December 5, 2019 Prepare the Way

 

This second Sunday in Advent, we hear the startling words of John the Baptist, the prophet who was preparing the way for the coming messiah. How are you preparing the way in your life for the celebration of Christmas? Advent is such a fast season, at such a hectic time, that it passes quickly by without some kind of spiritual intention to slow us down. There are any number of ways to do so, from helping those in need, to a prayer practice, to making time to attend some of our seasonal offerings at All Saints’. 

 

A number of us are reading on our own a chapter a day in the Gospel according to Luke (it’s not too late to start!). What I am enjoying about this practice is the continuous, daily unfolding of the Gospel. Most of us are used to experiencing the Gospels in pieces, on Sundays. Sometimes our lectionary gives us sections in sequence over several Sundays. But often, the Gospel readings jump around. For example, now that we are in Year A, we are hearing Matthew’s Gospel on Sundays, but on these Advent Sundays, we are moving around quite a bit within Matthew’s Gospel. 

 

One of the reasons why I like to keep the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer is that its lectionary usually presents its readings in sequence. The Gospels, for example, are read basically from beginning to end. This Advent reading of Luke has a similar feel, as the Gospel builds on itself. Themes and connections reveal themselves more readily. 

 

There are only two Church holy days that are so important that they feature a whole season of preparation: Christmas (Advent) and Easter (Lent). In whatever ways work for us, may each of us, by God’s grace, make the most of this season to prepare our hearts for the great mystery of Jesus’ birth.

 

Notes

  • It warms my heart to see the many ways that All Saints’, church and school, is helping others this holiday season. Our annual food drive at the day school just provided 58,000 meals to Saint Mary’s Food Bank. Our Thanksgiving Day meal at church was amazing again this year, thanks to our volunteers and staff. And our efforts to support the children of the incarcerated through the Angel Tree, and Maryland Gardens residents through the Giving Tree, are well underway. Thank you, All Saints’!
  • We have three different services of Lessons and Carols this season. This Sunday, the Advent Procession with Lessons and Carols is a service of darkness to light, with a gentle, almost contemplative feel. Christmas Lessons and Carols on the 4th Sunday of Advent, and at 6pm Christmas Eve is a jubilant, celebratory service with lots of familiar music. All will be wonderful.
  • Last Sunday, Lucian Taylor offered a marvelous class on the theme of relationships. He continues with part two this Sunday. Lucian has a deep background in theology and counseling, having at one point studied for the ordained ministry, before moving in a different direction. He is also newly married to our deacon, Patrice. We are blessed to have Lucian among us.

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

November 21, 2019  The Gospel of Luke Advent Calendar

 

It’s been interesting, over the years, to notice the proliferation of Advent calendars. When I was a child, they were simple: usually cardboard or wood, with a small image or Bible verse for each day of December until Christmas. Some had a piece of chocolate behind each door, sorely tempting you to jump ahead! Today, you can buy Advent calendars containing almost every toy and treat you can imagine: Legos, action figures, candy of all sorts, and (for adults) skin creams, beef jerky, hot sauces, small batch bourbons, and bottles of wine. To say that most of this misses the point of Advent, to prepare prayerfully for and await with joyful expectation the birth of our Savior, is obvious. Sill, one of our best qualities as Episcopalians is a certain lightness of spirit and sense of humor, so I have a hard time objecting. If it draws attention to Advent, however indirectly, that’s a good thing. Perhaps children across the country will see their parents’ hot sauce or bourbon Advent calendar and ask, “mommy, what’s Advent”?

 

As Christians though, let’s not neglect to add some kind of spiritual devotion to our Advent season, amidst all the pre-Christmas fun. This year, I have a specific suggestion, that I hope will become an annual tradition in the homes of our All Saints’ parishioners. This isn’t an original idea: I’ve heard about it for a while, and have decided to try it myself this year. I hope you will too. Here it is: every day of December until Christmas, read one chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. You can do this alone, or with friends or family (I’m imagining families with children reading a chapter out loud each night after dinner or before bed). Why Luke? Two reasons. Luke exclusively has many of the Christmas stories that we hold dear. And Luke has 24 chapters, a perfect fit for every December day until Christmas.

 

I like to think of this as a Gospel of Luke Advent calendar: each day, we open one chapter. And when Christmas comes, we will have heard the whole story of Jesus’ life, from the foretelling of his birth, all the way to his resurrection and ascension into heaven. We will be able to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas just a bit better, by remembering who our Savior was, what he taught, and what he did for us. Over the next week, I hope you’ll talk with friends and family about keeping this practice this Advent. You don’t need to use the same translation.  And it’s easy to remember where you are supposed to be: if it’s December 7, you are at Luke 7. If you try it, let me know how it goes. And have a blessed Advent. It’s one of the shortest, but most poignant seasons in the Church.

