As I write, we are preparing for Holy Week and Easter Liturgies and are actively discussing when we might be able to worship indoors again. The COVID-19 metrics show sustained improvement for the past several weeks and, if conditions continue in this direction, we anticipate worshiping together indoors perhaps as early as mid to late April. Stay tuned. Our intention is to try to have “something for everybody,” which means we will seek to have in-person worship at our regular times, with proper social distancing and mitigation strategies, including one outdoor liturgy each weekend (until the heat forces us completely inside), as well as a filmed liturgy each weekend (currently pre-recorded, expecting to transition to live-streaming when we move back indoors). I am grateful for our staff who are working very diligently to be flexible and to plan for any condition.
Occasionally, I find myself thinking, “I can’t wait to get back to normal.” Then one of my wise friends or colleagues reminds me that we may not ever get back to normal. Many in the broader Episcopal Church are beginning to imagine the future, not as a return to normal, but as a resurrection experience. When we look to the disciples in scripture as they encountered the resurrected Jesus, we see that they initially sought to go back to normal. They went home to Galilee. But what happened? Jesus encountered them there. They picked up their lives and did the best they could and the resurrected Jesus began to encounter them in their daily lives. I suspect it will be the same for us.
As we anticipate Holy Week and Easter, with the focus on the Pascal Mystery of dying and rising with Jesus, we have a special opportunity this year for walking the way of the Cross, through Jesus’ death to His resurrection. I urge you to pay special attention to Holy Week and Easter this year. Join us for worship. We will be outside like the early disciples. The wind may blow. It might be cold. Or maybe hot. Who knows?
The one thing we do know is that our faith teaches us that we come into God’s presence through the Paschal Mystery, participating with Jesus as He dies and rises which demonstrates God’s profound love for us. As we continue our liturgical journey through Lent, I urge you to “prepare with joy for the paschal feast” (as the prayerbook says).
As Jesus did in the Garden, grieve all that you have lost this year, even the little things. Open your heart to the pain that you have borne this last year and offer it to God. Then claim the promise that God has offered to God’s people throughout the ages — that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
See you in church.
March 11, 2021 A Reflection from Fr. Tim Yanni
One year ago this week, All Saints’ discontinued in person worship for what we thought was going to be a period of two weeks. It’s a full year later, and we are finally back together again for Sunday Eucharist. With a raving pandemic continuing into its second year, it is so easy to think about negativity in the world. However, I think it’s important and healthy to also draw our attention to positive causes. For instance, many of us have received our COVID-19 vaccines. Treatments for the illness are improving. We are back to church. Easter is nearly here. There is a whole lot of Good in the world and there is a whole lot to feel joyful about. While not dismissing the hardships many continue to feel, I think it is important to demonstrate some balance. After all, we are a people of the gospel, and gospel literally means “good news.”
When I want to bring my own attention to the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I frequently find myself seeking out the baptismal covenant. For such a simple document, it sure contains a lot of depth. Reviewing it from time to time is therapeutic. It provides me with a grounding mechanism and it helps me to direct my attention appropriately. It brings me great comfort and it helps me to focus on the grace of our loving God. I notice, for instance, that the verbiage sets up an expectation of imperfection. We commit that we will repent and turn to the Lord whenever we fall into sin, and not if we do so. We affirm that we will keep our commitments only with God’s help, and not by our own abilities. We commit to doing things that are quite difficult, and in some ways, seemingly impossible. It is only through the help and grace of God that we can accomplish the promises we make in baptism.
While the covenant is something we profess to corporately, we each are responsible for discerning who it is that we are called to be. Certainly I am called to be a priest, but how do I live into this call? To this point, I have discerned that part of my call is to help the people in my life to feel empowered and capable of discerning their own calls. I try to model behavior that blesses individuality. For many years I wore earrings. I wear my hair in a fauxhawk. I do not often wear traditional clerical shirts. I frequently wear silly socks (sometimes they are intentionally mismatched). Essentially, I try to show there can be more than one way. I don’t believe my way of being is the correct way. It simply is a different way. I am comfortable knowing that God made me, so God loves me. And God loves me because I am the person he made me to be. I feel called to be the most complete version of myself I can possibly be. If he made me to be silly and playful, it simply wouldn’t be right to squelch that piece of my God-given identity.
I acknowledge that self-discovery can be painful, scary, and uncomfortable. It also can be rewarding and fulfilling. Sure, when we dig deep, we find some things we wish weren’t there. But we also find some pieces of ourselves that we truly ought to develop, nourish, and grow. Maybe we have some hidden talent or skill we never recognized before. Maybe we realize that something that has always come easily to us is surprisingly quite challenging to others. Through self-exploration we can uncover our gifts and talents and embrace our own quirkiness. I invite you to fully embrace this life-long journey of self-discovery. Nourish that creative piece of yourself that you never allowed to shine through. Learn a new language, pick up a new instrument, take on a new hobby. Buy that shirt that you always wanted but your significant other said was silly. Like Brené Brown says, be courageous enough to suck at something. Because we have to be really bad at something before we can ever hope to master it. Sometimes I feel like I really suck at life. And other times I remind myself to enjoy it. May we all continue to seek those times of joy, and be the people our loving God calls us and expects us to be. He will continue to love you for it. And so will I. It’s a promise.
March 4, 2021 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
I have a confession to make to you. It’s Lent, so that is appropriate, don’t you think? Here is my confession: I have not given up anything for Lent this year. And, I have not added a new discipline, either. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that I have given up on Lent, or that Lent has been “cancelled.” I am just observing this season of preparation for Easter a little bit differently this year, and I want to share my practice with you in case it helps you, also, to think about it in a new, and perhaps gentler, way.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I gave up a lot during Lent last year. And not just for Lent. We all ended up giving up a lot of things we never expected to have to give up, for the entire year.
Now, some of those things I gave up on purpose. I stopped doing things like attending in-person worship, going out to eat, and hugging my in-laws, intentionally, out of necessity. But other things, like finding a new dentist, calling my best friend, and writing in my journal, were less intentional casualties of the new reality we all found ourselves in at this time last March, and I find that I want some of those things back.
So that is what I am doing for Lent this year. It is time to look at what I gave up or put off last year as I grappled with all the new challenges 2020 threw at us, and to decide what parts of my life I want back, and to do those things that are necessary to bring them back into my life.
This Lent, I am reaching out and reconnecting to friends who live far away – not the ones I have been having Zoom cocktails with, but the ones I haven’t heard from much or been able to visit, the ones who have been missing from my life this year. This Lent, I am doing paperwork and making phone calls to schedule routine doctor’s appointments and checkups that I have unintentionally deferred during this past year. This Lent, I am putting my pen to the blank pages in my journal and writing, whether I feel like I can make sense of the words floating around in my brain yet or not.
It has been a year since this pandemic started, and a lot of things have happened during this time. As we prepare for the glorious celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, it might just be time to walk back through the year and name those things that have happened in our own lives, and how they have affected us. If the time is right for you to take this sort of inventory of your own mental, emotional, and spiritual landscape, I encourage you to do that this Lenten season.
