A Weekly Commentary by the Rev. Poulson Reed
Rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church & Day School
A Weekly Commentary by the Rev. Poulson Reed
Rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church & Day School
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.