September 17, 2020 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
Something I am enjoying very much about this new academic year is that, in addition to teaching Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten religion classes, I now get to teach 5th grade religion as well. The school year has just begun, so we are just beginning to look at what religion is, what it means to believe and worship, and what the word “God” means in different contexts.
Already we have discovered some interesting things: Believing that something is true or that something exists is different from believing in someone or something. Your religion is your most deeply held belief. You can worship celebrities, relatives, role-models, and even countries, as well as supernatural or divine beings. You also don’t have to worship a divine being just because they are a divine being. In the popular Disney movie, Moana doesn’t worship Maui, for instance, even though he is a demi-god. And it is very interesting to discuss with a group of 5th graders who, exactly, Moana does worship!
As we dive deeper into the subject, the students are very aware of the fact that we are treading on sensitive ground. My most deeply held belief might not be the same as my best friend’s. What do I do if it isn’t? Your religion might contradict mine. How do I respect both?
When we came back to school in person this past week, I asked the students to think of a group they had been a part of, where they felt the most safe, and the most able to be completely themselves. It could be any kind of group: friends, family, school, church, club, sports. Then, I asked them to tell me what it was about those groups that made it safe to be themselves. Together, out of their answers, we have created a set of group norms for each class, written by the students themselves. These are the things they have agreed to do, and not to do, throughout the rest of the year, as well as the things they think I as the group's leader should do, to keep us all safe as we learn about and discuss one another’s most deeply held beliefs and values.
The 5th graders at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School showed wisdom beyond their years in creating their group norms, and, as we approach our re-entry to in-person worship here in the church, I offer a compilation of their thoughts on group safety, in their own words, as a guide for us, as well, so that All Saints’ Episcopal Church can continue to be the oasis in the storm that it has been for so many for so long.
Group Norms, Created by the 5th Grade Religion Classes at All
Be friends to each other
Get to know each other well
Trust each other and be trustworthy
Be thoughtful and considerate of what others are doing
Watch each other fail and succeed without judging each other
Listen to each other
Watch for when someone isn’t fine
Be there for each other if something bad happens
Be careful with other people and their things
Believe in each other
Be nice to each other
Be fully ourselves so others can be fully themselves
Have a sense of humor
Have each other’s backs
Make good choices
Always keep our promises
Do all of the safety procedures
Let each person show their weird side
Let people go unnoticed when they want to
Listen to everyone in the group
Let everyone participate
Make our teams fair
Reach out to others as much as they reach out to us
Accept new things about each other
Be comfortable disagreeing
Talk to each other if we are not happy about something
Confront each other if someone is being mean to someone
Remember that two wrongs don’t make a right
Work stuff out
Let everyone say everything they want to say before using their thoughts as a source of ideas
Say what we want to say, and not just go along with someone else if we have our own idea
Leave the past in the past
Respect each other’s personal space
We will NOT…
Be all the same and exclude those who are different
Gossip about each other
Call each other names
Ignore each other
Purposely try to annoy each other
Interrupt each other
Whisper behind each other’s backs
Make fun of each other
Be weirded out when someone is themselves
Tell someone they are going to fail before they try
Tell everyone someone else’s secrets
Get in fights that hurt our friendships
Make fun of each other’s religions
Do things to people outside the group that we wouldn’t do to someone in the group
Try to be in control of everything
Have rigid expectations of each other
Force someone to go along with an idea
Go along with something we know isn’t right
The leader promises…
To try to make sure everyone is safe in the group
To regulate the group so everyone is included
To try to make sure there is no fighting and drama
To make sure everyone has a job and not just the leader
To be prepared
To remember that no one is perfect
To be positive
To be there for the people in the group
To listen to the group
To remember that someone in the group is probably smarter than she is
To do what’s best for the group and not just herself
Not to just assume everyone will follow her
Not to take over
Not to try to be in control of everything
Not to play one person against another
Not to pick favorites
September 10, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
Friends, I am pleased to announce that we will be returning to in-person worship soon. Many leaders at All Saints' have been working hard to bring this about and we are not quite there yet, but we are close, and we are working hard to get there.
The Rev. Jim Bade has been working long hours, in consultation with vestry, staff, worship leaders, and many others, to create a re-entry plan for Sunday worship. It’s designed to keep everyone safe while we worship, using requirements that our Bishop has set for safety and also uses government safety metrics. Thank you, Jim. You have been working on our behalf and we are grateful.