Look back at this past year, and name those things that you had to give up that cannot or will not come back. Allow yourself to grieve those losses. Look back at the year and discover and celebrate the new skills you have learned, and the new things you have been doing that you like and want to continue. Plan how you will keep those things in your life. And look back at the year and identify those things that you have left behind, or put off, that you want back, and begin to take the steps you need to take to include those things in your life again, as we all move forward toward the resurrection.
February 25, 2021 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
By now, you’ve probably heard that we will begin in-person worship this Sunday. I am grateful for our vestry who have been working to get us to this point. You are well-served by them as they seek to guide All Saints’ through these interesting times. And our staff have been working overtime to plan liturgies and prepare for any possible scenario.
For now, we will worship outside at 9am and 11am in the Close (Saturday at 5 pm will continue on zoom and the 7:30am Sunday liturgy will be suspended until the weather warms up). We will also continue to publish a weekly liturgy for the Internet so everyone can worship in the way they prefer. We think this is the most sensible way to move forward. As the COVID-19 metrics change, we will also change. Of course, we hope to be able to see everyone together: singing, eating and laughing. But the experts tell us it will be a while before we get to that level of community. So, we continue to practice our patience.
One of the things I’ve noticed as our global community has addressed the challenge of COVID-19, is there is no one authority that everyone looks to for help in solving this crisis. Quite literally, there is no authority that can tell us what to do. One person told me, “we are watching science in real time.” Our best scientists are learning as COVID-19 evolves and we are all getting a lesson in adaptability as we learn about the virus.
Spiritual adventures often begin when there is no visible authority to guide us. If you look for this in scripture, you will find it everywhere. Abraham asks God who he should say is sending him. God replies, “I AM has sent you.” I doubt people relaxed when Abraham told them “I AM is sending me!” Moses regularly asks God for help as he seeks to guide the people of Israel to the promised land because he is afraid that the people will not bear the burdens of their journey and will end up blaming him (we often blame the most visible or vulnerable in times of stress). Finally, God tells him to gather 70 leaders to help share the burden. Jesus faces constant challenges to his authority throughout his ministry.
This is good news for us. We come from a spiritual family that is thousands of years old and very used to struggling in times of unclear authority. And we’ve learned much along the way. In a time of spiritual adventure, where there is no one authority to follow, we’ve learned to slow down and listen to each other. This allows us to hear God’s voice in the voices around us. So we are doing with our ancestors have done in similar situations – we are slowing down and listening to each other. God has always blessed the community when they do this together.
When we do come out of COVID-19, we will find a world that is very different from when we entered this pandemic. Our spiritual adventure will continue and even pick up pace. Then, too, we will be invited to slow down and listen to each other. I am grateful for all of you. You are smart, fun, energetic and faithful. It’s a blessing to be on this journey with you and to hear your wisdom. May God bless us as we seek to hear His voice in the voices around us. And thank God we can begin to do this together again, in person, this Sunday!
February 18, 2021 A Reflection from Fr. Tim Yanni
Welcome to Lent 2021! It seems hard to believe, but our All Saints’ community moved to online-only worship during Lent last year. As of Ash Wednesday, we continue to remain virtual. I’m happy to share with you, however, that there is some forward movement in the works. By February 28, provided all goes as planned, we will once again be able to worship in person with outdoor-only services of Holy Eucharist. We will welcome as many people as can fit comfortably, while following social distancing guidelines between family units. Our virtual worship opportunities will continue as well.
That’s the good news. The melancholy news is that in so many ways, it kind of feels like we never really escaped last year’s Lenten season. This past 12 months has cost us all so much. As a society, we have lost loved ones, jobs, money, normality in our day-to-day lives, and so much more. As a worshipping community, we have been separated more often that we have been together. As the cliché question asks, “what are you giving up for Lent?”, so many of us have given up seemingly everything.
It is important to remember, however, that “giving something up for Lent” is indeed a cliché. Giving something up without intention behind the decision is to miss the point. Lent does not exist to take something away from us or to make us miserable. Rather, we observe Lent in order to enhance our relationships with God, with each other, and with ourselves. The idea behind “giving something up” stems from the reality that self-denial is one way we can become more mindful. It is not, however, the only way.
The Ash Wednesday gospel reading has always fascinated me because it begins with Jesus advising us to be mindful about how we demonstrate our piety. He instructs us to wash our faces when we fast. He tells us we should not make a display about our worship attendance. He tells us we should not bring attention to the things we do when we pray. This is the gospel passage we read on the only day of the whole year when we walk around the rest of the day with a mark indicating that we have, indeed, attended a worship service that day. So does this mean it is wrong? The answer, of course, is it depends.
It depends on intention. Are you wearing ashes on your face to show off? Then it’s probably not a good idea. Are you wearing ashes on your face to remind yourself that it’s Ash Wednesday and that Lent has begun? Then you’re probably doing okay. You’ve probably noticed by now that Lent is all about intention. As Christians, we are encouraged to always examine our intentions. Self-denial is only one piece of the puzzle.
So what should we do for Lent if we don’t want to “give something up”? The answer is up to you! You get to choose. I advise you to choose something that helps you to remain mindful of God, of others, of your own well-being. Maybe this is spending more time in prayer or scripture. Maybe this is spending time outdoors. Maybe it is spending time preparing meals for others. As long as you are mindful as you participate, you’re on the right track.
On Ash Wednesday and during Lent, we are mindful of our mortality. We are mindful of how we live our lives. How we nurture or repair the relationships in our lives. How we might correct those pieces of our lives that might need some attention. As we navigate this Lenten season, may we always remember to be intentional. May we become continually more self-aware. May we continually seek and find God in new and intimate ways. May we work to heal our human brokenness.
February 11, 2021 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
As some of you know, since March of last year, I have been reading classic novels aloud, one chapter per day, and posting them on my YouTube channel to create what I have called Pastor Emilie’s Story Hour.
As the New Year began this year, I began another favorite book of mine: Rilla of Ingleside, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Rilla of Ingleside is the final book in Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, and it is about Anne and Gilbert Blythe’s youngest daughter, Marilla—called Rilla for short—who comes of age during World War I.
I read this book for the first time as a pre-teen, when I read the rest of the Anne series, but I don’t think I realized just how much it had taught me about World War I until I read Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front as a freshman in college.
The deeply contrasting perspectives on the same events in these two books, both taken from the life experiences of the authors (and including of course their differing social and cultural contexts and biases), are striking, and I have always thought it was interesting that, while I read Remarque’s important work about the men who went to war, and fought, and died, in college history courses, I read Montgomery’s important work about the women who stayed at home, and worked, and waited, when I was a child.
But in addition to its historical perspective, the reason I am reading this book now, is because it strikes me that the experience of this little Canadian community staying at home, and working, and waiting, and struggling to feed and educate their children, and to support one another and their relatives in the trenches, is so similar to so much of our experience during this pandemic—of staying at home, and working, and waiting, and struggling to feed and educate our children, and to support one another and those who are fighting to save our lives today.
I think we can learn something for ourselves today from Rilla, from Lucy Maud Montgomery, and from this often overlooked chronicle of the experiences of those who stayed at home during the war, and patiently and courageously worked, and loved, and waited.
I wonder if there is a story from your own childhood or young adulthood that you find yourself returning to now for new lessons in this new life we find ourselves in? I would love to hear your thoughts (and I’m always looking for new books to read in the Story Hour!). And of course, if you want to listen to Rilla’s story, you can find it at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLe-l1NM8XIbe9MH37-RzfIzLbfUVWTIXU
February 4, 2021 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
Inspect what you expect.
