Holy Transfiguration Monastery

The Entrance to Holy Transfiguration Monastery

Holy Transfiguration Monastery is a community of 10 Ukrainian Orthodox monks. Not all are from the Ukraine but they all are drawn to that particular Christian discipline. The monastery buildings come into view after rounding a final curve of the winding, gravel drive from Tomki Road. Mary and I arrived around 12:15 and no one was in sight. As we approached the monastery entrance, Abbot Damian came through the gate and greeted us. He explained that they were in the midst of their silent lunch and invited us to join them.

The monks sit on benches at long, thick wood tables. There is a table at the back of the refectory for guests. Lunch was simple — a hearty soup with delicious homemade bread and a choice of apples, pears and bananas. The beverage choices were water, tea or coffee. One of the monks was reading from the Lives of the Saints.

After lunch, Abbot Damian introduced us to each of the monks. Then we went out to the car for his first view of the icon we had brought for repairs. Damian helped me carry the icon into the refectory and said that we would examine it later. He then had Brother Simeon take us to the guest house. The guest house is up a gravel road from the main cluster of buildings. It has 12 guests rooms, a common area and a small kitchen. We had a studio room with a parlor, bedroom (with a queen size bed — one of the two rooms for couples) and a small bath. It was simple but nice, as were most other accommodations of the monastery. There was not much water in the bathroom and no hot water. It was December in the northern hills of California. The temperatures were brisk. We later found out that the hot water was turned off when no guests were occupying the guest house. When they turned it on, the simple apartment was even more comfortable. Brother Simeon left us to ourselves and invited us to explore the grounds with the exception of the cloister. We left our car up at the guest house and went to explore. We walked past a pond. The croaking frogs became silent as we rounded the turn and approached their pond. We checked out the gift shop filled with icons, candles and Orthodox Church literature. Then we went to the chapel.

The smell of incense enwraps you as you enter the chapel. There is a narthex, a monk’s choir area and the screened sanctuary that is in most Orthodox Christian churches and chapels. A simple chandelier provides a dim light and the chapel walls are covered with icons. The silence is holy and profound.

After our little self-tour, I hiked a road at the back of the property. Abbot Damian had told us that it was there and that it led to the property line with the Buddhist monastery. I hoped to make it that far but after a half-mile of hiking up and down some challenging hills, I turned back. Mary and I also walked back to our room after Vespers. It was dark but the sky was clear and we had a flashlight. We heard a kitten meow and one came out of the brush at the side of the path. I initially started toward it until I saw the pointy ears and small, curly tail. We realized it was a bobcat and that the mother might be close by. We also knew enough not to touch a young bobcat because its mother might abandon it if she smelled a human touch.

My heritage is Canadian French and Ukrainian. The Eastern Orthodox tradition calls to me. I have many icons and love the good incense that most orthodox faith communities use. Holy Transfiguration Monastery appeals to me but I am too worldly to be able to embrace that lifestyle. Mary and I joined the monks for Vespers that evening as well as Matins at 5:30 the next morning and the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy followed immediately after Morning Prayer so we were in the chapel for about 2 hours in the morning before breakfast. The liturgies are complex. We used three different books during the prayers: a hymnal, a Psalter and a Book of the Hours. There was a guide in the back of the Book of the Hours but it was cursory at best. A woman who joined the monks for morning and evening prayers helped us navigate, as did one of the monks. At times we were totally lost and at other times we found the liturgical path.

We also joined the monks for dinner (during which there was conversation), breakfast and lunch the next day, both of which were in silence with readings. After breakfast we joined Abbot Damian in his examination of the Trinity Icon [see the previous blog entry]. We learned a lot through his analysis and verbal commentary. I asked him to do a more extensive analysis and let me know the cost for the repairs.

Mary and a view of the sky & valley at the monastery

We had time to walk past a pond that housed geese and ducks before lunch and admire the view of the valley. After lunch we took our leave, or thought we would. We had a flat tire. I had not changed one for decades but we knew that AAA would either not find us or it would take hours. I had my assigned chores for the afternoon.