 

Notes

  • This Sunday is the end of the liturgical year, the last Sunday after Pentecost, often known as the feast of Christ the King. It’s always a great Sunday for emphasizing the majestic, all-powerful and yet humble nature of Jesus.
  • Education is for all ages as we do some Advent preparation together, making items to take home to  remind ourselves of the holiness of the season.
  • Would you help us spread the word about our concert of Handel’s “Messiah”? It’s just the music, with no worship, so it’s perfect for those friends who love music and holiday traditions, but might not be ready yet for worship. We were almost sold out last year, so get your tickets early! It will be glorious.

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

November 13, 2019  Samuel Seabury’s Loyalty

 

This Sunday at 9 and 11am is our annual Seabury Sunday celebration, with our friends from the Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band, and the blessing of the tartans (don’t forget to wear a tartan if you have one!). We celebrate things Scottish to remember Samuel Seabury (whose feast day is November 14), the first American Episcopal bishop, who had to be consecrated in Scotland, because he could not take an oath of loyalty to the British crown in those contentious years just after the Revolutionary War.

 

Loyalty is an interesting topic as it relates to Seabury. In the tense period just before the Revolutionary War, he was a loyalist, arguing against the need for revolution. He continued to hold these royal sympathies during the war, serving as a chaplain to loyalist forces. He was imprisoned for that stance. But after the war, he didn’t flee his country for England, but stayed. His loyalties shifted to this new nation. He seems not to have lost the respect of his peers, for at a gathering of clergy in Connecticut in 1783, Seabury was the second choice to be consecrated the first bishop (and took the place of the first choice, who stepped aside). One of the interesting side stories of Seabury’s consecration in Scotland is that he pledged loyalty to the Scottish Eucharistic Prayers over the English, an influence that continues to this day in our current prayer book.

 

We might say of Seabury that his loyalties to country were flexible (he preferred to stay a colony, but seems to have accepted independence). But his loyalty to God and to the Church were unwavering. He showed remarkable determination in waiting over a year, trying to solve the issues around his consecration. By all accounts, he was an effective bishop, well respected by the clergy in his diocese. In many ways, the celebration of the life of Samuel Seabury is a worthy prelude to November 24th, Christ the King Sunday. For that Sunday asks us: whom do we serve? Do we serve Christ, our King, above all, or are our loyalties divided? How does our loyalty to Jesus compare to our other loyalties, to nation, family, and friends? Is Jesus near the bottom, or near the top? Something to think about.

 

Notes

  • Parishioner Roberto Paredes will be offering chair massages this Sunday, in return for donations to Episcopal Relief and Development. Thank you, Roberto!
  • Come hear from parishioner Sue Kapp at the adult Christian education class this Sunday, as she shares the remarkable story of her international quest to see the last of 36 publicly accessible Vermeer paintings.
  • And have you seen parishioner Anne Kleindienst’s amazing photos of sacred spaces in Ireland in our Saint Barbara Gallery?

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

November 7, 2019  Ready. Set. Go!

 

Last Saturday, we hosted our annual pet adoption event with our friends from PACC 911. It was a great event, with approximately 500 people who walked through over the course of the day, 52 pet adoptions, and many blessings of animals (adopted and not) by the clergy. But, a skeptic might ask, why put so much time and energy into this activity? Will it lead to any new church members? Any new pledges?

 

It’s hard to know if it will result in any new church members or pledges, but it’s an important thing to do nonetheless. Why? When we go out into the world in faith (even as far as our parking lot!), praying for God to use us, God will do just that. God is in the seed planting and growing business, and we never know what seeds may be planted when we interact positively with someone as the Church. Perhaps the person who was hurt by another denomination years ago will realize that The Episcopal Church is a safe and compassionate place to heal. Perhaps nagging questions of faith will inspire someone to come, one Sunday, to All Saints’, because they had a warm encounter with us. You never know. If we shine with the light of Jesus, that light will draw people to him, through us, in unexpected ways.

 

The old days of “attractional” and “if you build it, they will come” Christianity are over. In some respects, that’s a good thing. Jesus didn’t teach his disciples to build a beautiful church, with great programs, and wait for people to come join it. He taught them to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). That “go” applies to us individually, as we leave our worship at the dismissal to live as Christ-centered disciples wherever we find ourselves Monday through Saturday. The “go” also includes our collective, strategic efforts to share the Good News. One of the most critical efforts underway at All Saints’ right now is our Mission Strategy Task Force. This group is exploring our neighborhood, trying to discern prayerfully where the Holy Spirit is moving, and how we might go and join in.

 

As one early stage of our Mission Strategy work, we will be asking everyone worshipping this weekend to fill out a simple questionnaire. Some of us have done this already, but we need to gather the perspectives of many more of us. There are other ways that you can help our Mission Strategy efforts. If you live in our neighborhood, let Emilie know if you have ideas about how All Saints’ might be more present to our neighbors. And if you don’t live close by, please pray that God will make clear to us how, to whom, and where we are to go.