One Sunday (long ago), my friend, Buzz, walked out of the early Sunday liturgy and told me something I never forgot. He said, “Bill, my father taught me that you have to inspect what you expect.”
Review your work.
A few months later, as I was talking to our auditor in the parish where I served. He told me, “your finance director needs time to review her work.” As I reflected on his words, I saw that every person needs time to review their work, especially me. So I created a habit of review.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Years after these two encounters, I had a colleague on staff who often said, “check yourself before you wreck yourself,” encouraging members of the team to be careful not to over-function, which often leads to trouble, even when we think we are being helpful.
These three pieces of sage advice reminded me of my early training as a priest, where my mentor impressed upon me the need for “self-regulation.” “One of the most important qualities of a priest is the capacity to be self-regulating,” he said repeatedly.
I’ve tied these teachings into an annual review cycle that I call Mutual Ministry Review (which I borrowed from the Church Pension Fund). Each year, I ask the ministry team I am working with to review me. The review consists of three questions. 1. What does Bill do well? 2. What should Bill do more of? 3. What should Bill stop doing? There is a “no surprise” rule, which means that people can only mention thoughts and concerns that they have already talked to me about previously. The mutual part means that I review the other staff person using the same questions. Each staff person reviews me and I review them. Dave English, our Senior Warden, and I have done this review together just this last week. When all the reviews are complete, the individual staff reviews will remain private. But for me, I will compile a master list with all the reviews of me combined into the three questions and then share the full list with the staff.
Over the years, I have done these reviews with my vestries and senior staff. It gives me a sense of how I am being perceived and also gives everyone a voice and an opportunity to speak the difficult truth, if necessary. I pray that you have a way to hear difficult truth in your life. I think it’s part of our call to practice ministry in all that we do.
January 28, 2021 A Reflection from Fr. Tim Yanni
This week I write to you bleary-eyed and disoriented from several sleepless nights in a row, yet with joy in my heart. Late last week, my wife Brandy and I agreed to foster two eight-week-old puppies. In fact, as I write this, they are sleeping at my feet. It’s a rare moment of quiet in the Yanni household over the past week. Depending on how our experience goes, we will be offered the opportunity to adopt them officially when they are old enough.
Having puppies in our house has been an adventure. It’s an adventure that I haven’t experienced in probably 15 years. We are still getting to know the pups, and they are getting to know us, too. As they become more comfortable with us, they are testing their boundaries more and more. It’s been a challenge to interpret their movements, whimpers, cries, and facial expressions. What surprises me the most is how these little balls of fur can do something that makes me feel completely frustrated one moment, and then melt my heart the next. For instance, playfully chewing on a $60 pair of shoes or looking me right in the eye as they relieve themselves on the carpet after we’ve just been outside for 30 minutes. And then snuggling up in my arms, looking up at me longingly, and falling quietly asleep, comfortably confident that I will take care of them under all circumstances. It’s as if they are saying, “You still love me. So there.”
They clearly recognize that the humans in the household are their source for food, treats, clean water, toys, and a warm bed at night. With as much effort as they have been putting forth, and as much progress as they have made, they are still learning correct behavior from incorrect behavior. Sometimes they do something that they don’t know is “wrong.” Other times, they seem to act up on purpose. Maybe it’s just for attention. Maybe they’re just trying to see what they can get away with. Maybe they’re just being mischievous. Maybe they just can’t help themselves. Whatever their motives, they seem to know that no matter how frustrated Brandy and I become with them, we will love them and continue to care for them.
I find it amusing, and slightly ironic, that these puppies have landed quite literally in my lap. I’m the same guy who had vowed as recently as a few months ago that I would never again become a pet owner. I do wonder what lessons I might learn from this journey. Greater patience? Shorter temper? Greater capacity to love unconditionally and to be loved unconditionally? Improved understanding and stronger empathy for those in my care? Accountability to keep up with exercise even when the weather is bad? Maybe a combination of any of these, and maybe something I haven’t thought of yet.
I suspect that during this time of serving as a puppy foster parent (and perhaps beyond, if it works out), Ari and Indy will become fodder for countless sermons and other communications with you. Perhaps you will have the chance to feel like you know them, even if you never actually get to meet them in person. Maybe they will serve as a metaphor for those pets in your own life. Maybe you’ll become tired of hearing about them. Or maybe you’ll want to hear about them more. I consider this to be an example of one of life’s little unexpected blessings. Sometimes we have opportunities presented to us that we did not expect. These opportunities can bring us joy and frustration at the same time. There’s a lesson that can be learned from every situation. What lessons will I learn from Ari and Indy? What lessons will you learn from the unexpected curve balls life throws at you?
January 21, 2021 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
One of many things I really love about my work here at All Saints’ is my participation in the interfaith panels for All Saints’ parents, hosted by the religion department at the Day School. It is such a privilege to represent Christianity, and so much fun to converse with panelists from other faith traditions.
At our most recent interfaith panel, the question asked of the panelists was, “2020 has been difficult for many people. How does your faith help you find unity and peace in divided times? What spiritual intentions help you find a better 2021?” I found that I really appreciated this question, because it prompted me to dig deep, and to discover just what has been at the foundation of my faith and work during this difficult year.
I find that what has helped me most to find peace and a sense of unity this past year has been grounding myself in, and going deeper into, one of the oldest practices of our faith tradition. For early Christians, daily morning and evening prayers that focused on the recitation of the psalms were a principal form of worship, especially in monastic communities.
Since March, 2020, All Saints’ has been saying the Daily Office every morning and evening each weekday, on Facebook Live. This ancient practice of beginning, and ending, and beginning again in prayer has blessed me with a structured way to begin and end each day in the presence of God, and of other people, during a year that has at times seemed to do its best to isolate all of us from both.
Morning and evening prayers have grounded my ordinary, everyday life in God, and in communion with those I pray for and with, each day, and I have been especially grateful for the little community-within-a-community that has grown up around our new practice of virtual Morning Prayer at All Saints’.
And of course, there is something holy about bringing the entire spectrum of human emotion, from the best and most beautiful to the worst and ugliest, before God each day, as we do when we pray the entire psalter over a period of time in the Daily Office. Praying the psalms reminds me what it means to be human, and what it means to be human in the presence of God, which is humbling, convicting, and challenging all at once.
Thank you all for praying with me this past year, and for continuing to pray with me this year. Your prayers have supported me as I hope mine have supported you as we all continue our very human struggle to place our lives and our future in God’s hands.
January 14, 2021 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
January 7, 2021 A Reflection from Fr. Tim Yanni
This is not the reflection I had expected to have published for today. I wanted to wish you a happy New Year. I wanted to offer some anecdotes about New Year’s resolutions and how horrible I am at keeping them. I wanted to share with you some jokes at my own expense, poking fun at the reality that my weight tends to fluctuate around the end of the year. I wanted to begin 2021 with a little bit of fun and inspiration. When I woke up on January 6, I was feeling joy. I was feeling hope. I was feeling enthusiastic. But about 20 minutes after I submitted the reflection I had intended to share with you, a group of armed protesters, many of them identifying as “patriots”, stormed the United States Capitol building while both houses of Congress were in session. Our country was under attack from within. It did not seem fair or right to run with the jovial, light-hearted reflection I had written. Instead, I felt it was my duty as one of your pastors to offer some words of comfort. After all, our country is now wounded.
