours faithfully in Christ,

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Kara Slade
Associate Rector

Hallelujah, Anyhow!

The Rt. Reverend Barbara Harris was the first woman ordained and consecrated a bishop in The Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion. In her memoir, entitled Hallelujah, Anyhow!, [she] quotes an old Gospel hymn that says it this way:

Hallelujah anyhow
Never let your troubles get you down
When your troubles come your way
Hold your hands up high and say
Hallelujah anyhow!

When I get to Heaven, I want to meet one person, and her name is Mary Magdalene. Because if ever there was another Hallelujah, Anyhow sister, it was Mary Magdalene. And her life, and her example, tells us what it means to follow in the way of Jesus, in the Way of Love.

Mary Magdalene showed up when others would not. Mary Magdalene spoke up when others remained silent. Mary Magdalene stood up when others sat down.

John’s Gospel tells us that when many of the disciples fled and abandoned Jesus, Mary Magdalene stood by him at the cross. Hallelujah, Anyhow.

Against the odds, swimming against the current, Mary Magdalene was there.

John’s Gospel says in the 20th chapter, early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women went to the tomb. Hallelujah, Anyhow.

They went to the tomb when it didn’t make any sense. They went to the tomb when the evidence was against them. Jesus was dead. They knew that. The power of the Empire had crushed the hope of love. They knew that. And they got up in the morning and went to the tomb anyhow. Hallelujah, Anyhow.

But more than that, John’s Gospel says it was dark. It was dark. That’s not just the time of day in John’s Gospel. The darkness in John is the domain of evil. In John’s Gospel when Judas leaves the Last Supper to betray Jesus, John inserts a parenthetical remark. When Judas leaves to betray him, John says, “And it was night.” The darkness is the domain of wrong, of hatred, of bigotry, of violence, the domain of sin and death and horror.

And early in the morning while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, Hallelujah, Anyhow.

The truth is, she didn’t know that Jesus was alive. She was just doing what love does. Caring for her beloved, her Savior, her friend, in his time of death, to give him the last rites of burial. And when she got to the tomb, and the other women with them, they eventually discovered that Jesus was alive, and in the silence of the night, in the moments of despair, in the moments of the worst darkness, God had done something incredible. God had raised Jesus from the dead

The truth is, nobody saw Jesus rise from the dead, because God had done it secretly and quietly, when nobody was looking.

When I was in high school, I learned a poem composed by James Russell Lowell. He wrote it in the 19th century, in one of the darkest periods in American history, when this country was torn asunder by the existence of chattel slavery in our midst. In this great land of freedom, there were slaves being held in bondage. And this nation literally went to war, tearing itself apart, trying to find the way to do what was right. And James Russell Lowell wrote, in the midst of this darkness, in this dark hour:

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ’tis truth alone and strong…
Though her portion be a scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own

Hallelujah, Anyhow.

Christ is risen

The Lord is risen, indeed.

God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

Jesus Entering Us

Dear Friends,

As we now come to the sacred days of Holy Week, I offer you a Palm Sunday reflection by Fr. Thomas Keating, OCSO

The great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches from palm trees and went out to meet him shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus is the model for all human persons, the universal human being, as it were. Jesus shows us the enormous potentialities hidden within us. By letting God enter our lives and very selves we make it possible for them to be realized. Jesus is coming to us and not just to an ancient city.

According to Paul’s great hymn to God’s humility, the divine Person of the Word, source of everything that exists, didn’t cling to the divine dignity or condition or prerogatives, but threw them all away. It is as though God had a need not to act like God.

In creating, God, in a sense, dies. God is not alone but completely involved in the evolution of creatures. God makes them so lovable! So Christ emptied himself of the divine power that could have protected him and instead opened himself in complete vulnerability. Think of his stretching out his arms on the cross to embrace all human suffering.

In the most real sense, we too are the body of God. We are a “new humanity” in which the Word becomes flesh. We too can be in the service of the Divine Word. God experiences human life through our senses, our emotions, our thoughts. Each of us gives the eternal Word a new way in which to disclose infinite potentiality.

God knows a human self from inside and experienced the human condition in all its ramifications. We are incorporated into this new creation that Christ brings to the world and so to experience the Father’s infinite concern. God transcends suffering and joy but manifests himself in both and Jesus wants us to experience God as He does. We leave behind every false self and become a new self.

Christ on the donkey is riding to his death. This reveals the heart of God once and for all and in such a way that no one can every doubt God’s infinite mercy unless by doubting that God has become human in Christ. At the Eucharist we hear the words: “This is my Body”. The power of that utterance extends to each of us. Christ enters into us and awakens and celebrates his great sacrifice, saying to each of us:“You are my body. You are my blood.” It is a question of our cooperating in these words coming true, more and more, day by day. Do we want Christ to enter into us? Do we want whatever that will mean—for us and for the entire human world?