Finally we drove down the hill to rocky and rough Tomki Road and through the beautiful scenery of the farms and the lake.

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The Trinity Icon Saga

In the early 15th Century, Andrei Rublev, a Russian artist and icon writer (icons are “written,” not painted) wrote a famous icon known as the “Trinity Icon” or the “Hospitality Icon.”   (You can find out more about this icon on the internet under (Rublev Icon.)

The story of Trinity Cathedral’s copy is a bit complex but stay with me as I relate its twists and turns.  Lisa Mondori, a friend of Dean Brown, visited with the Dean upon her 2001 return from Peace Corps work.  Lisa had contacts in Romania through her work in the Peace Corp and with World Vision.  In Lisa words, she “foolishly promised Don” a copy of the icon.  The Dean did not let Lisa forget her promise and, during a visit in 2002, he brought out “an enormous bunch of taped-together paper indicating the size he wanted.”  Don wanted the icon to reside on the wall in the East Transept.  The space Don envisioned for the icon meant that Trinity could have a copy that would be almost identical in proportions and size to the real Rublev Trinity.

Lisa contacted Father Mihai Pavel, a friend of hers from her days in the Peace Corp.  He facilitated the project.   Father Pavel contacted Razvan Gasca, a student of sacred art at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza in Iasi, Romania.  (Razvan Gasca has since become a priest in the Romanian Orthodox Church.)

Lisa continues the story:  “Writing the icon] was a fairly ambitious project.  Razvan had two roommates who helped, and I think the whole project took place in their tiny dorm room, crammed in between the bunkbeds.  Mihai ordered the board from some monastery up in the hills that is known for its icon boards, went to collect it, and discovered that it wouldn’t fit into the car.  I brought brushes, pigments, and the gold leaf from the U.S., good quality art supplies still being hard to come by in Romania at that time.  When the icon was finally finished, Mihai had a hard time giving it up.  He put it against the wall in his office at World Vision and proceeded to procrastinate until Don wrote him a somewhat forceful email announcing the date when he planned to install the icon in the Cathedral and more or less ordering Mihai to get a move on.”

The icon was installed in June 2003 in the space that Dean Brown envisioned.  Since then smaller copies have been given as departure gifts to numerous staff and clergy whose careers have taken them away from Trinity Cathedral.  

Now the icon has disappeared from the Cathedral. Mary and I disked it away.   Some of the gold leaf has bubbled and flaked off.  Kathrin Burleson, another Trinity Cathedral friend, interested in icons, assured me that the faulty gold leaf does not extend to the icon images and is repairable.  Kathrin referred me to Father Damian Higgins, Abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in the Redwood Valley.  Father Damian writes and repairs icons.  He agreed to look at our copy of Rublev’s icon and see about repairs. (Getting the icon repaired was on my “to do” list for three years, and now, with much more time on my hands, I was able to pursue this goal.)

Mary and I took the icon to the monastery on December 9, a beautiful, late fall day with plenty of sunshine. We traveled north along I-80 and then took Highway 20 west. The journey took us along the north shore of Clear Lake until we went north on Highway 101 for a couple of miles before exiting onto West Road. West Road was as scenic as many country roads. It reminded me of Williams Highway, one of the roads from Grants Pass to my family’s farm in Southern Oregon We went past numerous farms and orchards before turning veering right onto Tomki Road, also a country road but narrower than West Road. About 5 miles along Tomki we came to a sign that read, “This road is not maintained during the winter months. Continue at our own risk.” Tomki Road went from a two lane to a one lane with the valley on the left and a hill on the right. Waze continued to indicate that we were on the right path.

We passed a Buddhist monastery that earlier research, the map and Waze told us was there and suddenly we saw the entrance to the monastery grounds. We had made it!

I will continue with our stay at the monastery in the next blog.