All Saints’ prides itself on its “big tent” identity. Many Episcopal churches have a sign up that says, “All Are Welcome.” But not every Episcopal church seems to mean it. I’m proud to say All Saints’ does. In a world of red vs. blue, our pews are filled with a lovely shade of purple. We have liberals, conservatives, and moderates. We pray together, we engage with one another, and we love each other. Most importantly, we share the Holy Meal together. It’s truly a beautiful thing!
Part of our identity means that it’s uncommon to discuss things like party politics from the pulpit. I have known many preachers to preach party politics and, like many of you, I find it off-putting. Instead of reading the scriptures through a lens designed by my political views, I prefer to shape my political views according to the teachings of Jesus. I try to ask myself, “what would Jesus do in this situation?”
I do not, with any degree of certainty, know whether Jesus would vote red or blue. For instance, I don’t know if he would support tax dollars funding social programs to feed the hungry, or if he’d prefer the private sector to take on this task. I do know that he wants us to feed the hungry. I also know that the word “politics” comes from a Greek word that means “the affairs of the people.” There’s nothing about politics that is inherently off limits. Any time you have people gathered, you have politics. Some political concerns simply need to be discussed.
Our nation is hurting. I believe it is safe to say that good people with conservative, liberal, and moderate political views join forces to denounce the actions of the rioters who stormed the capitol and endangered the lives of our elected officials.
Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has issued a statement condemning what he called a “coup.” “The events at our Capitol today are deeply disturbing. We believe the actions of armed protesters represent a coup attempt,” Bishop Curry said. “Today’s protesters pushed through police barricades and forced their way into congressional chambers and … [are] threatening the safety of lawmakers, their staff and others who work in the Capitol complex. This threatens the integrity of our democracy, the national security of our nation, the continuity of government, and the lives and safety of our legislators, their staffs, law enforcement and all who work in the Capitol.”
Please join me and my clergy colleagues at All Saints’, as we unite with Bishop Curry, Bishop Reddall, and clergy throughout the Church of God, as we pray for healing. As Bishop Curry said, “Even as our nation’s Capitol is being endangered and assaulted, we pray that the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that God in his way of love, might prevail in all of our hearts.”
O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name. Amen. (BCP P. 821-822)
December 30, 2020 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
Merry Christmas! I wonder if Christmas felt like Christmas to you this year? If you are like me, so much of what makes Christmas feel like Christmas is wrapped up in the sights and sounds, and smell and taste and feeling, of being in church, and with family and friends. And if you are like me, this year many, if not most, of those Christmas sights and sounds were mediated to us through the screen and speakers of a TV, computer, tablet, or phone, which made it very different. I think Christmas was probably a very different experience for all of us this year.
I remember when Christmas changed for me the first time. It was the first year that the Christmas lights, the music playing on our old record player, and the smell of cookies baking, did not bring me the magical joy it always had. I was 14 years old that year, and I was just discovering that life was not as uniformly happy as my rosy childhood gaze had always painted it. This made me angry and depressed, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t feel the Christmas spirit—although I remember pretending very hard to be as happy and excited as always, so as not to bring the rest of my family down.
Luckily for me, this was also the year my mother gave me my deeply loved Christmas with Julie Andrews CD. I listened to it over and over again, and one song in particular, one that I had never heard before, rebuilt the foundation of my Christmas spirit in a way that accounted for the darkness and sadness and confusion of the world that had had no place in the brightness of my childhood. The Secret of Christmas was written in the 1950s for Bing Crosby, but I will always hear it as I first heard it in 1995, in Julie Andrews’ voice:
It's not the glow you feel when snow appears
It's not the Christmas card you've sent for years
Not the joyful sound when sleigh bells ring
Or the merry songs children sing
The little gift you send on Christmas day
Will not bring back the friend you turned away
So may I suggest the secret of Christmas
Is not the things you do at Christmas time
But the Christmas things you do all year through
It turns out, that the Christmas that didn’t feel like Christmas at all gave me the best Christmas present I have ever received. It taught me that Christmas isn’t over. That Christmas is never over. The spirit of Christmas—the spirit of Christ—is not something that exists only during the month of December. The spirit of Christmas was born into the world on that silent night we remember on December 25, and has existed on earth ever since.
Sometimes, especially at Christmas time, we feel that Spirit in a special way that makes us want to sing or shout with joy. But ultimately, the Christmas spirit isn’t something we have to make ourselves feel. It is something that simply exists no matter how we feel; an unending and unstinting gift from God that we can choose to live within at any time, in any place, no matter how we feel. So whether you had the best Christmas ever, or the worst, or even if it didn’t feel like Christmas at all, Merry Christmas, and may you live in the spirit of Christmas all through the New Year.
December 23, 2020 A Refection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, we share the same message as always “that God gives us the gift of life through Jesus” but many of us will celebrate in ways that seem strange and different.
The pandemic has caused us all to change our usual patterns of celebration. We will continue to worship together, but it will only be virtual. We will continue to sing and hear our beautiful choir, but it will only be with the computer. We will continue to be close to our loved ones but much of that may be expressed through the telephone. As our prayer book says, “Life has changed, not ended.”
With all the ways that the pandemic has muted our celebrations, we can still be like Jacob, who wrestled with the angel until he discovered the blessing.
This Christmas, I hope you will bring into your heart the toughness of the Holy Family as they delivered the gift of the Incarnation in the midst of the political confusion of their time. I hope you will tune the spiritual ear of your heart, like the shepherds who heard the angels sing while others were self-absorbed and missed the beautiful music that announced the Messiah’s birth. I hope you will be like the Magi who were awake to the signs and portents in the heavens themselves that led them to the blessing of the Holy Child Jesus. I hope you will recall Joseph who had fierce love for his betrothed and stayed committed to her when almost anyone else would have abandoned her. And Mary. Bring her into your heart. There is no one more tough and loving than her. Her condition (unwed and pregnant) exposed her to great personal risk. But, through it all, Mary was rock solid and sang a beautiful song to God (the Magnificat), celebrating the great gift of the incarnation (Jesus!) that she had the horrible privilege to deliver into our world.
The first Christmas was not for sissies and wimps. And this Christmas is not either. We are called to step forward in courage and to wrestle with our faith in God’s power.
I pray you will listen carefully to God’s song of love that comes to you in many ways, that you will wrestle the blessing when you need to, steadfast in your faith, tough in your resolve and firm in your love for your family and loved ones, and also for those who have less than you do.
Open your heart this Christmas and get ready for the blessings of the Incarnation. Put your wrestling gear on. It may not be easy this year. But the blessings abound and they are freely offered.
Finally, please consider a year end donation to All Saints’. A generous Christmas offering will help us finish the year strong, starting 2021 from a position of strength. We truly appreciate every gift, in any amount, to fund our vital ministries. There are several ways to give:
- Give a Christmas offering in the enclosed envelope. Please send in a check by mail, or drop off at the Church Office. Simply put “Christmas Offering” in the memo line.
