Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Pride Homily: The Light Shines

Happy pride!

Pride is a time when people come out. Come out of hiding. Come out of dark places and into the light. When people celebrate things that for many years were visible only in secret places.

This reading today is part of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. He is talking to a people, the people of Israel, who have been beaten down. They have been taken over and occupied by Rome, and others before Rome, all the way back to the time of the Babylonian conquest. Time after time they had thought they would be able to come forth, and live in their identity as God’s people, and time and again they retreated to their ghettos, beaten back again by the powers of empire, gone into dark places; able only to celebrate who they were in secret.

Jesus makes an argument. He argues on the one hand against the zealots, who wanted to fight back against the empire with violence. He says that’s not how the kingdom of God works. That’s not the way to win.

He makes his argument against the Pharisees, too: that the kingdom of God-- which lives under the law of neighborhood instead of empire’s domination-- that God’s law of love isn’t in some far off place but the kingdom of God’s love starts right here, right now. Jesus fulfills the law and he tells his audience that love is already at hand, seeping from those ghettos and those hidden places and those refuges where the people of God had been hidden for so long. Love will shine and spill over into the rest of the world.

My friends, the kingdom of God’s love is at hand today as well, and it is fearless! God is here, and love abounds.

Just as it was true so long ago, the kingdom of God’s love originates in the hidden places and comes to fruition when the light comes out from the bushel and shines brightly.

The first LGBT march in San Diego was in 1974. Some of those folks marched with paper bags on their heads because they could not let their light shine. We have come a long way. Just look at the radiant light all around us today! It is hard to even call this a gay ghetto, but here we are.

And talk about salt! Salt is what gives food its flavor. It makes food more interesting. If you look around us today, I’d say we’ve got a lot of salt, a lot of flavor, here at the pride today, and I’d bet we will see a lot more flavor as the day goes on. The LGBTQ community is some of the salt that makes humanity interesting.

Sadly, somebody put up a sign near the cathedral the other day that questioned whether our community needed to have a bushel put on it, whether we as an LGBTQ people were embraced fully by the love of God.

But let me tell you something, the LGBTQ community doesn’t need somebody’s sign to tell us whether to let our light shine. Just as in those ghettos of old, God has always been here. We march today as the church not because the LGBTQ community needs the church. We march today because the church needs the LGBTQ community! The church needs the salt of LGBTQ people and all kinds of people to mirror God’s own creativity as we shine our light in the world. Because make no mistake, being gay is a gift from God, a treasure, a light to let shine. And the church needs straight allies to witness to power of love across difference, to vulnerability, and to openness in difference and for their own fearless love in shining their light on us in this long struggle for equality. We all of us together make up the many flavors of this human family.

So keep your eyes open for the light that, on this day, on this pride day, is revealed-- God’s kingdom that is already at work in the world: the bonds of community that love each other; the fellowship that is created when different kinds of people come together; the kingdom that is already happening right here right now.

And church, let’s taste that salt of the earth and let it make us thirsty: thirsty for the love of God that is already at work in the world, and let us use it to allow our own light to shine more brightly in a world that needs it desperately!

The Rev Jeff Martinhauk
15 July 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

Assisting Bishop Jefferts Schori: Frequently Asked Questions

The transition team of the Episcopal Diocese has shared this FAQ with us:
Bishop Jefferts Schori (pictured here with the Rev Canon Brooks Mason
& Bishop Mathes) attended our 2014 Diocesan Convention

What is an assisting bishop?

An assisting bishop is a bishop appointed by the standing committee to serve under its direction for a certain period of time. An assisting bishop already exercises episcopal authority, which means he or she has the ability to perform ordinations, confirmations, receptions and visitations. Assisting bishops are qualified bishops who have previously resigned all previous responsibilities, or are qualified bishops of a church in communion with the Episcopal Church. Assisting bishops do not have voice and vote in the house of bishops on behalf of the diocese they serve. Bishop Jefferts Schori will have voice and vote in the house of bishops, but not on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

How was Bishop Jefferts Schori selected?
The standing committee of our diocese worked hard to solicit the interest of a short list of candidates for this position. With much prayer and careful consideration, the committee selected Bishop Jefferts Schori to be our assisting bishop.

How long does this appointment last?
Bishop Jefferts Schori will commence her tenure with us on Sunday, August 13 and continue until December 31, 2018. This may be extended until our fifth bishop is consecrated.

What will Bishop Jefferts Schori do?
In her ¾ time role, Bishop Jefferts Schori will visit congregations, baptize, ordain, assist with the selection and promotion of candidates for ordained ministry, provide pastoral care to clergy members, confer with the standing committee and the executive committee of the diocese and provide some shared oversight along with the standing committee.

Will she reside in San Diego?
Yes, she plans to live in San Diego while serving as our assisting bishop while maintaining her permanent residence in Reno, Nevada.

Friday, July 14, 2017

People's Warden Update

A. LLC Questions and Answers

No questions this month!

B. Cathedral Parishioner Questions and Answers

Q. With all the transitions and new personnel what type of leader is Dean Penny? Is she a hands -on or hands -off type of manager and does she view feedback from the congregation important?

A. These are pretty loaded questions, I will give it my best and hopefully it will give you a better perspective. I have worked with her staff pretty closely on projects and events during the past few years and I have heard nothing but good leadership qualities that are exhibited from Dean Penny.

Her staff comments that she has respect, confidence, and trust in them to do their job and if situations or concerns arise they will get her involved. Dean Penny is not a micro-manager; she took her time in hiring the right candidates because she wants her team to be able to collaborate and work cohesively. She is a hands-on manager, wants to be informed on what’s going on without all the gritty details (readers digest version). In my opinion, she’s the admiral of the ship and needs to be kept informed but doesn’t need to know there is no toilet paper in the stalls lol.

My own experience with Dean Penny as a leader has been positive (I am not trying to score points here – lol) , she does not dictate how things should happen. She has given me latitude to make decisions but just run it by her if the change may be drastic so she isn’t blindsided. If I needed help on something I felt I could solicit her advice or direction and not feel intimidated or stupid about asking her a question.

With regards to feedback from the congregation, I know she welcomes it and is important to her, really how do you know what is working or not unless you are told. As you know, feedback can sometimes not be positive but necessary to hear and address so issues don’t fester and become worst .

Lastly, Dean Penny initiated a CAT Scan at the end of May to check the pulse of our congregation. Did you fill it out and submit your feedback? The data results would be discussed with staff , Senior Warden and People’s Warden sometime in July and reported back to the congregation at a given date.

C.  Update on Vision for Mission
There will be a meeting held sometime in July or August for updates and how we are aligning with specific goals and timelines.

D. July happenings at the Cathedral

Saturday – July 15: Meet to walk up to parade starting point – 9:00am

Saturday – July 15 : Inaugural Eucharist for diocese pride marchers in front of pride trolley on Normal Street by DMV 9:45am – 10:45am

Saturday – July 15: BBQ for Pride Marchers and Volunteers – 12:00pm – 2:00pm

Saturday – July 15: Pride Festivities, DJ and Dancing – 12:00pm – 7:00pm

Sunday – July 16: Pride Service- 8:00am service and 10:30 am service

Sunday, July 16: Serve Christ in our Neighbors, (series of 3events) 12:00pm – 2:00pm Write postcards to incarcerated people.

Saturday, July 22: Serve Christ in our Neighbors – 12:00pm – 2:00pm – Bag lunches and give out clothing.

Monday, July 31: Serve Christ in our Neighbors – 12:00pm – 2:00pm – Details to come.

Any questions don’t hesitate to contact me.

Very Respectfully,

Jennifer “Jen” Jow

New Canons!

What's a Canon, you ask?

Canons of the Cathedral are those who have a formal or honorary affiliation voted on by the chapter and approved by the Bishop. They can be clergy, or lay people. This is a recognition of current office and/or previous service.  (See previous posts about our canons here.)

Canons wear purple cassocks (as do Vergers). They also receive a cross, with their name and office.