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Ah, Retirement

In past years I have put our grill away for the winter with a cursory cleaning. This January I took it all apart and gave it a thorough cleaning. Today I took it out of storage and set it up. I decided to look at the owner’s manual. (I knew where it was!). I wanted to find out about a chain that hangs inside the left door. It is a match holder that Weber had thoughtfully added. I may try to figure out something more useful for it. But I also found out that the starter was not broken, as I thought it had been for the last two years. It just needed a new battery. I didn’t even know that it had one!

This and so much more is part of retirement. Retirement is, within one’s means, a time of doing what you want. Retirement is a time of getting up without an alarm, except on rare occasions. Retirement is a time to reflect on life, or it can be.

I have often envisioned retirement as the time during which I would read the classic Western philosophers — Plato, Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo, Anselm, Aquinas, and so forth, down through the ages. I have envisioned retirement as a time to read history. I have envisioned retirement as a time to delve into cooking. I have envisioned retirement as a time to devote to our garden and landscaping, to our house and to travel. I have envisioned retirement as a time to devote more time to prayer and reflection. Mary and I our members of The Renaissance Society at California Sate University in Sacramento. This helps me be inspired about the reading. So far, gardening has been a project in I have started with vigor. Thus far, deferred house repairs remain deferred. (I need to leap in, even if I don’t know what I’m doing.). And so far I have avoided the opportunities for prayer and contemplation.

I want to get up early in the morning for prayer and reflection and for reading and writing. Sometimes (like this morning), I am successful about doing that. Often times I am not. I am not because retirement is also a time when we can and do watch the late night talk shows and movies and Masterpiece mysteries without worrying about getting up the next morning.

Throughout much of my adult life one of my shortcomings has been setting goals that are somewhat out of reach. I set the “stretch goals” and forget to set smaller intermittent ones in order to reach the final step. (I decided to learn German as part of my graduate studies. I started with Heidegger’s Being and Time. I have not finished.) Perhaps for me retirement is a time to learn how to set more attainable goals that can lead to a more reachable success, like thoroughly cleaning my barbecue grill.

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What to do with the 3 conversion stories: Jn: 4:5-42; Jn 9:1-41; Jn 11: 1-45 ?

When there are catechumens who are candidates for baptism at the Great Vigil of Easter, it is appropriate in any year with the consent of the Bishop to use the Sunday lectionary for Year A during Lent and the Great Fifty Days of Easter. (BoS 2018, p. 136)

These three conversion stories — The Samaritan Woman at the Well; The Man Born Blind; The Raising of Lazarus — are long. But the RCIA, The BoS and other liturgical instruction texts dictate or recommend that they be used if a faith community has catechumens preparing for baptism. There is good reason for this. They are all powerful conversion stories. They all deal with major themes of baptism: water, sight, new life.

Using them in Year A is easy, for obvious reasons. These are the gospel passages for the 3rd, 4th & 5th Sundays of Lent, respectfully. But not so for Years B and C. Many pastors ignore this dictum for “pastoral reasons.” They say that the faithful would miss the richness and variety of the other Lenten pericope. I suspect many of the faithful would not even notice the difference. If they did, would they could raise some questions? “We heard these passages last year; why again this year?” If the people are that aware of the “sameness” from year to year, then they are probably already clued into the significance of having catechumens among them.

But what are catechists supposed to do with these pericopes? They are long stories that do not lend themselves to lectio. I have seen several suggestions:

  • Reflect upon the entire story as story. Read it through and then talk about images it brings forth; who you most identify with in the story and why; what do you think is going on in this story, etc.
  • Take a short section of the story for lectio.
  • Assign different roles in each story and read it as narrative. (I have jokingly referred to this as “practice” for reading the Passion narrative for Palm Sunday or Good Friday.) The catechumenate participants at Trinity Cathedral read the Passion narrative at one of the Palm Sunday main services. Depending upon the number of catechumens, candidates and sponsors, the team members may also read parts.
  • Let people use art work (poetry, sketching, music, etc) to tell the story in their own words.
  • Preach on each story.
  • Other?

