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The quarterly magazine of St. Paul & the Redeemer. Epiphany - Lent 2013
Special ANNUAL REPORT Issue!
Looking back on 2012. Looking ahead to 2013.
Letter from the Rector Peter Lane …………………………………….
Called to Love …………………………….
The Glory of These 40 Days Christian Clough ……………………………
Ready for Lent: Shrove Sunday & Ash Wednesday …...……
Leading Children’s Chapel Allison Clark …………………………………. Page 24
Get Reoriented …………………………….
Already Called: Yearbook 2012 …………………...……….
A Final Word Life is Calling Vinita Wright …………………………………. Page 26
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Letter from the Rector Dear People of St. Paul & the Redeemer: In a wonderful book about Rembrandtâ€™s painting of the return of the prodigal son, Henri Nouwen dwells on all three prominent figures: the old and embracing father, the distant and skeptical older son, and the welcomed and worn younger son. Nouwen weaves a beautiful, autobiographical story of how the painting taught him that we need to be all three characters: the prodigal called to the loving arms of God, the older son honoring our forebears by following through on our responsibilities, and the father welcoming others with open hands. It is a wonderful description of the Christian life. When we are centered in Divine Love we can lead engaged, rewarding lives for the sake of the world. It is an invitation to us individually and as a parish to foster such lives. Consider the invitation for your life by signing up for â€œCalled to Love.â€? It is a terrific, five session, Lenten, small group series that will give you the opportunity to discuss and discern how you center yourself in Divine Love and how you respond to that love in the everyday patterns of your life. Sign up on-line or in the Narthex. I highly recommend it. Consider the invitation for our parish life by reading this special annual meeting version of Seasonal Connections and by attending the Patronal Feast and Annual Meeting. Vital parishes tell a compelling story about who they are, focus resources on being that, and have strong leadership. 2013 has been a pivotal year for St Paul & the Redeemer. In May, the Vestry recommitted to our vision to become a community that mirrors the radical hospitality practiced by Jesus, a compelling story. We also determined five specific ways we will live out that vision, five actions on which to focus our resources. The rest of this magazine will flesh out those strategic objectives: to praise God, invite all, connect lives, nurture faith, and serve neighbor. And at the Annual Meeting we elect three new Vestry members who will maintain our strong vestry and, along with me and the excellent staff we have put together in 2013, will provide outstanding leadership. If we can grow in our capacity to praise God, to invite all, to connect lives, to nurture faith and to serve neighbor, then we will be living out the faith, becoming a community that mirrors the radical hospitality of Jesus. See you Sunday. Sincerely,
The Reverend Peter C. Lane Rector
called to love
reflecting on work, relationships, and action The photo above is of world-renowned cellist Jacqueline du Pre. It was always apparent in her performances — as it is visible in this photo — that her work was saturated with her love of the art. How can you live such an authentic, centered life in response to God’s love and marked by love for the world? How can you spend time doing what you are called to be doing? You are invited to join a Called to Love Small Group this Lent to seeks answers to these questions in community with others. Each group meets once a week for the five weeks of Lent. Called to Love is not just a program or curriculum — it is our focus for the entire season of Lent. It will be a season for introspection, a season for shedding what is unimportant and turning toward those things for which we were created. Our Lenten liturgies, music, and even the arrangement of the sanctuary itself will reflect this. Page 4
the small groups All small groups meet once a week during the five weeks of Lent, between Thursday, Feb 14, and Sunday, Mar 25. We ask that you commit to attend all five sessions of your group. Choose one and sign-up in the Narthex or at sp-r.org/calledtolove
adult formation On every Sunday in Lent, come hear the stories of SPR parishioners as they have encountered God’s call to love. Each Sunday, a different person will tell her or his story according to a different aspect of hearing this call:
