The Rev. Edward E. Godden, Interim Rector beginning January 1, 2018

The Wardens and Vestry of St. Thomas’s Parish are pleased and honored to announce that the Rev. Edward E. Godden has accepted our call to serve as Interim Rector beginning January 1, 2018. Father Ed has been in the area for many years, serving parishes in Delaware and Cecil County, Maryland. He is also well acquainted with St. Thomas’s, most recently as supply priest twice this past summer. Father Ed is trained and experienced in interim ministry.

Father Ed will serve the parish on a half-time basis. His focus will be on worship, pastoral care, and guiding us through the transition process. In order to make the best use of his time, and to expose the parish to a broad variety of experiences in worship and preaching, supply priests and guest preachers will supplement his liturgical ministry.

Father Ed is looking forward to being with us, helping us to grow into a stronger parish during the interim period as we seek our next full-time rector. Please keep him and the parish in your prayers. We also encourage you to maintain–and perhaps increase and deepen–your commitment to the ministry of St. Thomas’s during the very interesting time that lies ahead for all of us.

Connie Cooper
Senior Warden

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, October 2017

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Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

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“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning…
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”                                                                                                                T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding V”

I was 13 years old, launching into my teen years and all the joys and heartbreaks these years can bring. It was a warm September Sunday morning as we gathered for worship at Chews Landing United Methodist Church. There were thousands of people – at least to my teenaged eyes – staring at me as I stood on the chancel steps with Pastor Bridges.  Typical for teens of this age, I was still physically morphing toward maturity, so acne was very much the vogue on my face, and my hair was then full and blazing red as was my face I am sure.

You see, on this warm September Sunday, I made my profession before everyone that I felt God was calling me to ministry! This is how it was done in the Methodist Church in those days. After worship, I was grateful that more people than not offered their prayers and support for the journey ahead. And then at my sixteenth year Pastor Bridges was transferred to another pastorate, and Pastor Long came to our church. Pastor Long was older, longer serving in ministry, and had seen it all in life. His commendation to me was to “go to college, grow up some more, then come back to see if this call is REALLY God’s work.” How stupid I thought Pastor Long was that day … how angry I was that day … yet how wise and discerning he truly was that day. I never had the chance to thank Pastor Long in person for this wisdom, so I do so now.

Graduation from high school led to college years in Western Pennsylvania. A “Christian” college by formation and foundation required chapel weekdays and Sunday evening. By the way, it was the late 1960’s, so if you watched the recent Ken Burn’s documentary The Vietnam War you will know what that time was like! While Steven Nash wailed “Love the one you are with” we studied, partied, partied, studied some, partied more … well, I did graduate I suspect because they wanted me out of there! The blessing was meeting Marilyn in my third year, her first, and 46 years later, she still considers renewing my one year contracts.

Moving into the working world with my wife, my Dad’s venerable wisdom was heard – “Have a family, you take care of them. Be responsible!” This wisdom was formed in his life of responsibility for my mother and me, and I could not ask for a better model of this way of living. To my father’s credit, there were many other wisdom offerings, such as be compassionate … be fair … be generous … be humble … be helpful to those who need it. Paul W. Gennett, Sr. left my life much too early for my liking, but his wisdom has never left me. I began a career in business, first in sales, then management locally to management corporately, 20 years surrounded by “people” in human resource management and consulting. It seemed working with people in sharing my gifts, guidance, and encouragement that I encountered in those teenage years never left me. I just simply followed another path. And then …

Moving to Pittsburgh in 1985, we quickly became actively immersed in worship, service, and parish life of Christ Church. Then one cold and damp February evening in 1987, our priest, the Reverend Rodger Wood, asked to meet with me after work. We met in his office, and after a somewhat rambling prayer, Rodger stared at me in silence. And then he pointed his finger toward me saying, “Well, let’s get on with this. Everybody sees it – you should become a priest.” Suddenly I was a 13 year old teenager standing on the chancel steps all over again … but this time, it felt right round again. So another two years through the Episcopal aspirant process, then on to Virginia Seminary at the tender age of 40 — wait, when was the last course paper I wrote, and how did I do that again?? Returning to Pittsburgh for ordination as deacon to priest in 1992, and then …

Twenty-five years of seeking to serve God and the people who called me to care for them and share in ministry echoes the words of T. S. Eliot for me — “What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning …”
On November 1, the journey to Chapter 22 begins for you, the people of St. Thomas’s, and Volume 3 of my life journey opens to a new, blank page for us both. Yet not so blank when we think of it as we bring the richness of lives and faith lived fully from our nine years together into this next ventures. As result of our life and time together, I pray those I have hurt or offended, please forgive me. To those I have blessed, bless others. Those whom I have helped, help others. To all who have invited into your homes, your lives, your joys and sorrows, your hopes and dreams, I am humbled and thankful for our time together.