I don’t know. All of these, or a mixture, are possibilities. We have tried all of these, except the art work suggestion. Using this option would depend upon the “artistic” capabilities of the participants. The retreat exercise of creating your own creed would be good preparation for this approach. At Trinity Cathedral we have a retreat on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday during which we focus on the Apostle’s Creed.

I don’t mean this quick conclusion to be a cop-out. I simply put these forward as different possibilities. If you have other suggestions, please let us know. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend following the recommendation of those who have spent so much time with the RCIA and its various denominational variations.

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Homeless in San Francisco–Not Really

The bus left at 9:00 pm. We arrived at the bus stop at 9:15 pm.

Alone in a cold dark city with only a bag (not a sleeping bag), 2 cell phones that were close to losing power and no where to stay. What to do on a Saturday night when the chance for shelter seemed slim and the temperature is dropping. Mary and I walked to the nearby transportation terminal and checked for the next train to Sacramento. Sunday morning at 10:00am. Hotels; could we find a hotel? (We didn’t think of renting a car.). We walked the streets in anxiety until we came upon one that didn’t seem to expensive. (We’re frugal.). It turned out to probably be one that “rents by the hour.” It has a locked door with a buzzer. The street that is “sketchy.” We got in but the carpet on the stairs up to the lobby is old and everything told us that this was not what we wanted. We walked a mile to another one. My feet ached. The bag got heavier and heavier. But the condition of the streets improved. The rooms were three times the cost of the first one but the hotel was definitely “upscale.” Most importantly, it had clean, comfortable rooms available.

Mt Angel Seminary had the high school juniors experience an “immersion” into homeless by spending one night on Broadway, Portland. Portland’s skidrow. The relatively few homeless were there because of alcoholism. In 1992 we read about a Jesuit High School immersion program that had its juniors spend a night with the homeless in Sacramento. The numbers were greater and the reasons are more diverse. Last night we walked among the homeless late at night in San Francisco. It was not an immersion program. We were cold. My feet ached from a lot of walking all afternoon. And we didn’t know what would happen “out there.”

Fortunately we have the resources to find a comfortable way out. Parc 55, a nice Hilton Hotel had a room with a clean bathroom, a place to place our bit of “stuff” and, most importantly, at the moment, a clean king size bed. We bit the bullet and paid the price to leave the world of the homeless just outside the hotel’s doors.

It caused me to think about our current situation in California once again. When I was working at Trinity Cathedral, I encountered homeless persons every day. I cross paths with far fewer snow that I am retired. Roseville has a much smaller homeless population than Sacramento. When I go into Sacramento, I am constantly reminded of those who have very little, including a place to sleep securely at night. Over the 12 years of employment at Trinity, I learned many things about our homeless sisters and brothers.

  1. There is no “homeless” as a group. There are individuals who are homeless, i.e. without a home.
  2. There is a difference between not having a house or residence and not having a home. This may seem like a technicality but it isn’t. Some people find home among their friends under an overpass, along the river bank or in a doorway.
  3. Some homeless people are tremendously resourceful. Just like me (and probably you), they find ways to survive. They may or may not strive for ways to better their situation (again, similar to a lot of us who have houses and homes).
  4. There are many different reasons for being homeless
    1. Mental illness (including high anxiety about sleeping inside)
    2. Lack of affordable housing — an increasing number of those who cannot afford housing in California find themselves in this situation because the cost of a residence continues to rise and rise and rise. Fires are a big reason for this.
    3. Addiction
    4. Lack of affordable health care
  5. The degree or range of intelligence among homeless persons is large. Not every person living on the streets is stupid.
  6. Most homeless people yearn to be recognized. They yearn for a hello. They yearn not to be invisible to those better off than them.
  7. Many yearn for someone to talk with. A lot of us do.