Open to All FULL! Leader: Laura Hollinger 12:30 - 2:00p at SPR
Sunday, Feb 17
Sunday, Feb 24
Finding Wonder and Love with Carly Lane
Open to All Leader: Vinita Wright 7:30 - 9:00p at SPR
Learning to Listen: Practices of Discernment with Martha Bohrer
Open to All Leaders: Rosemary Gooden & David Larsen 7:30 - 9:00p at SPR
Sunday, Mar 3
In the Workplace Leader: Peter Lane 6:00 - 7:30a at Salonica Restaurant on 57th St For Mothers Leaders: Ellen Wiggins and Wendy Olmsted 10:00-11:30a (location TBD) For Young-ish Adults on the North Side Leader: Dan Puchalla 7:30-9:00p at Dan’s home: 4180 N Marine Dr in Uptown
wednesdays Open to All Leaders: Romonda Bumpus & Bill Olmsted. 7:30 - 9:00p Romonda’s home: 1607 E. 50th Pl
thursdays For Young-ish Adults on the South Side Leader: Emmi Gordon 7:30 - 9:00p at Emmi’s home: 5303 S Kimbark Ave
Many Callings, One Abundant Life TBA
Sunday, Mar 10 Struggles in Our Callings with Dion Bumpus
Sunday, Mar 17 Vocation Over Time with Ben King
high schoolers SPR’s High School Formation class, which has been meeting since September, will also be a venue for Called to Love on Sundays during Lent. Any high schooler who has not been attending but would like to participate in this Called to Love segment is invited to do so. Just contact Dan Puchalla: (773) 624-3185 | firstname.lastname@example.org Page 5
Photo: Vincent Johnson
of These 40 Days Christian Clough Director of Music Page 6
Lent is a wonderful season. Leave it to a cloudy-skied Central New Yorker to say so, but I appreciate Lent for the richly varied themes covered in readings and music, and the depth of thought and emotion they encourage. In fact, Lent is only meant to be penitential from Monday through Saturday, since every Sunday, no matter the time of year, is a resurrection day. (If you count every day from Ash Wednesday until Holy Saturday, youâ€™ll get a total of 46 days).
In the early Church, Lent was marked out for the final preparation of catechumens (i.e., candidates for baptism) who would be made members of Christ’s body at the Great Vigil of Easter, the greatest liturgical event of the year and its only baptismal liturgy. As such, the Sunday gospel readings during Lent were not of the sackcloth-and-ashes variety, but rather recounted the highlights of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Now that we follow a three-year lectionary cycle, this pattern is best observed in the Year A readings (next heard in 2014). Lenten weekdays were penitential, a means of spiritual purification before the annual reenactment of the resurrection in baptism. Over time, as the theology of the Western Church became more and more focused on the inherent sinfulness of humanity, and (presumably) daily worship by the laity declined, the Sundays in Lent took on the somber tone many of us grew up with, since they were the only days that the Church had to impose this discipline on its members. In recent years, the Church has been moving away from Lenten reminders of our utter depravity, and toward practices of reflection and spiritual enrichment. Until we all are committed to daily penitential worship in Lent, these Sundays will bear some of the burden of self-denial, but let us not forget that, on every Sunday— even in Lent—we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In previous years, SPR member Levi Smith's dramatic hanging of a black cross on a deep red background veiled the magnificent case of the pipe organ, which rested silent during Lent. This Lent will not be a time for such extreme musical deprivation, however, and the organ will sing throughout the season. Levi is designing a new and dramatic three-dimensional interpretation of the cross to hang over the center of the church, finished to evoke the ashes we receive on Ash Wednesday. We are also moving the furniture. Chairs will be set up "collegiate style", with several long rows on each side facing each other across a long, open center aisle. Our choirs will sit in the midst of the people and more of our singing will be done a cappella (unaccompanied). This will create a metaphorical Lenten pathway from Entrance to our nourishment at the Holy Table and on to the Font, symbol of our new birth in Christ, and the place where our new brothers and sisters will be brought into the Body of Christ at the Great Vigil on the evening of 30 March, the beginning of the Paschal Feast. And now, a holy Lent, and straight on till Easter!