 

 

Notes

  • We continue to pray for Bishop Reddall’s son, Nathan. He is improving from the effects of his brain bleed, and is getting used to a wheelchair, as he works on walking, sitting, and bathing.
  • Please come on Sunday afternoon to choral Evensong, featuring our choristers and the schola cantorum. The organ recital at 3:30pm will be offered by one of our own Joe Setzer’s friends, William Douglas from All Saints’ Episcopal Cathedral in Albany (one of the finest Episcopal music ministries in the country). We are delighted to have William with us.
  • As we always do on the Sunday before Veterans Day, we will pray at all our Eucharists for all veterans. We give heartfelt thanks for their service to our country. 

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

October 31, 2019  Run the Race

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely. And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

 

One of my favorite running stories involves one of our All Saints’ day school students a few years ago, running in the league championship race. He was a soccer player who had never entered an official meet before, but did so for fun (with maybe a little urging from a coach who had a hunch about him). Giving it his all (I’ll spare you the gory details!), he won the race, and discovered a God-given talent in the process. Today he runs cross country in college.

 

I was never much of a runner, but I ran some cross country and track in high school. One of my strongest memories from the experience was that exhilarating feeling of being cheered on when my legs and lungs felt like they had nothing left. When I think of the quote from the Letter to the Hebrews that we associate with All Saints’ Day, in my mind I imagine that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we run the demanding race of faith. 

 

In our Episcopal theology, we see the saints as more than just good and wholesome examples of sacrificial, Christ-like living to be emulated. We believe that we are with them in one communion and fellowship, the living and the dead, joined in the mystical body of Jesus Christ. And so, there is a presentness to the saints, both in the sense of saints who live in our own day and age (as the hymn says “they lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still”), and in the belief that the saints who have died remain near to us, somehow, through baptism, especially when we worship God.

 

My favorite time to be in our church building is twilight: a “thin place” and a “thin time” between our earthly perception and the eternal reality of God. As the last light drains from the stained glass windows, and the early dark encroaches, sometimes I feel as if all the saints, for whom our church and school are named, are momentarily close by. They lean in, whispering encouragement and hope: “run the race to the end, and Christ will give you his strength.”

 

Notes

  • Speaking of twilight, please consider attending our All Souls’ requiem this Sunday afternoon. In addition to the stunning musical setting by Faure, the service will feature the reading of the names of the departed that we love, and will conclude with prayers by candlelight in our Close.
  • Many thanks to those who made a pledge commitment last weekend, to support the mission and ministries of All Saints'. If you haven’t yet, we ask you to do so in the next week or two. Every pledge makes a difference!
  • Welcome to the Reverend Tim Yanni, whose first day was, fittingly, All Saints’ Day (November 1)!

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

October 24, 2019  Do I Get a Travel Mug?

 

This past week, as I was driving around, I heard on the radio the fall fundraising drive for NPR (between now and the end of the year is the prime time for fundraising for nonprofits). It got me thinking about the similarities and differences between most charitable giving and our church pledge drive. As I hope most of us know, this weekend, at all of our worship services, we will make our pledges, our estimates of giving to All Saints’ Church for 2020. 

 

Certainly there are similarities between our pledge commitments to our church and our giving to other nonprofits. We support both because we believe in their missions. We know that they do important work, and that they depend on our generosity to operate. Both our church and other nonprofits count on giving (or in our church’s case, an estimate of giving) to make an accurate budget. But there are some big differences, and two in particular.

 

We are urged to give to our church not our financial leftovers, but our first fruits. Most charitable giving comes from what is left, after we meet our other expenses. After I pay my bills, I expect to have a certain amount remaining, and from that I will give a portion to the radio station, or symphony, or my alma mater, or the food bank. But going back to Biblical times, the faith practice has been to give proportionally first to God. This is called a “first fruits” gift, dating back to the period when it was literally an agricultural offering, usually of grain. The Biblical way of giving is proportional, in other words a percentage of our income. The traditional percentage adopted by virtual all Christian denominations (including The Episcopal Church) is 10%, the tithe. Many people begin with a smaller percentage, and then increase over time. 

 

The key is to know what that percentage is, and to be intentional about it. As someone who has tithed at least 10% of my salary back to the Church (or church and school, in the case of All Saints’) for the past 15 years, I can tell you that this amount is just right for spiritual growth: difficult, but not impossible. I’ve been asked a lot of specific “how to” questions about this over the years, and I’m not too strict about it. So it doesn’t matter to me if we consider “net or gross income” or if we lump giving to nonprofits that help the poor (like ICM) in with our 10%. The point is to pray about how much God has blessed us in our lives, and especially at and through All Saints’, and to identify a percentage that reflects our gratitude to God (without putting us at financial risk).

 

We give not to get gifts, but because we have already received them. If I give a certain amount to NPR this week, I will get a nice travel mug. It’s stainless steel, even! But I will make my pledge commitment to God through All Saints’ not to get anything (although our brunch to honor Andy and Abel will be delicious), but because God has already given me so much. I have my health, a place to live, plenty of food and clean water, a loving and healthy family and good friends, a church and school that help give my life meaning, and best of all, a God who has saved me from my sins and given me new life through God’s son, Jesus Christ. Whatever my family and I give to support the life changing ministries and mission of All Saints’ is almost nothing compared to our many blessings from a generous and loving God.