I constantly wrestle with the calls in Luke to care for the poor and the homeless. As Operations Manager I wondered about opening the church as a shelter. But I also “pushed back” on our homeless ministries because we used so many physical resources in our “homeless ministries.” As a person with much more wealth I wonder about opening our house, our home, and realize that that is probably as unrealistic as further opening up the church. I live with too much fear and insecurity and refusal to believe what I have written so far in this entry.

But I remain interested in the situation. (I avoid the word “problem.” We have a situation,” not a “problem.”) We passed one of the street bathrooms in San Francisco yesterday and I thought about how good it is for the city to have these. I think about the situation in Sacramento where a property owner was not allowed to keep portages-potties on his property for those who need to use them. I read many of the articles and editorials in The Sacramento Bee that focus on homelessness.

Is there a long term solution? No. The poor (and homeless?) will always be with us. However, given the wealth of our state and of our nation, it need not be like this.

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Temptation in the Wilderness-Matthew’s Story

Mt 6:1-6, 16-21

I didn’t do any lectio this week but found Laurie Gudim’s reflection on Episcopal Cafe:

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  In today’s Gospel passage, here is Jesus wrestling with this issue.  He has just discovered that he can wield absolute power.  How does he handle this so as to remain uncorrupted?

As any good Jew would, he finds himself arguing Torah with a worthy opponent.  It is the devil himself who argues against him — or perhaps the part of Jesus that is devilish.

I’m sure what we have recorded in Matthew’s passage is just a very boiled down version of what was actually said between Jesus and this more ego-oriented other.  It probably took the entire 40 days in the wilderness for Jesus to work through the totality of the argument to this final set of simple statements. And did that discussion remain finished from that point on?  Knowing that Jesus is a Jew steeped in the rabbinic tradition, how could we ever believe it would? Arguing is a holy act, the only way for a person to really discover who they uniquely are.

In this story Matthew gives us the bare bones of a revelation about power.  Again and again, we must turn away from the temptation to use power for our own ends.  Even when the cause is the most worthy of all causes — wouldn’t we love to see Jesus in charge of all the empires of the world, for instance — we have to let it go.

Worshiping and serving God is the only choice we can make to avoid that pesky corruption that power inevitably brings.  Why else would the devil say that being in charge of the kingdoms of the world goes hand in hand with worshiping the devil?  It always does, no matter how noble we are. We start out thinking we’re serving God, creating a God-fearing kingdom, and, next thing we know we find ourselves doing outrageous things so that we can keep hold of our vision. People are wounded or killed in the name of peace.  The ideology we promulgate becomes a club that destroys freedom. And so forth.

Paying attention to the words that fall from the lips of God, refusing to tempt the Lord, and worshiping God only, serving God alone, are good rules to follow when we have power.  (And relative to the rest of the world most of us U.S. citizens have great power.) So Jesus, again and again, relinquishes his power in the service of God.

But following these simple rules will only sustain us for so long.  Which words of the Bible come from the mouth of God? What is actually meant by serving God?  If we leave our understanding of scripture at the level of what we were taught as kids, we will not really know God well enough to serve God.  Reading the scriptures as adults, we are sure to come up against plenty of things with which we will want to argue.

Our Christian communities are meant to be places where these arguments can unfold, teaching us not only who God is but who we are.  Each of us is called to a comprehension of the Holy that is unique to us. And we are constantly invited to challenge and expand this view.  Get involved. Study scripture. Argue with worthy opponents who at the end of the day will appreciate your arguments.

May we find in the wilderness the holy discussions that lead us to new insight.  And then may we act in the service of Christ and of God.

Thank you Laurie.

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Dean’s Award

Trinity Cathedral’s dean’s awards are given to people who have made a significant contribution to the life of the community. The awards started in 1977. Sometimes one person receives an award; sometimes more. The most I have seen for any one year is eight. This year there were four and I was one of them. It means a lot.

