“The Acts” : the Rector’s message for April

A colleague wrote that she is just now emerging from the “Holy Week trance.”  I can empathize.  After 4 sermons, 2 meditations on the Stations of the Cross, a reflection for the Great Vigil on Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea, a revision of our Tenebrae service, 3 services on Palm Sunday, 4 mid-week services including the ecumenical Good Friday service, the Great Vigil Saturday night, and four on Easter Sunday including the Rings Pond sunrise service, I too was feeling a bit played out.  What kept me going were those who came to share with me in the worship and services that I was a part of.  Based on some very helpful feedback, we returned to foot-washing at the Maundy Thursday service (instead of hand-washing), made more meaningful to me because of the presence of a member of the Vestry who collaborated in washing feet (Lois Hicks-Wozniak).  We also reintroduced red wine at the Eucharist figuring that we have managed to recover from spills in the past and just about everything on the purificators except ground-in lipstick.  If you leave lipstick on your coffee or tea cup in the morning, please consider the old custom of blotting your lipstick before coming forward to receive.

I was pleased to see many members who, for one reason or another, have not been able to be with us regularly and hope that they will be able to get back to the good habit of coming and enjoying what we offer through the leadership of Jesus Christ.

All of this month falls within the Great Fifty Days of Easter.  It is time for the church to hear again the story of the Early Church in the words of the Acts of the Apostles.  We hear of the healings in the wake of the miracle at Pentecost, of frightened men made bold by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth about Jesus of Nazareth, of God showing no partiality and welcoming non-Jews into fellowship as children and heirs.  It is also the time that we prepare for our spring First Communions.  Families with someone for the instruction are invited to call me directly or call Elaine at the church office.

This First Communion announcement is offered with the reminder that in our tradition children are privileged to begin receiving communion in one or both kinds whenever the parents and priest believe the acceptable time has come (to paraphrase scripture).  A number of our children who have gone through First Communion training and the rite have already been receiving communion for some time.  My approach is to help our children become comfortable with the act of taking communion and devote the rest of the time to ‘unpacking’ the baptismal covenant which was undertaken on their behalf by their parents and godparents. It is in most cases the first time they will have the opportunity to claim publicly the vows made on their behalf.

A good friend spoke of the cyclical nature of church attendance—the first increase comes with the reopening of schools in the fall, increases through Advent and crescendos with Christmas, then falls off during the Epiphany season and gathers momentum again during Lent with the second crescendo at Easter and then begins the slide to the end of Sunday School and onset of outside activities in the warmer weather.  The concerns I have are that we may miss the significance of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church referred to above, and the persisting custom of taking vacation from church.  There are two difficulties with this custom from my experience.  First and foremost, some become so invested in other activities that they never make it back to church until the Christian high holy days (Easter and Christmas) and, secondly, concerns about funding ministry at St. John’s from Easter until the fall start-up.  While our heating costs go down predictably with the onset of warm weather, they are replaced by the cost of air conditioning in the parish hall and the greater use of fans to move the air in the chancel.  Pastoral emergencies and the funding of our diocesan assessment and loan payments along with the cost of church staff remain fairly constant.  Make an extra effort this year to keep your regular giving current and regularly attend church when you’re home.  The Margraves and Vera intend to follow this course.

Last summer at the end of the public school year, St. John’s participated for the first time in recent memory in the ecumenical Vacation Bible School.  We have agreed to be the host church for this summer and so I am beginning to solicit help.  Organizational meetings will begin in mid-April.

Fr. Tom