 

Before the weekend, please give some time in prayer and conversation with loved ones to consider how you wish to respond to God’s blessings in your life. And then join us as we give back to God a portion of what we have in thanksgiving for what God has graciously given us. Be as generous as you can (knowing you can always adjust a pledge as needed). Make a stretch pledge. See what a difference it makes in your faith.

 

Notes

  • Many thanks to the numerous All Saints’ volunteers who joined the clergy at Diocesan Convention last weekend. All Saints’ was well represented not only by our delegates, but by those who helped at the Convention Eucharist as vergers, ushers, altar servers, and in other roles. It was interesting to think back to the Convention a year ago, at All Saints’, when Bishop Reddall was elected. What a year it has been in our Episcopal Diocese of Arizona!
  • We are keeping the people of Haiti, and especially our partner church and school of Saint Paul’s,  in our prayers this week with particular emphasis. The news has been covering continued unrest, increased violence, and rolling humanitarian crises throughout Haiti, due to political disputes and allegations of corruption.

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

October 17, 2019  Church, School and the Spiritual Center of Gravity

 

Because of our connection with the Saint John’s illuminated Bible project, I’ve been blessed to visit twice Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, which commissioned the original Saint John’s Bible. Saint John’s is a large and lively campus, with a university and a prep school. But the undeniable anchor, the center of spiritual gravity is the beautiful Abbey church, where the Benedictine monks keep the age-old pattern of daily prayer (with students and guests joining them).

 

I thought of Saint John’s this week as we were preparing for our annual Day School Sunday celebration this Sunday at 11am. Many episcopal schools are diocesan schools, not attached to particular churches. At All Saints’, our church and day school, though somewhat distinct in our operations and governance, are one body legally and, more important, spiritually. The strong connection of our church and school, animated by the Holy Spirit, and lived out through our Episcopal tradition, is a mutual blessing. The life of the day school is grounded in the Episcopal spirituality of our church, as seen in its warm and inclusive welcome of all, the teaching of religion by our clergy and other faculty, the chorister program, and regular acts of compassion by students in every grade towards those in need, both locally and abroad. 

 

But nowhere is our Episcopal identity more experienced than when our students, teachers, and administrators enter our church for chapel every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. A few years ago, our leadership had a powerful realization about what size was the ideal for our school: not larger than the number who could fit in our church building (including the narthex). We would never want to be so large that we couldn’t all gather in the church for all-school chapel. We’re almost at that capacity now, with 524 students - our largest enrollment ever. The church building is the center of spiritual gravity for our school, and it is fitting that the last moments of each 8th grader’s final year, at graduation, take place in that same sacred space, culminating in a final benediction from the Bishop or Rector.

 

Likewise, for All Saints’ church, our day school is an essential extension of our mission. As the largest and one of our oldest ministries, our day school “educates children in the light of God.” Whether or not our students are Episcopalians (and the large majority are not), they leave our school having been formed not only academically and socially, but spiritually and morally, better prepared to “lead fruitful lives and serve a world in need.” We can be proud of the fine young women and men who graduate from our school, then go out to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

And so, this Sunday reminds us that our church and school have distinct but intertwined missions. We are two, and we are one. Our current relationship is as trusting and supportive as perhaps it has ever been, thanks to a lot of hard work over the past decade by many, including most recently our wonderful new Head of School, Dr. Whitman. May we continue to be strengthened by one another, inspired by all the saints, and blessed by God.

 

Notes

  • This is the time of year when we have many special Sundays in our common life. Please be sure to be with us next week for pledge commitment Sunday and our celebration of Andy and Abel. And then the weekend after that (November 2nd and 3rd) is our feast of title, All Saints’ Sunday, with our All Souls’ Requiem (which is a Eucharist) in the evening.
  • November 1st will be the first day for our new associate priest, the Rev. Tim Yanni. We can’t wait to welcome Tim officially to All Saints’. His wife, Brandy, will follow him to Phoenix soon, once she is able to work out some logistics related to transferring her employment.

 

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

October 10, 2019  Growing Evensong

 

Over the last few years, attendance at choral Evensong in England has been rising. With so much secularization there, and overall worship attendance declining in the Church of England, this bump in the positive direction has sparked some attention. A number of articles have been written attempting to explain the trend. I wonder: could a similar growth in interest in Evensong happen in the United States at churches, like All Saints’, that offer it?