Just yesterday, our Bishop approved the outlines of our plan for worshiping in person. Now our Vestry, who has been reviewing the plan, will approve it for use here at All Saints'. Once the vestry approves, the worship leaders will take the plan and find a way to put it into action. At the same time, staff and worship leaders have been working on a liturgy that will work with the Covid-19 safety restrictions.
We are working to be
ready to worship in church beginning the last Sunday of September. Stay
tuned for the formal announcement. In these next couple of weeks, many
leaders in the parish will be working hard to develop protocols for safety so
we can welcome for worship safely.
This is exciting news and I can’t wait to begin worshiping with you in person at church. At the same time, the safety requirements will make our worship feel different. For example, for the sake of safety, we can only have 50 people in the building when we worship, we will not be singing together. we will not receive wine at communion, nor will there be any time to gather together after church. It will be more contemplative, more quiet, more reflective. Imagine a time of quiet joy. Later, when it is safe, we will gather in the way we did in the past: singing, eating, laughing, talking, celebrating. But, for now, we will celebrate with a quiet joy that makes it safe for everyone who gathers with us.
See you in church. I can’t wait!
September 3, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Tim Yanni
Last year in September, I walked into All Saints’ Episcopal Church for the first time. I had been serving as a hospital chaplain in Ogden, Utah. I was doing a job I loved, and I loved the people even more. I was also very well-loved by the people at the hospital. It was the kind of job that, had I wanted to, I could have kept until retirement. I was comfortable.
If I was so comfortable, why did I decide to explore a call here in Phoenix? The answer is, well, that I was comfortable. I had been doing some prayerful discernment to figure out where God was calling me. Was God calling me to do something that made me comfortable? Or was he calling me to do something new, to learn new skills, and to meet new people? The second choice seemed worth exploring.
I had never thought of living in Phoenix, but I did grow up not far from here. Having been raised in California’s Imperial Valley, I was familiar with desert living. I did not know much about Phoenix, about teaching religion to young children, or about preaching several times per week. My wife, Brandy, had never lived outside of the state of Utah. Saying yes to God’s call to come here was certain to be a challenge. Was I supposed to say yes?
When the previous rector, now-Bishop Reed, took me out for a lunch of Phoenix’s famous tacos last September, he asked if I could send him the audio file of one of my sermons. At the airport on my way home, I listened to the only sermon I had saved as an audio file. It was a sermon about the Virgin Mary. In my sermon, I reminded the people of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo that their patron saint was someone we can emulate because she said yes to God’s call. Each of us is called to do exactly that. I realized this was the audio file I needed to send to Bishop Reed. I also realized that if God was calling me here to Phoenix, I truly had to say yes. As is often the case, I had been preaching to myself.
Being here in Phoenix has been a tremendous blessing. There certainly have been some growing pains along the way. For instance, I was here for a number of months without my wife. I struggled with learning how to teach young children. Our world entered a time of COVID-19. Yet, at the same time, moving here allowed me to complete my work toward becoming a board certified, professional chaplain. I was able to utilize my continuing education time to fulfill a lifelong dream and begin a graduate program at the University of Notre Dame. I have made many new friends. Perhaps best yet: I haven’t ever had to wake up early and shovel any sunshine.
Saying yes isn’t always easy, and it can instead be quite a challenge. But we can look to the Blessed Mother to be an example for us. As I said in that sermon that ultimately brought me to All Saints’ in Phoenix, “Mary said yes to God’s call. We also are called to say yes.”
August 27, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
There is an old story where two naughty children live near an older woman who is known for her wisdom. One day, the two children decide to test the woman’s wisdom and devise a plan to trick her. They capture a small bird, small enough to fit completely into the palm of their hand. Then they went to the woman and the one child held out his closed hand and told the woman, “I have a bird in my hand. Since you are so wise, please tell us whether the bird is alive or dead.” The woman quickly saw the trap. If she said “alive” the child would crush the bird and show the dead bird to everyone gathered around and declare that she was wrong. If she answered “dead’ the child would release the live bird and, again, prove her wrong. What was the wise woman to say? She spoke the truth to the children, “the answer is in your hand.”
