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Rector’s Newsletter Articles

Dear People of St. Stephen’s,

This coming Sunday is the fifth Sunday of Lent already! The following Sunday is Palm Sunday and our entrance into Holy Week. I encourage you to take part in the services that move us through Holy Week and towards Christ’s death and ultimately into his resurrection.

Our Palm Sunday services will begin with a joyful procession around the church property. At the 10am service we will be led by Lola the miniature donkey (thanks to Serafina, Jen and Rubyrose). The joyous celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem will grow somber as we read the story of the passion.

On Maundy Thursday, we will celebrate the institution of Holy Communion—that on his last night with his disciples, Jesus instructed them break bread and share wine in his memory— and we will have a foot washing to help us recall and embody Jesus’ teaching,  “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you”(John 13:14-15).

That evening, after the service, we will keep vigil in our sanctuary… Continue reading

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live” (John 11:25).

 Dear People of St. Stephen’s,

This year for our Lenten Study, we are going to study the topic of death and dying. I know this isn’t exactly a favorite topic for most of us, but it is an important one in a culture that tends to fear and avoid death.  As Christians, we believe that death is not the end.  We are a resurrection people.

Each year on Ash Wednesday, we receive ashes on our foreheads and hear the powerful words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (BCP 265). These words invite us to face the reality that our mortal lives will come to an end and in the face of this reality to name our hope in Christ.  This is what we celebrate in Easter—that Christ conquered death once and for all and made life eternal available to us in God.

This study will provide us with spiritual and practical tools to help us become more comfortable with our own humanity and to help us know how to… Continue reading

Dear People of St. Stephen’s,

Another year has passed and this Sunday, December 1st we begin a new church year and enter into the season of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting and watching, listening and breathing, and searching for Christ’s peace in our lives as we prepare ourselves to celebrate his birth.  This focus encourages us to slow down; it challenges the hubbub of the holidays and helps us stay grounded.

Blessings,
Christy+

Guide Me into an Unclenched Moment

Gentle me,

Holy One,

into an unclenched moment,

a deep breath,

a letting go

of heavy expectancies,

of shriveling anxieties,

of dead certainties,

that, softened by the silence,

surrounded by the light,

and open to the mystery,

I may be found by wholeness,

upheld by the unfathomable,

entranced by the simple,

and filled with the joy

that is you.

Guerillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle by Ted Loder

 

This article written by Christy ran in our diocesan e-news on August 20th. It is an adaptation of her August 11th sermon.

Pentecost XII/ Proper 14

The Gospel for the twelfth Sunday of Pentecost (Luke 12:32-40) this year began with Jesus saying to his disciples, “ ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ ” (Luke 12:32, New Revised Standard Version). This is a solid start to any passage, right? Jesus endeavors to comfort us and his disciples, assuring us that we need not be afraid because it is God’s pleasure to give us the kingdom.

It’s after this things get a little dicey. Jesus continues, “ ‘Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ ” (Luke 12:33-34 New Revised Standard Version). And instantly I’ve forgotten Jesus’ first statement. Fear has set in. How on Earth am I supposed to sell all my possessions and give it all away? This isn’t feasible or realistic! My inability to comply… Continue reading

Proper 8, Pentecost VI                                              The Rev. Christy Laborda Harris
Galatians 5:1, 13-25                                                 June 30th, 2013

It’s been a big week in the life of our nation. The Supreme Court has come back with verdicts about the Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action, the Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s own Proposition 8, along with some other less headline-grabbing verdicts. Many of us have been riding an emotional rollercoaster as we’ve heard the verdicts—anger, frustration, joy, jubilation, relief, peace.  There have been celebrations in the streets and opinion pieces decrying the error of our ways.  There have been tears of joy and tears of frustration.… Continue reading

Dear People of St. Stephen’s,

Starting this month there will be some changes in the way we communicate with each other. In place of our monthly newsletter, we will begin to send weekly email updates.  These emails will arrive via an email provider called Vertical Response which provides email services to non-profits for free (up to a certain limit).

