Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Sunday Sermon: Looking for the Lost

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a story to two groups: one, to the religious insiders who are grumbling because Jesus is talking to a group of people I will call “the lost,” and two, the taxpayers and sinners, “the lost,” who Jesus is hanging out with despite being unpopular with the religious insiders of his day.

Now I know that we all like to think we are enlightened and I hope we all want to identify with the lost. Nobody wants to be a Pharisee. But I think at some level, we are here, and I wonder what it is like to put ourselves in the place of the religious insiders just to see where that leads us.

At some point no matter what our motivation, we get inculturated in institutional religion and we forget the countercultural basis of this Jesus movement that we area part of.

We are surrounded by hundreds of years of art depicting Jesus as a blond haired blue eyed insider. He was not.

We sit every week— not just St. Paul’s but Western Christianity in general— in churches largely surrounded by people who are like us. Like the Pharisees, we are largely insulated in our religious practices from those who are different from us as we follow Jesus.

As a result, it becomes hard to see who is NOT present. Who is not here with us today? How can you see people who are not present?

But the answer to that is the key to the text. Who is lost? Who should be sought with the affection of the shepherd in our gospel going after the lost sheep, or with the focus of the woman looking for the valuable coin?

We may be inculturated to dismiss those not present, as the Pharisees were inculturated to dismiss the tax collectors and the sinners. Whoever the lost are, they are not here. Why should they be? It might be disruptive to us.

And that’s what makes it even harder in this story, even more radical from the Pharisees perspective— or let’s say from our perspective— to hear about Jesus hanging out with these people that we haven’t previously imagined existing.

What if, for example, we learned Jesus was hanging out with our political enemies. Or people we just don’t like. We love to make the lost into people with physical needs like the unsheltered, or the poor; or those historically turned out by the church like the LGBTQ and women. I think we here are pretty good at seeing those people, and good at imagining Jesus loving them. Who is it we are not good at imagining Jesus hanging out with?

Jesus didn’t hang with the lost to reinforce their lifestyle. Believe it or not, he doesn’t necessarily hang out with us to reinforce ours either- that’s not the way he loves. He didn’t say to tax collectors, “hey, I love what you’re doing with that defrauding people thing.” It was his relationship with them that encouraged repentance. Repentance is a word that means “to change direction.” It has gotten laden with guilt, shame, and having low self-worth— but that isn’t what it means in the text. Repentance simply means acknowledging you need to go in a different direction.

So, who is not here that may need to go in a different direction?

That can sound like hard news to us. It sometimes is preached as bad news— preached as, “you need to go out and find those people who make you afraid, or scared, or angry.”

I don’t think that is what this text is about at all. And I can’t imagine anything more harmful to the gospel than trying to force people to interact with others who make them afraid, scared, or angry. Interactions with those that scare me or make me angry can be transformative to me, but only if I enter them voluntarily. If I am forced, those interactions may be destructive to both parties. Part of my lack of control in those relationships with another I enter voluntarily, though, with those that frighten me or make me angry, may challenge me to release my privilege, to let go of having all the answers and being powerful— and that can be what makes those relationships transformative. But that’s another sermon.

Our position as a progressive tradition makes it even harder to see the outsiders. We pride ourselves as being enlightened. Our intentions are so lofty, we can’t stand to know we may have missed anything or anyone. It forms at least some part of our identity: to question it somehow makes us question our worth. So many of us bear scars from a less welcoming form of Christianity that to question whether we might be leaving someone out makes our own participation in this thing teeter on the edge. It shouldn’t.

Because there is good news here in this gospel. It is invitational, rather than prescriptive.

Just because Jesus may be over there, with somebody we think is lost, does not mean Jesus is not also here. And that should be comforting. Jesus is there too. But the call of the gospel is that the repentance of the lost, of the one who is willing to change for the gospel, is cause for a really, really big party. I mean, it’s a big party. There is laughter, and joy, and hope. It is big.

Over and over this gospel talks about the celebration at the change, the repentance, the new direction of the one who was lost, but now is found.

And everybody is invited to the party of the lost who are found. In the story, the shepherd and the woman are the metaphors for God. By the way, this is the only parable that uses a woman as a metaphor for God. God does the searching, the finding, not us, not the religious insiders, in these parables. And everybody else, the religious insiders, the already found, are invited to that big party to celebrate. The righteous, the insiders, didn’t define what was lost or do the finding, but were simply invited to a party. The question for the insiders is; “will I celebrate this finding?” Or “will I stay home and grumble because I’d really rather that the lost stay lost?”

We don’t have to go to the party.

But we may find that if we can find it in us to celebrate the other, to celebrate the lost who is found, the one who is different from us, the one who has found something that we may not have ourselves, that we are changed too in the process. We may find our own repentance, our own new direction. And guess what? Then the party starts all over again. Because the lost aren’t just over there somewhere. The lost are right here too. The call to be open to find a new direction is not just for ‘those people,’ it is also for us. That is how the Jesus movement stays countercultural, and resists becoming a new empire of like-minded Pharisees.

And it is really wonderful news that one way we get to find a new direction is by going to a party for somebody else, isn’t it? We are changed again and again being open to the movement of the shepherd of the lost sheep in our own lives and the lives of those who seem otherwise lost, but are found.

Paying attention to the lost means, at least in part, being willing to base our relationships not on merit but on mercy. When we do that, we can see how the other is changing, allowing it to open in us a new direction again and again. And the party just gets bigger and bigger!

We had an unlikely visitor on one of our social media sites this week. He made several unflattering comments about an article we had posted on environmental stewardship. I even had to delete one because it resorted to attacks and name calling rather than the respectful dialogue we expect on our social media. I engaged him in a private chat to explain why I had deleted his posts. And at first, I was sorry I engaged him. I thought it was a lost cause. The conversation was about climate change and I was sure that this conversation was going to stay rooted in secular politics, which I see as not grounded in truth. For me, this person had been lost— someone I would not have been willing to see, just as the Pharisees could not see the tax collectors.

But for reasons I don’t completely understand, I entered a dialogue with this person. We shared conversation and points of view. I do not think he will be going out and campaigning for an end to carbon emissions anytime soon. But we did find common ground and a language for relating to our shared concerns for the environment through our faith rather than through the divisive language of partisan politics and secular culture. And that was a reason for a celebration. Both of us were found in different ways, and I was glad to rejoice in that. Where will we look for the lost in each other? In ourselves?