From my desk at church, I have a clear view of the beautiful statue of Jesus outside the window of the Rector’s office. I draw inspiration from the reminder that Jesus is always present in our work together. Occasionally, birds fly into the enclosed garden. They use the pool of water to clean up and then linger for a while to gather their strength. One day, a little bird rested right in the outstretched hand of Jesus. I was talking with Nanette when it happened and she told me, “Quick, take a picture!” So, I snapped a photo and Nanette has shared it with you in this E-Blast.
As you can imagine, the image of the little bird resting in the hand of Jesus got me thinking about the ways that God holds us in his hands, so we can be safe, especially when we struggle or need a rest. I set my mind to begin noticing all the ways that God is showing care for the good people of All Saints (that’s you!). Already, I’ve seen countless ways that you all care for each other. Healthy, life-giving relationships are at the core of who you are and form the foundation for all you have built at All Saints.
As we continue to manage all the challenges that COVID-19 is throwing at us, it helps to pause and remember that God holds us in his loving embrace and that we have more power than we might think. We have the power of faith, the power that comes when we rest in the reality of God’s love. May you feel that power, even as you face the challenges surrounding all of us in these days. The answer is in your hand.
August 20, 2020 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
This summer, All Saints’ children and youth and their families modeled their summer activities after the good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke, and the fruit of the Spirit in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, by participating in the All Saints’ Summer of Service.
Taking to heart Jesus’ command to show love to our neighbors, our children and youth made enrichment toys for zoo animals, baked goodies for their loved ones, donated old clothes and toys to ICM, and food to St. Mary’s Food Bank, wrote notes of encouragement to residents of Maryland Gardens Care Center, sang songs, participated in photo and video service projects, and painted rocks for the Emmaus, Surprise, #RockKindness project.
And inspired by Paul’s exhortation to practice love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control, each student also performed daily acts of kindness based on these fruits of the Spirit.
As they participated in this Summer of Service, our children and youth reminded us that while the world may be full of change and uncertainty, the principles we as Christians have based our lives on remain the same. We are called to love God, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to live our lives in the faith that, in God, we find the deepest, strongest, and purest love imaginable at the foundation of the universe itself.
Now more than
ever, as we move into the academic and program year in a stressful and
uncertain new “Covid-normal,” it is important for us to find new and creative
ways to continue to teach our children and youth the unchanging and
unchangeable principles of faith, hope, love, and service to God and others,
that remain at the heart of Christianity.
Beloved children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you for serving God and your neighbors through your contribution to our annual Children, Youth, and Family Ministries support drive this month. On behalf of the Children, Youth, & Family Ministries team, thank you for showing your faithfulness, kindness, generosity, and love, by helping us to plant the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit in the hearts of our young people.
Your Sister in Christ,
August 13, 2020 A Reflection by Father Tim Yanni
One of the things that brought my wife Brandy and me together was our love for travel. Together we have crisscrossed the United States several times and we have visited nine countries together. Of all the places we have traveled, my favorite is Hawaii. I love the ocean, I love the weather, I love the scenery, I love the music, and I love the way of life. The Hawaiian language has a beautiful cadence, and deeply beautiful meanings. The Hawaiian word “aloha”, for instance, literally means “love”. It also is used to say both hello and goodbye. When you greet someone in the Hawaiian language, you are literally greeting that person with love.
I must confess that I have a little addiction that is directly related to my love for the Hawaiian way of life. From the time I was a very little boy, I have loved the aloha shirt—an article of clothing that, when worn properly, pays homage to that spirit of aloha. In my closet, I have an ever-growing collection of aloha shirts. My absolute favorites are made by Reyn Spooner. While some prints on aloha shirts are admittedly tacky, I consider many of them, especially the Spooners, works of art. I like to wear them when I’m out and about, and I even wear them with my clerical collar from time to time for a number of reasons. They are effective tools for self-expression. They are conversation starters. They put smiles on people’s faces when people see them. They help me to present myself as down to earth. They make people feel comfortable. After all, who doesn’t love beautiful flowers, palm trees, or ocean waves? Truth be told, flowers, palm trees, and ocean waves bring me joy. Wearing an aloha shirt brings me joy. I love that joy can be contagious.