- To give online, visit our website: AllSaintsOnCentral.org and then choose “SUPPORT.”
- Contact Barbara Anderson, Financial Assistant, in the Church Office for a gift of stock or by credit card.
Thank you for all that you have done to help make
2020 a wonderful year of ministry at All Saints’ albeit
an unusual one. Regardless, here the light of Christ shines brightly, for the sake of a world that needs it desperately.
May God bless All Saints’, and each of you and yours abundantly in the new year.
December 17, 2020 A Reflection from Father Tim Yanni
Today is a very special day for me. Four years ago on December 17, 2016, I was ordained to the priesthood at tiny St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo, Utah. A few days beforehand, a Roman Catholic priest colleague of mine told me, “Your ordination is not the end of the journey, it’s the beginning.” Four years later, I am beginning to see what he meant. There is so much learning to be done leading up to ordination, but there is oh so much more that takes place after. I describe seminary as an artificial environment. Seminarians are taught the basics, and a solid foundation is established, but the real learning doesn’t start until ordination. Think about leading worship, for instance. A person is not permitted to preside at the Eucharist until after ordination. It’s impossible to practice feeling comfortable as a celebrant until the ordinand is actually allowed to serve as a celebrant. I am so thankful that this stage of my journey has brought me to All Saints’ in Phoenix. I continue to learn from you and with you, and share my gifts with you as you share yours with me and with each other. I’m happy to serve at a parish with a vibrant, traditional music program. I’m thrilled to learn from and with my ministry colleagues. I’m also honored to share a piece of myself with you. In ministry, we often say that the only tool we have with us at all times is the tool of self. I appreciate that my gift of self has been so warmly received by you over the past 13 months.
We are now well into the last month of 2020 and oh what a year it has been. I can say that even though I didn’t know exactly what I might learn or share with you when I arrived, navigating a global health pandemic was not anywhere on my radar. I think many of us will watch the clock count down to midnight on December 31 and let out a sigh of relief. As challenging as this year has been, I think it’s important to focus on some positives. We continue to discover ways to take care of one another and to love each other from a distance. We continue to find ways to be in relationship with our brothers and sisters and we continue to find ways to enhance our prayer lives. With worship placed on temporary hiatuses, we all are faced with expressing our love for the God who made us. The God who loves us. The God who sent his only begotten Son to dwell amongst us through the mystery of the incarnation.
I find that my own prayer life is enhanced through my devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I think December is a beautiful time to remember her. After all, she was the vessel through which the mystery of the incarnation took place. I do not believe it was a coincidence that I was placed at a parish named St. Mary’s for my final years of my pre-ordination discernment. In December, we observe a number of Marian feast days. December 8 is recognized in some Christian communities as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This marks the understanding that in preparation to be the mother of our Savior, Mary was conceived without original sin. December 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Latin America. Remember that at one time, the land where we now walk in Arizona was part of Mexico. This land is her sacred land. And of course the feast day of Christmas marks the day that her son, our Lord, was born. I figure if she was chosen to be the caretaker of our Lord, then I can trust her as an intercessor. My devotion to Mary helps me to be closer to her son. I admire her strength, her courage, and her willingness to say yes to God’s call.
I’d like to encourage you to use the rest of this Advent season to think about those things that bring you closer to God. If you’re so inclined, share them with others. Perhaps someone is looking for some inspiration. In the mean time, may we all follow in the footsteps of the Virgin Mary and say yes to God’s call.
December 10, 2020 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God:
I can’t hear the Gospel readings for the second and third Sundays in Advent this year without thinking of my parents. When the two of them met, they began a quest that my mother continues to live into to this day. In their words, they wanted to “find a way to live that helps the world more than it harms it.” This quest eventually led them to found Quixote’s Catholic Worker, a place of hospitality for homeless people in Prescott that my mother still runs.
But the reason I think of my parents when I hear these readings about John the Baptist is that, when I was a teenager, this quest led my family into multiple attempts to live in a succession of intentional communities, all of which were more or less dysfunctional. And the real problem with this was that my parents’ role in these communities was usually the role of pointing out the dysfunction.
And that is the problem with prophets, isn’t it? They tell us exactly who we are and where we are, and what we are doing, and what the result is going to be. And people don’t usually enjoy that experience—as my parents discovered over, and over, and over again.
But the gospel teaches us that we should. We should listen to the people who say the things we don’t want to hear, and talk about the things we don’t want to know about, and who tell the truth even when it is ugly. Because we can’t confess what we don’t know about, and we can’t repent of what we cannot see.
Repentance starts with prophets like John the Baptist, and my parents. People who force us to see the places of shadow in ourselves, in our communities, and in the world. Because only then can we begin the task of leveling mountains, raising valleys, and smoothing out rough places, in ourselves, and in our world.
But don’t get discouraged if that sounds too hard. There is the other lesson that John the Baptist, and my parents, have to teach us this Advent: Our work by itself can’t ever bring about the entirety of the change we know needs to happen, in ourselves or in the world.
Our work won’t ever save the whole world. In fact, if you talked to my mom right now, I’m not sure that she would tell you they ever even found a way to help the world more than they harm it. But what our work does do is prepare the way for God to break into the world in a completely redemptive and unexpected way.
It’s God’s job to save the world, not ours. And in Christ, God already has. We are just called to help prepare the way for the inevitable reign of God. We are called to help prepare the way for God to continue to break into the world in new ways and continue in us God’s salvation of the world. And that is good news indeed!
December 3, 2020 A Reflection from Father Bill Lupfer, Interim Rector
Announcement for Return to Virtual Worship
Last night, our vestry made the decision to return to Phase One, where we will only worship virtually.
They made this decision carefully, thoughtfully and with prayer. I was proud of the way they worked towards this decision. They represented you very well.
You may recall, when we drafted our reassembly plan in September, we listed clear metrics to guide us. Recently, with the upswing in COVID cases in our community, we have surpassed those metrics.
So we return to virtual worship. We have anticipated this step and are doing everything we can to help you worship authentically in this challenging time.
We continue to stay focused on our core mission to pray, learn, serve, connect. And we will work to help you stay up to date on all the ways we can be in relationship during these challenging times.
All Saints' is a very strong parish and you are progressing through these challenging times with courage and grace. With effective vaccinations on the horizon, we can anticipate a time where we will regather to celebrate God’s love by singing, eating, laughing and talking together.
Let’s all stay healthy and as safe as possible so we can enjoy the day when we full the church with song and laughter.
For now, I pray for each of you, that you may experience the quiet side of God’s love. Be bold and confident that God is blessing you, even as we all long for lives that feel more normal.
November 25, 2020 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
In just a few days, it will be Advent, and I am sure I’m not alone in my tendency these days to think back to the ways my family used to prepare for and celebrate Christmas when I was a child. Advent meant Christmas music, Christmas cookies, decorations, stockings, and my father’s reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Christmas meant the four of us, our little family, celebrating all the idiosyncratic traditions we had invented that had come to symbolize our love for each other.
What I started to realize as I grew older is that my childhood memory of Advent and Christmas is not a single memory, but a composite memory of all the beautiful Christmas moments from my entire childhood. And trying to create an experience each year that lived up to that composite memory grew harder and harder for my family as my sister and I grew up, and when my dad died in 2005, that re-creation became impossible. Christmas is very different now, for all three of us, and it took us a long time to get used to what that meant.