 

Certainly, there are major cultural differences between England and the U.S. that come into play with Evensong. There, Evensong is still wrapped up in a warm blanket of establishment nostalgia. Here, these days, Evensong is rarely sung and largely unknown (All Saints’ is the only Episcopal Church in the Phoenix area that offers it monthly, though some others offer it occasionally). But Evensong does have some qualities that make it conducive to growth. Here are just a few of them:

  • Evensong is short, and not in the morning. While a typical Eucharist lasts around an hour, Evensong is around 40 minutes or so (with an optional 30 minute organ recital before). And it fits in a different place in the day, which may be better for some, and worse for others. Those who attend worship at another church in the morning could attend Evensong.
  • Evensong is less demanding, especially for introverts or the spiritually wounded. The Eucharist requires a certain level of engagement: with other people (as at the peace) and with the Sacrament (coming forward to receive Holy Communion). One could attend Evensong in near total isolation, if one wanted to, quietly taking in the prayers and music. Don’t get me wrong: being a disciple of Jesus is demanding. And that’s good. But there were crowds around Jesus, who were curious, but not yet ready to follow him. Evensong could appeal to some of those in the “crowd."
  • Evensong is contemplative and beautiful, not didactic. There is usually no sermon (other than a brief reflection at times during the announcements). The experience is peaceful, mystical, and remarkably beautiful (most of the service is sung to exquisite settings by some of the most gifted composers in history). 

 

Evensong is not for everyone. Not everyone appreciates the active listening of having a choir sing on our behalf, or the old-fashioned language. But what if we could spread the word, with your help, to grow a larger Evensong congregation made up of the following:

  • Some of our own church members, who love our choral music and this uniquely Anglican style of worship, who would come back in the afternoon, having worshipped already in the morning.
  • Some members of other churches, including clergy and musicians, who are happy with their spiritual homes, but would appreciate attending a beautiful Evensong once a month.
  • Anglophiles who are drawn to Downton Abbey and the like.
  • Spiritual seekers or those wounded by other churches, attracted to this more tranquil and contemplative, less participatory style of worship.
  • Traditional music lovers, interested not so much in the religion (at first) as in the quality of the music.

 

If you know people who fit into any of those categories, would you share with them that we have choral Evensong the second Sunday of every month (and fourth Fridays with just our choristers)? Evensong this Sunday at 4pm will be glorious, with our own Joe Setzer playing the organ recital before at 3:30pm. Our current Evensong congregation contains people from many of these categories, but there’s plenty of room for more. Help us share this incredible gift of God’s love, expressed through worship and music, with those who need it.

 

Notes

  • This Sunday at 11am, we will commission and celebrate the newest class of the Community of Hope. A joint group from All Saints’ and Christ Church of the Ascension trained all summer, and are now beginning service as lay pastoral caregivers. Congratulations to our new COH members!
  • Please mark your calendars for Pledge Commitment weekend, October 26 and 27. We will make our estimates of giving for the coming year in thanksgiving for God’s many blessings, enjoy food and fellowship together, and honor two long-time members of our staff for 30 years of service: Andy Andersen (Director of Plant and Property) and Abel Maldonado of our maintenance crew.

 

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

September 26, 2019   Welcoming our New Priest: the Rev. Tim Yanni

 

I am very pleased to announce the call of the Reverend Tim Yanni as our new associate rector. Tim received his Master of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 2016, and has served as the Spiritual Care Manager at Ogden Regional Hospital in Ogden, Utah since 2017. Tim is a caring pastor, an effective supervisor and creative leader, with oversight over the Pastoral Care Department there. He also has a passion for liturgy, having been the head Sacristan at CDSP (planning and organizing worship), and serving at a variety of Episcopal churches in Utah on Sundays. In his spare time, he enjoys college football, playing the guitar, and travel.

 

Throughout the interview process, Tim impressed me, our staff, members of the Vestry, other lay leaders, as well as the Bishop and her staff, with his warmth, pastoral presence, authenticity, and strong faith. He is eager to move into parish ministry, with all its variety, and All Saints’ (both church and day school) is a great place in which to serve and learn. Tim comes to All Saints’ with his wife, Brandy, who works in the hotel industry. He will begin on November 1st, a perfect day to start, since it is All Saints’ Day.

 

When Tim arrives, we are likely to shift some areas of ministry oversight, to best match the needs of our parish with the gifts that Tim, Emilie, and I (and our two deacons) have. We are excited as a clergy team of priests and deacons to welcome Tim, and to discern how best to serve others and honor God together. I also want to take a moment to thank the Rev. Emilie Finn who has joined with me to shoulder extra liturgical, pastoral, and day school responsibilities during this period of having only two priests. No one is happier about this appointment than the two of us!

 

I know you will enjoy getting to know Tim and Brandy starting in November, as we give them a warm and enthusiastic All Saints’ welcome.

 

Notes

  • Many thanks to those who participated in the fantastic potluck brunch last Sunday. It was delicious, and great intergenerational fun.
  • This Sunday at 11am will be our next feast day choral mass with incense, this time to celebrate the feast of Saint Michael and All Angels. There will be no incense at 9am.

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

September 19, 2019  Potluck Heaven

 

This Sunday at our education time from 10:10 to 10:50am, we will enjoy an all ages potluck breakfast (this takes the place of our education offerings this Sunday). If you are coming to the 9am service, just drop off your food in St. Barbara before church. If you are coming to 11am, you are invited to come to brunch first, then pick up any dishes from St. Barbara after the 11am service. And if you’re not able to bring anything, come anyway!