While we are actively working to find ways to keep contagious
germs from spreading, our community and world are in need of contagious joy
right now. Therein lies the question: how can we spread a little bit of joy
today? How about wearing that article of clothing in your own closet that makes
you feel contagiously joyful? How about surprising a coworker with their
favorite coffee drink first thing in the morning? How about picking up the
phone and calling that friend you’ve been thinking about for so many weeks? How
about scheduling a virtual cocktail hour with your friends from across the
country, or even across the street? Or maybe you want to buy an aloha shirt for
someone’s collection (I’m a size XXL, in case you were wondering). Whatever it
is you decide to do, do it with joy and aloha in your heart. I think it’s safe
to say that we could all use a little aloha right now. Let’s all spend a little
more time on finding our own aloha. When we find it, let’s try to share it with
August 6, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
My wife, Kimiko, and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this past Tuesday. And we cannot think of a better way to do this than to be with you here in Phoenix.
I met Kimiko in 1987 in my kitchen in Fairfield, CT. I had graduated from divinity school and was working full time as a case worker at the Co-op Multi-Services Agency, Inc., a criminal justice agency in Bridgeport, CT. Kimiko was NOT a client but, I like to say, she does have it her... (we all do!). I came home from work early to “beat the New York traffic” on my way to Baltimore where a friend of mine was being installed Rector in a parish there. I hurried through my kitchen and there she was, having lunch with my roommate who was a graduate student with Kimiko at Fairfield University, right across the street from the house. I fell for her immediately and told friends in Baltimore that I just met the woman I wanted to marry. Six months later I popped the question and a year later we were married (it was only 106 degrees that day, much cooler than here!).
Kimiko was born and raised in Tokyo. All her family and childhood friends are still there. We visit regularly. Every marriage requires an adjustment between families and ours was no different. To break the ice the night before our rehearsal dinner, Kimiko suggested we bring our families to a “crab shack” in Baltimore (where we were married and lived our first year). We were all nervous since it was the first time that most of them would meet. After we ordered, the waiters walked up quickly and dumped many crabs on the table, we all laughed and started eating. There is no way to hold back while eating crabs from the shell and we enjoyed ourselves.
with that first dinner together, we have become close with each other’s family
and have made visiting a priority. I became very close to Kimiko’s
parents. So close, that her father asked me to baptize him hours before he
died. Her whole family was gathered around for an incredibly holy
moment. Over the years, when we visit, the extended family often gathers
for an informal reunion. I’ve been blessed to know her grandparents, aunts
and uncles and all 21 cousins. Now nieces and nephews (who were not yet
teenagers when Kimiko and I met) are having children. The same is true
here in the US between Kimiko and my family. Our children are fluent in
both languages and navigate the two sides of their family seamlessly. It’s
a joy to watch them in action with family members who live on opposite sides of
week especially, Kimiko and I are celebrating our love and what our love has
enabled us to do: preach and teach, raise children, love our families, have
deep friendships in both cultures.
We pray that you may take some time this week to remember who and what you love. Tilt your head back. Close your eyes and remember. Bring all that you love into your heart. God will join you there as you celebrate the love that has propelled your life forward.
July 30, 2020 A Reflection from the Rev. Tim Yanni & the Rev. Emilie Finn
These past few months have been a roller coaster ride for just about everyone in the entire world. For us, here at All Saints’, we’ve been on quite the journey of our own. And that much would be true even if we were not in the middle of a global health pandemic. Let’s think of all that has happened in the past year:
Pastor Joie Baker left our parish to pursue a fabulous career opportunity out of state, then Fr. Tim joined us from Utah. Almost immediately afterward, Fr. Poulson Reed was elected Bishop of Oklahoma. Right before Fr. Reed left us to become Bishop Reed, Covid-19 struck and we were forced to close down public worship.
Because of the pandemic, our search for an interim rector took much longer than it otherwise would have. We are very happy to have Fr. Bill Lupfer in this role. His arrival has made it possible for our Associate Rectors, Pastor Emilie and Fr. Tim, to take some time to reflect on what they have learned over these past few months.
* The following is a light-hearted look at the things they have learned that they really kinda sorta wish they’d never had to but did anyway.
* We learned that Zoom meetings make for a great opportunity to pair a clerical shirt with a comfortable pair of shorts.