So we go today to celebrate, to a big party. 150 years of St. Paul’s doing this thing— reaching out, creating community, building homes for the elderly, assisting orphans in Tijuana, and showering the homeless. And we are having a party to celebrate today. But it isn’t a party to say, “look how great we are” although we may be pretty great if I do say so myself. It is a party of rejoicing to say “look at what has been found.” And we wait to be found, again and again. God’s been finding us and finding others through us again and again for 150 years. Where will God look for the lost through us next, and how will we be found again in the process?

The Rev. Canon Jeff Martinhauk
Proper 19C, September 15, 2019
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
Lk 15:1-10


Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol.4. Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.
https://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/proper-19c-2/?type=the_lectionary_gospel

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Homecoming Sunday!

Dear St. Paul’s family,


It’s Homecoming Sunday!  Welcome home.

Every year we designate a Sunday in the fall as homecoming Sunday.  Usually it is homecoming because the summer often brings a different routine. Whether it is vacation, sleeping in, a break from school, finding cool places to avoid the heat, or just the lazy days of summer, sometimes our church lives tend to slow down as well.

Lots of churches call this day in the fall “Rally Day” to rally us all back to our common cause in Christ; rally us out of the slowness of summer and into the more active academic year.  A few churches call it homecoming, as if we all had left for the summer and are now returning from a long absence.  My sense is that at the cathedral, it is more metaphoric than anything, because I hardly think we ever slow down!

This year, we are celebrating a very special Homecoming.  It is our 150th birthday!  Each service will have special food to celebrate our sesquicentennial.  We will have a seated lunch after our 10:30 service, where we will welcome parishioners who have been with St. Paul’s for many years and those just starting their journey here. We will hear a little bit about this exceptional journey of people that we are all now a part of.

In the next weeks, you will hear more about how we will celebrate the anniversary of the cathedral’s civic legacy:  we will have a grand gala in December for our proper anniversary; a fitting tribute for the Cathedral for the City. It will be a grand event and help us launch fundraising efforts for a new and important initiative the dean will tell you about very soon.

But today, let’s celebrate our cathedral family.   We celebrate 150 years of people coming through the cathedral doors to find friendship and fellowship and be embraced by each other and by God.  We celebrate the mantle we inherit as the current generation whose great joy and responsibility it is to be a part of this wonderful cathedral community.   We celebrate being home.


Blessings,

Jeff

Construction Update September 12


Regular Construction Update Meeting

Reviewed schedule:

  • SDGE looks like about 2 weeks left for main package underground.
  • Asbestos abatement started in the Admin building this week.
  • Cox conversion is progressing.  Cored holes on the north side of the workroom wall for entry point. They’ll run the lines once the main electrical is done.
  • Tower bring up has the clock ticking.  10/16/20 is close to a real daye for potential meter switch over.  Date will likely change though.  Potential power down date to be announced.  Bob O. is starting to plan a zoo field trip for staff for one of the down days.
Cathedral Improvements:

  • A generator has been brought in to back up the power supply if needed.
  • Discussion of address changes and needs for gas meter address vs. billing address was reviewed.  We won’t need to change the meter address if we change our street address to accommodate the mailbox move and change in the Cathedral’s footprint on the block.
  • Working on the gas piping to get it to the point they can run it overhead in the exterior Breezeway corridor. 
  • Waiting on Queen’s Courtyard until the back entrance is finalized.
  • Elevator service may be returning this week.  Lobby access on first floor should be limited to staff due to railings and finishes not having been installed yet.  We will advise the congregation about the real opening of the elevators after the safety equipment is put in place.
  • Discussed the new gas line into the boiler room.
    • Transition should be seamless
    • Questions about the connection of pipes to the boiler and how to manage the switch over at these points. Joe advised it could be more down time if that gets complicated.
  • Pouring the exterior Breezeway corridor ramp this week.
  • Review of first floor elevator lobby to do’s:
    • Drywall
    • Taping
    • Paint
    • Ceiling install
    • Ralis in house in 2 weeks
  • Review of removal of wall font in the hall where the new ramp near the reception office. 
    • Removal ok only if fully intact
    • They will test the area around it to see how it has been installed and will review possibly extraction so wall safety rail can be installed.
    • SPC will store the piece, if removed, for reinstallation in another location or the new building.
    • If not able to be removed, rail will be formatted to fit around the font.
  • Review of the ventilation request for the basement office server/copier/kitchenette room.  Solutions are being worked out and pricing from various vendors (ventilation, coring, electrical) are being sourced now.  Review of funding for the project has begun as well.
  • Reviewed security system reinstallation details for the first floor elevator lobby. 
  • Trash removal will be taken care of by Greystar with their large dumpsters.  SPC can put the campus trash in their dumpsters and Greystar will arrange for removal of trash.  SPC will cancel current trash pickup service for the next few months.  This will save SPC about $550 per month in expenses.
  • Review of progress on getting time lapse cameras for the duration of the construction project. Brad is working on discussing with a few buildings in our area for the best angle and will advise when he has more information.
  • Rocky requests a review of potential rental of the clergy parking lot.  Kathleen will discuss with various people (accounting, insurance, etc.) including Penny and review further with Greystar/Rocky.
 
 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Pronouns



Dear St. Paul’s family,


As we seek to be sensitive to the needs of all our members and visitors, we are always alert for new ways to signal that St. Paul’s is a safe place for everyone, living out our “Welcome All” mission statement. When we installed gender-neutral bathrooms a few years ago, we sent a powerful message about our welcome of trans and gender-non-conforming friends. We are preparing to take another step in this direction, with small stickers that will allow each of us to specify, right on our St. Paul’s nametags, the pronouns by which we wish to be known. Mine are “She, her, hers”. What are yours?

This may seem like an unnecessary and even meaningless gesture to you, but it makes a big difference to someone whose gender may not fit with how they are perceived. Having one’s pronouns on display avoids awkward conversations and misunderstandings, and if everyone does it, it says that we as a community are aware of the daily challenges facing the transgender and non-binary community and that we want to be supportive; it says that everyone is equally valued and precious, deserving of dignity in our uniqueness.