Peace and Blessings on the way,

 
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The Rev. Paul Jeanes III
Rector

I Want To Be Like This Boat

I want to be like this boat….

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It is cutting through the waves to get to more peaceful waters.  It is necessary for the boat to go directly through the waves and not be motionless and try to ride the waves.  Such inaction could cause the boat to capsize and danger to those onboard.

I had the opportunity to lead the Godly Play session on Sunday with the older children and the theme was the three temptations to Jesus while in the desert.  With each temptation, Jesus responds back to the Voice — sharply, distinctly, directly, and in confrontation.  He does not let the temptation misdirect him or divert him from his intended mission to show God’s Love in word and in action to a hurting world that needs a savior.  Like the boat, Jesus goes directly through the situation.

On Wednesday, March 27, six men gathered in the Princeton Seminary Library parking lot to greet the dawn with an F3 boot camp workout and to talk about the subjects of male depression, suicide, and suicide prevention.  I was touched by the level of vulnerability and honesty as men shared their knowledge and familiarity with these very difficult subjects.  It is easy to let the Voice inside me tell me that I will never amount to much or that I’ll never be as good as another person.  It is easy for me to believe such thoughts.   Like the boat, and like Jesus, I need to confront the peril, talk back to it, and move through it to a better place and to peace of mind.

What are the tools that can help me?

God’s Word

I call Psalm 42 my depression psalm.  The psalmist is in difficult place, yet realizes that God is his hope. Psalm 42:7b, 9- 1:

All your waves and breakers have swept over me… I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Also, I like this promise in Romans 8:38-39:  

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer

Consistent, honest, and with space to listen to God’s promptings and insights.

My Brothers & Sisters

It is my prayer that we grow in deeper fellowship with one another, and grow in trusting relationships where we can share our struggles, our doubts and concerns, and that we support one another.  I know as a guy it is not easy for me to open up and share what is really going on within.

I am looking forward to the launch of the F3 free men's bootcamp workouts in our area, and I am looking forward to getting to know, as brothers, the men that would get involved in this.  There is more on this elsewhere in the ePISTLE. The launch of F3 Princeton will be on April 13. 

I remain like this boat, moving forward and through the waves, and as I tell my Level 1 and Level 2 swimming students, I am wearing my life jacket.

Your brother in Christ,

Curtis Hoberman

Love Never Fails

Dear Friends,

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It has been a great joy to me to come to know the young  parents, children, and young adults of our parish family. Young adults and young families are a are a particularly vibrant and growing community here at Trinity. Once a month we gather after church for a Potluck meal and program. From time to time the conversation will focus on Scripture. All of us live with the constant question of how these ancient texts move and motivate in us in our modern lives. When it comes to applying ancient words to the complexities of modern parenting, well, sometimes the Scripture needs a little nudge, an explanation, an interpretation that is true to the original intent, yet is readily applicable to busy young lives. Below was one of our recent meditations. It is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 — the Hymn to Love familiar to so many of us. Perhaps you will find in it wisdom and guidance for your own busy days. And perhaps through it you can pray for and uphold the many children, parents, and young adults who come through Trinity’s doors seeking support and strength in this large and loving Trinity family.

Yours in Christ,

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The Rev’d Joanne Epply-Schmidt
Associate Rector

 

Though I speak with the language of educators and psychiatrists and have not love, I am as blaring brass or a crashing symbol.

And if I have the gift of planning my child’s future and understanding all the mysteries of the child’s mind and have ample knowledge of teenagers, and though I have all faith in my children, so that I could remove their mountains of doubts and fears and have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed and nourish them properly, and though I give my body to backbreaking housework and have not love, it profits me not.

Love is patient with the naughty child and is kind. Love does not envy when a child wants to move to grandma’s house because “she is nice”.

Love is not anxious to impress a teenager with one’s superior knowledge.

Love has good manners in the home — does not act selfishly or with a martyr complex, is not easily provoked by normal childish actions.

Love does not remember the wrongs of yesterday and love is not evil — it gives the child the benefit of the doubt.

Love does not make light of sin in the child’s life (or in her own, either), but rejoices when he or she comes to a knowledge of the truth.

Love does not fail. Whether there be comfortable surroundings, they shall fail; whether there be Toal communication between parents and children, it will cease; whether there be good education, it shall vanish.

When we were children, we spoke and acted and understood as children, but now that we have become parents, we must act maturely.

Now abides faith, hope, and love — these three are needed in the home. Faith in Jesus Christ, eternal hope for the future of the child, and God’s love shed in our hearts, but the greatest of these is love.