Get Ready for Lent Shrove Sunday Sunday, February 10 A day of roisterous feasting sets the stage for the introspective fasting of Lent … MUSIC: At the 9:15 and 11:15, we’ll cap off the Epiphany season with the swinging sounds of New Orleans and as many alleluias as we can shout off. WAFFLES: In cultures the world over, it’s traditional to get ready for the Lenten fast with food loaded with sugar and butter. What fits the bill better than waffles? SPR parishioner and chef David Farris will be cooking up piles of rich indulgence to enjoy after the liturgies.
Ash Wednesday Wednesday, February 13 Begin Lent with the beautiful liturgies of Ash Wednesday, when we mark our heads with ash as a symbol of our recommitment to hear God calling us into love and toward a life of love.
Simple Liturgy: 12:00p Children’s Teaching Liturgy: 5:00p
A yearly favorite: children (and parents!) learn how palms are turned into the ash, and they learn about the symbols and stories of our worship.
Solemn Liturgy: 7:30p
A full choir leads us in stirring music as we mark the beginning of this introspective season.
A Good Time to Get Singing! The Choir is open to new members at any time, and now – with several weeks before Easter – is a good time to get acclimated. Please speak with Christian Clough if you are interested: email@example.com | (773) 624-3185 x223 Page 7
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Called to Praise God
Photo: David Stewart
My Story Why Worship “When Kincade, my son, returned to his seat one Sunday after receiving the Eucharist, he leaned over to me and asked, “Dad, can we have seconds?” That was a few years ago. He was only 7 or 8 years old at the time. Though his question may have been theologically incorrect, it expressed something very true — something that it seems that he knew in his own way well before I did. The truth is that praising God is the center of the life of St. Paul & the Redeemer. We are most fully ourselves as we circle together in celebration of the open Eucharist, as we pray our prayers of gratitude and grief, as we gather at the Baptismal font in support of the newly born, as we process in song, as we receive together the illuminations of scripture and homily, and as we then move out into the world, refreshed, renewed, and recommitted to the living of the Gospel. Everything else that we are as a community at SPR radiates out from our common worship. You might think that this doesn’t make us especially unique. After all, what else are churches about? Well, there are actually lots of things besides worship that can define a church. Some are defined by a particular form of piety, others by a shared politics, and others yet by belief in a set of theological propositions. But at SPR our pieties, politics, and beliefs are diverse. Rather than dividing us, however, our diversities become creatively joined in our worship together. SPR is a parish that understands that as important as pieties, politics, and beliefs may be, they only fully become effective expressions of Christian life if they are rooted in and flow out of the praise of God.” -Mike Hogue
By the Numbers
189 5 29%
Parishioners who serve in a liturgical ministry on Sundays. Months in a row of increased attendance at the end of 2012 vs. the end of 2011.
Increase in the size of the choirs.
Highlight ‘Berliner Messe’ on All Saints Photo: Jim Wright
Our tradition of enjoying our choirs and guest musicians perform a classical mass setting on All Saints was given a new twist in 2012. Christian Clough conducted the choirs and a string quintet in Arvo Part’s very modern yet ancient-sounding and distinctly beautiful Berliner Messe.
Called to Invite All
Photo: Mary Kohrman Hayes
My Story My First Sunday “I took my first tentative step through the doors of St. Paul & the Redeemer this past October. Three years earlier I'd abruptly abandoned the only faith community I had ever known in sheer exhaustion. I felt alienated, damaged, unworthy, and ultimately furious with the god that I was supposed to love, a god I had tried so hard to please only to realize, or so I thought, that I was too irreparably broken to ever be good enough. As I sat in the unconventional circular layout of the sanctuary, I gazed about at the faces of the quirky, diverse little community of believers surrounding me and already I could imagine a home among them. That Sunday's sermon reminded me that God's goodness is indeed most fully realized in relationships, in community. I think that what I had been seeking since childhood was a place to love and serve God while working towards being my finest and most authentic self. When I was ready for it, that place was revealed. I approached the altar for the first time in my life that day to receive Communion because, in spite of all the doubts I had and still have, the one thing I was finally sure of was that I am not broken and God loves me just as I am. I set out “church shopping” on that entirely ordinary autumn day and what I found was nothing short of transformative. A massive burden that had kept me from God's arms for years vanished in the space of two hours leaving me too awestruck to formulate a coherent prayer to express my gratitude for that unexpected gift. As the congregation nestled back into their seats after Communion, the choir began to sing softly words that could not have better expressed my feelings towards God in that moment: ‘Take, O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be; set your seal upon my heart and live in me.’” -Twila Jones
By the Numbers
20 37 52
New families registered for Vacation Bible Camp. New pledging households for the 2013 Annual Giving Campaign.