Each person has the right to select the pronouns that work for them, just as we each have the right to be known by a particular name or nickname. Some non-binary people will choose “they/them/theirs” as their pronouns. This is part of who they are and we should respect that. Most of us have been conditioned to expect the “they” family of pronouns to refer to plural subjects; it takes a little practice to get over the awkward feeling of using “wrong” grammar, but language is a fluid phenomenon and we are capable of change: just read a chapter from the King James Bible to be reminded of how much it changes over time. (When was the last time you addressed someone as “thee”?) I believe that a little discomfort on the part of the majority is the least we can do to help reduce the significant and continuous discomfort of a minority group among us.

I have changed my email signatures to include my pronouns. I hope you will do likewise. The pronoun stickers are available at our Greeters table, available for all who would like to participate.  They fit snugly on our standard St. Paul’s nametag beside the logo.


Your sister in Christ,

Penny

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Construction Update September 4



Regular Wednesday Construction Update Meeting


Site Logistics Plan review:

  • Reviewed pathways and exits for upcoming work.
  • Elevator lobby review of pathway and time frame.  Will likely end by Sept 9th at the latest
  • Sewer lines are in and back filled and electrical is getting trenched.  Everything on is on time.
  • Only possible slow down would be underground gas lines verses above ground lines.  Review of location with city and engineers is happening and decisions will be made accordingly.
  • Olive St. is being trenched and worked on currently.

General info:

  • Our plumbing blockage from 9/1/19 was resolved with Greystar’s help on Monday early afternoon.  There was a “thick black goo blocking the flow of things and it took a few times with the snake to get through it and fix the issue.”
  • Asbestos abatement of the Admin building will start September9 at the latest.
  • Olive St. construction has begun and trenching inspection is tomorrow.  If we pass then SDGE pipe can be installed and then backfilled for the Cox/AT&T lines that will be put in.
  • Cathedral Improvements:
    • Electrical inspection was last week.
    • Gas lines are being run today (9/4) and inspection is tomorrow.
    • One ok’d they’ll backfill everything (already backfilled sewage lines.)
      • Pipe for gas cannot go under the breezeway walkway, so will have to run up to the ceiling pipes and a 1-1/2” steel pipe will be installed there.
    • Inspection today of elevator lobby and breezeway ramp area so we can get ok to pour cement for ramps.  Could pour as soon as tomorrow (9/5).
    • Elevator doors should be serviced early next week and we may be able to get back to accessing elevator as soon as end of next week.  The finishes (wall coverings, ceiling, floor coverings) might not be in place, but they will get us to where we can use the space and elevator again.
    • A new door was installed in the downstairs offices for access to the offices from the elevator lobby.
    • New electrical room in the Music Library looks good.  The drywall “taper” will be in house next week to work on the library’s new electric room walls and the elevator lobby walls.

  • Discussed transformer timeline: Gas inspection on Nutmeg today, ones the set the switch gear, get the meter release then they call the coordinator to arrange for the new transformer to arrive.
  • Tom asked about the restoration of the clergy lot, design and timeline on that.  It’s been pushed to next week’s agenda when Greystar has a second to present the drawings/plans for the space.  We estimate a restoration of about 4-5 parking spots in that lot.
  • The McParland quote for just A/C in the Great Hall basement offices has stalled out.  It was advised that due to CA environmental code/rules that not addressing the heating issue in the space is not permitted if you are dealing with the A/C.  It’s basically both or nothing for our needs. 
  • Reviewed north wall window replacement status.  Still checking with vendor who is reaching out to suppliers.  Thoughts about adding A/C window units for the north wall offices was brought up, but fire rating may not allow for this.
  • Discussed helping SPC team to work out a ventilation solution for our new server room which is too hot to keep the machines safe and functioning.  A plan was proposed and Joe will get us pricing, 

  •  

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Sunday Sermon: Working for the Kingdom

Last June I visited Durham, England, enjoying a weekend package that a generous parishioner had given me; the weekend included two VIP tickets to a concert in Durham Cathedral, and my sister Jacqueline came with me. Durham is famous for the stunning cathedral and castle that dominate the landscape from the top of a steep hill. We didn’t really leave ourselves enough time for the climb up the hill from our hotel to the cathedral, and we reached the west entrance in the back, breathless, with about two minutes to go before the concert was due to begin. Durham Cathedral dwarfs St. Paul’s: 900 years old, it is huge and seats well over 1000 people in the nave, and it was full that night.

An usher descended on us with cries of relief - “We almost gave your seats away!” - and guided us all the way up the center aisle to the front row, to the most prominent seats right on the aisle, next to various distinguished personages. Of course, everyone watched us as we hurried to our seats and tried to become invisible. Even though I am used to walking up cathedral aisles, I would have been content with the back row.

In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is being watched. He is constantly in the public eye, whether he is teaching the crowds, preaching in the synagogue, or attending swanky dinner parties. If you read the Gospel continuously from Chapter 3, where Jesus begins his ministry, to this passage in Chapter 14, you can see a pattern emerge. Each time he is among the establishment, whether in the synagogue or in the home of a Pharisee, he does something that’s guaranteed to infuriate the Jewish authorities. He announces that God has sent him to change the world! He heals on the sabbath! He allows a strange woman to pour oil on him! He doesn’t wash his hands before dinner! He curses his hosts and calls them hypocrites! And we see the Pharisees watching him with more and more hostility.

Today’s story is of the third and final time that Jesus eats at the home of a Pharisee, and there he goes again, criticizing the other guests for competing for the best seats at dinner. Until quite recently, it was not unusual for formal meals to involve rigid etiquette around seating and status: in Jesus’ time, the guests arranged themselves on couches around the room so that the most important people sat nearest the host. In some places it’s still the custom for the most important female guest to be seated to the right of the host, while the most important male guest sits to the right of the hostess. To sit in the wrong place is a terrible faux pas.

The world still has too many rigid caste and status-related expectations, whether we are aware of them or not. There are plenty of people who wouldn’t dream of sitting near the front of a cathedral, because for whatever reason - skin color, economic status, dress code, language - they don’t feel entitled. And the people who do feel entitled, with or without good reason, may not notice that others are hanging back.

So, the Pharisees are watching Jesus, and he is watching them too. He observes this etiquette, which is the norm in that culture, and he offers advice. When you’re at a banquet, he says, (and of course this is a banquet), don’t head for the best seats: seek the most obscure, and wait to be invited to move on up. This might sound like common-sense advice to avoid public embarrassment, but there’s more to it than that. We know that whenever Jesus speaks of banquets and wedding feasts he is talking about God’s table, about the Kingdom of Heaven, and about the generosity of our God who gathers in the outsiders and gives voice to the voiceless.