On Sunday at Evensong, we installed three new canons: Lisa Churchill, as Canon Verger; The Rev Dorothy Reed Curry, Honorary Canon; and the Rev Jeff Martinhauk , Canon for Congregational Life, and we celebrated the recognition of their talent, commitment, and service to our community!

Some of our Canons!  Lisa Churchill, Christine Spalding, the Rev Jeff Martinhauk,
Konnie Dadmun, the Rev Anne Chisham,  The Rev Dorothy Curry

More photos here:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A sort of Eulogy

Robert Heylmun reflects on loss.

We never get used to it. The news of a friend’s death, I mean. As someone in his 70s, I’d think that some amount of immunity from the profound feeling of loss would have accrued, would have allowed me to take in the news with a dignified equanimity.

Pauline’s death came after years of her dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and then finally with its dealing with her. So her death was not a surprise as if she’d been struck by a car and killed, but it was a shock despite all of the preparations on my part for its imminence.

The clichés come out: She’s out of her suffering now, Robert. She’s in a better place. She would have wanted to leave this way. Cliché’s are born out of human experience of course, and they are all true in their way. They are a kind of band-aid applied to the wound of grief, meant to stanch the flow of sadness but not adequate to mitigate it very much.

Memories do more in that cause, memories of the days when Pauline, her husband Sid, and I found the kind of friendship that everyone wants. Filled with humor, good times, dinners, and shared events—thirty years’ worth. Some bad times too, but we were there for each other. When Sid died in 2007, Pauline and I stood at his grave while the Kaddish was chanted by the cantor. We were in many aspects a kind of family.

Just before Pauline re-met Jack, she and I booked a cruise down the Mexican Riviera, scandalizing some of our friends when we announced we would share a stateroom. At one afternoon party, we were telling people about the trip when an acquaintance of Pauline’s whom I didn’t know, stage whispered what she thought would be a juicy piece of gossip, that we’d be sleeping in the same room. Without missing a beat, Pauline turned to her and said, “Don’t worry, Robert bought pajamas.”

But the signs of Pauline’s illness became visible on that trip. I entrusted her with our tickets for several shore tours and when the time came to go, they were nowhere to be found. I took her out to the bar and sat her down for a drink, and then went to search our stateroom. Carefully hidden three drawers down under her underwear.

Jack Burke had been Pauline’s high school boyfriend and finally fiancé until their lives took different turns at college. Both had married, had children, and had moved away from Michigan. Now decades later at a high school reunion, they met again. Jack came to California and what Pauline would have done without him these last years is anyone’s guess. He has been absolutely devoted to her, but then, Pauline was the sort of person whom everyone wanted to be close to.

Do you feel better now? I do, just relating this, just reliving some memories (there are many, many more), and finding that the empty place in my heart is filling with those times, those moments in which Pauline provided sunshine and warmth. I think what’s left to fill is the hollow place that echoes how I will miss her, and here’s where a cliché does become useful. The last time I saw her, she was nearly comatose, unable to say a complete sentence, and was staring most of the time into middle distance. She is indeed in a better place than that one, and she goes with part of my heart.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Sunday Sermon:The call to Freedom

It's Independence Day weekend. This is a holiday when we celebrate freedom, when we celebrate the unique character of the United States, formed and shaped by the same men who also shaped the governance of our own Episcopal Church. It's a secular holiday, but the 4th of July is also named as a major feast in our Book of Common Prayer (it's on page 17 if you want to look it up), and the values embedded in this country's foundation are Gospel values of freedom, truth, and the right to speak and to be heard. This nation finds its identity in those who gave up everything they loved and owned to follow God's call to a distant land, much as Abraham once followed God's call.

Now, human beings have not been at their best at times of migration and colonization. The Israelites wiped out whole city states as they took over the promised land. On this continent and others, European colonists, whether English, Dutch, or Spanish, have massacred, enslaved, imprisoned, starved and infected indigenous people.

This story of Abraham and Isaac is troubling on a number of levels. Who would prepare to kill their son, their only son, whom they love, simply to prove their trust in God? We would certainly regard someone who did that as mentally unbalanced. It's not a story we want to take literally. But taken as a parable, it has something to teach us. The story is rooted in the ancient Middle East, inhabited at one time by peoples who routinely sacrificed their children in an attempt to appease their ruthless gods. This horrific tale actually tells us that, as part of the separation of Israel from her neighbors, the people of God turned away from child sacrifice, even as they demonstrated their trust in the God who had led them to the promised land. It'sa reminder that our story of faith has always been told in a diverse world, with the other close at hand and with cultural differences to address.

A detail that really troubles me is the absence of Sarah, Isaac's mother from the story. Apparently Abraham decides to do this awful thing without consulting his wife. As a woman, she is given no voice, no vote. I'd like to think that she wouldn't have gone along with Abraham's homicidal plan. So, perhaps inadvertently, the story also reminds us of how wrong it is to silence large portions of humanity.

Last week I attended a course in Latino Cultural Competency for Episcopal leaders. It was an intense course where we combined book and classroom study with experiential learning. Since we were in South Texas we also got a cultural immersion experience involving great barbeque and Tex-Mex food.

I learned some history about this continent. I learned about the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries of the 16th century; about the skullduggery in the US government in the 19th century to trump up excuses for war so that the US could take back huge swathes of land from Mexico. I learned about the suppression of indigenous voices and the relabeling of people who had lived in the south and southwest since time immemorial as aliens, worthless peasants, interlopers on the white man's land.

One of my classmates was astonished to learn that the corner of Kansas where she ministers was once in Mexico. There's a saying in southern Texas: we didn't come across the border, the border moved across us. The original inhabitants of the land lost the freedom to choose who would govern them or how they would organize their devotional life. We learned that the Franciscan missionaries forced the indigenous people to become Catholics, at the point of a sword. Their traditional celebrations and observances were banned. Their priests were murdered. The voice of the people was silenced.

That was centuries ago, but I also heard stories last week of churches in our own time, where they pretend they are Catholic to lure in Latinos, where they hide the Guadalupe image when the Anglo congregation worships, where they refuse to reach out to second and third generation Latino Americans, even though they outnumber first generation immigrants, those born in other lands, by 2 to 1.

As people of privilege, as members of a church that loves its traditions but which is falling short at bringing the Gospel to the next generation, we may need to sacrifice something precious if we are to be faithful to God's call. As we look at the young people in our communities, we don't see them flocking to church. The things that we cherish as part of our tradition are not so important to them: they don't see the attraction of sitting for an hour in a big stone building and listening to someone in funny clothes lecture them But they do long for connection, for important work to do, for opportunities to help make the world better and more free. The church is called to form disciples, to equip the saints, to offer transformation through the love and compassion of God, and to do those things no matter what it costs.

In Matthew's Gospel Jesus continues the theme of welcome which we heard about two weeks ago. We talked about being a welcoming cathedral at that time, if you recall. Today we hear a startling expansion of the message: whoever welcomes you welcomes Jesus, in fact welcomes God. This teaching of Jesus is so important that it shows up in all the Gospels, in one form or another. Imagine how that might work if we took it seriously. We are instructed to see God in the face of every stranger, and we should expect to be treated like Jesus himself by the other Christians we encounter. Wow. This is a huge challenge. Think of all the ways Christians have shut out the other over the years: the dark-skinned confined to the slave gallery, the wheelchair-bound stuck at the bottom of the church steps, the person with an overstuffed wire cart stopped at the door, the woman banned from the altar, the non-English speaker or non-reader baffled by our Prayer Book. What if each of these people were Jesus?

Today, as we celebrate the Independence Day holiday, it's natural to turn our thoughts to welcome on a broader scale, a national stage. People come to this country seeking freedom: the freedom to practice their faith, the freedom to work and improve their living conditions, the freedom to speak and to vote. We aren't always great at welcoming those who have come more recently than we have. We hear a lot of nonsense about the dangers immigrants pose: for example, the statistics for crime by immigrants are absurdly inflated. The border patrol agents my class met with last week in Laredo told us that of the hundreds of people coming across the border illegally, 5% are known criminals, and in many cases their criminal record consists simply of the other times they have tried to enter the US.