Newcomer Cards filled out in 2013.
Highlight Vacation Bible Camp Vacation Bible Camp has been one of our most successful programs for the past several years. This year it soared to new heights with the leadership of our new Director of Children’s Formation Heidi Olliff. In addition to 80-some kids enrolled, we also had more than 20 adult and youth parishioners helping to lead it!
to Connect Lives
Photo: David Stewart
By the Numbers
The Women’s Retreat
Photo: Ellen Wiggins
"At the beginning of the retreat, we each sent our anxieties and concerns back to Chicago. Some went on a boat down the river. Some went down in an elevator, down past ground level and several subbasements. Some were left behind and shrunk to small dots from a vantage point high above them. Perhaps you who remained in Chicago noticed some extra worries coming in from the northwest? At the end of the retreat we each lit a candle and said what we were thankful for. Then we got into our cars and came back ready to take up the unfinished business we had sent on ahead." -Anne Harlan "I am thankful for the chance to spend time with some SPR women during the Women's Retreat. Sharing book suggestions over breakfast, hearing stories of the abundance in our lives, and talking work and children over dinner were some of the simple yet profound moments that helped me better know and be known among my new church community. What a blessing to share a beautiful weekend with great women!" -Amity Carrubba "It was a welcome and needed getaway to the country. I was able to meet new people and get to know friends even better." -Camille Long
“Called to Love” Facilitators trained this past fall for the Lenten series.
Parishioners shared a meal, prayer, and their stories with one another at the Maundy Thursday supper.
Newcomers got to know each other and SPR at this fall’s Newcomers Class.
Highlight Maundy Thursday
Photo: Jim Wright
People at SPR often say they feel like we are most who we are when gathered around the Communion table. We take that into a new dimension on Maundy Thursday, when we gather at supper tables, getting to know one another better over a meal as we celebrate together one of the most sacred moments of the year.
to Nurture Faith
Photo: Mary Kohrman-Hayes
By the Numbers
Teaching Godly Play “During my first year of participating in Godly Play, one child's repeated work with the stories of the People of God's exiles and returns throughout the Old Testament made an impression on me. It was clear to me he was working through something in his play with those stories. I am very proud to share in creating spaces that are safe and sacred for children to work through their own spiritual interpretations and awareness. My own experience as a child in christian formation was very different. While I learned many of these same stories, I often felt a strong pressure to conform to a narrow understanding of them. When I did not, I felt isolated and in a place that was unknown. Now as a storyteller, much like this same boy with his stories of exile and return, I find myself revisiting the stories I first learned as a child and finding new meaning in their mystery. Participating in Godly Play has been a redemptive experience I look forward to continuing. “ - Maggie Martin Winn
14 28 14
Baptisms in 2012 — a record number at SPR in at least the last 20 years! Participants in Tuesday Night Lenten Formation classes. Adults teach our children, middle schoolers, and high schoolers every Sunday.