The words of blessing from John Donohue echo joyfully for us both I pray, with a little awe and wonder mixed in as well. Yet I pray you embrace this blessing as my prayer for you all in the days to come, and ask you embrace them for the journey ahead for Marilyn and me …

“Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”
John Donohue. “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

With gratitude, love, and hope for you all, my thanks for inviting me to share  these nine years of mutual ministry together. May God, our loving and lover God in Christ, bless you, bless you, bless you!

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

 

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, September 2017

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“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you … You are witnesses of these things. “ Luke 24:44, 48

We return to those routines of life after our summer rest. Vacation memories collected and stored for another season. School supplies purchased and children back to early-to-bed-to-early-to-rise school days [children say “aww” to parents … parents say “yay” to everyone]. Our 20,000+ neighbors of the University of Delaware return as does the rhythm of our campus ministry gatherings. We also return to those rhythms of worship in this place. Yet this time will be different in a few ways.

One way is the BIG celebration of our 175 years of ministry and mission to Newark on Sunday, September 24. PLEASE NOTE we will gather for ONE service this day at 9:30 a.m. We will remember our past while looking to our present and future for God’s onward call in this place, in our time, as this people of the Jesus Movement. We will bless and commission ALL ministries and ministers that serve our parish family! We will admit, bless, and pray onward our 2017-2018 Confirmation Class and their leaders, Bob Rys and Teri Quinn Gray. We will worship with a liturgy crafted especially for this day, and we will gather outside to bless our new welcoming signage at the exit of our driveway. We share our deep gratitude for the leadership of the events of our 175th anniversary year – Tom Fairchild, Laura Greene, and Nicole Cebula. We will remember … commit … bless … now and onward, together.

The other way is our coming closer to my taking leave as your companion in ministry and rector these nine years on October 31. As many have heard me say, I believe I have done, with your help and God’s help, the work and ministry I can in this time and chapter of your lives. The S.W.E.E.P.S. ministries are in place for future service. The finances are healthier for the near-term, while the work of a living stewardship is in the hands of the Vestry servant leaders. The property is in better structural condition, and the Grove is YOURS for the future. I have been blessed and am grateful to have completed these things with you and God in this time, in this place.

At the August 19th meeting of the Vestry, I provided a Covenant of Taking Leave from St. Thomas’s. This covenant is simply, in writing, a clear understanding of our life and relationship in the next pages and chapter of St. Thomas’s Parish. Here are the important points for the understanding of all in our parish family:

  • My resignation signifies that all my priestly, pastoral, liturgical, and administrative duties for the parish are completed. As St. Paul writes to his beloved Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
  • This completion is committed to the transition period before the next rector is called. St. Thomas’s needs time and space between rectors to discover who you are now, where God is calling you onward, and what type of leadership gifts are needed onward for mutual ministry.
  • I will not officiate or assist at any liturgical function in the parish [wedding, baptism, burial office] for at least one year. I may wish to attend a function as a member of the congregation only, and then with understanding of the Wardens, Vestry, and current transition minister. I will continue to exercise my priestly ministry at other parishes as invited at some point, but for a season I am looking forward to being a “pew sitter” with Marilyn.
  • The Rector Discretionary Fund will be returned to the Wardens and Treasurer of the parish to be used by appointed lay representatives as needed.
  • The keys to the church facility will be returned, and clearly marked, for use by future priests. I expect I will be the ONLY person in Newark not to have a key to St. Thomas’s!

This covenant simply gives appropriate space for you to move forward to Chapter 23 in this transitioning time, and gives Marilyn and I appropriate space as we take our steps into this next volume of our life and work together. As Frederick Buechner reminds me, the root of our word goodbye emerges from the 13th century Middle English expression when friends take leave from one another – God be with you!