Politicians spout alarmist reports about foreigners taking American jobs, while American business owners move their factories abroad to maximize profits for a few. We see European Americans becoming a minority, and we hear languages other than English spoken more and more in our communities. It is scary to feel our power and privilege diminish, precisely because of how we have treated the other in the past, and so we try to silence them. We make it harder to get a visa or a green card. Local governments try to pass laws preserving the advantage English has in public discourse. And even when we aren't doing it deliberately, we silence our neighbors from other cultures by neglecting to accommodate their social norms, assuming they will know how to elbow their way into a leadership role or vocally promote their own interests in the way that European Americans do routinely. Yes, our way of welcome leaves much to be desired.

But this country, in its very DNA, is a place of welcome, a place of refuge from hatred and oppression. While we sorely need to repent of the way the first Europeans treated the indigenous peoples of this continent, while we equally need to repent of the enslavement and involuntary relocation of Africans and other people of color, the legal and moral foundation of this country is clear: all are created equal, all should have equal opportunity to thrive, all are to be free to honor their diverse cultures, languages, and faiths. The celebration of this country's unique commitment to freedom is not only secular but is a Gospel value, for we were created to be free, and our God is a God who leads us from death to life, from silence to singing, from captivity to freedom.

One morning last week our class spent time with a woman called Frances. Frances left Honduras as a young woman and set out to walk to the United States, in search of a better life. She walked some of the way without shoes. She walked alone and with groups of strangers. She was kidnapped, threatened with death, and held to ransom, but engineered an escape. She slept on people's porches, wrapped in a garbage bag to protect her from the rain. She came to this country 13 years ago and has worked hard to get to a point where she can apply for legal residence.

As Frances told her story, tears trickled down her cheeks. She referred again and again to faith, to how trust in God was the only thing that kept her going, telling us that God answered her prayers over and over, and that she continues to put all her trust in God because God is all she's got. She was grateful to us for hearing her story, for giving her a voice to share her witness of faith. Frances gained her voice because her Episcopal priest heard her and invited her to talk with us, a group of church leaders from all over the Episcopal church. And now her voice is being heard through our voices: in Southern California and Massachusetts, in Oregon and Kansas, in the Presiding Bishop's staff and in seminaries.

The story of Frances echoes the story of Abraham, who put his whole trust in God. Her story is the story of this land, the story of people who gave up everything in order to come here and find freedom. Frances gave up her safety, her family and her home. She is not truly free yet, although she carries paperwork in her purse that says her residency application is in process. Freedom is within reach, and she has given up an awful lot to strive for it.

Let us pray. Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

July 2, 2017 Independence Day weekend
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ministry report: CSA farm tour

Did you know you can join a CSA and share /coordinate with fellow parishioners at St Paul's for pickup?  Simpler Living can tell you more.  Jen Jow shares news of the CSA farm tour.

CSA Farm Tour JR Organics Farm Tour May 14 - update by Carolyn Lief

What is CSA?
CSA or Community Supported Agriculture, is a way that city and suburban residents can get direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by a regional farmer. When you become a member of our CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of the farms’ produce delivered year round either weekly or bi-weekly, to a convenient pick-up location in your neighborhood. We provide many payment options but you can also contact us for special requests. With Community Supported Agriculture there is a direct link between the farmer and the consumer. Know how your food is grown, join JR Organics CSA.

Tour was very interesting and eye opener, SPC is already involved with program and looking to expand with more member memberships.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Save the Date: Light up the Cathedral /Interfaith PRIDE Celebration!

Save the date:  July 12, 7pm

Metropolitan Community Church Founder, the Reverend Troy Perry to keynote this year's Light Up The Cathedral- An Interfaith PRIDE Celebration!

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral and San Diego Pride will celebrate the history of Pride in San Diego on July 12th at the "Light Up The Cathedral Interfaith PRIDE Celebration! In a show of solidarity and to highlight the history of the connection between the LGBT Community and the role played by affirming faith based organizations in the 1974 LGBT protest, Metropolitan Community Church, Dignity and The Imperial Court de San Diego will be honored. To highlight the faith connection the Rev. Troy Perry, Founder of Metropolitan Community Church and internationally acclaimed Human rights activist will be our keynote speaker!

Rev Troy Perry, Founder of
Metropolitan Community Churches and Gay Rights Activist

In 1974, when homosexuality was still a criminal offense, three local LGBT activists, Nicole Murray Ramirez a drag queen, Tom Homann, a civil rights attorney and Jess Jessop, a Vietnam war vet and peace activist who would later found The LGBT Center, went to the local police department seeking a permit to hold an LGBT Pride March in the streets of downtown San Diego to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots and make a public demonstration for civil rights and equality for LGBT people. The sergeant at the desk refused their request and told them " there will never be a homosexual event in San Diego." That sergeant's comments were the spark that lit the fire of an organized March on the sidewalks of downtown San Diego to City Hall and set the stage for what would become San Diego Pride.

There were only 3 organizations holding public meetings at the time because of the law. As a result of the connection and partnership that developed between these three activists, the San Diego community found safe affirming meeting spaces to organize more than 200 people to a Sidewalk March through downtown In protest to demonstrate and acknowledge the existence and civil rights of the San Diego LGBT Community at City Hall, many with paper bags over their heads to hide their identity for fear of arrest. The following year 1975 a permit for a parade was issued and today San Diego Pride is the largest one day event in our City!

Please join us and The Gay Men's Chorus, numerous faith leaders, dignitaries and community personalities as we recognize Rev Troy Perry of MCC, Fr. Don Greene of Dignity and Nicole Murray Ramirez of the Imperial Court de San Diego and present them with the Light of Pride honor and Light up the Cathedral for Pride!

Ministry Updates: FOMOS

Jen Jow shares with us some ministry news

Friends of Military Outreach Service (FOMOS) - update by Susan Astarita Ministry Leader

Main Project is with Amikas (women vets with children) Emergency Sleeping Cabins which is the size of tiny homes.

Next steps: Amikas is preparing a draft strategic plan to field one model Emergency Sleeping Cabin community. The group will be seeking political and financial support for this next step in solution of homeless challenge. FOMOS/AMIKAS received good support from the Bishop, Hannah Wilder, Nancy Holland and others in the Dioceseas well as Dean Penny, Jen Jow, and the cathedral community. We will be looking for continuing support as we take next steps.

Our May 21 forum and Soldier’s story presentation postponed until November time period around armed forces Evensong.

Planning begins for events around Evensong including veteran’s arts exhibit, possible forums and other associated events. Susan A met with Tony La Bue , Daniel Foster and Ric Todd re the arts project.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chapter Q & A

Jen Jow shares Chapter Question and Answers

 A LLC Questions and Answers
No questions this month!

B. Cathedral Sunday Bulletin and Announcement Questions
Update provided by Jeff M. – Communications Dept.
Q. Why has the outreach ministry section been left out of the announcements and the contact information? That was vital information because it was used as a resource guide, especially for those who didn’t use a computer or have access to one.
A. The old list of ministries on the back of Cathedral Life was very confusing to newcomers.
• There wasn’t room for an explanation of what the ministries did – how would a newcomer know which one to call?
• Some ministries listed were very active, and some rarely met at all
• Calling through staff ensures every call receives appropriate and pastoral follow-up without adding work for non-staff ministry leaders
• Growing number of ministries kept length difficult to manage
In short, there were lots of problems with that list.

We looked around at other churches and found almost uniformly that only staff were listed, and adopted that as our standard. We are working on a separate piece that will list all ministries and their non-staff leadership to be used as a time and talent resource for ensuring that people can find ministries that suit them. Our new Church Management System, Realm, will also provide tools for ensuring that church members can connect to ministry leaders when they need to.