The inscription reads:

His commitment to following the path of Jesus is an inspiration to all of us. He is expert at juggling multiple tasks, working tirelessly at all hours, day and night with staff, volunteers, ministry teams, worship leaders, custodians and accountants. He has kept the Deans of the Cathedral out of trouble more times than they want to remember. He has maneuvered with aplomb through knotty legal agreements — and disagreements — related to parking contracts and rental properties. His passion is seeing faith come alive for people in our lay-led Journey with Jesus program for adult baptism, confirmation and reception into the Episcopal Church. He served as our Operations Manager for twelve years before his retirement last year. It is with gratitude that this Dean’s Award goes to: Jerry Paré.

I am often cynical about such things but, for some reason, cherish this. I suspect it is because I have put so much time and energy into the maintenance and building up of Trinity. Whatever the reason, it is nice to be recognized for my efforts.

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Blocking Progress

The Dean was concerned that we didn’t have any “basics” classes at Trinity. So, inspired by Canon Carey’s previous ministry in this area, I developed some. It was a good way to provide basics and to develop a year-round catechumenate. (One of the concerns about the catechumenate process was that it didn’t include enough Episcopal doctrine. I have since come to the realization that, for a spiritual formation process, doctrine is secondary.)

We implemented four courses: Introduction to the OT, Introduction to the NT, Introduction to Church History (basically a course on the origins of the Episcopal Church from the primitive church to the present) and Introduction to Worship and Prayer (basically an introduction to the BCP). I taught the Scripture courses one summer and the history and worship courses the next. We would do the catechumenate in the fall through the spring. We would promote the catechumenate during the classes and promote the classes near the end of the catechumenate season. It worked well on many levels.

I stopped doing the classes two or three years ago because, as with many things at Trinity, I did not find the time for this ministry. I have been looking forward to starting them again. I sent an email concerning this to the Director of Spiritual Formation at Trinity as well as to the Director of Adult Spiritual Formation. I did not include the Interim Dean in the email because I thought my proposal would go “up the chain” if the Director thought that appropriate or necessary.

I received the following response:

Hi, Jerry,
Thank you for this; we appreciate the offer as the classes sound great! 
However, this summer we will only be offering our usual “one of” classes as we have done in years past.  Due to the period of transition we expect this summer, those will offer us more flexibility.  We’ll look at scheduling multiweek classes again in the fall.
Thank you!
Kathy and Susan

The response mystifies me, though I suspect I might have had more success if I had gone directly to the Interim Dean or if the proposal had come from somebody else.

The Interim Dean has expressed concern in the past that we don’t have enough foundational classes at Trinity. His response to the dearth of Scripture classes was a five week introduction to the Bible (the entire Bible in five weeks). However, he has demonstrated a “reluctance” of my involvement at Trinity and has strongly resisted implementation of the catechumenate. I didn’t mention the connection between the introductory courses and the catechumenate in my email.

One of the benefits of the classes would be “closing the back door,” as Mary Parmer puts it in Invite Welcome Connect. Having classes in which newcomers and others can participate (to be differentiated from “Newcomer Classes” that introduce people to the parish) is a good way to retain new members. Trinity has a committee that is investigating how to implement Invite Welcome Connect. This refusal of my offer might indicate two unfortunate things in this regard. First, that those on the Committee (which is led by the Interim Dean) are not exercising the imagination, will and courage to implement. Second, that they would rather continue to talk about evangelism rather than practice it.

I hope and pray for change.

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The Transfiguration (Mt 17: 1-9)

It’s easy to focus on the wonder of Jesus going up on the mountain top with his disciples. (Why does the Lectionary identify John and not James as his brother?). But, as with all the passages, this is about how I am called through this reading.

Two verses especially catch my attention: “Arise, and do not be afraid.” and “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen [or is it ‘raised’?] from the dead.” Fear of what I experience and fear to tell. The description of my efforts to evangelize.