God be with you, dear sisters and brothers of this place, in this time … God be with you!

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

 

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, May 2017

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“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”                                                                     Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, GENTLENESS, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”   Galatians 5:22-23

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“Live in the wisdom of accepted gentleness. Gentleness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely loved by someone … Scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by gentleness.” Brennan Manning

I was delighted to learn of our Sunday Parlor Group [aka Adult Education gathering] was planning a return engagement to read and discuss The Shack by William P. Young. This gathering had its first encounter with this modern day spiritual story when first released in 2009. Now made into a movie, interest in returning to this story of life, faith, and struggle with each, came into being again. And seriously, with Octavia Spencer as God who wouldn’t want to have a life conversation with her!

I returned to this book as well just before and during Holy Week. I was cruising along, trying to be attentive to my spirit engaged in the story, while mindful of the six worship services to organize and as many sermons to prepare, until I came to a place in the book that brought me to a dead stop. It was a section in which I had underlined AND highlighted. Here is what it was that I had read in a conversation between the pain-soaked father Mack with God in The Shack

“But,” Mack paused. “What about your wrath? It seems to me that if you’re going to pretend to be God almighty, you need to be a lot angrier?” “Do I now? I understand how disorienting all this must be for you, Mack. But the only one pretending here is you. I am what I am. I’m not trying to fit anyone’s bill.” … “But if you are God, aren’t you the one spilling out great bowls of wrath and throwing people into a burning lake of fire? Honestly, don’t you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you?”

At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. “I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

 

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.” Ralph W. Sockman

Our Tuesday and Wednesday morning bible study gatherings are fairly vocal about not buying into the wrathful God mostly found in Hebrew Scriptures. I remind them, saying aloud remind myself as well, that these stories were collected, told, re-collected and written by people just like us. Just looking and listening as to how God blesses one country or culture or political view and none others. Told and collected and written by a people trying to find a way through life and faith as conquerors as well as those who were conquered. It is really easy to praise OR blame something that is somewhere out there in those times of plenty or times of want, in time of peace or times at war.

And then we have Jesus. Jesus who blesses the merciful ones and the peacekeepers. Jesus who touches the leper, the sick, and the impoverished in body and spirit and says again and again, “Be healed, go in peace. YOUR FAITH has made you well.” Jesus who spent most of his short kingdom bearing message life out on the streets and in the countryside where the people of God lived and had their being. Not in places of ivory palace grandeur or Temple practice and performance. Not until the end of his time which we know is REALLY our beginning. It is REALLY our beginning that is the Church to this day.

For me, gentleness always begins with ourselves. I am still guilty of being too hard on myself for what I did do or did not do. Sometimes this spills out on others, and for that I am sorry and need forgiveness. It has been the part of me that made me very sick in soul and body at one time … and I CHOOSE not to live this way again! I am a work in progress, and pray forgiveness as I forgive myself and others along this way of life.

I begin my day praying the Daily Office, reading the appointed scriptures and psalms, reflecting on a variety of other meditative readings, and then into silence before journaling. As I enter this time and place called the silence of Love, I place my hand upon a picture I have carried since my first sabbatical in 2015. It is the contemporary picture of the Good Shepherd – Jesus holding close to his breast a lamb, eyes closed and a contented smile pursing his lips, while the lamb reflects this same image holding tight to Jesus. I then sit in the silence called Love.

As Octavia aka “God” says rightly, “It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

“I choose gentleness … Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.” Max Lucado

In our days filled with so many polarized views, spewing angry words and actions at one another, hate speech that claims THIS God is OUR God of might and right, and our God alone. Maybe the difference is for you and me to bear the cloak of gentleness into our worlds. Maybe the difference in the life of the world may just start with you and me.