Do you hear the amazing good news here? Jesus is telling us that there is room for everyone at God’s table: that no matter where you sit you will be welcomed and fed; you don’t have to be someone important or prominent to be cared for. That’s a fundamental theological value for us here at St Paul’s.

Jesus is also telling us that we may find ourselves seated next to people we didn’t expect. I remember Bishop Gene Robinson talking about Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who led the opposition to Bishop Robinson’s ordination and who asserted that Bishop Robinson, along with all LGBT persons, was going to hell. Bishop Robinson commented to the effect that some day Peter would be very surprised to find Gene sitting next to him at the heavenly banquet. The church gives us a preview of the Kingdom, in that we come together not because we are friends or have interests in common but because we are all called to the same journey, we are all invited by the generous host to join the party, we are all, deserving or undeserving, offered the same mercy and grace. It seems to me that Bishop Gene’s theology of grace trumps Archbishop Peter’s theology of judgment.

My first reaction to this story is to identify with the Pharisees, to assume that Jesus is telling me to be humble. That’s a good lesson for me, and I suspect for many of us who are part of the privileged, majority population. Most of us probably aren’t too intimidated by the challenge of claiming the best seats. But I wonder about those who have been relegated by our culture to the back rows. I wonder if someone who has experienced racism or homophobia or economic prejudice hears the story and feels empowered by the revelation that God will lift up the lowly and promote those who have been at the back of the line to the VIP seats. This is more than good news: it is a revolutionary pep-talk for the poor and the powerless.

It seems to me that this lifting up is something that we who are privileged can do on God’s behalf. We can look for the people who hang back in the shadows and offer them the best seats. We can adopt God’s preferential care for the marginalized and oppressed. We can take a step back so that others can take a step forward. And not only can we, but we should, because the sin of entitlement, the abuse of power wrought by the people occupying the best seats has brought our world to a point where the oceans are dying of poison, the forests are being set ablaze, and the climate is becoming ever more extreme. Our demand for convenience, for beef, palm oil, fossil fuels and other resources have brought our world to the brink of destruction. It’s time for those who have exalted themselves to be humbled. It’s time to go out and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind to the party, because the ones in the front seats have failed as stewards of God’s banquet.

At the beginning of this service we prayed a Collect which addresses God as the author and giver of all good things. God gives us life as a free gift, to use or abuse as we wish. The same goes for the world we live in. What if we were to take our cue from God? What if we were to commit ourselves to sharing these precious gifts by limiting our demand for the commodities whose production depletes and damages the planet? What if we were to extend the same privileges and freedoms that we enjoy to all of God’s children, without regard for status or identity? Perhaps then we would find ourselves living abundantly, living the way God calls us to live. On this Labor Day weekend, that’s something worth working for.

September 1 2019
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Latino Traditions and Festivals

Dear St. Paul’s family,

As you know, we are a multicultural congregation, with a Spanish-language ministry. This fall, there are several holidays and occasions of special significance for our Latino parishioners, and all are welcome and invited to attend.

  • On Saturday, September 14, the diocesan Latino/Hispanic Heritage Celebration will take place at St. Philip’s, Lemon Grove, from 11 am to 5 pm.
  • On Sunday, September 15, at the 1 p.m. Misa, our Spanish-language congregation will observe Independence Day for several Central and South American countries, notably Mexico. The observance includes “El Grito” – a cry of patriotic pain and pride marking the struggle for independence.
  • On Saturday, September 21, the diocesan Multicultural Children’s Fall Festival will take place at St. David’s.
  • On Saturday, November 2 at 6 p.m., we will celebrate El Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which roughly corresponds to All Souls Day, when families remember their departed loved ones and hold special gatherings.
  • On Thursday, December 12, (offsite due to Gala preparation) we celebrate La Virgen de Guadalupe, a manifestation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with special significance for our Mexican neighbors.
  • From December 16 to 23, churches of the diocese will coordinate a progressive version of Las Posadas, visiting a different church each evening, acting out the journey of Mary and Joseph as they sought shelter.  The Cathedral plans to host on December 21, and on Christmas Eve we will complete the Posadas by welcoming the holy family to the “inn” at our family service.


At most of these occasions, a center piece of the celebration is the Piñata, that brightly colored object made from paper and filled with candy that hangs from a rope while children, often blindfolded, swing a bat at it. Eventually someone lands a hard enough hit to break open the piñata, and the candy tumbles out for everyone to grab. To the uneducated, like myself until very recently, the activity can seem like unnecessary violence, an anomaly in the life of the church. But the piñata contains theological significance.

Piñatas can come in many shapes: animals, stars, or even politicians.  However, the traditional Mexican piñata is a three-dimensional container with seven points. Each point represents one of the seven deadly sins, and the candy inside represents the sweetness of grace when the faithful Christian defeats sin. The one struggling to beat sin is blindfolded to represent faith.

I was humbled to learn of this significance: it was a lesson to me to honor the traditions of other cultures. I may have some of the details about the piñata wrong, in which case I hope you will correct me! Let’s continue to learn together about our neighbors and fellow Episcopalians.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

x

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Construction Update August 28


Regular Wednesday Construction Update Meeting


Site Logistics Plan review:

  • Reviewed pathways and exits for upcoming work.
  • Elevator lobby review of pathway and time frame.  Will likely end by Sept 9th at the latest
  • Sewer lines are in and back filled and electrical is getting trenched.  Everything on is on time.
  • Only possible slow down would be underground gas lines verses above ground lines.  Review of location with city and engineers is happening and decisions will be made accordingly.
  • Olive St. is being trenched and worked on currently.