 

In some respects, potlucks have become more challenging in our day and age, since so many people have dietary allergies or preferences, and fewer people cook regularly. But I’m glad we are having one this Sunday, and I hope our various ministry groups will have them regularly, as well. Why? Potlucks are fun and delicious. And they give us time simply to be together for nourishment of body and spirit, with no programmed format or planned discussion. This is “slow food,”over conversation, the opposite of our usual rushed and on the go “fast food.” 

 

But there’s another reason why I like potluck meals at church. They are a symbol of the kingdom of God. The Scriptures often describe God’s kingdom, both in the present and future, as a meal with plenty of food for everyone. Isaiah, for example, speaks of a “feast of rich food.”  Jesus often depicts God’s kingdom as being like a festive wedding banquet. At a church potluck, there is always more than enough food to go around. And, like Saint Paul’s image of the Body of Christ, in our potlucks we all have something different to contribute, however small.

 

Come on Sunday and enjoy our potluck breakfast together. It will be tasty, will build friendships across generations, and will remind us of the abundant generosity of our loving God, in this life and the next.

 

Notes

  • Have you got a name tag? In a church as large and constantly changing as All Saints’, it is difficult to know each other’s names. If you have a name tag, please remember to take it off the magnetic board at church and wear it every Sunday, leaving it on the board when you go. And if you don’t have one, please fill out one of the name tag request forms in the narthex, and we’ll be glad to get you one. The magnetic design doesn’t poke a hole in your clothes! Thank you for helping us connect with each other.
  • Have you noticed a lot of guests recently? This is one of the main times of year for people to try out a church. If you see someone you don’t know, especially if they are standing alone after worship, please introduce yourself. The standard “I don’t know if we’ve met” prevents you from being embarrassed if they’ve actually been attending for 20 years and have served on the Vestry! The warmth of our welcome to guests is a major factor in whether or not they return.

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

September 12, 2019 Is Rite One Like Cilantro?

 

One of the most vigorous liturgical debates in the Roman Catholic Church involves the proponents of the pre-Vatican Two Latin mass against those who prefer the vernacular (with sub-debates about how best to translate Latin into the language of the people: more or less formal, word for word translations of the Latin or more conceptual, etc). Those who love the Latin mass are drawn to its timeless, transcendent beauty, while those who love the vernacular are drawn to its clarity and accessibility. There are faithful, committed Christians on both sides. We have a similar, though not identical, debate in The Episcopal Church about Rite One and Rite Two. Some love the more traditional Rite One language for its poetic beauty and closer kinship to our Anglican heritage, while others prefer the more contemporary Rite Two (or the even more contemporary "Enriching Our Worship," which is authorized but not in our Book of Common Prayer).

 

At All Saints’, we are blessed to have enough liturgies every week that we get to draw from a variety of resources in our prayer book. We use mostly Rite Two for Evening Prayer, and for the Eucharist, rotating many prayers seasonally (over the course of the year, for example, we use Eucharistic Prayers A,B,C, and D). At 9am on Sundays we sometimes add in some “Enriching Our Worship.” And at Choral Evensong, we use the old 1662 rite. As we did last year, from time to time at 11am on Sundays, we will celebrate special feast days of the Church calendar with choral mass settings, incense, and more sung parts by the congregation (as we used to do several years ago on Fourth Sundays). Our first of these this fall is this Sunday at 11am, when we will celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross. We will use Rite One at this service as a way to honor that rich heritage.

 

One thing I’ve learned over the course of my ministry is that, on some things, no one is neutral. They’re like cilantro: you’re either strongly for, or strongly against! Incense is one of those things: some love it, and some hate it. Not many are neutral. Rite One is another. And usually, though not always, those who like incense like Rite One (I’m not sure if they also like cilantro). So if you like the more traditional, mystical, more sung liturgy with incense, come this Sunday at 11am. And if you don’t, come to one of our other three Eucharists this weekend. Our amazing choristers and schola will be singing at 9am (no incense and Rite Two).

 

I’ll modify something I said earlier: I actually like Rite One and Rite Two. I am moved by the older language at the Eucharist and Evensong. It is often beautiful. At the same time, for regular use (my own praying of the Daily Office, our public Evening Prayer, our weekly Eucharists), I actually prefer Rite Two. It is less ornate, but still appealing, and gets right to the heart of things. Similarly, I like incense, but wouldn’t want it at every service. And yes, if you’re wondering, I like cilantro.

 

Notes

  • Many thanks to all the many volunteers and staff who made Kickoff Sunday last week such a splendid day! 
  • I’m thrilled to report that 21 people are in the JustFaith group that just started. That is the largest group we have ever had. They will have an amazing experience exploring issues of faith and justice together.
  • I’m also delighted that our joint Community of Hope pastoral training group with Christ Church of the Ascension is nearing completion. They’ve been training all summer, and are almost ready to be sent out to care for those in pastoral need.