We will continue to provide printed copies of the ROTA and the monthly calendar at the beginning of each month. (And for those who are not online, we will compile the articles released in the preceding month and make them available in hard copy. If you are not online, do not fear, you will still receive all the church communications but all at once, as you always have.) OR (And for those who are not online, we will print out the email each week and have it available in the back of the sanctuary for you to retrieve on Sunday. We will keep the last month’s worth of printed emails available should you miss a week).

The weekly email will consist of announcements and reminders about upcoming events, articles about our life together, ROTA reminders, and other useful information.

Email… Continue reading

Dear People of St. Stephen’s,

Greetings to you in the name of our Risen Lord! I write to you at just about the half waypoint through our Easter season. It’s hard to believe, but we are already over a quarter of the way through 2013.

As you may know, part of our vestry’s (and my) responsibility each month is to examine the financials from the prior month. Now, having completed the first quarter of the financial year, I write to update you about the finances of your church.   The last couple of years have seen wonderful growth in pledging and this year we projected a budget that nearly closed the deficit!  Unfortunately, based on our first quarter, we are not quite meeting our projected income.

At the end of the first quarter, our income is about $5,000 below our projection. This discrepancy is largely due to folks moving away and to deaths, but we have also have some pledges that are behind. While this is not a particularly large sum at this point, we are likely to end the year with a larger deficit than the $746 that had been projected.

As those who have been at… Continue reading

Dear People of St. Stephen’s,

The Lord has risen indeed! Alleluia! I wish you a joyous Easter season, full of amazing surprises, mercy, YESes to life and laughter, and knowledge of God’s kingdom unleashed in us and us in it. May you be swept up in this resurrection madness.

Yours in our risen Lord,
Christy+

 “I Praise You for This Resurrection Madness” by Ted Loder from Guerrillas of Grace

Lord of such amazing surprises
as put a catch in my breath
and wings on my heart,
I praise you for this joy,
too great for words
but not for tears and songs and sharing;
for this mercy
that blots out my betrayals
and bids me begin again,
to limp on,
to hop-skip-and-jump on,
to mend what is broken in and around me,
and to forgive the breakers;

for this YES
to life and laughter,
to love and lovers,
and to my unwinding self;
for this kingdom
unleashed in me and I in it forever,
and no dead ends to growing,
to choices,
to chances,
to calls to be just;
no dead ends to living,
to making peace,
to dreaming dreams,
to being glad of heart;
for this resurrection… Continue reading

The season of Lent is a time to prepare ourselves to embrace the totality of the gift we are given in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Part of this preparation comes in the form of penitence and repentance—we acknowledge our brokenness, our sinfulness, our error and we turn, we re-turn to God.

Some of the language we use in confessing our sins and brokenness can be challenging to the ears of our culture. The confession of sin that is part of our weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist (Rite I—BCP 331; Rite II—BCP 360) is unsettling to some. As a culture, I believe we have a lot of baggage around the church and sin. Somehow the message of our sinfulness has been heard much louder than the message of God’s love for us and forgiveness of us.

In the first week of our Lenten Study, as we worked through the Ash Wednesday liturgy, many of us were challenged by the language of Psalm 51 (BCP 266 or bcponline.org proper liturgies for special days, Ash Wednesday). This psalm is read after the imposition of the ashes, after we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We read… Continue reading

Recently a friend who visited St. Stephen’s remarked on the buzz and vitality that she felt in our worship and amongst the congregation. This past year has brought new members to our community, a new feeding ministry (Saturday Table), and many people finding anew the gifts God has given them and the ways that they can be used at St. Stephen’s and beyond. Thus, it seems appropriate to cap this exciting growth in our community and in our ministries with the celebration of what many in our Church consider the holiest and most sacred liturgy in our Church year—the Great Easter Vigil on the eve of Easter. This year we conclude our observation of Lent and Holy Week with the celebration of the Great Easter Vigil.  This service offers us the opportunity to experience the joy and awe that the apostles felt at the resurrection of Christ!

The Great Easter Vigil is not to be confused with the vigil that St. Stephen’s parishioners keep in the sanctuary after our Maundy Thursday service until the morning of Good Friday—they are keeping vigil. The Great Easter Vigil is traditionally held after dark on Holy Saturday and before dawn on Easter Sunday.… Continue reading