Christ the King Sunday

crackChrist the King Sunday (Luke 23:33-43)

Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday.  It is the last Sunday of the long season of Pentecost and the final celebration of our liturgical year.  Next Sunday we begin a new year, a new season, as we start our Advent journey toward Christmas. Today we celebrate the kingship of Christ with hymns about royalty, power, and heavenly courts–all of this right before we begin a quiet, contemplative season’s journey to Bethlehem.  We talk about Jesus as King today but soon the church and even the secular world around us will be focused on Christ the tiny baby in a manger. Read More

Counting the Cost

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Pentecost 16 (Luke 14:25-33)

Some of us here today have come out of faith traditions that included the practice of an altar call.  (If you are a cradle Episcopalian, this may be a somewhat foreign concept to you.)  As I remember it, the altar call was a part of the worship service, generally after the sermon and just before the close of the service.  The congregation would sing a quiet hymn (i.e. Just as I Am) several times over and anyone who wanted to come to the altar to profess his/her faith could do so. It was a quiet time of prayer where, surrounded by supportive members of the congregation and a welcoming pastor down front, you could almost hear Jesus himself say: “Come unto me.” Read More

A few words on Martha’s behalf

Martha_and_MaryAre you a Mary or a Martha? That’s the choice we generally get when faced with today’s Gospel reading–the moral of the story usually being that we should all try to honor our spiritual side and become more like Mary (and by default less like Martha). Or, at the very least, that we should concentrate on being less “worried and distracted” in a world which seems determined to keep us very worried and very distracted. (Again, less like Martha.) Read More

Two Tales of Redemption

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Pentecost 3 (1 Kings 17:8-24 & Luke 7:11-17)

Today we have heard two stories of resurrection.  Two widowed mothers who have lost their only sons.  Two sons who are restored miraculously and given back to their mothers.  Two stories of redemption. Two stories (Old & New Testament) that seem surprisingly alike.  And yet two stories with some important differences. Read More

The Life Changing Magic of Sorting Out & Tidying Up

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the title of a lovely little book by a young Japanese author.  Currently on the bestseller lists, Marie Kondo’s premise for organizing a household is simple: keep what brings you joy and release the rest.

It’s a great principle for sorting out t-shirts and old books but a little more difficult for me in my current project at the Chapel Center.  I am taking advantage of the slow summer months and trying to tackle multiple boxes and file drawers of accumulated paper clutter, some of it kept for the fifty plus years of St Anselm’s existence. Read More

Somebody’s Knocking

photo 1 (3)A pair of sand hill cranes passes through our neighborhood almost daily at St Anselm’s Chapel Center.  Recently I noticed that they had a chick with them.

I have really wanted to get a closer look at the little one but I didn’t want to alarm the parents.

Or irritate them, for that matter.  I’m not sure that anything really alarms these slow moving birds, but I’ve heard they can get pretty aggressive. Read More

Branding & Marketing: What does “Campus Ministry” mean for us and others?

brandingWhat do we mean when we talk about Episcopal “campus ministry”?  What does it mean for the students we are trying to serve?

  • How should Episcopal ministry be identified and recognized on a university campus?
  •  A church or the Church? (Traditional parish worship or pop-up gathering?)
  •  A fellowship?  (Yes, but different from a student fraternity or club, right?)
  •  A Christian fellowship but with a very unique liturgical tradition.  (How do we honor that unique tradition in a campus environment?)

Read More

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Today’s College Student

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Chapel Center delegates to our diocesan convention in Punta Gorda (Oct 2014).

Our society usually tends to view campus life just a bit idealistically.  Perhaps that is due to the somewhat fuzzy memory of those of us who attended college more than a few years ago.  Perhaps it is because college students are generally portrayed in stereotypes in our movies and TV shows.  For whatever the reason, we tend to view college life as a time of football games and heavy duty partying, punctuated only by the occasional all night study sessions to cram for a final exam and passing grade.  All the privileges and freedoms of adult life without any of the responsibilities and obligations.

A brief survey of campus statistics paints a different picture: Read More

What’s the Episcopal Church doing on today’s college campus?

Would you rank campus ministry among the top ten essential programs of the Episcopal Church?

No?  And why not?

Where do you think it fits among our church’s ministries and programs?

If you aren’t quite sure, you are certainly not alone.  The problem is, as a church I think we don’t quite know what to think about ministry to university students on campus settings.

Campus ministry is not service in the way we usually think of service: feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or visiting the sick.  It is not a defining part of our liturgy, music or tradition. Many of us adults in the church may have had the common experience of attending a Cursillo weekend, but few of us probably share a common experience of participating in Episcopal campus ministry programs during college.  One might wonder what it is that Episcopal campus ministries actually do and why are they funded (and by whom)?  Why should we provide services to college students? What benefit does it really give them?  How does it build up the Body of Christ?