It should start coming on-line in June with full rollout by the end of the year.It is a work in process!

 We will keep on making improvements, some of them liked and well received—others less so but may be necessary on a path to someplace hopefully calling us all into greater collaboration and work for our common mission.

The Sunday Sermon: Entertaining Angels Unawares

How appropriate that, on the day when our secular culture celebrates fatherhood, we read in Genesis of God's promise to Abraham that he would be the father of nations. This is the story that puts the twinkle in his eye that ultimately becomes the whole chosen people of God.

Three strangers come to Abraham's desert camp, out walking in the midday sun when any sensible person is, like Abraham, taking a nap in the shade. Who are they? The narrator tells us it is the Lord who appears, but what Abraham sees is three men, and no further clues are offered. On this first Sunday after Trinity, we are immediately reminded of God in three persons. And the promise they bring is clearly from God, a followup to the promise Abraham received in the previous chapter.

Father Abraham demonstrates impeccable middle-eastern hospitality, setting a high bar, by the way, for fathers to come. Water for dusty feet, a seat in the shade, a special feast to welcome the visitors. Imagine for a moment this 99-year old man tottering back and forth in the sun, to invite the strangers in, to bring water, to tell Sarah to get cooking, to pick out a calf for butchering, to serve the feast. And he stands by to wait on them while they eat. This is a lot of work for random strangers, and it carries an important subtext: the stranger who comes to your door is sacrosanct, because, as the letter to the Hebrews will put it centuries later, some who have welcomed strangers have entertained angels unawares.

The conversation is surprising. Where is your wife, Sarah? Evidently Abraham and Sarah are known to the travelers. And then the prophecy, and Sarah's snort of laughter.

Laughter is not common in Scripture. We have nothing in the Gospels about Jesus laughing, and almost all Biblical references to laughter are about someone sneering or mocking. But not here. Overhearing the strangers' prophecy from her spot behind the tent, Sarah can't help but laugh aloud, in disbelief, in awakened hope, in embarrassment, in sheer astonishment. Her laughter says, "Are you kidding? Me, a dried up old stick, have a baby? And look at him - he's an old man."

But, as we learn again and again in Scripture, nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. And later, after the child is indeed born, she names him Isaac, which means laughter, and she laughs again, in joy and triumph, singing, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me."

After the mysterious strangers leave Abraham's camp, the next stop on their journey is Sodom, where they are to carry out God's punishment on the city for unspecified sins. Abraham's nephew, Lot, has learned from his uncle and, like Abraham, he goes over the top with hospitality. But the citizens of Sodom demonstrate their sinfulness by violating that sacred law. Contrary to popular belief, their sin is that they do not honor the stranger, and for this sin the city is destroyed. It is made really clear that abuse of hospitality is a cardinal sin in our story of salvation. And the thread continues in the ministry of Jesus.

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus addresses hospitality from the other side, focusing more on the guest than the host. He sends out the disciples, two by two, to test the hospitality of the people they meet. He tries to prepare them for anything, but anyone who has ever answered the call to discipleship knows that we will encounter situations we could never have anticipated. (When I answered the call to come to St Paul's I didn't imagine that I would be using a bullhorn to bless marchers in Balboa Park and hosting press conferences.) The disciples are to go out among the people, taking no baggage and depending on those they meet for hospitality. Those who respond generously to the needs of the disciples will receive the peace of Christ. Communities that don't offer hospitality to the stranger - well, they will suffer the fate of Sodom. Only those who open their hearts to hear the good news of the Gospel from the stranger will know God's peace.

Today we are sending out disciples from St Paul's, as Matt and Katie McGinness leave San Diego for a new life in Hawai'i. We will offer them a special blessing at the end of the service. Terri Mathes just read a lesson in our pulpit for the last time this morning, before she and Jim depart for Virginia in just a couple of weeks; we will offer them our blessing on July 1. I sincerely hope that neither the McGinnesses nor the Mathes's will ever be dragged before governors and kings! In this city church we are constantly welcoming new members and saying goodbye to people we have come to love. We can think of all those who leave us as missionaries, to be sent with our blessing, carrying the peace of God with them to their new communities. And conversely, we can think of our many visitors and newcomers as holy strangers, messengers of the Gospel, sent to test our hospitality and to share good news if we are willing to hear it.

This week St Paul's was given an unusual opportunity to share the good news through the press conference we hosted, in which we were able to say to a wide audience that we are Christians who welcome everyone and rejoice in diversity, in contrast to those who call themselves Christians but who judge, condemn, and abuse those whose sexuality places them in a minority.

Each of us individually is a missionary, as we go about our daily lives in the office, in school, or in the community. We may feel rather ill-equipped to share the good news: Episcopalians generally don't get much training in sharing our faith stories.

But fear not: the cathedral staff is working on the introduction of small group ministry, which I hope will become the basic structure of all that we do here at St Paul's; and this ministry, this way of being, is intimately connected to the practice of holy hospitality.

Do you remember who welcomed you when you first came to St Paul's? For a lot of people, it was Deedra Hardman. Her mantle has passed to Pat Kreder and to our greeters' corps who watch for visitors and guide them to worship. I am struck by the number of people who, years or even decades later, remember who it was who ministered to them when they entered the cathedral for the first time. Hospitality matters, and it makes a deep impression. Wouldn't you like to be remembered in the same way? I invite you to think about how you show hospitality to our visitors here each week, and to do what you can to ensure that they will have warm memories of you in the years to come.

It's time for us to take hospitality to the next level, to what we might call radical hospitality. This means embracing those who come into our midst and taking the risk of giving them leadership roles, taking seriously their diverse gifts, and, crucially, being willing to change who we are for the sake of enriching our community. This is challenging, because it means giving up control, stretching our comfort zone, allowing transformation to take place. A lot of congregations and clergy never get there. I feel some resistance to radical hospitality myself. But the ability to stretch is actually in our Anglican DNA, thanks to the first Queen Elizabeth; and when we dare to be stretched, we will experience a holy transformation.

One way to practice this diversity in community is to form intentional small groups that pray, study, and share together, accepting that not every member will like every other member, that all of us will sometimes feel uncomfortable, but committed to giving every person a voice and vote, sacrificing our own comfort to make room for the other in our midst. Church isn't all about making friends, although that can be a wonderful side benefit. It's about being the body of Christ, about rubbing shoulders and sharing the table with people we don't understand and don't get along with. It's not like inviting friends to a dinner party in your home, because this isn't our house, this is God's house, and we are all equally guests and residents.

Everything we say about hospitality and the church also applies to our civic communities: cities, states, and nation. We are called to welcome the stranger and to open our hearts to the possibility - even the likelihood - that our community will be changed. This is a good thing: communities benefit from a diversity of leadership, from the combined creative power of multiple cultures and perspectives. We are made stronger by our diversity. In this week's dreadful fire in a 24-story apartment building in London, dozens of people perished. Fire alarms and sprinkler systems didn't work. The death toll would have been even higher if some of the residents, Muslims observing Ramadan, hadn't been up extra early to eat something before sunrise, which meant they discovered the fire and knocked on their neighbors' doors to wake them up. The beautiful diversity of that community saved lives on Tuesday night.

Stephanie Spellers, Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation in the Episcopal Church, offers us this prayer*:
"May our hearts open to the spirit of God.
May we move beyond our fears, reaching out in trust, openness and welcome.
May our yearning for transformation create a space where God can pour more love, more trust, more compassion into us.
And may we extend the same compassion and radical welcome into the world, all for the sake of Christ."


 Year C Proper 6 June 18 2017 
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

*Stephanie Spellers, "Radical Welcome", p. 158, Church Publishing, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2017

People's Warden Reports

Jen Jow writes,

Quarterly update from chapter meetings held in April, May, and June. If you are interested in comprehensive chapter minutes it is available by request at the front office.


• The big take away in April’s meeting is chapter approved a “Safe Church Policy” which St Paul’s has never had before. The policy is very straight forward and provides the cathedral a guideline to follow. Many months and hours were dedicated to this project by several chapter members and Dean Penny. Details of this policy is available by request at the front office.