Try a little gentleness …

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, April 2017

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Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, FAITHFULNESS, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19

As I reflected on the fruit of FAITHFULNESS, I was led to the passage from Luke [found as well in Mark and Matthew] about mustard seed faith … and the passage returned to me the gracious memory of Lynn Peachy and her daughter Mary. Many may remember “Miss Peachy” and Mary from their joyful musical support of our Lights Choir up until Lynn’s death in 2013. With the clockwork precision of Greenwich Mean Time, Lynn would arrive by her DART bus “chariot” with Mary each Tuesday afternoon. Motoring along on her brightly decorated motorized wheelchair, they would share in supper they brought along with them in the Great Hall classroom while waiting for the children to arrive. It was always the time in which I was blessed to hear of their adventures during that week. While supported financially by Social Security disability insurance and small retirement stipend of her late husband, she navigated life always with a smile and filled with God’s love to share abundantly. She loved our children … she loved Jesus … and she LIVED her FAITHFULNESS the best she could in the ways she knew how.

The last six months of her life, it became physically impossible for Lynn to come to St. Thomas’s to be with “her children” in the Lights Choir. In my visits with Lynn, scattered between hospital stays and the nursing home in which she moved in her latter days, Lynn was always spreading God’s love while suffering in deep pain of multiple health challenges. Even in those hospital stays, she would have her trusty portable keyboard beside her bed, often playing spirituals that came deep from her bones of faith. The other item that was always traveling with Lynn was her mustard seed plant. When this lesson was the appointed Gospel, Deacon Cecily was the preacher on that day. As part of her sermon, she gave mustard seeds to all gathered to visually show how small in size it really is. Lynn and Mary took that seed, planted and watered it, and it grew … and grew … and grew. After Lynn’s death, Mary went to live with a sibling in Pennsylvania. She carried her mother’s keyboard and mustard seed plant with her.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19-20

The blessing of “Miss Peachy” in my life, and I believe to the lives of the children and families she touched in her time with us, is that she LIVED resurrection faithfulness! She clearly understood that her health was fragile and failing, and VERY CLEAR about her mortal life. Lynn lived each day as if this would be her last, so she lived it fully and joyfully. Living out of her resurrection faithfulness, she would do something every day to serve and glorify her Lord through her living. Many days it was in serving with our children on Tuesday evenings and being present in worship with Mary every Sunday. Some days, when her health was compromised, it would be through a phone call, or a piano lesson, or writing a note to share her gratitude and faith. I have a handful of “Miss Peachy” notes in a special file I go to when my resurrection faithfulness is not working real well.

As we come to Holy Week and Easter Day, I was captured by the following from a portion of a book My Bright Abyss by Christian Winman:

“Just as some of Jesus’ first-century followers could not credit the presence of the risen Christ, so our own blindness, habit, and fear form a kind of constant fog that keeps us from seeing, and thereby having faith in, the forms that grace takes in our everyday lives. We may think that it would be a great deal easier to have a living faith if the world erupted around us, if some savior came down and offered as evidence the bloody scars in his side. What the Gospels suggest is that this is not only wishful thinking but willful blindness, for in fact the world is erupting around us, and Christ is very often offering us the scars in his side right now. What we call doubt is often simply dullness of mind and spirit, not the absence of faith at all. It is faith latent in the lives we are not quite living, God dormant in the world to which we are not quite giving our best selves.” “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” What mountains, or even hills, await movement by living your resurrection faithfulness in the here and now of your days? Maybe standing at the foot of the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday will reignite the faith that is “… latent in the lives we are not quite living … in the world to which we are not quite giving our best selves.”

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, March 2017

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“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, GENEROSITY, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies …” The Gospel lessons in February have centered on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapters 5-7, the radical call to a living faith in God’s ways and not our human derivations or self-negotiated ways of living our faith. While many of these But I say to you teachings challenge us in our days, although we dismiss many of them for not being relevant to our complicated society and worldly norms now, Jesus words still ring very true as each one calls us to living the life of GENEROSITY that only can begin when it starts from the inside out.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

Growing up on our family farm, the morning hours were the time to gather up the day’s harvest of vegetables and fruits. After sorting time was completed, the trucks were off to deliver to the Campbell Soup and smaller grocery stores, we began filling the Gratitude Basket. In sorting, the rule was three items for market, one into the Gratitude Basket, continuing this pattern until complete. The Gratitude Baskets were placed on a “Free As You Need” table by the roadside. This practice was started by my Grandad, the rule adhered to for all his sons and workers on the farm. Grandad always sat by the table, meeting and greeting those who stopped to take what they needed. They would chat about life and family, and anything else that might arise for his listening heart to hear. Nobody ever left empty handed or hearted from this time, most particularly my Grandad and me.