Blessings,

Poulson+

 

September 5, 2019  Two Requests for Kickoff Sunday

 

There’s no such thing in our Prayer Book as “Kickoff Sunday,” but this weekend marks the annual beginning of what we sometimes call the program year: the return of our fall worship schedule, our many choirs, Christian education for all ages, and an abundance of ministry opportunities. Given how hot it is in Phoenix in the summer, it’s good, I think, that we slow down a bit in June, July, and August. But now, as the double digit temperatures get closer, with schools well underway, and as our “snow birds” begin to return, we focus our attention on the many joys of our Christian community of All Saints’ in its fullness. I’m looking forward to preaching at all of our worship services this weekend, with some words of encouragement and challenge as we enter my second decade as your Rector (my family and I arrived in August 2009). 

 

Something about this time of year, even if we are not in school, always feels like a new chapter, and a good time to re-engage. And so, I offer for your consideration two requests, beginning this Kickoff Sunday weekend. 

 

First, make weekend worship a priority this year. There is no more important Christian practice than to worship God weekly with our fellow Christians, following Christ’s command to “do this, in remembrance of me.” Among the early Christians, Sunday, the day of resurrection (beginning Saturday night) became the day for worship, in effect the Christian sabbath. I know how difficult it can be sometimes to get to church. A child gets sick, a work trip takes you out of town, a birthday party gets scheduled for Sunday morning, guests come to visit, the Cardinals play an early game. Sometimes, getting to worship just isn’t possible. But most of the time, it is possible, if we make it a priority. Remember that we have four Eucharists each weekend to choose from, and monthly Evensong (starting this Sunday). 

 

If you’re out of town, most places have an Episcopal church (and if not, there is certain to be a church from another denomination). I’m going to be blunt: I fear that, as Episcopalians, some of us have gradually come to believe that we are to worship only when it is convenient. Convenience is not a concept that we find in the teachings of Jesus (except in the negative)! There are many ways to encounter God, and many ways to pray, but nothing like worshipping with our fellow Christians on the Lord’s Day. If you know in advance that weekend worship is going to be absolutely impossible, consider coming to one of our weekly Wednesday Eucharists (7am or 12:10pm). And then watch the Sunday sermon online during the next week. Worship, every week, and see what a difference God makes in your life.

 

Second, be aware of opportunities to invite someone to All Saints’. As I’ve preached and taught about many times, we Episcopalians find evangelism scary. We fear overstepping into someone’s personal beliefs, and we fear rejection. We’ll talk enthusiastically about our favorite restaurant or a great new movie, but hesitate to mention our church. This new program year will offer numerous opportunities to invite friends to All Saints’. Special worship, like Blessing of the Animals, Day School Sunday, Seabury Sunday, the All Souls’ Requiem, Christmas Lessons and Carols, and choral Evensong. Non-worship events like our Pipescreams Halloween event, PACC 911 Pet Adoption, the music dinner, Living Room Conversations, the prison ministry, and Carols and Cocoa, or groups like the writing group, SAGES lunch, Just Faith, men’s and women’s breakfasts and so on. Share about our marvelous chorister program and music school for children and youth, and about our wonderful day school. 

 

Something like 75% of people who come as newcomers to a church, do so because someone invited them. So the growth of All Saints’ depends on our personal invitation and sharing about what God is doing here. We cannot depend on new people finding us simply by driving by, or browsing our website. Growing churches have passionate members who live their faith as disciples of Jesus in daily life, and look for opportunities to share their faith experiences (appropriately, of course) with others.

 

Notes

  • This Sunday morning will feature some special commissionings. At 9am, we will commission our Sunday school teachers, and offer a special blessing to new Head of School, Dr. Emma Whitman. At 11am, we will commission our incredible and dedicated choirs.
  • This Sunday afternoon features not only Evensong offered by our young choristers and adult schola, but also an organ recital for the 30 minutes before Evensong by our own Joseph Ripka, Director of Music. Did you know that Joseph, in addition to his remarkable work with our choirs, is a world renowned organist? He has given recitals in some of the world’s great churches, cathedrals, and concert halls. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear him play right here, and invite your friends. A reception will follow.
  • Last but not least, this Sunday we have Christian education for all ages at 10:10am. For adults, I begin a 6 week class on the Bible: its major stories, and how we, as Episcopalians, can read it more often and apply it to our lives. I hope you’ll join me, and follow along in the book “The Path."

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

August 29, 2019  Teach Them Something for a Lifetime

 

In our family, this is the time of year for ruthlessly eliminating activities that involve our children. The summer has its curses and blessings in scheduling children’s lives: on the downside, in summer we lose that wonderful, big block of school, but on the upside, there is more flexibility for everything else. But now that school has resumed, the annual reckoning has come: we have too many activities that involve our boys (and their parents!) and too little time. And so we are winnowing the after school and weekend commitments as much as we can, though not as much as we’d like. As we do so, a couple of our guiding principles are these: do the things that we value most as a family, and do the things that our children can continue to do for a lifetime. 