General info:

  • We will no longer occupy or have access to the Admin building starting September 3 when Greystar takes full possession of that portion of the property.  We have vacated the space in advance of our end date.
  • Asbestos abatement of the Admin building will start September 3.
  • Discussion of switch over of gas and electric dates are currently slated for late October (23/24-ish). Each switch over is anticipated to take 2 days per project. SPC staff may need to work from home or meet off campus for the switch overs.  Firm dates will be given well in advance so we can plan on this.
  • Discussed the possibility of a crosswalk to add at 6th and Olive.  Asked if this was in the plans already with Greystar (answer=no).  Buildings and Grounds Committee is going to look into the request and procedures for petitioning for one at this location.  Mark and Kathleen will be working on it further.  Steve from Greystar gave great feedback on possibly wording for the application process.
  • The upgrade of the elevator with Kone is trying to get scheduled.  Currently slated for Oct 21 thru Dec 22.  With the Dec 13 Gala150 and Christmas events, we’re exploring what it might cost to push the project into January.  This may be expensive, so other strategies on timing and finishing early or partial finish in time for the holidays and complete after the busy season are being explored.
  • SPC Communications team asked about putting signage up on the fencing around the property and Steve advised it was no problem to utilize that space for our banners, etc.
  • Joe updated us that the bid for just getting A/C in the Great Hall basement will be ready today.  The vendor mistakenly gave us a bid that was not broken out correctly so is reviewing and revising and is expected to deliver the new bid today.  
  • The Music Library is still being worked on.  Electric cable is being pulled and a door frame will be installed next week.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Mutual Ministry Review


Dear St. Paul’s family,

In one of my letters last summer I mentioned that we use a Mutual Ministry Agreement (MMA) as one of the tools to provide myself and Chapter with goals each year. We are currently in the process of conducting a Mutual Ministry Review, looking at the goals set in the last MMA and setting new ones appropriate to where we are now. For about the last 20 years the Episcopal Church has strongly encouraged clergy and vestries (or Chapter, in our case) to establish MMA’s based on the original Letter of Agreement between the priest and the Chapter at the beginning of the priest’s tenure. We are expected to review and update the agreement annually, and periodically to engage a professional outside facilitator to moderate the conversation. The idea is that we set expectations and review them, celebrating achievements, and addressing misunderstandings and disappointments as a matter of course, rather than doing nothing until there is a conflict or a crisis.

The current MMA addresses eight areas of ministry: Liturgical leadership; Christian formation; Pastoral support, prayer, and care; Stewardship and financial leadership; Personal spiritual growth and education; Administration and governance; Congregational development; and Diocesan and community involvement. The expectations of me include both ongoing tasks such as preaching and presiding and specific goals such as developing a balanced budget after several years of needing to plug a large deficit. Expectations of Chapter similarly can be either ongoing, such as striving to tithe or discerning decisions within a theological framework, or one-time efforts such as revising the bylaws to reflect spiritual leadership. An important note is that Chapter is elected to make commitments on behalf of the congregation, and some of the MMA expectations apply equally to all parishioners, with the leadership of Chapter; for example, seeking out opportunities for personal spiritual growth and theological education.

Significant accomplishments since the last MMA was finalized in June 2018 include instituting weekly letters (such as this one), executing a plan to right-size the budget, and implementing a policy of assigning 5% of undesignated cash bequests for Diocesan ministries. Goals “we have left undone” include developing the Saturday evening service as an alternative worship offering (this has been replaced by the Doxology Life initiative), and continuing to implement the Vision for Mission strategic plan (which has become obsolete over time). I also failed in a personal goal of taking an overnight personal spiritual retreat. The most exciting goal proposed for the coming year, from a personal viewpoint, is my hope to take some accrued sabbatical leave and attend a month-long Spanish immersion course in Latin America, with an accompanying goal for Chapter to find funding for such a time of leave.

Those who attended the recent Community Life Council received copies of the draft MMA that we are currently revising. I am happy to send it to anyone else who is interested and would like to offer constructive feedback. Chapter has appointed a task force to update the MMA. It consists of Marshall Moore, Donna Perdue, Jairus Kleinert, and Jerry Motto. Together we have deep and rich conversations about the ministry we share. It is a healthy process and one that brings us closer together. I am very grateful for the opportunity to reflect and review in this way.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Construction Update August 21

Regular Wednesday Construction Update Meeting


Site Logistics Plan review:
  1.  At Tom’s request, Greystar added detail to the section on elevator replacement.  Delivery of the elevator is expected on November 8, with installation to take 8 weeks, or until after the first week of January 2020.  There was discussion about the possibility of alternate routes for persons with disabilities to enter the Great Hall.  Rocky offered to look into the construction of a temporary ramp, perhaps on the north side of the Great Hall.  Another possibility would be to delay installation until after the holidays.


General Information:
  1. Depending on the outcome of discussions with the inspector, there is a chance that some electrical work will begin on the lift in the Queen’s Courtyard entrance before the current phase of elevator lobby work is completed.  While these two projects were to be staged one after the other, Rocky thinks there is a chance the inspector will want to see some of the electrical work before signing off on the project.  If this happens, access to the Administrative Offices will need to be through the Great Hall doors.
  2. There are several steps involved in the elevator lobby project, including concrete removal, adding a topping slab, removing the elevator door and frames, saw cutting and breaking out the encroaching concrete, etc.  Many of these things will be noisy. If all goes to plan, the elevator should be back in service on 9/4.
  3. The work on Nutmeg St is basically finished, except for one section where the inspector requested that the gas line be moved about three feet.  The sidewalks on Nutmeg have been patched, and Greystar will repair the landscaping outside the gym next week.
  4. It’s “status quo” on the window glass repairs on the north side of the Great Hall.  There is no definite schedule yet for replacement of the broken panes with fire-resistant glass yet.  Code requires that a percentage of the total window space on the north side be replaced; it’s not clear whether the basement level replacements will meet that requirement.  Extra panes have been ordered in case of breakage during the repair process.
  5. Access to campus for Sunday, August 25th, remains the same, through Fifth Avenue.
  6. Greystar would like to begin abatement work in the Administration Building on Tuesday, September 3rd, so any arrangements for Habitat for Humanity to pick up salvage must be done by then.  Bob is coordinating this.
  7. Greystar workers to get either access cards or codes so that they can gain entrance to the site before staff arrive.
  8. Rocky will check on the status of the waterproofing for the north side of the Great Hall and around the women’s vesting area in the undercroft.
  9. The revised McParlane estimate/proposal on the cost of cooling the basement offices came back to us, but they didn’t remove the verbiage about heating the campus, so this continues to be a work in progress.
  10. Brooks asked about the advisability of holding the noon mass in the Chapel on the days when active demolition of the Administrative Offices will occur.  Rocky reassured us that all required “calming” effects (spraying water, etc.) will be done, and so there is no reason not to proceed.
  11. Due to the projected arrival of large beams that will need to be stored, Greystar is asking us to stop using the Olive Street parking lot after Sunday, September 2nd.
  12. With the parking lot closing, the mailbox will need to be moved by that same date.  Bob has discussed placement of the new mailbox with the letter carrier.  It will be near the back of the chapel on 6th Avenue.  We will keep our 6th Ave. address for the time being.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Sunday Sermon: passing through fire

This is a challenging Gospel, to say the least. Jesus speaks of fire, of division, of family conflict. It’s hard to find good news in his words. And the reading from the prophet Jeremiah doesn’t help either, with its talk of prophets who lie, of God’s Word being like a hammer. What are we to make of such language? We come to church seeking a moment’s respite from the world that is full of violence, dissension, and tragedy. We come here longing for the peace that passes understanding. And here we encounter Scripture that, far from comforting the afflicted, seems to add to our pain. Is it really the mission of Jesus to set family members against each other?