• Lay delegates to the Convention of Episcopal Diocese of San Diego in November,2017 (alphabetical order): Elizabeth Carey, Lisa Churchill, Susan Hubert, Mark Lester, Auggie Matt, Marshall Moore, Joan Reese. Alternates: Rob Donaldson, Bill Eadie, Vicki Hppenrath, Jen Jow, Susan Mcclure, Mark Patzman, John Will

Update on Cathedral Campus Redevelopment Project (CCRP) by Dean's Warden Mark Lester.  

• New Audio Visual Equipment: Have you seen the new giant monitors located in the Great Hall? With the new equipment we can live stream and if events or services overflow we can seat people in the Great Hall and they can view/hear what is happening in the cathedral. The sound quality of PA system has greatly improved too.

• Relaunch of the Peace & Justice Ministry : email address peacejust@stpaulcathedral.org where people can send ideas for peace and justice-oriented activities. Marshall Moore is chair of this ministry and will monitor the email address and bring possible items to the attention of executive staff for consideration. See blog for more information

Quarterly Chapter Key points and updates was presented in staff reports.

Kathleen Burgess – Director of Adminstrative and Operations
➢ Security Grant: Environmental & Historic Preservation (EHP) document that was being reviewed by FEMA for our security Grant was final approved. The caveat came with special conditions, the sub-recipient will install all equipment so its installation does not damage or cause the removal of character-defining architectural features and can be easily removed in the future.

➢ ACS & Shelby (Church Software): Decided to go with a combination of two different company’s offerings, ACS Technology’s Realm for our membership and facilities management needs and Shelby Next Financials for financial products. Conversion will be in a few weeks.

➢ AUDIO Visual Project: The sextons, Bob and I have had some basic training on the new audio and visual system installed in the Great Hall. Thank you to volunteer Todd.

➢ Cathedral Floors: once the paperwork with the insurance company is settled (thank you to chancellor Andrew Brooks for looking over the documents), we will receive the funds from the insurance company and can begin the work of repairing the floors in the cathedral.

Jeff Martinhauk – Director of Congregational Life
➢ Easter Appeal : for the first time in recent history to all active household on record. We had soft numbers and the response was not encouraging, Easter Plate was soft too.

➢ Legacy Dinner planned for June 3 in the Great Hall. Invitations and cultivating new members (10 new to date) to the legacy society.

➢ CAT Scan Launched: Takes temperature of the overall health and vitality of the congregation, discovers where members would like to go in the future an identifies the critical success factors for improving organizational climates. This scan was done a few years back and it’s time again to take another pulse check. Overall data will be sorted and delivered in a diagnostic format for the staff and People’s Warden to review and evaluate sometime the first week of July.

➢ Cathedral Life and enews redesign launched in May.

➢ KPBS: 2 ad runs completed/ 2 more to run ( 1 in fall, 1 right before Advent)

➢ Greeters at 10:30am are now using a new scheduling (Ministry Scheduler Pro) which allows automated scheduling, replacements, and reminders. Also, gives me/cathedral visibility into how volunteers are being utilized, possibly migrate this tool to other ministries. Recruited 4 new greeters and need 3-4 more volunteers to have a good pool (allows for rotation).

➢ Pride planning: Off to a great start and plan to partner with Diocese this year and trying to include other parishes in the planning as much as possible. Not going to have a booth at the festival this year and try something new to by celebrating Pride at the cathedral. Plan to have a DJ , dancing, and other “fun’ stuff to catch people on their wary from the parade to the festival and let them know that St Paul’s welcomes them. Next meeting June 14 @6:00pm at the cathedral.

David Tremaine – Director of Outreach and Formation
➢ Outreach: St. Paul’s was again represented in the annual Earth Fair in Balboa park with a table sponsored by C4CC in collaboration with Simpler Living. Phil Petrie and Simpler living worked with the C4CC and the communications to come up with a clear message about our mission as it pertains to creation care.  See photos.

➢ Showers of Blessings: Celebrated its 2-year ministry anniversary by providing showers to 23 people, haircuts to 16 people and breakfast to 85 people, totally 105 plates of food. We have also spent the month of April continuing to collect clothing for distribution at showers of blessings and had several large donations which have helped keep our clothing supply well stocked.

➢ Formation: Lenten Book Discussion and weekly small group discussions. Overall, the turnout was very good (about 70 people per week), the group was positive and we were able to create a space where people could enter into deep and meaningful dialogue across faith boundaries. It was a joy to put together and a blessing to be a part of every week. In the summer I hope to continue that dialogue in some way, and work with our faith neighbors to continue to build on the foundation of fellowship which we developed in the last couple of months.

➢ May and June Forum series: Simpler Living on Creation Care and Earth Stewardship, focusing specifically on solutions to Climate Change. Peace and Violence in our culture and our faith.

➢ Children, Youth and Families: Podcast, the “Faith To Go” for parents to engage children of all ages in faith discussion at home, so far it is running relatively smoothly. Posted opening for a Director of CYF position which we are hoping to fill soon, is vital for the life of our community as a whole and especially for the life of the CYF community and the youth group.

Betsy Monsell, Finance Committee
➢ Cash position is very good for this time of year – staying in the black.

➢ Working with Kathleen Burgess to evaluate SDGE bill and identify where we could save more dollars during peak time usage. She has already reached out to SDGE and will have more details at next meeting.

Brooks Mason, Director of Liturgy and Music – nothing new to report

Dean Penny Bridges
➢ A full accounting of much of the action mentioned above. Additionally, Chris Wells has passed away and a memorial service was held at the cathedral at the end of May.

➢ Delighted to receive from Joanne Roberts a box of historic materials pertaining to the cathedral: news clippings, programs, and photographs of St. Paul’s activities in the 1940’s to 1970’s. Her parents were very active at St. Paul’s. She even had an old church sign which is now, along with the papers, in our archives office.

➢ Attended planning meetings at the LGBT Center for the San Diego March for Equality on June 11. Wayne Blizzard will be taking this over from me, but I have been the only faith leader present at the first two meetings, and it’s significant that Pride and the Center, the co-hosts, are including the faith community. St. Paul’s will be a sponsoring organization. This doesn’t carry any financial responsibility but we will recruit marchers.

June 11, Equality March: Clergy and parishioners had a procession from the cathedral to the starting point at Sixth and Juniper. I was called to officiate a blessing at the starting point prior to the event march. More pictures on our Flickr page.

The Swan: Vigil Against Conversion Therapy

Our own Rev. Jeff Martinhauk spoke at the Vigil Against Conversion Therapy at St Paul's on Thursday night:

I want to briefly remind you of an old fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson.

If you remember, this tale starts with a mother duck waiting for her brood to hatch. Each duckling hatches, and the mother ironically chides them to remember the world is much larger and more diverse than they can imagine in their little home.

When the last egg hatches and is a misfit, an ugly duckling, he is an outcast. He endures suffering and abuse at the hands of the other ducks and animals on the farm. Being different is not acceptable. A spiteful duck warns: “He is so big and ugly he must be turned out. I wish his mother could improve him a little.”

The mother tries to make sense of the difference: “He has remained too long in the egg,”she says, “and therefore his figure is not properly formed.” But it is no consolation to the rest of the animals, and the ugly duckling is bitten, and pushed, and made fun of because he is not the same.

He goes through abuse after abuse, and finally leaves his family seeking solace and peace. Time after time the duckling does not fit into what is “normal.” He can’t lay eggs. He can’t behave like a cat. He can’t become a hen. He can’t do anything that the other animals seem to be able to do naturally, despite their attempts to change him into what they believe he should be.

In final despair, he is ready to die. He sees some royal looking birds in the distance. He plans to fly to them, expecting them to spurn him the way he has been spurned all of his life.