 

In our family, we most value: faith-related activities, music, and life-long sports. And we try to build in at least some time for just goofing off with unstructured play. Since our children are on the younger side, we consider their opinions in all of this, but as parents, we get more votes than they do (no, an online Fortnite tournament does not count as a sport!). As they get older, they’ll have (somewhat) more say in things.

 

Unfortunately, cutting out activities that you cannot usually do for a lifetime leaves some wonderful experiences behind. Football? Indoor rock climbing? Sorry - you didn’t make the cut this year. What made the cut for our kids? Things they can do forever, that are healthy for body, mind, and spirit, like church choir, piano, chess, and swimming. And a few other things they really love, like baseball. I feel a little guilty sometimes making so many choices for our children. What if one of them could have been the best indoor rock climber in the world? Or the Fortnite World Cup winner? But I think family values matter. There are some things (like attending worship) that are so important that they aren’t optional. True, my kids are the ones sometimes reading or playing with Legos in the back pews this summer, but they’re there (and often listening more than they seem to).

 

The very best, of course, is when our children actually love doing something that their parents value and that’s really good for them. It’s like discovering that your child really loves eating broccoli. That’s what the chorister program has been like for us. Our two oldest boys love singing (at church and school) for Mr. Ripka, and their parents love that they are having a positive experience of music and faith, learning a skill they can use their whole lives. Singing in choir has all kinds of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits that have been studied and verified.

 

For the parents of young children and youth out there: you are doing a heroic job navigating the complex obstacles of raising young people. You are appreciated and loved at All Saints’. We are all in this together, and perfection is not the goal. How do you decide how your children spend their time outside of school? How can we support you through our church community? (These are real, not just rhetorical questions - let me know!) And for those who have not yet made a donation to support our All Saints’ children, youth, and family ministries: please do so by the end of August. These ministries are teaching our children something important that will last a lifetime, for their own good, and for the good of a world in need.

 

Blessings,

Poulson+

August 22, 2019  Do Adults Need Sunday School?

 

This Sunday at 9am in Saint Barbara, I’ll be sharing some thoughts about our adult Christian education at All Saints’ this year. I hope you’ll join me. But what if we begin by stepping back, and asking ourselves: do adults need Sunday school?

 

I would answer that it depends on what we mean by Sunday School. I believe what adults most need is not more information, but training in discipleship: how to pattern our daily lives (as individuals, spouses, friends, employees, citizens etc.) after Jesus Christ. That requires (at least) two parts: knowing what a Jesus-shaped life is, and having support to live it. Here’s what I mean. 

 

What is a Jesus-shaped life?

 

It’s not obvious, even to a long time Christian, what it looks like to live as Jesus would have us live. There was only one Jesus, and we will all fall well short of his example, but we promise in our baptisms to try, and God gives us grace to do so. The simplest way to understand what a Jesus-shaped life looks like is to read and meditate on our Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer p. 304). But beyond that, we learn to be like Jesus by spending time with him and gradually learning from him. We do that through regular reading of the Bible (my suggestion: the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer does this for us automatically through the robust Daily Office Lectionary which reads most of the Bible in two years). We learn to be like Jesus through regular prayer. And we do so through classes with experienced teachers. I will be sharing on Sunday a two year outline of how we will be learning the basics of our faith, with an emphasis on spiritual practices (like how to pray, and how to read the Bible). Interspersed within this schedule of the basics will be a variety of other fun and interesting topics and teachers. Our goal will be to be sure that everyone (who wishes to) understands with some detail what it means to live the Christian life in our Episcopal tradition, including our core practices of Pray, Learn, Serve, and Connect.

 

Support for Living

 

It is not enough to understand how to live a Jesus-shaped life. We all need support for doing so, because it isn’t easy. This summer, I preached a sermon on the importance of having a “soul friend,” a Christian friend to encourage us (and vice versa) as we walk with Jesus. Ideally, we would all find a place in a small group of fellow disciples that would meet regularly for mutual support (our “soul friend” would usually be in that group). The hardest part about Christian living isn’t knowing what to do; it’s finding the will to do it. That takes spiritual friends for solace, sharing, and sometimes correction. A big part of our new Deacon Patrice’s ministry among us will be to help nurture these connections among us. I recently saw an ad for a megachurch in the Valley that I found interesting. It said something like: Christians are formed not in rows, but in circles. I’d edit that slightly to say: Christians are formed not only in rows, but in circles, because our worship together (in rows) is essential. But we need both.

 

As we look forward to Kick-Off Sunday on September 8 and the start of a new program year, let’s recommit to following Jesus by Praying, Serving, Connecting, and yes, by Learning, whatever our age may be.

 

Notes

  • Do you know a child who loves to sing? Our chorister rehearsals for young people from Kindergarten through High School are underway. This year, our choristers will be offering a simple Evensong on 4th Fridays at 5:30pm in the Chapel, lasting not more than 30 minutes. Come join us! It’s a great addition for those who pray Evening Prayer Monday through Thursday, or for those who’d like to support our young singers, while starting the weekend with prayer.


Blessings,

Poulson+