The New High School Formation Class
For the first time in over a decade, there is a regular Sunday morning Christian Formation class specifically for high school students. This class includes but is not limited to preparation for those seeking the Rite of Confirmation this spring. Eight high schoolers are attending, with our Assistant Rector Dan Puchalla teaching every Sunday. Each class focuses on equipping these youthful adults with the various stories and symbols of the Christian faith in order to interpret, experience, and understand their own lives — from the joyful to the devastating, and the mundane stuff in between. They’ve also paused from their curriculum to consider together headlining events, like the shootings at Sandyhook. The high schoolers will also be participating in the Called to Love program this Lent, with a modified version for their Sunday morning classes.
to Serve Neighbor
Photo: JIm Schaal
My Story Our Partnership at Shoesmith School “Early childhood education has long been a passion of mine. My work at Shoesmith is no different. I have come to see this as a real Christian ministry: showing care and dedication to the youngest in our community. It is the tiniest seed of meaningful work that, if planted, can grow into something great and powerful. Giving a child the ability to form letters, words, the basics of social behavior, opens up doors for their whole lives. Being present with a child in the middle of a meltdown, or having the chance to really listen to a child who needs, desperately, to be heard—this is what early childhood education can be, and for me, it is a very powerful ministry. “ - Maggie Nancarrow
Highlight The Food Garden
It’s hard to believe it’s been barely a year since we first dreamed of building a foodproducing garden on our lawn. After many hours of parishioners pulling, shoveling, digging, pruning, and plucking, it was a great first year for this new project, which provided fresh produce to soup kitchens across the south side.
By the Numbers
4 48 $10K
Weeks in Advent when we provided more than enough food for four families at Shoesmith to get through the weekend without schoolprovided meals Gallons of soup cooked up at Open Kitchen for our hungry neighbors.
Raised at the concert of Les Petits Chanteurs to benefit Ste Trinite Music School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Photo: Vincent Johnson
Budget Summary The complete budget will be distributed at the Annual Meeting on Sunday, Jan 27. Copies also available in the church office.
INCOME Giving Other Revenue TOTAL INCOME EXPENSE Staff Programming Support of Partners TOTAL EXPENSE BOTTOM LINE Total Income Total Expense Income - Expense
Life Events Baptisms William Bartlett Hannan Ogechi Michelle Agina Nola Imogene Ray Edwin Jaks Jackson Jeremiah Jaks Jackson Adaora Agada Nicholas William Cook Isaac Adam Dickey Romonda Bumpus Everett Gill Soyars Theodore Aiden James Byrn Quinn Connell Gaynor Margaret Grace Williams Carly Lane
4/4/12 4/7/12 4/7/12 4/7/12 4/7/12 4/15/12 5/6/12 5/6/12 5/27/12 7/8/12 7/29/12 8/26/12 9/9/12 12/2/12
Marriages Rebecca Murray & Tim Williams
Marcus Winn & Maggie Martin Winn
Funerals Margaret Clark John Thomas Clark, Jr. Laura Hester Banks John Dee Thurman Gerri Mardis Welton Ivan Taylor Cajsa Elo
1/14/12 4/28/12 5/26/12 8/28/12 10/18/12 11/17/12 12/8/12
Liturgy Attendance Avg. Attendance
For all Sundays
For Program Year Sundays (i.e., three-liturgy Sundays)
For Christmas Eve and Day
For Easter Vigil and Sunday
Avg. Attendance by Liturgy
Vestry Candidates SPR's Vestry is the elected body that sets the vision of the parish and that has oversight of our building and finances. It's chaired by Peter Lane as Rector and consists of eleven parishioners: three classes of three Vestrypersons plus two wardens. The wardens serve renewable two-year terms. Because each class of the Vestry serves a three-year term, we elect a new class of three Vestrypersons every year at our Annual Meeting. The Vestry has nominated Romonda Bumpus, Kirk Bagrowski, and Fran Spaltro as the Vestry Class of 2016. The parish will vote on this slate of candidates at the Annual Meeting on Sunday, Jan 27.
Kirk Bagrowski My family has been attending SPR for approximately three years. We immediately fell in love with the contagious enthusiasm, respect, and acceptance at SPR, and started attending regular services. In the past three years, my wife and I have been blessed with two children who keep us on our toes! We look forward to the upcoming years when our children are old enough to attend Godly Play, Vacation Bible Camp, and join the St. Nicholas Choir. Our family has enjoyed the opportunities for involvement at SPR, as well as the weekly fellowship. I have found the Lenten series to be challenging and thought-provoking. In addition, I have also served on the Stewardship committee for the past two years. Outside of the parish I work as an attorney at Eichhorn & Eichhorn, LLP, a law firm located in Northwest Indiana. My practice encompasses numerous fields and topics â€“ I hope to bring my work experience and my enthusiasm for SPR to the Vestry, if elected.