He gets to them, and they rush towards him, these beautiful and majestic swans. “Kill me,” cries the ugly duckling. But as he hangs his head down in despair ready to be killed, he catches his own reflection. He is all grown up-- a beautiful and majestic-- dare we say fabulous?- swan, staring back at him. And children come to the pond and throw bread for him to eat, and cry out, “the new swan is the most beautiful of all!” And the old swans bow their heads before him. And the not-so-little-anymore bird says to himself, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

My friends, there are no ugly ducklings. In my tradition, the Christian tradition, it is in the waters of baptism that we claim the fabulousness that was endowed into each of us in our creation, and affirm the fabulousness that is endowed in everyone else too. As the ugly duckling’s mother said, “The world is a very big place.” There is room for all kinds of people.

There are no ugly ducklings. And let me tell you, we have some fabulous swans. And we are here, and we must never forget, that we are here to raise our wings and fly to anybody who doesn’t know yet just how fabulous they are. So let’s keep showing up where those who are outcast and tortured and picked on and told that they don’t belong and who have started to believe it themselves are. It is our job to make sure they know that they are loved and wanted and fit in just as they are, and that they are welcome, no matter what their gender identities, sexual orientations, or how else they don’t fit into somebody else’s ideas and expectations-- because they- we- are beautiful. Thanks be to God.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Breathe on us, Breath of God (with video)

"Breathe on us, breath of God,
fill us with life anew,
that we may love what thou dost love;
 and do what thou would'st do."
             (The Hymnal 1982, #508, alt.)

You may have heard it said that in the story of the Acts of the Apostles, the principal character is the Holy Spirit. The Pentecost story we just heard certainly gives the Spirit a leading role, as she drives the bereft and defeated friends of Jesus out into the city streets to babble, to rant, to sing and shout of the mighty acts of God. As Episcopalians who are fond of calm and order, we can probably relate to the skeptics who accused the disciples of being drunk!

It is not in our character to lose control, to be slain in the Spirit, to be caught up in ecstasy in public places. Perhaps we are the poorer for it. On this day of all days we should welcome the prophetic voice who speaks out to disturb and discomfort us; because, who knows, we might hear a word from God that makes sense to us in a new way, as those Jerusalem pilgrims once heard and understood the message of the Gospel in their own languages.

Our tradition tends to value the inner ecstasy, the contemplative transport of delight, gained from listening to a sublime piece of music or seeing the stained glass colors reflected in a sacred space. The enthusiasms of our early lives are tamed and channeled, sometimes to our detriment. The church where I first served as a priest had a tradition that on Easter Day, after both main morning services, members of both choirs would gather in the choir loft as the service ended, to sing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus as the postlude. Members of the congregation and clergy would join in if they wanted to. We made a joyful, untidy, uproarious mess of the great music. It was all very satisfying at the end of a long and intense Holy Week.

My sons sang in the choir at the time, and on the way home on this particular Easter Day one son, probably about ten at the time, told me that he felt like he had drunk three Cokes and two Mountain Dews. He was high on music and joy. I remember looking in the rearview mirror and telling him, "Never forget this feeling. Never forget that you can get this high from singing great music. You won't need drugs if you have this." He was really intoxicated with the Spirit.

Imagine if we could all experience that intoxication. Imagine a church where everyone spilled out of worship overflowing with joy and excitement about the Gospel. Imagine how we would seem to the other brunch-goers, the other park wanderers, our neighbors and co-workers, our fellow shoppers at Vons or Ralphs. Maybe they would sneer. Maybe we would find the cathedral packed next week with people clamoring for baptism. I wonder what it would take for us to allow ourselves to be swept up in the Spirit.

The Spirit continues to cause holy mayhem throughout Acts, but this is nothing new; the Spirit has been a key player in the salvation story from the start. Remembering that the Bible uses the same word for spirit and for breath, we start with Genesis: in the beginning, the Spirit or breath of God swept over the face of the deep. The Spirit brought creation to life and continued to hover, guiding Noah to land, lighting bushes on fire, sending Samuel to anoint David, filling Elijah with courage and power, raising up dry bones in the desert for Ezekiel. Isaiah proclaims the word of the Lord, in a speech adopted by Jesus as his mission statement: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, ... he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners." (Isaiah 61:1)

Imagine if we could bring this good news to all those who live in captivity today, those held captive by poverty, war, mental illness, despair, and fear. Our tradition of sacred song provides us with the words we need to summon the Spirit into our midst. Are we brave enough, rash enough, to sing them with a genuine desire to be caught up in the Spirit's creative work?

"Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me."
           (Lift Every Voice and Sing, #...)

What if we sang that song every day and meant it just as much as we mean the welcome we offer before Communion every Sunday?

The Spirit moved over the waters in the beginning of creation. There was chaos, disorder, darkness, and then there was light, light by which to discover and unfold the beauty of creation. As another hymn puts it,

"Praise the Spirit in creation, breath of God, life's origin:
Spirit, moving on the waters, quickening worlds to life within,
Source of breath to all things breathing, life in whom all lives begin."
               (The Hymnal 1982, #507)
The hymn optimistically makes "worlds" plural, but as of now we only have the one precious, beautiful, life-giving world, given into our hands to care for and to preserve. As the saying goes, there is no Plan-et B. The Spirit gave us life, the Spirit gave the world into our care, and what are we doing to show our love and appreciation? How does God want us to live? What is the Spirit saying to us today?

It seems pretty clear, from all that we have learned, that the Spirit is telling us to change our ways, to reduce our waste, to curb our appetite for luxury and comfort, to share what we have so that all of our brothers and sisters may know the fullness of life in the Spirit. It's my Pentecost prayer that all the nations of the earth will join together in this effort, and that we who are sometimes called a Christian nation will take a leadership role in the Spirit-led work of creation care.

Today is one of the great baptismal feasts of the Church, a day when we graft new Christians onto the body of Christ. The Spirit is a major actor in this sacrament, as we anoint the newly baptized, saying, "You are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own for ever." You will notice that we have added a promise to the baptismal covenant, a promise to cherish the wondrous works of Creation. Each us is one of those wondrous works. As St. Paul reminds us, each of us is gifted, each of us brings something to the table for the common good. The church is a kind of living potluck. We don't get to dictate who brings dessert and who brings salad, but we trust in God to make sure we have all we need, and in joining the church we make a commitment to offer our gifts, to be used for the health of the whole body.

Paul was writing to the Corinthian Christians to correct their misapprehension that some gifts were more valuable than others. We know better. We need all the gifts: gifts of hospitality, of listening, of physical strength, of prayer, of service, of music, of generosity, of advocacy, of friendship, of discernment, of evangelism, of teaching, even of stirring things up so that the Spirit can do her disruptive and creative work. Nobody has all the gifts; all are valuable, all are part of the body. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

I read recently that Durham Cathedral in England has 800 volunteers. I know for a fact that Durham's average Sunday attendance is a lot lower than ours, and yet they have 800 volunteers who do everything from embroidery to weeding to taking visitors on guided tours. There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.

Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." On this Pentecost Sunday may the holy breath of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, descend upon us and intoxicate us with joy.

June 4, 2017: the Day of Pentecost
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Sermon by The Very Rev. Penny Bridges, June 4th, 2017 from St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Living Together

Easter 7A, May 28, 2017
St. Paul’s San Diego
John 17:1-11

Community is the essence of living in residential seminary. Some have said it is like living in a fishbowl. You get thrown into this place from your previously secular life with all these other people who are very different from you and then you are expected to be formed into a new life with them, go through ups and downs with them, forge new values with them, be formed by them, give of yourself, risking enough to help form others but also learning how not to impose yourself or your privilege, and all without killing each other. It is a crucible of learning how to live together in difference. It is church times ten.

My own experience of seminary was particularly difficult, as I entered seminary at a time when the Church was still in a period of conflict, adjusting to the idea that openly LGBT people could enter ordained life in the aftermath of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson. I was the first openly gay man to finish my M.Div. in my seminary, although I was certainly not the first gay man to go through the program. So I felt vulnerable being completely authentic in community, having that authenticity questioned as others offered their own genuine questions about the place of LGBT people in the church. I had little exposure to that kind of difference in the place I came from.