But life is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes, briefly, everything is perfect. But usually, it’s kind of a mess. People talk through concerts or movies (or it’s 2020 and no one can go to concerts or movies). Someone messes up the most important part of a worship service (or it’s 2020 and and in-person worship gets cancelled). Your family argues over Thanksgiving dinner (or it’s 2020 and your family is trying to eat together over Zoom, which makes you nostalgic for the traditional family argument).
But that is what Advent is actually all about. We are getting ready to celebrate Feast of the Incarnation. We are about to celebrate the time in history when the Word of God—God Godself—became flesh. In the Incarnation, God takes on exactly this part of being human: the messy, ugly, imperfect, fleshy parts of human life.
Jesus has a body that felt pain and pleasure, that got sick, and tired, and hungry, just like ours. Jesus has a brain that could learn, and forget, and play tricks on him; that worked well sometimes and less well sometimes, depending on what he ate, and drank, and how much sleep he’d gotten the night before. Jesus had a heart that could race with excitement, or fear; that beat with joy or anger, or ached with compassion or loneliness, just like ours.
Jesus is human. And, Jesus is God.
And that means that God gets it—really gets it. God created flesh. God was born, and lived, and died as flesh. And Jesus, in the flesh, rose again. We don’t ever have to try to pretend to God about who we are, or how we feel, or what’s actually going on in our lives. We don’t have to try to be perfect—all we have to do is follow Jesus as well as we can as who and what we truly are.
Christmas isn’t about perfection, it’s about incarnation.
So have a blessed Advent, whatever your preparations for Christmas look like this year. Because whether it is beautiful or difficult, painful or joyous, busy or lonely, or even all of the above, God is with you.
November 19, 2020 A Reflection from Father Tim Yanni
I am writing this as I just returned from a five-mile walk/hike. Living close to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve means that I can leave my home, walk to the preserve, meander along one of its many trails for a few miles, and then meander back home. I spend a lot of my time in my neighborhood and along the preserve’s many trails.
Back in March, when the Diocese of Arizona instructed parishes to move away from in-person worship services, I made a deal with myself. I would hike every day until we could return to church safely. At the time, I believed the quarantine would last about two weeks, and I thought 14 straight days of hiking seemed like an attainable, beneficial goal. I planned to reflect on my experience and report back to you at some point. Fast forward some 35 weeks, and many aspects of our COVID-19 quarantine continue. I did the math, and I now realize I have walked some 1,200 miles since March: about 5 miles per day.
Truth be told, part of my motivation was to improve my health. I knew COVID-19 was a respiratory illness and I wanted to ensure my lungs were stronger so that if I were to catch the virus, I would improve my chances of survival. To date, I am thankful that I have not contracted the virus. However, it is important to acknowledge that none of us is exempt from the possibility of exposure. As you likely read in yesterday’s announcement, Gary Quamme, our Director of Operations (and my good friend!), has tested positive for COVID-19. Gary’s illness, and the staff’s proximity to him, makes it necessary for each of us on staff to quarantine again, to leave the building, and to return to working from home full time. While we continue to pray for Gary’s well-being, we also are making good on our commitment to you. We know we can never guarantee total safety, but we want to ensure you that we are taking every appropriate step to keep ourselves and our worshipping community as safe and as healthy as possible. We are saddened to postpone our in-person services yet again, but we believe it is the right thing to do.
It appears that during this renewed quarantine time, I will have more opportunities to rack up more walking mileage. I plan to use this time to myself to reflect, to pray, and to do some self-work while enjoying God’s creation. Hiking gives me lots of time to focus on my strengths and my limitations. We all have our strengths and limitations. As Paul writes numerous times, the Church—the Body of Christ—has many individual parts which come together to make a more efficient whole. I realize that while some members of the Body of Christ are organized, ordered, and structured, I’m not one of those. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy. While some people like to wear formal attire as they sip on fine, aged scotch, I like shorts and sandals, comfortable shirts, and cheap, cold beer. Some people like fancy, complicated music in a beautiful concert hall. I like folk music on the back porch. My ongoing journey reminds me to be who I am, and I feel compelled to tell you to do the same. Be who you are. Unapologetically. Try to continually improve, sure. But don’t try to change who you are. There is room for you at the table, even if, like me, you have ever felt like an outcast. God made you who you are. Be the person God made you to be.
My health has certainly improved during my journey of over 1,000 miles, and I am hopeful all of us are in better health when we return in a few weeks. When we return, perhaps each of us can be more fully ourselves. May we always keep meandering forward. Sometimes we’ll hit peaks and other times we’ll hit valleys. Through it all, God is with us.
November 12, 2020 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
It is the time of year when we all start looking forward to preparations for the holidays. In my family, this means laying aside the various ingredients we need to make our special holiday foods, reaching out to family members and friends we haven’t heard from in a while, checking our supply of extension cords and Christmas lights, and whisking secret packages off the front porch to hide in closets, awaiting the arrival of wrapping paper and Christmas trees.
Here at All Saints’, this also means looking for the ways we can help others prepare for the holidays: Choosing an Angel Tree tag to purchase gifts for a resident of Maryland Gardens or a child of an incarcerated parent, buying stocking stuffers from Beth Carson’s supply of Singing Rooster gifts to benefit our companion parish and school in Haiti, purchasing toys to donate on Christmas Eve to the families of Iglesia de San Pablo Episcopal, and so much more.
As you might imagine, these preparations look different as we look toward Advent, 2020, but sometimes different is good! While we are still waiting to learn how we can best support our neighbors at Maryland Gardens and our friends in Haiti this year, we can collect the toiletries and laundry soap needed by the working families served by Nourish Phoenix (formerly ICM) and drop them in the red collection bins outside the church, and we can remember our friends at Iglesia de San Pablo when we Christmas shop, by purchasing a few extra toys for the Christmas Eve toy collection.
And most of all, we can rejoice that, thanks to several very generous donations, our Prison Ministry, in partnership with our youth and young adults, and the youth and young adults of Emmaus, Surprise, is able to bring Christmas to 50-70 MORE children this year than we were last year! And it isn’t too late to get involved, in one of three ways:
First, all youth and young adults (7th grade and up) are invited to join forces with the youth and young adults of Emmaus, Surprise, for either or both of two virtual Angel Tree shopping events: One on Sunday, November 15, at 5:45pm, and one on Tuesday, November 17, at 4:00pm. You can sign up here: https://forms.gle/kaHXeYBwP8pevcos7. There is no cost for these events, just come and use your creativity to find the best gifts for the children on our list!
Second, if virtual shopping in a group isn’t your thing, All Saints’ youth of any age are welcome to sign up to shop for an Angel Tree child separately with their families, and submit the receipts for reimbursement. If you would like to do this, email Pastor Emilie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Third, any member of All Saints’ can sign up to purchase gifts for a Prison Ministry Angel Tree child. To sign up, contact Lora Villasenor at email@example.com.
I wish you every blessing as you prepare for the holidays this year, here at church, in your own families, and in everything you do to help those in need. God bless you all.