Romonda Bumpus I love that SPR is a church that embraces everyone. We are the body of Christ and Jesus reminded us many times in the Scriptures that He loves all of us. His love is not conditional on our gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. I'm proud to be a part of a ministry that understands that this level of acceptance while "radical" is what Jesus expects from us. I love SPR so much that it is where I decided to be baptized last year. And having grown up in the church and attended several in my adult years, this was not a decision I took lightly. I always knew that I wanted to be baptized in a nonjudgmental church that worshipped the loving God that I believed in, and while it took me years to find that church, I'm abundantly happy to be here. In my time at SPR, I have enjoyed participating in Open Kitchen, being an usher, and most recently singing in the amazing 11:15 choir. I've also spent a fair amount of time in the SPR kitchen cooking for various events including our Haitian Boys Choir events and Project Renewal this past fall. I really love being in the kitchen. The women in my family have a long tradition of serving in the church kitchen; and now, I have my own stories to share with the two generations of women in my family that find their joy working in that sometimes hot space. I'm also looking forward to being a facilitator for this year's Lenten Season series, Called to Love. I find our Lenten Season series to be one of my favorite things about SPR. At the end of every season of these small groups, I'm so sad that they are ending. They are great opportunities for us to worship God in small groups, study the Scriptures, and learn more about each other. In fact if asked what my vision is for SPR, I would say that it would be to find more ways for us to meet in these small groups to further our understanding of our God and each other. I think that these amazing sessions should never end.
Professionally, I'm a senior analyst with the US Government Accountability Office (US GAO). I lead project evaluations of federal health policy programs, and specialize in our public HIV/AIDS programs. I'm also currently training to be a certified yoga teacher. I live in Hyde Park with my husband Dion and our dog-child Maximus, both of whom love running and climbing rocks along the lake.
Fran Spaltro From the first moment I stepped through SPR’s doors in December 2005, I was awed by the music, delighted by the children as they sang in the treble choir or marched, skipped and ran to Children’s Chapel, and drawn into the warm embrace of a community that lives hospitality. It was at SPR where I first was called to explore my gifts, and hospitality has been the recurring theme in the ministries that have spoken to me most clearly, especially Open Kitchen and Chalice, ministries I can’t imagine my life without. Sharing the chalice with fellow parishioners on Sundays means more to me than words can express; it’s transformational. When I first came to SPR, I was a graduate student who happened to be teaching high school to pay the bills, but who planned on following the Ph.D to tenure track job path. But as I continued the spiritual exploration begun at SPR, I came to realize that I was not meant to be on that path, but rather was meant to be a high school teacher. I love teaching and getting to know teenagers: in the processing of becoming right before my eyes, they are at once so vulnerable and strong, so open and funny. I love both the intellectual and pastoral aspects of my work, and I take such joy in watching them grow into remarkable young men and women. And now, having finished graduate school, I am happy to be a teacher at Lab Schools’ University High (Latin and Greek), where I am also an academic advisor, Model UN sponsor, and senior project coordinator, so this is another cherished community in my life. I consider this a special blessing, since I don’t have children of my own. I live here in Hyde Park with my cats Monkey Boy and Achilles (Eddie and Steve are notmycats, but are guests), a mere five-minute walk to Lab and a fifteen-minute walk to SP-R. This is my home and I look forward to many more years and Lab and at SPR.
The 2016 class of the Vestry enters as the 2013 class retires. Please give your thanks to Michelle Dassinger, Mike Hogue, and Shirley Knight for their faithful service on the Vestry and to this parish.