“If truth doesn’t set you free, generosity of spirit will.” Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Have you noticed how you feel when you give out of yourself for another? For me, I experience a warm fullness of spirit. Yet there are still those times when my generosity has strings attached, the expectation of the other to say thanks, or praise my good nature and wonderfulness, or … I have heard it said, and have said myself, that expectations become premeditated resentments. I know how this feels because I have felt this in my less-than-generous moments.

“Generous leaders are servant leaders. They always come with open hands and an open heart.” Farshad Asl

On March 12, we gather as this community of faithful for the 175th time in our history. Over these 175 years, the mission and ministry of St. Thomas’s Parish has flourished through the hands and hearts of YOU, the servant leaders of God. Over my years with you, I have consciously called those who serve as your Vestry, and those who serve in the many and varied way, as OUR servant leaders. We have moved, for the most part, from coming together on committees to serving in ministries, such as Stewardship, Worship, Christian Formation, Pastoral Care, Property and so on. It seems to just be words, but I find again and again, when serving a ministry, I am called to serve and serve out of a greater generosity of self and sprit that gives life to my work, and life abundantly. Like the athlete, we grow stronger living this way when it becomes the CORE of our being.

“What I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” Simone de Beauvoir

The prophet Zechariah reminds us this day, in a world very much divided by have’s and have not’s, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show generosity and mercy to one another” Living out of this spiritual place of GENEROSITY, the world in which you live and move and have your being will be a profoundly better place for those you serve, and for you,

“You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 — Forward in Faith February 2017

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Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

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“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain

Kindness seems to be in rare supply these days. Like that pearl of great price, I keep looking for kindness in myself and others much like that solitary figure sweeping the beach with a metal detector. The language of kindness is stilled, much too silent, a rare word spoken in our life and times.

Our overly busy lives give us little time for kindness to ourselves, let alone others. We run and run and run, and then when we have run out of running fuel, we rage and rage and rage against … what?? What is this rage about? Where is the kindness we seek to receive, the kindness we seek to give? In pondering this anomaly, I have been asking many over my days, “Where can we find kindness now, and what might kindness look like now?

One person from another community I share life with took to silence with my question. I was thinking, sadly, she would have no answer – or just get mad at me for asking! After a time, she emerged with this reply – “I experience kindness in this way. I am in 15 item checkout line the grocery store behind a person with clearly more than 15 items. I know this because I have counted every item; however, I do not say anything to the person to be NICE to them. I express KINDNESS in the same situation; the difference is I don’t count!”

++++++++

 

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge

that one day someone might do the same for you.” Princess Diana

Kindness is when I move ME out of the way for God to work THROUGH me toward others in the ways best for God’s desire for others and for me. For some folks, this is as natural a way of living as taking breath. For me, it is still a work in process, as I still allow external circumstances or people to infuse my head and heart away from kindness. My frustration of not getting done what needs to be done because the lack of help of others stalls and hinders any process and progress – and for this, I can be not very kind. Perhaps I am cut off in the bobbing and weaving NASCAR style to survive I-95 driving, so I choose to respond in kind to that other person the same way – and for this, I can be not very kind AND very reckless with the plethora of handguns in place of many automobiles these days. Whenever I act out of this place, ME in front of God’s desire for a better me, I am unkind to my own soul most of all.

+++++++

 

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” Amelia Earhart

 

Anthony de Mello was director of the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counseling in India. In his last book of meditations before his death, The Way of Love, he reflects on living lovingkindness as the way of Love:

“It is with kindness as with happiness. It is not possible for you to say that you are happy because the moment you become conscious of your happiness you cease to be happy … True happiness is uncaused … It is unself-consciousness. Acting in kindness is never as good as when you have no consciousness that it is good – you are so much in love with kindness that you are unself-conscious about your goodness. So the first quality of kindness is unself-consciousness.

The second quality is it effortlessness. Effort can change behavior, it cannot change you … Change is only brought about by awareness and understanding. Understand your attachments and they will vanish, the outcome is freedom. Love and freedom and kindness are not things that you can cultivate and produce … all you can do is observe their opposites and [by changing you] cause these opposites to die.