November 8, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
As I write this, we are all waiting to hear the final results of our elections. And, while some of us will be more happy with the final results than others, I think we all feel that our country has some work to do with regards to healing the polarization we are experiencing at the moment. The good news is we have a road map for living as faithful, productive citizens.
The roadmap is our baptismal covenant. Here are the five questions and answers at the end of our Baptismal Covenant:
Celebrant: Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God's help.
Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People: I will, with God's help.
As you can see, the first question asks for a commitment to live out your faith in a Christian community – All Saints. The second question asks for a commitment to manage our own hearts and to change when we are off base, and we all go off base from time to time. The third question asks us to recommit our lives to living the Good News of God in Christ, which represents the reconciling power of God, leading lives that are daily committed to bringing people together. The fourth question invites us to commit to actively seeking Christ in EVERYBODY, loving our neighbors as ourselves. And finally, we are invited to recommit ourselves to serving others by working to build a society where all have the access they need to be faithful disciples: justice, peace and dignity.
In this way, we are given our “marching orders” as Episcopal Christians, grounded in God and committed to living out our faith. We have already spoken these words many times in church. Now we have the opportunity to practice these commitments in our daily lives. And the world needs you to be at the mature depths of your faith, now more than ever!
November 1, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Bill Lupfer
Remember Occupy Wall Street? I sure do!
I was Dean of the Cathedral in Portland, Oregon at the time. Many people in Portland were nervous and concerned as the protests gathered numbers and strength. What was worse, there was no one person who could speak to everybody with authority.
Stepping into the breach, a popular musical group in Portland, Pink Martini, decided to host a “unity concert” at Pioneer Square (which essentially functioned at Portland’s living room). They invited a variety of community leaders to address the gathered group (which turned out to be about 4000 people). I was happy to accept their invitation to speak. Naively, I did not understand that merely accepting the offer to speak would upset many in the cathedral community. People made phone calls to the Senior Warden and others on vestry. I asked those who were nervous to please wait until they heard what I would say. At the event, the four leaders who spoke before me praised the 99% and attacked the 1%. I steeled myself when my turn to speak came and spoke about the difficulty of the current times, pointing to the important national slogan that has been part of our common life since it was placed on our national shield in 1782: E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for “out of many, one”. I went on to say that the challenges facing our nation were so deep that EVERYBODY needed to contribute to the solution and ended my talk by chanting “100%! 100%! 100%!” When I finished, the silence was noticeable, which made the scattered applause seem even more thin and weak. It was disheartening to me that our country has moved away from this important slogan, born of the difficulties of taking the original 13 colonies into a unified national government.
It seems that E Pluribus Unum is as important now as it was when our Founders were shaping our country and I invite each of you to follow in our Founders footsteps as we move through our national elections next week. Every election cycle, our country continues its bold and outrageous effort to live E Pluribus Unum. Now is our time to contribute to creating unity among difference!
On the Eve of our Pledge Drive
As your Interim Rector, I have a privileged perspective to see you as the wonderful people you are, even as we struggle against the constraints imposed upon us by Covid 19. You are a fun, interesting, gracious group of people who represent the broad thinking of Phoenix – a classic “big tent” parish. You live E Pluribus Unum every day. And you are a sign to this world that a whole variety of passionate, smart, spiritually mature, worldly people can disagree about many aspects of our political life and still come together to serve God in this world.
You are the answer that our world needs right now. I see that in you every day and I feel so blessed to be with you in this difficult time.
In this season of national elections and Covid, with all the uncertainty that comes with it, we are inviting you to make a strong financial and spiritual pledge to All Saints’. For many years, you have stood as a strong beacon of God’s unifying love. Now more than ever, we need you to support the mission of All Saints’. Please join me in offering a generous pledge to All Saints’. The world needs you!
October 25, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Tim Yanni
Although I am a life-long Christian, I did not grow up in the Episcopal Church. Part of my reason for joining was that other Christian denominations told me how to vote, which I did not appreciate. As an ordained person, I made it a personal policy that I would never use the pulpit to tell you how to vote. If you ask me who I plan on voting for and why, I might engage in that conversation with you. But I won’t tell you who you should vote for.
In fact, one of the reasons I came to All Saints’ was that I knew there was not a political bend expected in preaching. This is not true of all parishes. I have heard some Episcopalians say, “You cannot vote for a Democratic candidate and consider yourself a Christian.” I have also heard, “You cannot vote for a Republican candidate and consider yourself a Christian.” Both of these statements are utterly false. I went to seminary in Berkeley, California, which is maybe the most liberal city in the United States. I was ordained a priest in Provo, Utah and I worked as a priest in Ogden, Utah. These are some of the most conservative cities in the country. I love and respect people who are spread all across the political spectrum. I chose to come here because All Saints’
does a terrific job of straddling the center of the aisle.
Certainly Episcopalians ought to uphold Christian teachings. However, there is no expected path we must take when it comes to following those teachings. For example, we know that Jesus teaches us to care for the poor. Some might prefer to do this by subscribing to government social programs that depend on tax dollars for funding. Others might choose to keep the government’s hands out of it all together, opting instead to make personal offerings of time, talent, or treasure. Either of these are appropriate and in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. What is important, of course, is caring for those who are in need.
Although I won’t tell you who or what you should vote for, I will tell you this: You do have a responsibility as a Christian to vote. Four years ago, over 90,000,000 American registered voters chose not to vote in the presidential election. This is simply unacceptable. As the Most Rev. Michael Curry, said, “It is a Christian obligation to vote, and more than that, it is the church’s responsibility to help get souls to the polls.”
Please vote. Please request your early ballot if you haven’t already done so. Please send it in or drop it off or head to the polls on election day. In our now-purple state of Arizona, your vote truly counts. I am proud to tell you that I have already voted, and Maricopa County tells me my ballot has already been counted. Won’t you please join me and the millions of other Americans to vote in this year’s election? Your vote is your voice. Use it.
October 18, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
Have you noticed that All Saints’ is filled with beautiful and meaningful art? I have!
The stain glass windows stand out and are exceptional. The painted mural near the entrance to the chapel is wonderful. And the art hanging on the walls around the church is beautiful and interesting. The statue of Jesus in the small garden off the rector’s office is not as easy to see if you are hurrying through the campus but it is wonderful and thought provoking. Walk down the pathway off the Close, notice the newly renovated garden (which looks wonderful – Thank You, Andy and Paul!).
The statue of Jesus stands right outside of my office. I can see it from my desk. The statue is beautiful and haunting, reminding me that Jesus is always at the center of our common life together.
The statue is titled Quo Vadis “Where are you going?” The name of the statue comes from the question that Peter asks the resurrected Christ, “where are you going?” And the same question comes to the person who is looking at the statue: “where are you going?”
I thought it would be interesting to share some of the symbolism of the statue.
The base of the statue is a solid square of granite – representing the solid foundation of faith that underlies all truth. It also reminds us of the physical nature of our being – solid, square, connected to the ground of our being. When you look closely at the statue, you can see right through Jesus’ body, which shows us the limitations of our human nature This reminds us of our limited time on earth; of our propensity to see everything as solid and permanent even though we know that life changes all around us; and of our inclination to fool ourselves when we don’t want to recognize a hard truth.
Jesus’ body is light and ephemeral but his arms and head are very human and life-like, reminding us that God created us as human and loves us as human and understands all our human challenges.