Photo: Dan Puchalla
Chapel Allison Clark Parishioner
Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors, writes extensively about faith and her own struggle to navigate her own faith journey. One of her essays that spoke to me most profoundly was about the challenges she felt when she felt called to teach Sunday school. She talked about not particularly liking children, but feeling that this was her calling, and that therefore she would make it work. I think of this essay often as I mentally prepare myself to teach Children’s Chapel on Sunday mornings. Now I have it easier than Lamott – unlike her candidly expressed dislike for groups
of kids, I actually do like children and don’t mind them in groups. But I also love the solemnity, ritual and periodic silence of Sunday service. I crave the order and routine, the fact that my body and mind know what do to, and that my mouth says the prayers without my really thinking about it. As the mother in a chaotic household of three children and three dogs, I appreciate the quiet and ordered nature of the Sunday liturgy. While Children’s Chapel has its own rhythm and routines, it is often characterized less by orderliness than by squiggles and giggles. The Sundays that I serve in Children’s Chapel invariably start with me feeling nervous. I feel anxious about the session and worry if I will be able to engage the children in a conversation about God’s love and His hopes for each of us. It is an awesome responsibility to try to help others navigate their faith journey. I begin by setting some rules and trying to recreate some of the best parts of the adult service that is going on in the main church. I remind the children that we are about to enter a sacred space, and that they must be aware of their personal space so that they won’t distract each other. After we enter the chapel, I often ask the kids to stand up and shake all parts of their bodies to “get the wigglies out.” Then we sit and begin our version of the church service, including prayers, songs and a short lesson that usually draws upon the lessons that have been read during the service. I don’t see my job as being about playing the role of “preacher.” Rather, I see my job as being a guide to help the children get something out of their experience in church on Sunday. Sometimes this role takes the form of my talking about the lesson that was read prior to our coming into the chapel. Other times I may talk about a hymn that was sung – one of my favorite recent lessons involved a
Photo: Vincent Johnson
conversation about the meaning of “His Eyes Are on the Sparrow.” If God has the patience and energy to watch over the lowly brown sparrows, surely He has the ability to look after me, too, right? But I think my favorite thing to do is to help the children recognize the visual signs of the different seasons during the liturgical year. During Advent, Lent and Pentecost, I love to ask the children to tell me about all the things that they saw in the church that let them know something was different about this time of year. It is easy to forget how observant young children are, how attuned to variations in their routine and landscape they can be. Different vestments, hangings over the altar, arrangements of pews, lack of water in the font – all these things make an impression on the children and I enjoy listening to them articulate these discoveries and talk about what they might mean to the worship service. My other favorite part of Children’s Chapel is our version of the Prayers of the People. As with the regular service, we pray for a variety of set things: our church, our neighborhoods, our friends, our families, those who are sick or have died. But after each category, the children are asked to volunteer their own subjects of prayers, and I do my
best to make sure that all children have a chance to have their prayers spoken aloud and heard by the group. Yes, there are inappropriate things that are prayed for (“my DS”, “Star Wars”, etc.) but there are also wonderful moments when children pray for family members, favorite teachers, and yes, even dead pets. I find this part of our time together to be most moving, because the children begin the process of linking what is happening in their lives to a life within the church and the service. I’m in an odd place right now, where Jonah and Emma have aged out of Children’s Chapel, and Helen, who is four, is not quite ready for Children’s Chapel. I have no one to practice on, no one to try out the lesson with and see if it resonates. And so entering chapel becomes yet another act of faith, with the hope of helping the children engage with the Gospel and appreciate the wonder if God’s holy word. Sometimes this means something as simple as encouraging them to notice the physical changes in the church, or to offer prayers for things around them: sometimes thanks for Legos, sometimes prayers for dead goldfish. But I am always gratitude for having the company of children on my journey.
Photo: Dan Puchalla
A Final Word
Life is Calling Vinita Wright Parishioner Page 26
During Lent of 2013, SPR people will have the opportunity to participate in a small-group venture, “Called to Love.” Through conversation, prayer, and friendship, we hope to move, as a community, more deeply into our calling as Christians. But “calling” is a loaded term, and its connotations vary from one faith community and spiritual background to another. For some, a calling is a major life force that draws a person into priesthood or marriage or some special mission. For others, callings of many sorts converge in life from year to year, depending on circumstances and desire.