Let’s take a step back and look at the context of these words. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as a prophet, mighty in word and deed. He comes to turn the world upside down - that is made clear even before his birth, when his mother Mary sings of God casting down the mighty and lifting up the lowly. Story after story focuses on those without power: women, Samaritans, lepers, the disabled. A couple of chapters before today’s reading, Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. He began to move, physically and emotionally, towards his inevitable showdown with the authorities.

The ensuing chapters describe his increasingly urgent focus on doing what he is called to do before the powers that be step in to shut him up. We have seen a series of teachings, parables, and warnings to ever-greater crowds. He has turned up the heat on the scribes and Pharisees. He has defied established customs. He has warned against greed and hypocrisy. He has used images of home invasions and demons, referred to secret crimes and ancient scandals. And now he speaks of the inevitable results if his listeners change in the ways he calls them to change. There will be conflict. There will be heartbreak. There will be storms ahead. Because the only path to the peace of God lies through change, and change means conflict.

So this passage today is simply a continuation of Jesus ramping up the urgency and seriousness of his mission. Jesus is bringing fire - the fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire that purifies, the fire that cleanses, the fire that clears the way for a new creation. And that kind of fire is painful and upsetting. When someone makes a commitment to Christ, when they turn their life over to Jesus, when they renounce the violent and selfish ways of the world to embrace the ideal of sacrificial love, it’s a radical change and all their relationships will change too. Those who study social sciences and family dynamics know this, and we have probably all experienced it.

We live within systems: families, communities, congregations, corporations, nations. Anywhere that people interact with each other a system will form: a network of relationships that settles into a pattern. Each person in a system takes on at least one role: authority figure, rebel, peacemaker, organizer. You can probably assign each of those roles to someone in your family. I’ve observed that boards and committees always seem to contain certain roles and no matter who the members are, there will be the ideas person, the idealist, the person who always says we can’t afford that, the person who has to disagree with the chair, and the one who says no to every initiative.

Within a system everyone knows how to relate: we tiptoe around Dad because he gets belligerent when he’s been drinking. We allow big sister to plan the Christmas celebration. We put up with Grandma’s political rants. We never ask what happened to Uncle Charlie all those years ago. And we tell ourselves that the result is peace. Keeping peace in the system depends on everyone sticking to their role. We get used to coping with our disfunction. But what if the one who looks after everyone becomes ill and needs to be cared for? What if the heir-apparent decides that she’s not interested in running the family business? A radical change by one person in the system, even a beneficial change, threatens the stability of the whole thing; that fragile façade of peace turns out to be an illusion.

Rabbi Edwin Friedman wrote about family systems, whether in biological families, church families, or national families, and he demonstrated that no matter the size or nature of the system, certain behaviors can be predicted. When the stability of a system is threatened by one member, the other members will band together to maintain homeostasis. They will try to force the rebel back into line so that the system resumes its familiar patterns. And if that rebel persists in the change, conflict is inevitable: “father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law”. They will be divided. Because there’s something about humankind that makes us resist change, even change that we know is good for us, even change that leads to true peace.

Those among us who are LGBT can attest to the challenge of living into who you truly are in the face of opposition. It takes courage and grace to come out, just as it takes courage and grace to break free of an abusive relationship or to embrace sobriety. Whenever we shine light into the dark places, we know that ugly things will come to light. But only by telling truth and shining light will we find our way to the peace of God.

Jesus comes to bring fire to the earth. He comes to bring good news to the poor, to free the prisoners and feed the hungry. He wants to bring what has been hidden into the light, he wants people to stop obsessing about possessions, achievements, and appearances. He wants us to let go of tribalism and share our abundance with those who have less. If his followers actually do as he teaches, the world will be turned upside down. The change he calls us to is deeply threatening to the systems within which human beings live, and the systems will fight back.

The letter to the Hebrews gives a hint of the dramatic things that can happen, good and bad, when people commit their lives to God. Slaves walk free. Walls fall down. Justice prevails. The living are reunited with their dead. But people also suffer, because the powers and principalities of this world won’t go down without a fight.

So it should come as no surprise that Jesus himself ultimately paid the price for his revolutionary teaching, publicly executed for daring to call out the corruption in high places and declare that every human being is precious in God’s sight, worthy of dignity and compassion. I have to wonder if he would be treated any better in today’s world.

In light of all this, the words of today’s Collect suddenly seem more challenging than they were at the beginning of the service, as we ask God for the grace to receive thankfully the fruits of Jesus’ redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life. Those steps lead to true and lasting peace, but we may have to pass through the fire to reach it. God grant us the grace and courage to follow Jesus in the way of fire, the way to the peace of God.

August 18 2019
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges
Luke 12:49-56

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Exchanging the Peace

Dear St. Paul’s family,

One of the highest-energy moments in our Sunday service is often the exchange of the Peace, when friends greet one another with a handshake or kiss. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer restored the Peace to this midpoint of the service after it had been lost to our Anglican tradition for centuries. Have you ever thought about why we exchange the Peace of Christ? Consider this sentence from the Book of Common Prayer:

“Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: draw near with faith …”

This statement, in Holy Eucharist Rite One, comes before the confession, which immediately precedes the Peace. There’s a clear implication that we should be at peace with our neighbors before we approach the table of the Lord. This isn’t a new idea. In the earliest days of the church, the Peace marked the point at which those who were not yet admitted to Communion departed, having heard the Word of God, and the baptized then turned their attention to preparing for Communion.

Exchanging the Peace isn’t the seventh innings stretch, or an opportunity to welcome visitors, or a chance to say hello to our friends (although it can seem like all of these). It is an opportunity to offer and receive reconciliation with your fellow Christians before you kneel at the altar with them. We should be “in love and charity with [our] neighbors” before we dare to approach the throne of grace and receive the sacramental proof of what God has done for us.