So my bias, entering seminary, was that the one must resist the whole. The lone voice crying out must hold the group accountable. My experience is that this is not an uncommon value or belief in our progressive Christian tradition. And it can be true. Especially in the current political climate, we see a massed crowd all too ready to persecute anyone who dares to be different-- even if that difference comes from simply driving while black, or as an immigrant, or as a transgender person.

But at least for me, seminary taught me something else. It was hard, but I also got to know people I would have otherwise dismissed out of hand. And they got to know me-- some of whom would have initially preferred that I had been refused entry into seminary at all. And those turned into good lifelong friendships. And that is Church.

For me, it took going through that crucible of seminary, getting to know my community, to be formed by my neighbors, and having to live day in and day out until the preconceptions were wiped away, to realize something. There is certainly a place for the lone voice crying in the wilderness, particularly when human rights are at stake. But if everybody believes they are a lone voice crying in the wilderness, then nobody can be held accountable for anything. We deteriorate into an endless cycle of consumerism, based on personal tastes and preferences, and lose our sense of community.

As an example, one recent article on this problem noted that parents increasingly demand teachers prove that their children have done anything wrong before they will believe them. Parents increasingly throw out homework assigned to children because they don’t agree with the assignments. Teachers and schools are the oppressors, parents the lone voice in the wilderness speaking up for the poor child. It may be that there are legitimately bad teachers to be protected from, but rather than making that determination in a community setting with due process, each parent is judge and jury. Take it one step further, and privileged parents demand choice for their children’s schools, withdrawing their children from the opportunity to be educated in diverse communities and learning how to navigate difference. A fundamental building block of community, public schools, is now at risk; because trust in the community has faltered. Trust in the self is all that is left.

This is not a sermon on school choice. But whether you look to the EPA or to school choice or to gun control you find a society that is left with truth being defined only by each individual person, each consumer with the power of the almighty dollar, trained to withdraw it if we don’t like what we see, each one a lone voice crying in the wilderness, each of us intent that we know how it needs to be.

Before we get too smug about it let’s acknowledge that we are not immune. I just want to get real for a minute. In the church, it takes continuous work to resist being a part of this outside culture and claim something different. I myself sometimes fall into these patterns, and hear them from others occasionally: “If I don’t get what I want, I will speak louder. If I don’t get what I think is right, I will revoke my pledge. If I don’t get what I want, I will leave.” But that is not what the Church is meant to be.

In the gospel this week we see Jesus praying to God, a farewell prayer on behalf of us who are left behind after his departure. Jesus’ prayer is that the knowledge and love of God made known in Jesus to the disciples is made possible only by the continued protection of the unity, of the community of believers. Community, not lone rangers, are what makes the love of God known once Jesus has departed-- that they may be one.

That’s what the precious gift of being a part of the body of Christ, a member of the Church is, don’t you see? It is to be swept up in the protection of community, to be made one in this prayer of Jesus. That was what I had to learn or unlearn in seminary: that to be one in community does not mean to be uniform. That unity does not mean uniformity. Because the body consists of many members as Paul would say, this glorious body of Christ, the church, with all of its colors and textures, and voices, and opinions- do we have opinions!

No, the unity of the Church is not a monolithic block, not an imposing hegemonic burden-- but it is a moving, changing, dynamic dance as one commenter put it; one with many dancers; a song with many voices. It is authentic community that, at its best, values and protects difference.

As Henri Nouwen says, “we are cast into communities of people that we would never, in all our life, choose for ourselves.” Think about that for a minute. The community found in Church is an intentional community, made of different voices, some of whom we might not be in relationship with anywhere else.

The beauty of this whole project, you see, is that the knowledge and love of God is made known in the messiness of this unity thing. The lie given to us in the world around us is that freedom, our highly valued possession, is the ability to have an unlimited number of choices. To have the most number of personal choices, frankly you have to cut yourself off from your neighbor, so that he also may have the most number of choices - to avoid limiting the freedom of individual choice. But the truth of the love of God is that freedom is living in love, and frankly you can’t live love by yourself. Love isn’t the freedom of being able to do whatever you want. That’s a benefit that only comes with privilege. It’s a drug that’s hard to give up.

Love is a relationship. Love is living into community and diving deeper than you can go by yourself. It is being challenged by someone who has seen a different perspective than you have seen so that together you can find a fuller story of the whole than your individual pieces separately can tell-- even- and especially- when you are convinced that you already have the whole story yourself.

That looks so many different ways in the church, this living out of Jesus’ prayer that we all may be one. We who are many are one bread, one body, for we all share in one bread, one cup. The whole liturgy is an act of coming together from our different places and lives to be one, sharing ourselves with each other before we go out into the world again.

But it doesn’t stop there. The church is a place for the whole world to witness what it means to have the love of God bind up difference in community. Here at St. Paul’s, we have people who live outside talking about their faith with people who live in million dollar homes. We have straight cisgender people and transpeople and lesbians and gay people and genderqueer people, working together to discern how love pulls us all in the same direction without detracting from the very real differences between us. We have Democrats and Republicans, and even in these politically challenging times- especially in these politically challenging times- the church is the place where we look to the prayer of Jesus for unity in community, not for my opinion or your opinion to win, but instead for the knowledge and love of God to be made whole in community as we struggle with each other in love to figure out how that looks without tearing apart our relationships-- which are the point of the whole thing anyway.

That doesn’t happen by itself. Jesus ascended into the clouds. He isn’t here to do the work for us. It takes each of us, every single member of the body of Christ working in harmony in this dance to be a part of this movement of love. We focus at St. Paul’s on being out in the world, because the world needs it. But if we don’t keep practiced on the difference between the way the world works and the unity that makes love possible, then we can forget what we are out there to do.

It also means staying involved with what makes the lifeblood of the church tick, with the very places where we cultivate the skills to live in difference, to breed the humility to keep our own privilege and bias in check and to remember time and time again that the unity of our very humanity may require giving something up to be able to participate in this love project of God.

Without you it can’t happen! I frequently tell new members that Church is not a spectator sport. Coming to worship is a good start. Sometimes people in their first year at St. Paul's need to spend their first months quietly healing in the pews, and that's absolutely fine. But to truly cultivate this kind of authenticity, this kind of unity, where relationships are born across difference, where we are thrown into communities that are not our choosing, it takes involvement. We have great volunteers here. But we need all of us, and I think all of us need each other too. Getting the work done is a side benefit. The main task is to participate in this ongoing project of Jesus’ farewell prayer: that we may all be one, by finding ways to be engaged with each other, with people we otherwise wouldn't be. If you look in your bulletin today, you will see a list of all the different places you can volunteer to be a deeper part of this love project at St. Paul’s. It is who we are. If you are not already a volunteer, I hope you will express interest in serving by completing the form and putting it in the offering plate today. If you have questions, call me. It's why I’m here.

I was talking to a colleague recently who was having a similar experience to the one I had in seminary, learning about this dance of unity in the church. As a gay man, he had just began a position at a church that had several folks who were outspoken against having a gay clergy person.

One of them wanted to speak to him, and he got worried. He braced himself for an argument.

But what he received was something far different: he received a genuine inquiry about his life, what his spouse was like, and how he was adjusting to the new parish. When he was ordained to the priesthood, this would-be adversary gave him a family heirloom as an ordination gift, a Bible that had been in his family for generations

My brothers and sisters, the Church has been entrusted with a gift- that we may be one- in a way that is barely recognizable to the world around us. Treasure that gift! Deepen your relationships across every beautiful difference that we have among us. And please don’t ever forget that you are a very special people, a gift entrusted to us, each of us. Without you, we wouldn’t exist! So take care with each other, take interest in each other, and remember why we are here.