The first thing to understand, I believe, is that the calling we discover in our life with Christ is a calling to character. What kind of person will I be? What qualities will I nurture in my personality and habits? If I follow Jesus of Nazareth, I will cultivate the qualities that grow out of Christ’s life in my life—the fruits of the spirit, according to Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and selfcontrol. I will make choices to enjoy life and express gratitude for its gifts; I will choose options for peace and not aggression; I will wait and trust for good outcomes; I will choose kindness rather than judgment, generosity rather than self-obsession. I will learn to stay when it would be easier to flee; I will value gentle care for others over my own need to be right; I will put limits on myself for the purpose of the greater good. Each one of us is called to this kind of life, this quality of character. Beyond character, what does a calling entail? Is it a puzzle God sets in front of us, a test to see if we’re paying attention and finding all the clues? Is it a special assignment from heaven? Is it a title that will define a person from now on? Or, is a calling merely my own desires glorified into plans of action? Is calling the intersection between what I want and the opportunities I’m given? If I’m happy, does that mean I’ve found my calling? Or does a holy calling by necessity involve suffering? To s o m e e x t e n t , a l l o f t h e s e descriptions touch upon what it means to be called. Sometimes finding your calling is something like finding all the puzzle pieces. Sometimes we do seem to acquire special assignments to specific ends. Many Christians throughout the centuries have encountered suffering in the midst of their callings—and also joy. And
certainly our desires, our natural abilities, and our situations have some role in leading us to what God desires and dreams for us.
even introverts learn that we human beings are designed for communion. In the Christian faith we refer often to the body of Christ, and by that we mean that this journey of faith is not merely Because calling is so many things in so an individual effort but a family many ways, to find our calling requires pilgrimage. I may not be good at small discernment—and not just talk, and I may veer away from parties discernment until we figure out the —but I am drawn call, but ongoing to the discernment as we community continue in the call table of “I must confess that, as and grow into its E u c h a r i s t . I an introvert, I find many manifestations. sense my soul community life Discernment is the helped in art of listening to c o nve r s a t i o n s challenging sometimes. I God. God’s voice with my may not be good at small comes to us in the b ro t h e r s a n d talk, but I sense my soul quiet of personal sisters. prayer, in profound helped in conversations events and changes, And quite often, with my brothers and and in our friendship I discer n my sisters.” with one another. At ongoing call as I times, a person might walk beside hear God’s voice in those brothers the privacy of devotional prayer and and sisters. Those who love me can contemplation. But it is just as likely speak honestly to me when I’m that a person hears God’s voice in the straying to an unhealthy path. Those voice of another person. God’s who love me can observe—sometimes conversations with us emerge in our better than I can—what my gifts are. conversations with one another. This is Those who walk alongside me in the why the Called to Love venture will faith sometimes are given a hint or a involve small groups in regular word from God that pertains to me. I conversation. suspect that, when I am too weary or in too much pain or confusion to hear It is significant that the name is Called very well, my dear friends in Christ to Love because our first priority must listen for me, and they pass along what always be love. Love includes quality of they hear. character, and it also includes choices and actions. Love is not static or So, although “Called to Love” may theoretical. Love moves with life and sound like just another curriculum or adjusts to challenges and changing program, it speaks of the highest situations. You might say that Love is possible kind of life, one lived in prayer in action. Love is discernment communion with people who are lived out. The love we know in Christ headed the same direction as I am, trumps all other considerations. who follow the same loving example of Jesus. I do believe that, as I pray and I must confess that, as an introvert, I converse with other SPR folk, I will find community life challenging learn more of what my life with God sometimes. It’s just easier to pray by should be. I hope many others in our myself and make decisions in solitude community will take part in this —not so messy as dealing with spiritual practice of listening to God— friendships and conversations. But together.
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