The Roman Catholic Church has a long tradition of exchanging the Peace immediately before the Sacrament is distributed: this makes the point even more clearly that exchanging a sign of peace is a prerequisite for receiving Communion. 

One liturgical scholar puts it this way: “The Peace … is a ritual sign that the community is reconciled and can approach the Lord’s Table in good conscience. It is the Body recognizing the Body … The core of this rite is a simple human greeting that acknowledges the dignity of the others and accepts them, no matter who they happen to be.” (Patrick Malloy, Celebrating the Eucharist, Church Publishing, 2007, p. 127). So, by exchanging the Peace, we are living into our mission statement to “Welcome All”.

Even more profoundly,  another scholar, Leonel Mitchell,  states that we exchange the Peace before beginning the Eucharistic Prayer so that we may together become one in Christ and be joint celebrants of the Eucharist. So, exchanging the Peace means that the congregation isn’t simply receiving Communion from the priest but actively participating in making the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord.

So, when you next exchange the Peace, think about those to whom you need to be reconciled. You may not choose to go in search of them, but remember that in all the connections made during the Peace we are in fact offering Christ’s Peace to everyone present. And remember what Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go: first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Sunday Sermon: the journey home

We heard in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Epistle today references to one of the foundational stories for three major world religions.

Abram and Sarai began their journey in the land of Ur. They travel around a lot in the book of Genesis leading us through all sorts of stories, and eventually they arrive in the land of Canaan. The main theme of God’s promise to Abram is that Abram will be blessed with children, which is surprising because he and Sarai have not been able to have any. The promise God makes is not just a promise of children, but so many descendants that they will become a great nation. Over and over God makes this promise to them. Sarai even gets a little tired of hearing it. She hears this promise for the umpteenth time and accidentally laughs out loud because she believes she is too old to have any children, much less to have a great nation come of her and Abram’s descendants.

But Abram and Sarai, now Abraham and Sarah, are blessed with a child, Isaac. Isaac and Rebecca’s children were Esau and Jacob, and Jacob will be renamed Israel. With his wives Rachel and Leah they give birth to the twelve tribes of Israel who will go on a long journey through slavery in Egypt and wilderness in Exodus before returning to Canaan. Canaan will become the land of Israel, and it will be a promised land and home. Just before our Genesis passage today, God tells Abraham that it will take 400 years and four generations of living away before the long-awaited gift of home will be found. There will be a blessing, but it is not going to be instant.

The theme of faithfully searching for home is not unique to Genesis. Over and over again in the story of the people of God, there is a theme of searching, of waiting, of looking for return; of longing for home and of having faith in restoration. Over and over again, there is exile and return in the Hebrew Scriptures; there is a sense of looking for a way home.

The author of Hebrews points out how much faith it took for Abraham and Sarah to persist into having Isaac, and then for Jacob and his descendants to endure during many long years away to find home again; the faith required to continue “seeking a homeland,” “desiring a better country.” It is easy to fall into despair while looking for home, and some Psalms remember that too. Psalm 137 laments the challenges of being unable to experience joy while being cutoff from home; of being unable to sing the Lord’s song while not being close to God’s temple: “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

I have to say it has been interesting to think about these themes during this week, as we prepared to leave our administrative offices and be in some transition for the next several years, although we will have a temporary home in the basement of the Great Hall. I don’t know if coming home to the new building will be quite as big a deal as crossing the Jordan to return to the promised land, but this week it has felt a little like that scale of celebration would not be out of order when we get there.

But while the church buildings are a wonderful luxury and important to our faith life, they are not our real home. We call this place a nave, a term whose origin means ship, similar to navy or naval. Many times the roof of a nave is designed to look like the bottom of a boat. And that is because the church is not our home, it is a vessel. We are on a journey; a journey together. We are wanderers in a foreign land; we are seeking together the kingdom of God.

We wander in a land now beset by gun violence, where killers perpetuate mass murder, sometimes based on racial hatred. This land- not just this nation but this world- is divided by flames of rhetoric designed to titillate and tear apart. We wander in a land where governments divide children from their parents, where the dignity of humanity is trampled while children weep and parents angst.

How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land like this?

We think the answer is to get busy. If we just work hard enough, things will be better. Of course there is work that needs to be done. I wonder sometimes, though, if busy-ness can be a response to our Puritan work ethic to help us feel like we are doing something productive. How can we measure if we are creating an actual and effective response that changes the systems, powers, and provinces that generate alienation? Sometimes it feels to me that our busy-ness just plays right into the polarization that already exists; it feeds the same hungry machine that will only take and leave us empty.

The gospel today says: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The kingdom, the home we seek, it is a gift. It is not something we accomplish by working harder. Remember that old bumper sticker: “Jesus is coming, look busy!” That is the opposite of what this gospel says. The kingdom is a gift. It is not only a gift, but it is God’s good pleasure to make it a gift.

What is this home for all of creation as we understand it as people of God? How can we see what we are looking for in the midst of all this… stuff out there, and what it does to us in here?

There are the old stories of the kingdom of heaven, and streets paved with gold, of course. Those images may have made sense when they originated. They do not resonate for me in this time and in this foreign land where gold can be a sign of excess rather than hope.

A quote from Kenneth Kaunda resonated with me this week: “Let the west have its technology, and Asia its mysticism! Africa’s gift to world culture must be the gift of human relationships.”

Being aware that it is very easy to unintentionally appropriate another’s culture when trying to understand or communicate from outside of it, I wonder if two African terms might inspire us in our culture to consider what the kingdom of God, or home, might look like.

The first is the word Ubuntu, which has been widely used around the church. Ubuntu means roughly “I am because we are.” The spirit of Ubuntu helps us to understand that we can only arrive home when we all arrive there together; that our humanity exists not individually but because we all share in something together. It helps us see that acting cooperatively is not simply a moral goal. Acting cooperatively has its own beauty, and grace— aside from the ethical imperative us progressives like to use as justification for it. Going home to Ubuntu, where “we are,” is less about what is right, perhaps, than it is about the flourishing of all in a beautiful and harmonious dance.

The second is a Zulu concept: ekhaya. It means home, but not to place as much to people. It is neighborhood; community; and the longing to be a part of that. Perhaps it is a longing to be a part of a shared space where one regularly receives explicit messages of empathy, sharing, and belonging.

