Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

October 4, 2020

Wait, what? We’re already in October?

Does it feel to anybody else like you laid down in March to take a brief nap and you’ve suddenly found yourself here seven months later? OR —maybe — we’re not awake yet?

So much is on the church calendar to either kick off or to complete during “typical Octobers.” However, this is obviously not a typical year! With some of the usual goals we will go forward, while others will have to be postponed or canceled. A few examples.

• This Sunday is Episcopal Schools Sunday. This is a Sunday when we celebrate liturgically the work and importance of St. John’s Episcopal School in our community. Again, this is the principal ministry of our Church. This is where our vision and mission statements have their greatest impact on the people of south Orange County and throughout the world.

The Word of God will be shared with us this Sunday by our Head of School, Mr. Patrick McHonett. Students and faculty will lead us in prayer and reflections throughout Morning Prayer. By the way, if you wish to express your commitment to the mission and ministry of the School, please consider contributing to either the School’s Cardinella Fund or to the St. John’s Community Relief Fund supporting the need-based financial aid requests made by SJES families negatively impacted by the economic fallout of the global pandemic. Head to the School’s webpage for details.

• Blessing of the Animals will not take place this year, as coordinating the necessary safeguards was too much with limited hands.

• Last week, we sent you a survey measuring your desire for participating in worship inside the church. We received over 100 responses from you, and for that we are immensely grateful. The majority of responses (55%) indicated that you would not come or are not likely to come, while 36% said you would or were likely to come. Though this does not give us a clear path forward, we found something in your comments that needs to be addressed. Many of the positive responses expressed a belief — or a hope — that coming together would look and feel the same as it was BEFORE the pandemic quarantine.

Many responses included:
– a looking forward to hearing the choir (or the organ) in person
a need to sing
– that we have two services at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sunday
– that we have communion with bread and wine
– that we come to the altar rail for communion
– that we have a socially distanced coffee hour

These come under the heading, “Great Expectations,” because though they are important for us to hold on to, they are nothing we can do for the foreseeable future. When we move towards returning to the sanctuary for worship again on Sunday mornings, there are many conditions that must be considered. In the beginning, it may be for Morning Prayer only. There will certainly be no live music in the early phases. There is no allowance (by the diocese nor from the CDC) for communion from a cup. The service must be simultaneously available on ZOOM for those who need to stay at home. Because of the high number of volunteers it takes to make this happen, having two services would be prohibitive. Serving food of any kind (even coffee, our “other sacrament”), is strictly forbidden. We all look forward to the time when we can gather again and worship as we used to, but this is not to be for now. We will let you know our choices as we take small steps towards gathering again in the church and invite your participation. In the meantime, don’t forget that we still do Eucharist outdoors on Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m.!

• This is usually the month that many parishes kick off their annual stewardship campaigns and historically, St. John’s has been no exception. However, for the last two years, the St. John’s Gratitude Committee has been working to launch a year-round response to “Stewardship” — translating ‘gratitude’ into ‘action’ for all that God gives us. Last year was spent laying the foundation for that work. This year’s work was interrupted resoundingly by the pandemic. So, this year we will continue to use October as the “Stewardship Kick Off” for our annual pledge campaign. Gratitude Committee members will communicate with you about the extraordinary generosity of the people of St. John’s who have supported its ministries so completely over this tumultuous year, including through care for the hungry, for the homeless, for the poor, those needing medical interventions, washing laundry, visiting and calling those who are isolated; all of these needs have gone on unabated — and even increased in the past seven months. You will hear from people who help us answer the calls of the poor and marginalized and about the people who have benefitted and been lifted by your support.

Then, of course, we are looking to the future about the works to be done at St. John’s next year and asking for your support and how the Spirit of God is leading you to pledge to this work. Like much of our work this year, we are having to invent new pathways for communicating our campaign to you without the benefit of being together in our sanctuary. Therefore, we ask for your indulgence and resoundingly positive reply to the online appeal.

• Next Sunday, October 11, we celebrate the long and fruitful ministries of Sheryll Grogan and Lorraine Kamholtz to the children of St. John’s. Join us at Morning Prayer at 9 a.m. for a touching tribute to the apostleship of these two saints-of-God. Watch for the link in next Saturday’s e-blast.

• St. John’s Adult Forum is back in session. At 10 a.m. on Sunday, after our Morning Prayer ZOOM service, we gather online for conversation, for developing our skills to listen deeply to each other, and to address some ongoing thorny issues that are dogging the church and the world today. This season, we are reading and discussing the book by Austin Channing Brown called, “I’m still here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness” — the first two chapters are under scrutiny for this Sunday. The leaders have asked that if you wish to participate in this discussion, please do so only after being prepared by reading the material.

• On Tuesday, October 6, Aiden Bollens will have his kidney surgery. Aiden is the little boy whose baptism last Saturday was shared with us at Sunday’s Morning Prayer. On Tuesday, we ask that you keep something handy all day as a reminder to pray for Aiden and his family: for his health, for a successful surgery, for quick recovery, for his family, and for a long healthy life. I will often reverse my wristwatch so when I go to look at it, I have to flip my wrist reminding me that I am praying for something particular. These days, you can also have an hourly reminder on your smart phone to keep fresh in your mind the need Aiden has for your prayers.

• Trunk-or-Treat is ON! Put Sunday, October 25 on your calendars as the “Drive Through Trunk-or-Treat” event at St. John’s. All precautions for safe distancing and mask-wearing will be in place and candy distribution will be done via a ‘non-contact’ processes. Please contact the office if you wish to have your decorated car included in the festivities.

• Diocesan Convention will take place this year on Wednesday, November 4, albeit only virtually. This month, the pre-convention gatherings will take place online on Saturday, October 24. More information will be coming for the delegates.

• Women’s ministry is running like a Kentucky Derby racehorse! This is a life-giving, person-affirming ministry that so many of you are enjoying. Please see the attached announcements for what is happening this month. [Perhaps it is time for the men’s ministry get started online?]

• This is a busy week for Laundry Love and the RSM Cares Food Bank ministries. This necessary and gracious work goes on unceasing. Look in the attached Blue Sheet for dates and times.

Here are the regular events and connecting-points for the services and staff at St. Johns:
We gather in person tonight at St. John’s in the courtyard at 5:30 p.m. for Eucharist. Please make your reservations for NEXT WEEK on our home webpage, www.stjohnsrsm.org, beginning Monday morning.

Our schedule of ZOOM services remains the same:
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Morning Prayer at 9 a.m.
• Nighttime Prayer is prayed Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
• Bible Fellowship, open to all, continues Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m.

To ensure participants’ online security, we don’t publish the worship/study ZOOM links; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me with the links, and would like to attend services, please email me and I’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links.

The Adult Forum is Sunday at 10 a.m. We are embarking on a journey to discuss and inwardly digest the book, “I’m Still Here; Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness,” by Austin Channing Brown. Reading this book is essential in order to join coherently in the discussions. To get the ZOOM link, contact event organizer Scotty King.

As always, I have my online office hours Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m. This is meant for general communication for any who wish to ‘drop by’. If you need to speak to me on a private basis, email me that we can find some common time. My office hour link.

Rev. Karen has her office hours on Thursday morning at 10 a.m. Her link.

May the Spirit of Christ continue to be with us all as we walk the road to God’s glorious Reign, supporting each other on this [sometimes] treacherous journey.