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We have reached March, and Lent has been underway since Wednesday. I think many of us grew up with the old saw: March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. Apparently that will hold true for us over the next several days with heavy snows forecast. Lent comes in on Ash Wednesday and goes out with the Lamb of God at Easter. I believe we have had a good start to our own observance of Lent here in the parish. To paraphrase the great philosopher Casey Stengel, “Lent ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” In other words, it’s never too late to derive some spiritual good out of Lent. You can join the Thursday night group, Food for Thought, which is reading Three Cups of Tea or pick another book which speaks of human endeavor on behalf of others. You can attend one of several Lenten events around the area which start up in earnest this first week on Wednesday evening March 4th at Zion, Wappinger Falls. The following Saturday Mother Gwyneth Murphy, the Episcopal chaplain at SUNY College at New Paltz will be leading a one day retreat at Holy Cross Monastery. Our own Mary Ellen Pembleton is leading a morning retreat with childcare provided here at St. John’s on Saturday, March 14th from 10am until 12 noon. Elaine will have details as will our bulletins and the ACTS.
While just about everyone who attends an Episcopal service knows that we have a time of confession and the priest’s declaration of absolution, I think there are some who are unaware that we offer the rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent as well for those who desire it. While our sins are forgiven if we confess them to God, sometimes the relationship is still strained. The act of reconciliation resolves anything blocking the resolution of differences with God. God is always more ready to forgive than we to be forgiven as the Prayer Book says. The Reconciliation of Penitent, in my experience, has always helped the person.
For those expecting the confessional of movies or RC churches, you will probably be disappointed as there is no confessional at St. John’s. However, we sit together and go through the process with an opportunity for counsel. It is not necessary to call to mind all our sins and transgressions; God knows everything already. It is important to acknowledge that we are fallible, sinful people, prone to cause hurt and to feel remorse about our actions and attitudes. Then we are open to God’s sacramental action.
Looking ahead to March here at St. John’s, I will be offering training for acolytes old and new, young and old. This will take place on Saturday, March 14th and, Saturday, March 28th, from about 9 until 11. Our acolytes are growing so one of the tasks will be to refit everyone as well as new acolytes. I am particularly interested in increasing the confidence of our acolytes in the activities inside the altar rail during the Eucharist. Perhaps in the second session we might even go into some more advanced actions like ringing sanctus bells and working with incense.
I am also planning to have sessions with those who read the lessons and administer the elements at the communion and invite anyone who would like to explore these ministries to come out for the training. As we close out our 150th anniversary, I would like us to launch into exploring new ministries for which God might gift us, working more intentionally in connecting with our neighbors and being active with outreach which helps those in need. You are a generous and giving congregation; I would like us to discern together what God wants for us in our future.
Be well; take advantage of this time of Lent,
Faithfully, Fr. Tom