We’ve been watching a sitcom on Netflicks called “The Kominsky Method.” One of the main character’s Grandson comes home after being a member of Scientology for a couple of years. He says that he has left the organization but his grandfather is doubtful. Prior to this the grandfather had told his best friend that he feels like selling his business and seeking enlightenment. But first he needs to find a teacher. The grandson starts to teach him the ways of Scientology, not in a pushy way but just by introducing new terms into Grandpa’s vocabulary. Suddenly it hits you and Grandpa. Here is his teacher! Grandpa is a skeptic about most things, this included, but is willing to listen and even to try. The son is so enthused.

As the story continues, the grandfather points to a “different way” for the grandson: sales. He’s a wonderful evangelist, i.e. he’s a wonderful sales person! Somehow equivocating evangelizing with selling bothers me. Are Christians called to “sell” the Way? We are called to travel the Way; we are called to show the Way; we are called to invite people to journey on the Way. We are even asked to guide people as they find their own path on the Way. But is this “selling”? No, it is more intimate.

You can be a good sales person and not believe in your product. Really good sales persons can “sell ice to an Alaskan.” A really good salesman can talk a person into buying anything that the person, (the sucker?) doesn’t need. It’s a sign of success in our consumer society. But we BELIEVE that people do need to hear and listen to and act upon the GOOD NEWS. They truly will be better for having taken even the first step along the Way?

So why the fear? Why the hesitation? For me at least part of the answer is that I fear really connecting. I fear showing a deep inner part of me to the Other. I fear sharing my self. I fear intimacy. But connecting, showing, sharing, intimacy – that’s what it takes.

Oh God give me strength! Transfigure me or, at least, begin (or continue?) the process.

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A Tale of Two Parishes

I’ve had the opportunity to attend two congregations recently. They share the same name. One is in Pasadena. It is recognized nationally for its dynamism, wonderful liturgy, out reach, excellent preaching, wonderful speakers during it’s “Rector’s Forums,” and so much more. It is a joy to worship there. The rector “gets it” in terms of the potential that Trinity Cathedral has by being the Episcopal Cathedral in Sacramento. (Trinity has done little to tap that potential for the past decade.) The members of this parish reach out to visitors and strangers and welcomes them into the community’s midst. Trinity Cathedral has long looked at this parish as a model of what we could be.

The other parish is in Sacramento. It is small (probably no more than 100 active members) but has so much potential. It has a beautifully simple building and is next to an active community college. The congregation is elderly. I saw one family and three other people less than 30 years of age. I experienced the common lack of greeting as I entered. I know the deacon. She greeted me as she came to the narthex to get a program for the visiting family.
There were no ushers to greet people or hand out programs. I signed the guest book. We’ll see if anything comes of that. No one wore a nametag. During the sign of peace a woman came into the pew in which I was sitting. She greeted and talked with a couple in the pew behind me but did not acknowledge me at all. I know the rector, the deacon, the music director and the lay assistant. I know about a half dozen other parishioners from my travels and work throughout the diocese.

I thought of Mary Parmer’s description of what we need to do if we are going to live, grow, make a difference. (See my blog on Invite. Welcome. Connect.) The Pasadena parish does it. The Sacramento parish does not. The Pasadena parish continues to thrive (even though they have budget problems as most parishes do). The Sacramento parish is struggling to stay alive.

Mary Parmer speaks of the need to overcome our reservations and fears about reaching out to friends and acquaintances to invite them to church, whether for worship or an event. (I am guilty of not doing so.) . She talks about using our imagination to find ways to welcome and connect with those who do answer God’s or our invitations. Both church buildings are beautiful, each in its own way. The Pasadena one is gothic and grand. The Sacramento one is simple but, potentially, a refuge for harried college students. Both have fantastic organs and good organists/music directors.

I think the Sacramento parish could remain alive. What do they need to do? The most obvious is reach out across the street to the college in all sorts of ways. They can offer talks, a prayer and reflection space, a safe place for discussions, a counseling center, classes that might explore issues college students are dealing with, and so much more.
They do offer really good organ concerts. They can easily be welcoming to the stranger just by acknowledging that person’s presence. This is truly a place that can use Mary Parmer’s guidance on evangelism. They need it now!

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