We are never alone. Jesus stands strong with us, even though we often struggle to see Him.
My prayer for you this week is that you stand strong in your faith and accept God’s love through Jesus to strengthen you on your life’s journey, especially these days when challenges seem to come at us from all directions.
Next time you are at church, walk into the Close and down the little pathway between the offices and the church. Enjoy the beautiful refurbished garden and say hello to Jesus. Chances are, I’ll be at my desk. Give me a wave also. And remember, I’m praying for you as you lean into all of the challenges of your life in these days.
October 11, 2020 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
Back in April, I had a conversation with an All Saints' parishioner that inspired me to start reading stories and posting them on YouTube, which was the beginning of what I have called "Pastor Emilie's Story Hour." Since then, I have had a lot of fun, reading several children's books, short stories for both children and adults, and now a novel for adults as well (Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White). I have re-discovered how much I love to read aloud, and I have re-discovered my love for the classic stories that inspired me and cultivated my imagination as a child and young adult. (Everything I post on YouTube has to be in the public domain, which means all were published before 1923 - so I do mean classics!)
One of those stories is the story we were discussing during the conversation that inspired the whole project. It is a book I have loved since I was a tiny child: Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter. The character Pollyanna, the small daughter of a poor missionary minister, who, when her father dies, must live with her very strict Aunt Polly, plays a game her father taught her, called "the Just Being Glad game." The challenge of the game is to find something in everything to be glad about, and the harder it is to do, the little girl explains to everyone around her, the more fun the game is, and of course, the book is about the ways in which Pollyanna's "glad game" transforms her aunt, and the town she lives in.
I thought of this book during that particular conversation in April, because we were at the very beginning of the pandemic, and as we discussed the challenges of being alone, of social distancing, and of not being able to worship together, this member of All Saints' started talking about finding the good and beautiful things in the world, the things we can be glad about, or grateful for, in everything that happens to us, and she told me that it really does actually help.
Now, neither of us meant that ignoring the difficult things in life helps at all, or that it is a good idea to try to see everything through "rose colored glasses" that try to somehow make the ugly parts of life beautiful in some artificial way. The gift of Pollyanna's "glad game" is that even though it doesn't make any of the difficult, challenging, or frightening things in our lives go away, it causes us to shift our focus to the good things, the actual good, that exists alongside our problems, fears, and difficulties, and this actually does make life easier to live. Like adjusting the focus on a camera lens, this does not make anything else in the frame disappear. It doesn't make bad things less bad, or less difficult or scary or sad to deal with. But it is easier to live through them if we can remind ourselves in a tangible way that good exists also, and often in equal or even greater measure than the difficult, sad, or frightening things we tend to dwell on.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)
Friends, I challenge you, especially during the next few months as tensions and fears continue to rise, try Pollyanna's "glad game." Take Paul's words to the Philippians to heart. Find everything you can to rejoice in. Real things. Good things. Things you might be inclined to take for granted. Write them down. Think about them. Paint them. Pray them. Thank God for them. Right now, I am rejoicing in the faithful dog snoring at my feet; in the birds singing in the tree outside my window; in my wife's presence in the next room, staying connected with the people of Emmaus over Zoom; in looking forward to recording another chapter of The Woman in White later this afternoon; and in the fact that my newly updated laptop works so much better than it did two days ago (thank you, Gary!). Little things, but real and tangible causes for joy and celebration in a world that needs more rejoicing.
October 4, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Tim Yanni
What’s in a name?
The Episcopal Church has no shortage of churchy jargon. We have vergers, acolytes, wardens, deans, sacristies, narthexes, naves, chancellors, vestries, sacristans, sextons, canon precentors, and more. So many words. What do they mean? In the event that you’re ever interested in expanding your Episcopal Church vocabulary, you can browse the official glossary at https://episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/all. I must admit, even as a seminary-trained priest, I look up terms in our glossary from time to time.
When it comes to jargon, a question that is commonly asked to priests is “what do I call you?” The Church does have a style guide to answer this question as well, but the answer is somewhat complex. The answer is different depending on whether it is written or spoken. For instance, when I sign a written document, I sign my name as, “The Rev. Timothy J. Yanni.” Notice the importance of the definite article. This is because the word “reverend” is an adjective and not a noun. “The Reverend” is a written honorific only.
It becomes even more complex from there. When addressing a priest, the style guide says that male priests should be called either Father or Mister, while female priests should be called either Mother or Ms. Again, it’s more complicated than that. These salutations remain optional. The best way to discover what a priest ought to be called is simple: Ask them.
I like to be called Father Tim. I certainly will respond to “Reverend Tim” or “Father Yanni”. I’ll even respond to “hey you!” But my preference is Father Tim. I like to go by my first name because I have always more easily identified with priests who went by their first names. I remember attending a parochial school as a child and knowing that of the two priests, the one who went by his first name was clearly “the cool guy.” He preached fun sermons and played basketball and soccer with the kids at school. The other priest was stern, strict, and rigid. I’m not suggesting I’m the “cool guy”, but I do like to have fun and I like to make sure people know that I’m down to earth and real. I like to be playful and I like to put people at ease as much as possible.
I go by Father Tim instead of Father Yanni because I see this choice as way of communicating that I don’t take myself too seriously. I like to have a good time and I like to encourage others to do the same. The Church is a place where we can experience a myriad of emotions. Believe it or not, even silliness and irreverence have their places in the Church from time to time. I know there is a time and a place for everything, but I think the Church is a place where joy should be abundant. So here’s what I’m going to ask you to do: Take some time out of your busy schedule and do something silly, fun, or playful. Do it to bring some added joy into your own life, or into someone else’s. Go ahead. It’s ok. Tell them you got permission from Fr. Tim.
September 27, 2020 A Reflection from Fr. Bill Lupfer
I had a professor in college say, when talking about something very complex: “It’s enough to cross a rabbi’s eyes!”
When you think about these days, it’s enough to cross even the smartest rabbi’s eyes! We are in a very difficult, divisive and disorienting presidential election. On top of that, we are all doing our best to navigate a global health pandemic. Many of us have family members and friends who are struggling with the restrictions imposed upon us by COVID-19. Mix into this that we haven’t even be able to go to church to seek God’s soothing love and we are told that singing together is one of the most dangerous activities we could do. We are living through very challenging times, no doubt about it!
As I talk to people at All Saints', I am very encouraged by your resilience. You are strong and flexible and smart and open to God’s call, even during these challenging times. I feel very blessed to be walking these days with you.
This coming weekend, we are able to go back to church. I’ve been really, really wanting to meet you and worship with you. And I can only imagine how you long to see each other in worship. So it’s wonderful that we are able to regather at church.
The only problem is – church will not feel the same as before. We face many restrictions at church, all for the purpose of keeping everyone safe. The worship times will be punctuated with announcements about new ways of doing things, which means that we will return to a familiar space but it won’t feel very familiar. We will return to a place that has been a bedrock for many of us but it may feel like it has shifted a bit, given how many liturgical changes you will experience if you join us in person or by video.
My prayer for you (and me) as we re-enter church is the prayer I’ve been praying, “Lord, help them be gentle with themselves and with others. Help them give themselves and others the benefit of doubt.”
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.