The third quality of kindness is it cannot be desired. If you desire kindness you will be anxious to attain it [and more anxious when you do not attain it]. You will be in a constant state of dissatisfaction, and this will kill the very kindness you set out to be and become. Here is something to understand … Your ego is a great technician. It cannot be creative. It goes for methods and techniques and produces so-called “righteous” people who are rigid, mechanical, lifeless, intolerant of themselves as they are of others … You join the Creator not as a wily technician, but when you are open to Love in you – no greed, no ambition, no anxiety, no sense of striving, gaining, arriving, attaining – kindness becomes you.” Excerpts from pp. 69-72

++++++++

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca

So, what will KINDNESS look like now and onward … in YOU?

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

For everything there is a season – the resignation of The Reverend Paul W. Gennett, Jr.

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Dear faithful people of St. Thomas’s Parish,

Grace and peace be with you all. As the Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …” and so the time has come for my service with you as Rector to St. Thomas’s.

With thankful heart, I am your servant in Christ always,
The Reverend Paul W. Gennett, Jr.
Rector

See The Reverend Paul W. Gennett, Jr.’s resignation letter.

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, January 2017

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against such things.”

Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient.” James 5:7-8

“So, when are you leaving?” I have been asked this question more than a few times over the past year. I am pretty sure it is asked mostly out of curiosity and not with the intent of “So, why are you STILL here?” I am pretty sure, so I will stick with this thought.

The answer is – well, I am not leaving yet! While more will be revealed as the days, weeks, and months of 2017 unfold, I can say with all surety not yet. Then I began reflecting on this month’s fruit of the spirit which is PATIENCE. Funny how that works sometimes, don’t you think? We have grown to be a not real patient people or society in our days of late. It seems all those open avenues of communications and life connections that pull and push us in directions to take action, to do something, to do anything … but what? So I find myself sucked into the centrifugal force of reacting to life and events out in a future time and place I have no control over, rather than responding out of prayerfulness, being alert to people and events around me, and dwelling in PATIENCE.

I have found the work of the diocesan Standing Committee, of which I am a member, a great reminder of how PATIENCE works when I work with it. After Bishop Wright disclosed his intention of retirement in 2017, we soon met with a representative of the national church who basically gave us THE BOOK of all that needed to be done in this process. The analogy of having our mouth taped over the spigot of a fire hose was the reigning feeling of all the members. Then, together, we mapped out a tentative timeline, and began the work of inviting others to share in the process of leadership as Search and Transition Committee members. We gathered all together in our organizing retreat to begin this work in July. Now we support the work each group is doing, waiting with PATIENCE most of the time as the work unfolds before us. While we have the date of ordination and consecration set for December 9 of this year, we are still very much waiting through the days and time in God’s way, not ours. Trusting God, trusting the process, and staying where we are in this in-between time. Waiting, we pray, in PATIENCE.

In a recent meditation entitled The Three Boxes, Fr. Richard Rohr reflects on the invitation, although sometimes uncomfortable, of moving through a time of transition and the gifts that PATIENCE brings when we are faithful to the process …

“Julian of Norwich writes, ‘First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God.’ Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). The role of the prophet is to lead us into sacred space by deconstructing the old space while the role of the priest is to teach us how to live fruitfully in sacred space. The prophet disconnects us from the false, and the priest reconnects us to the real at ever larger levels. If priests have been largely unsuccessful, it is because there are so few prophets.
Think in terms of what I call “the three boxes”: order > disorder > reorder. The first order, where we all begin, is a necessary first “containment.” But this structure is dangerous if we stay there too long. It is too small and self-serving. Initial “order” doesn’t really know the full picture, but it thinks it does. Only in the final “reorder” stage can darkness and light coexist, can paradox be okay. We are finally at home in the only world that ever existed. This is true and contemplative knowing. Here death is a part of life, failure is a part of victory, and imperfection is included in perfection. Opposites collide and unite; everything belongs.
We dare not get rid of our pain before we have learned what disorder has to teach us. Most of religion gives answers too quickly, dismisses pain too easily, and seeks to be distracted—to maintain some ideal order. So we must resist the instant fix and acknowledge ourselves as beginners to be open to true transformation. How can a Christian look at the Crucified One and not get this essential point? The Resurrected Christ is the icon of the third box or reorder.
There is no direct flight from order to reorder; you must go through disorder, which is surely why Jesus dramatically and shockingly endured it on the cross.”
From “Daily e-Meditations” by Fr. Richard Rohr; 12/6/16

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …” so writes the prophet in Ecclesiastes. We know our time together will be changing, ending in some ways but not in others. Together we can move through the Three Boxes. Together, we will move to a place and time of disorder to allow space and to see what has been, what is now, and then to reorder in the ways we will go onward. Together, might we hold before us those words in front of the journals of Dag Hammarskjold – “For all that has been, THANK YOU! For all that we be and becoming, YES!” Together, with honored and deeply held PATIENCE, Love will lead us home.