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday at 5pm

Did you know we have a quiet Saturday 5pm Eucharist in the chapel? This may be just the service you are looking for.  Jim Greer shares more:

My grandmother use to say, those who go to church on Sunday at 10:00 am love the music and those who go at 8 love the Word, but those who go mid-week love the Lord.

Attending Sunday service at 5 pm on Saturday is not quite the same thing as grandma had in mind, but it’s similar in its intimacy between the people and their priest and the language of the scriptures and the liturgy. We’re few in number, but God’s nearness is manifest and from beginning to end, it feels as though we’re in a conversation with an old friend.

Because it is the first mass of the Sabbath, the Sunday lessons are read and the brief homily – more a chat really, suggests the Gospel’s message for the holy day.

Oh, and because there is no printed program, we get to use the prayer book again; the historic and foundational Book of Common Prayer. I sense a smiling, 16th century Archbishop Cranmer someplace just out of sight. In no time at all, we become nimble once more in flipping pages to follow and participate. Doing so brings back sweet memories of an earlier time in our lives.

I suppose a Canon Liturgist might tut-tut the relaxed and not always perfect choreography of our service, but what hiccups there are, only draws the little community closer in good humor and in affection for our worship leaders. In a way it’s like seeing a movie version of a stage play or watching a game on TV – you get to see the close-ups, warts and all. And whatever makes it human, makes it dear.

The Dean includes herself in the officiating Rota and its good and right to have her with us from time to time. Most of our celebrants, however, are retired priests who have preached, consecrated and served the Lord’s Supper a thousand times or more. Even so, we know they love to be with us, still living their vocation and saying again the sacred scripts. We, in turn, feel blessed to have and hear and receive from such elders in the faith.

As a life-long Episcopalian, I’ve had the good fortune to worship in many of Anglicanism’s great churches and cathedrals, hear their classic choirs, observe their matchless pageantry and sometimes receive the host from the high prelates of our communion. Such an experience can be spine-tingling beautiful and deeply moving. Our great services are a gift to the people and are to be honored and repeated even while remembering that the Eucharist, as invented, was first shared in a rented upper room, sitting on the floor and then on the dusty road to Emmaus. On Saturday at 5, we’re almost as simple. We pause for a while, hear again the ancient texts, say our prayers and then take, bless, break and receive the meal. It fills our hearts and sustains us as we move out again into the world.

Our little congregation is composed of 4-5 regulars, occasional attendees - some recognizable while others are not. From time to time we have vacationing folks we’ll likely not see again, and on a lucky day, a street person or someone looking for relief will join us in our fellowship.

So, if you can’t make it some Sunday morning, or haven’t been for a while or if being with us at 5 pm on Saturday fits nicely into your other plans for the day or evening, come along and join us around the chapel altar as we share the loaf and cup and give and receive God’s peace, one to another.

--Jim Greer

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Steadfast Love, Abiding Presence

This week I received a precious gift. It's a gift I will remember and cherish. It's a gift I never wanted and wish I had never received, and yet I am grateful for it. There is no more sacred task for a priest than the task, the privilege, of being permitted to be present with a family on the worst day of their life. This was the gift, and I treasure it, even though I would have given much for it not to be necessary.

I won't go into personal details, but suffice it to say that it involved several hours at a hospital, many prayers, an emergency baptism, and a lot of tears, as well as a remarkable witness of faith by the people most deeply wounded by the tragedy. I declared, "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever," as I anointed one who was already in the embrace of God, and I understood those words in a new and profound way.

When I resumed work on this sermon, I found myself reading today's Scripture with new eyes, seeking out reassurance that my declarations of God's love and abiding presence in the midst of suffering could indeed be backed up by God's Word.

As St. Paul addresses the elite of Athens, he is dealing with an audience of intellectual, skeptical sophisticates. They take an interest in all things spiritual, but they are not committed to any given belief system. You could say they are spiritual but not religious. The streets of Athens, a multicultural center of the ancient world, are dotted with little shrines and altars to gods of all kinds and from every corner of the world, a pantheon of images made of wood, stone, and metal. And, in a kind of Pascal's wager, there is even a shrine to "the unknown god", to cover any possibility not otherwise considered.

Our world, like that of the Athenians, is filled with shrines to the idols of our culture. Sky-scraping banks. Shopping malls that look like temple complexes. Prestigious cars. Multiplex movie theaters. Football stadiums. Even magnificent church buildings. These are some of the false gods that we are tempted to worship. But Paul points the Athenians, and us, to another God, as he points to the unknown god's altar. There's a reason, he says, why you don't have a name or an image for this God.

This is a God, he says, who isn't confined to a statue or an altar. This is a God who abides among us, who is with us wherever we go. This God is as close to us as a breath; in this God we live and move and have our being. The Psalm backs this up, reminding us of the steadfast love of God that never fails. I needed that reminder this week.

Paul, a consummate evangelist, sees an opening for the Gospel. He meets the Athenians where they are, acknowledging their wisdom and claiming the unknown God as the God of Abraham and Isaac, the God of Jesus Christ, known to a people who have been liberated from slavery, fed in the wilderness, and redeemed from death.

Paul is skillful in his presentation. He doesn't attack the prior assumptions of his listeners, but he finds room for God within their context. In our current context, we are having a lot of conversations about how to bring the unchurched to church. Since we can't force people to come, we are turning towards supporting the development of faith within the non-churched lifestyle. We are creating a digital family resource called Faith2Go, we are participating in marches and parades, we are showing up to the Harvey Milk breakfast and the Navy Pride celebration, we are offering the Eucharist in a gay bar, we are live-streaming our services.

At the Democracy Now event last Tuesday, 700 people packed the cathedral and heard my unconditional welcome. At the end of the evening someone said to me, "I didn't know that churches like this existed." Like Paul, we try to tailor our medium to the potential audience, but the message itself remains the same: God loves us unconditionally and is to be found in every circumstance of our lives. The ancient Athenians continued to question Paul, as our contemporaries continue to question us, restlessly searching for an answer that will satisfy our hunger. The answer is life abundant in the risen Christ.

Paul describes a God who is far greater than any image we can invent, and who sent a human being to show us the true abundance of life through resurrection, even defeating death itself. And in John's Gospel, as Jesus prepares to go to his death, he tells his friends that even when he is gone, they will not be left alone. The Spirit is God's presence in the world, abiding within us and giving us strength and courage to bear what otherwise would destroy us.

John puts a peculiar word in Jesus' mouth: the Paraclete, translated in our reading as Advocate. The old translations had Comforter, as we hear in the traditional musical settings of this text. But the modern translation doesn't use that word because it has changed its meaning over the centuries. Forget the soft, fluffy image you may have conjured up. Think instead of something like a cattle prod, a force that pushes you to do and bear more than you ever thought possible. That's what the 16th century Anglicans meant by a Comforter.

So, in my quest to seek reassurance, I found the Gospel telling me that God's love and mercy can be found anywhere, if we only look: in the hug of a friend; in the beauty of a piece of music or a spring day; in the words of faith somehow summoned up in the midst of heartbreak.

Even the Epistle reading today takes on additional meaning, when it's viewed through the lens of personal tragedy, as we wonder why such things happen. Peter addresses a congregation that is under attack for its faith. He offers powerful reassurance and a reminder to stay the course, to go high when others go low. Peter assures us that suffering isn't something we earn or deserve. Sometimes we can do everything right and still things go horribly, tragically wrong.
And yet our Easter faith will bring us through, secure in the knowledge of God's victory over death.

Both Peter and Paul derive the courage to proclaim the Gospel from the life of Christ that lives, that abides, in them. Jesus has promised to abide with those who keep his commandment of love. When we trust that Jesus abides in us, when we live into the steadfast love described in the Psalm, we too will be strengthened to call out the idolatry of our own lives and of the culture around us, to find God in our midst, to bear what might otherwise be unbearable.

Remember the Collect we prayed a few minutes ago: "O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire." God's love exceeds all that we can desire or imagine. This is our Easter faith.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.

The Very Rev Penelope Bridges 
May 21, 2017, the Sixth Sunday of Easter