My idea of home; of the kingdom of God; is something very akin to ubuntu and ekhaya: it is a people, not a place; it is a web of interconnected relationships; maintaining individuality but building community with empathy and compassion. It is a safe space where the priority emotional messages are said out loud: You are important. I understand. I may not agree with you but I want to be in relationship with you.

If it is God’s good gift to give it to us, how do we prepare together on this journey of faith to receive it? If it is a gift, shall we just sit back and do nothing? That defies a little common sense, too.

Occasionally we receive really large, generous gifts at the Cathedral. The floors in the Cathedral, the AV system, and so forth. When we do, we receive them gratefully. And we have work to do to get prepared; scheduling the space for work, ensuring the specifications are correct, and so forth. Being prepared to receive those gifts in gratitude is an important element of our stewardship of those gifts. Jesus in this gospel says that preparing for the gift of home yields surprising results. In the story he tells he compares it to servants who prepare and then have a role reversal- their master, finding them prepared, turns the tables and serves the servants instead of expecting to be served. Surprises are in store if we prepare for home.

Could preparation for home then, involve looking at the world in a new way? We have preparations to make. But I wonder if preparing for the journey home is less about how busy we can make ourselves, but more about how we can adjust our orientation; less about how much responsibility we can put on our shoulders to accomplish tasks than it is about how we can open our eyes to see and hear in new ways. How do we connect with each other to share strategies of hope and connection? How will we prepare for a gift that is unseen, requiring faith in a way of being that is strange to this foreign land?

Do not be afraid, flock of the great shepherd. It is your Father's good pleasure to lead you home.

The Rev. Canon Jeff Martinhauk
Proper 14C, August 11, 2019
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
Gen 15:1-6, Heb 11:1-3,8-16; Lk 12:32-40


Sources Consulted: Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 3. Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010. http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-94222017000400003#back_fn2 Sent from my iPad

Construction Update August 14

Regular Wednesday Construction Update Meeting


Site Logistics Plan review:

    • Reviewed pathways and exits for upcoming work. Similar to last week, except for when work is happening in the first floor elevator lobby.
    • Rocky brought in a new dumpster for trash which is white and in the clergy parking lot.

General info:

    • Permit progress: The permits are no longer being held up waiting for review.  They are now reviewing the various permits and getting signatures.  Still not sure when they will be in hand, but team is ready to go once we get them.
    • Once the permit is in hand:
      • Sewer inspection
      • Partial backfill in 6th Ave courtyard
      • Increase the trenches to separate gas from electric from sewar
      • Review of entry points and new staircase with replacement walkway for breezeway to elevator lobby.
    • The transformer walls are up and they are working on setting the pad.  The area on Nutmeg is put back together and concrete has been poured. 
    • The work on the first floor elevator lobby starts today.  They will be removing ceiling tiles, changing the closet door configurations and working on walls and framing. 
    • Window glass has been ordered and will be installed next week for the broken windows in the Great Hall basement and Great Hall.
    • Kathleen updated that the move was successful, everyone is settled into their offices.  There were no issues, other than one cable was cut that shouldn’t have been for our security system.  The necessary repairs are happening on Friday.
    • Kathleen will be on vacation Aug 15 returning to the office Aug 26.  Penny and Mark Lester will attend the weekly meeting in her place.  Mark will take the notes that are distributed for congregational communications.
    • Bob Oslie returns from his vacation on Aug 16.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Gift Acceptance Policy

Dear St. Paul’s family,
Where would the church be without the generous gifts of faithful people? We depend entirely on what you, in your generosity, choose to give as part of your spiritual practice. There is no revenue from “church central”; in fact, we give 10.5% of our unrestricted income to the diocese, and a portion of that goes to the Episcopal Church HQ. So let me say, loud and clear, how much I appreciate your gifts.

Gifts come to the church in lots of different forms. Cash is the most common, through pledges and plate. Sometimes people give us stock, which we are required to liquidate immediately. Our endowment funds, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, are nurtured mostly through bequests (as well as the recent property sale). Having maximum flexibility with our assets allows the Chapter to make the best decisions for the church’s operation and mission.

From time to time people want to give the church objects, often works of art but also furniture, musical instruments, or even clothing and kitchenware. Chapter has developed a gift acceptance policy to assist us with deciding whether St. Paul’s is the best home for the gift. (Here’s a link to the full policy.)

Our priority is to help you, the giver, feel that your gift is fully appreciated and put to its best purpose. Nobody makes a gift to the church intending to expose the cathedral to risk or expense, but sometimes the best intentions can lead to unanticipated consequences, if nobody has carefully considered all the possibilities. Our gift acceptance policy exists to help generous people make the best use of their resources and to help the cathedral practice responsible stewardship.

We don’t have unlimited storage or a thrift shop, and not every artwork, however unique or inspired, is suitable for the walls of the cathedral campus. We don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, and it can be difficult to say, “Thanks but no thanks” to a beloved parishioner. So it’s very helpful to have an objective, impersonal basis for decisions, and this is the task of the gifts acceptance committee, appointed by Chapter and charged with making an informed determination of whether to accept any offered non-cash gift. Here’s a quotation from the policy expressing the overall philosophy:

The Cathedral may accept unrestricted gifts, and gifts for specific programs and purposes, provided that such gifts are consistent with its stated mission, purposes, and priorities.
Sometimes a legal opinion is called for. Here’s a section of the policy related to legal questions:
Review by counsel is recommended for:
a.  Closely held stock transfers that are subject to restrictions or buy-sell agreements
b.  Documents naming the Cathedral as Trustee
c. Gifts involving contracts, such as bargain sales or other documents requiring the Cathedral to assume an obligation.
d. Transactions with potential conflicts of interest that may invoke IRS sanctions
e. Other instances in which use of counsel is deemed appropriate
Gifts that have a restricted use call for special discernment, as stated in this part of the policy:
When considering a gift for a special purpose, the Gift Acceptance Committee should evaluate the gift in light of potential ancillary or hidden costs and considerations: permits, installation, maintenance, training, insurance, technical concerns and requirements, easements, conservation and safety. After consideration, the Cathedral may ask the donor to cover these extra costs as a condition of accepting the gift.

All of this is to say that we hope you won’t be offended if you offer a gift and Chapter regretfully declines it. Because again, and I can’t say this enough, the church depends on you and we are all extremely grateful for all that you share with God through St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Your sister in Christ,
Penny