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 — Forward in Faith, December 2016

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Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

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“While they were talking, Jesus stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” The appearance of Jesus after his resurrection must have been an awesome moment for those frightened, depressed, and hopeless followers in that upper room. Yet I suspect the one thing they felt was not necessarily peace at his presence. I guessing there was still a pretty hefty supply of fear, amazement, guilt by those who fled from his trial and crucifixion, and yes, even doubt. Remember our namesake Thomas was “out and about” when Jesus appeared. When later told of Jesus’ visitation, he would not believe anything solely on the word of his companions UNLESS he saw Jesus for himself. Eight days later he was with them. Jesus returned, sauntered up to Thomas, and offered his wounded hands and side. The rest becomes our faith history to this day, including Jesus’ evangelistic response to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

This year, and particularly November, has felt just about as fear-filling, confusing, angering, hopeless, and anything but peaceful for many I have been present in these days. Like our namesake, we want to grab hold of something we can believe and trust for our days ahead. So we flock to the information sources that surround us at every moment, every turn, and every swipe of our thumb or the click of a mouse. We seek the proof we feel we need, and it rises tantamount over trust and faith, seeking information right now to be the best and most truthful, unable to sit and be in discernment to what is, and what can be, with others, in peace. We read books, seek out innumerable articles, attend real and virtual lectures, and conversation groups seeking, seeking, and seeking HOW we can find peace in this time. For me, my “peace seeking missile” self joins with other seekers and discerners, in prayer, together. We do this by abiding in a peace that we bring and that we share to each other. We gather in waiting, around a table like ours, to be fed and to feed each other, and our world, with peace.

Fr. Richard Rohr offers wisdom to me in our times from daily meditations Yes, And …

“T.S. Eliot said in the Four Quartets ‘[Human]kind cannot bear very much reality.’ What we often prefer is highly contrived and costumed ways of avoiding the real, the concrete. So Jesus brought all of our fancy thinking down to earth, to one concrete place of ordinary incarnation – one loaf of bread and cup of wine. ‘Eat it here, and then see it everywhere’ he seems to be saying. As St. Augustine essentially said in an Easter sermon, ‘You are what you eat.’”

He continues reminding me that the incarnated moment we share is bread for the world and not just a select few …

“The standing, structural proof that Christianity was intended to be an inclusive religion is that two-thirds of our Christian Bible is, in fact, the Jewish Bible! Further, our entire Bible is filled with stories, metaphors, images, and even names for God that were taken from pre-Jewish religions, pagan sources, secular history, and Greek philosophy. We [have become] more exclusionary that the authors of our Bible were … When we are true to our Jewish sources, Jesus is easily seen as the INCLUSIVE Son of God, inviting us to join him there. It seems we found it much easier to worship him than to imitate him … The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for one another – not even a baby in a manger. Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to the communion is HUNGER. And, most often, sinners are much hungrier than the so-called saints.”

Like flickering luminaries, Advent points us along a pathway to finding peace. A peace come to earth, Love divine all love excelling, in the Christmas truth. We come to that peace for a day in time, around a table with bread and wine, together. We come to be fed, and then to be and see it everywhere.

Many will come to worship on Christmas. Some will come as a long standing tradition for the family, gathered in the darkened church to hear the story of shepherds and angels, Mary and Joseph, and this baby Jesus. Some will come to be embraced by flickering candles, transported by the smell of wafting incense, singing “Silent Night” with others we may or may not see again. Some come to be in a place and with people they know will provide sanctuary, hope, and peace for the soul in this precarious and unsafe world. Some will come because they are hungry for hope, hungry for truth, hungry for something.

So, come and be fed. Come and abide, together. Come for sanctuary and story long told. Come and be fed, then feed the world in peace. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+