* We learned that it’s really weird to grant absolution to a camera. (I mean, what has that camera been doing that it needs absolution, anyway?)
* We learned that while a dog makes a pretty darn good coworker, a cat does not.
* We learned that, while Zoom is an awesome invention, the “hide self-view” option within Zoom is even more awesome.
* We learned that it’s really awkward to respond to yourself. (When we say, “The Lord be with you. And also with you,” we feel like we did when we were kids and had an imaginary friend to talk to!)
* We learned that it’s even more awkward to respond to yourself in song. (Our imaginary friends never did that!)
learned that praying the daily office together on Facebook Live might just be
the future of the monastic tradition.
* We learned that 14 awesome teenagers will persevere through to the end of confirmation class, even over Zoom, and even when they don’t get confirmed at the end of it!
* We learned that offering the sacrament of the sick over the phone is a great way to bring someone some comfort when we can’t actually be there with them in person.
* We learned that a two-person funeral service can bring a whole lot more comfort to a grieving family member than we ever could have imagined.
* We learned that when we preach to a camera, we can imagine that our jokes are so much funnier than you may actually perceive them to be.
* We learned that Summer of Service T-Shirts are available in the correct color scheme in every size we need . . . except for one.
* We learned that while we can turn off the fountain in the close so it doesn’t make any noise for a video recording, we can’t turn off airplanes, cars, lawnmowers, or birds, and that sometimes the sprinklers come on when we don’t expect it.
July 23, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
I have just finished my very first meeting at All Saints', the pastoral care weekly meeting, and I am so happy to see the depth of compassion, professionalism and care in each of the members of the group. Additionally, I learned about the Community of Hope, a well-trained and intentional pastoral care group of lay persons at All Saints'. Wow! You should know that the level of pastoral care here at All Saints' is at the very high end of what’s available across the country at Episcopal parishes. The involvement of lay minsters sets a very healthy standard and it’s a privilege to join you in this effort.
When I was rector the first time around, I worked to develop the kind of pastoral care process that you already have in place. The first step was to organize all the individual efforts. Then I brought in a very seasoned priest to focus on pastoral care (among other areas). I proudly told him that I had organized the parish for pastoral care. He paused a bit, smiled, and replied, “When then, why don’t we become a healing community?” You appear to have moved to that place of “being a healing community.” It’s the gold standard and something to celebrate.
As your interim rector for these next few months, I will have some rules to guide my ministry. One of my primary rules will be: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! So much at All Saints' is working very well. It will be my privilege to help you stay strong while you search for your next rector. Pastoral care is one example of your strength. There are many others.
As you search for your next rector, you will enter a season of discernment. Discernment is a time where we seek to hear God’s voice among all the voices competing for attention. To do that, we willingly admit to a sense that we are not sure about the future (who should be our next rector?), so we intentionally lock into listening to God’s voice. Discernment can be a little disorienting for some folks. Accordingly, I will work with you to make sure you are oriented and informed about the process you take to discern who God is calling to be your next rector, but I will not get involved in any of the content specifics of the process. You already have what you need to call your next rector. My role will be to help you claim what you already have.
It’s been said that every preacher should have the Bible in one
hand and the newspaper in the other, making the point is that sermons (and
parish activity) are designed to equip us to apply our faith to the events in
our lives. Two areas that are in the news a lot these days are our nation’s
response to COVID-19 and the national conversation about race relations. Both
of these topics can be very scary. My pledge to you is that we will engage
these two issues directly and we will do it in a way that is very respectful of
and safe for differences of opinions. There is no blueprint on how to have
these conversations about COVID and race, so we will have to go on a learning
adventure together. We will have to go beyond the “I’m right, you’re wrong!”
approach and build ways to talk about these uncomfortable topics. The good news
is that All Saints' is very well equipped to have these conversations. You have
a culture of respect and you have a variety of viewpoints. You are ready. What
I will do is work with anyone who is interested to find balanced and
appropriate ways to engage the world around us, without letting these conversations
And we will be careful to remember that, first and foremost, we are in a season of discernment for your new rector. Let’s keep our eye on that prize and not get distracted, even as we equip ourselves to address the challenges of our time.
I am very grateful to be here with you and hope to serve God (and you) to the best of my ability. Please pray for me and be assured that I am praying for you and those you love.