My own memories of campus ministry go back to the  early ’70’s when I was a freshman at Florida State University living in an all girls dorm.  I had grown up in the Presbyterian church but it was First Baptist that sent a bus to campus on Sunday morning and evening, rounding up those of us who lacked transportation to get to church.  There was worship, there was food, and there was a college age choir of 70-80 students.  That fall we rehearsed and performed “Celebrate Life,” a hip-and-happenin’ musical based on the life of Jesus.  It was glorious.

Did this change my experience of college life?  Yes.  It made a difference.  It mattered.

And that is what campus ministry can and should be doing.

The following is from the Florida United Methodist Campus Ministries website:

How Important is Campus Ministry? Consider these statistics:

  • The current generation of college students is the largest since the Baby Boom, but the lowest percentage to grow up in church.
  • Approximately 80% of college students have never had significant Church experience.
  • More significant life choices (vocation, lifestyle, relationships, spiritual) are made during college than any other stage of life.
  • 90% of students who have grown up in the church may never return after graduation.

In the weeks to come, I will be exploring campus ministry in this blog, trying in particular to see what “best practices” are being done and specifically looking at programs like intentional communities and peer ministry.  What is it that is working and why?  I’m also gathering resources on the Campus Ministry Resources page of this blog: if you can suggest items to add, please let me know.

I invite you to come along for the journey.  I think it will be an interesting trip.

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    In what ways has campus ministry made a difference for you or someone in your family?       I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Down to the river to pray: celebrating the Baptism of Jesus

baptism1Last Sunday we sang “Away in a manger” and “Angels we have heard on high” as we remembered Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem. Today we have fast forwarded to Jesus as an adult and we celebrate his baptism and the beginning of his ministry.  We have begun the season of Epiphany, a time in our church calendar which proclaims the manifestation of Jesus to the world.  It is particularly fitting that we begin this season with baptism, a sacrament and experience that most of us share in common with our Lord.

So, what image comes to mind when you think about baptism?

Perhaps you think about how we often see baptism portrayed in the movies.  Do you remember that scene from “O Brother, Where Are Thou?”?  Three escaped convicts are traveling through the woods when they come upon a large group of people in white robes, going “down to the river to pray”.  After an initial hesitation, Delmar bounds into the water, breaks in line and is immersed in the river by the preacher.

Pete says: “Well I’ll be. Delmar’s been saved.”

Delmar comes back beaming: “Well that’s it, boys. I’ve been redeemed. The preacher’s done warshed away all my sins and transgressions. It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting’s my reward.  The preacher says all my sins is warshed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.”

Everett (played by George Clooney) says: “I thought you said you was innocent of those charges?”

Delmar responds: “Well I was lyin’. And the preacher says that that sin’s been warshed away too. Neither God nor man’s got nothin’ on me now. C’mon in boys, the water is fine.”

Most of us have not experienced such a dramatic baptism.  In fact, the truth is that many of us don’t remember our baptism because we received the sacrament as small children or as infants.  We may remember more about our own children’s baptism, but if you are like me, as a young parent at the time of your child’s baptism you were probably thinking less about theology and more about whether your baby was going to scream or sleep through the ceremony.  (We have two children and experienced both options.)

So what exactly is baptism and what meaning does it carry for us?  Our catechism tells us that baptism is one of our major sacraments and that a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

The outward and visible sign for Baptism is water.  In the Episcopal church, you will usually see the water of the baptismal font as you enter the sanctuary, as a symbol and reminder that the rite of baptism was our initiation into the Christian community.

So what does the water of baptism “do” for us?  Like Delmar, we come to baptism to repent our sins and renounce our sinful desires, turning to Jesus Christ and accepting him as Savior.  However, we also acknowledge our humanity, promising to repent and return to the Lord, when (not if) we again fall into sin.  After all, if baptism was only about repentance, we would probably need to get baptized again every time we came to church!

But wait, there’s more!

If you look at Holy Baptism in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 304), you will read the Baptismal Covenant.  That word “covenant” is important but it refers to a mutual agreement between two parties.  In baptism, we promise to persevere in resisting evil and to repent when we fall into sin, BUT we also are taking vows to:

  • Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers
  • Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ
  • Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves
  • Strive for justice and peace among all people

We make these promises for our own lives or, if on behalf of our children, to see that they are raised according to these promises.

So what is God’s part in this covenant agreement?

In Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus is baptized by John, as he is coming up out of the water, he sees the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him.  In another Gospel account, God says: “This is my Son, the Beloved” but in Mark, a voice from heaven says “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Affirmation, acceptance, and blessing.

And so it is for us.  When we are baptized, “we are lovingly adopted by God into God’s family, which we call the Church, and given God’s own life to share and reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ.”  In baptism, we find affirmation and acceptance into God’s family.

In our worldly culture which teaches us to value cheap and easy affirmation (How many friends do I have on Facebook?  How many “likes” did I get on my last status update?), “baptism reminds us that wherever we may go and whatever we may do or have done to us, yet God continues to love us, accept us, and hold onto us.”

January 11, 2015

St Catherine’s Episcopal Church

Temple Terrace, FL

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