From the Rector: The Easter Message

Sermon for Easter, April 12, 2020
By The Rev. Dr. Steve Danzey
Good Samaritan Episcopal Church
 
John 20:1–18
 
You may or may not remember the television series The New Normal, which aired for one season back in 2012–13. The storyline follows a wealthy Los Angeles gay couple, Bryan and David, who want to have a baby. They meet Goldie Clemmons, a waitress and single mother, who decides to become their surrogate, and she and her 9-year-old daughter move in with Bryan and David, forming a family outside what is considered the “norm.” This show, much like the TV series, Modern Family, satirized and critiqued what our culture considered “normal.”
 
In case you haven’t noticed, in recent days the word “normal” has probably become the most overused word in our national and personal conversations. “When will things get back to normal?” We ask. Or, in light of the pandemic, “What is the new normal?”
 
Mostly, I’ve heard, and I’ve said it and longed for it myself, “When can we just get back to normal?” “When can things get back to the way they were before all of this COVID-19 pandemic?”
 
I wonder, however, if the events through which we are now living and the event we celebrate this day offer us the opportunity to envision something more than getting back to normal, perhaps a new normal that has the potential to make the world a better place—more in tune with God’s dream for the creation. But because of something in our human psyche, the impulse to return and stay with what is familiar, predictable is strong; especially for those of us who are control freaks, which I am not. I’m a “control enthusiast!”
 
In John’s version of the first Easter, Jesus has not been dead for more than a few hours and the disciples are trying to adjust to life without Jesus and gain some sense of control over their own destiny. Mary Magdalene, however, ignores the stay at home order and ventures out to find the tomb empty. She does what any one of us would do, attempts to find an explanation that is reasonable and what anybody with any sense would conclude:
 
“Someone has taken Jesus’ body away. I know it was in there, because I was here on Friday when Joseph and Nicodemus helped us bury the body. I know—the officials who wanted him dead have delivered yet another blow—they’ve stolen his body. What other explanation could there be?”
 
Then Mary tells Peter and presumably John, who race to the tomb to verify what Mary has told them. What happens next is almost comical. John believes—Scripture doesn’t even tell us what he believed, but it couldn’t have been earth shattering, because the final sentence in that part of the story tells as that they went back to their homes. What on earth did they do when they got home? Cook breakfast, surf the internet? I get the sense they were dealing with their grief, fear, and shattered dreams and just wanted to go home and return to some sense of normality, or at least a place where they felt in control.
 
Bless Mary’s heart, she is struggling and troubled because she senses that something is not quite right. While the men skulk back home to check the stock market reports, Mary bravely returns to the tomb. Was the cause of here weeping a mixture of grief over her loss and frustration with a system that would not only kill a good man but desecrate his body.
 
And then it happens. The old normal is shattered, and though there is a sense of continuity with what was before, something happens that changes everything. The gardener says her name. “How did he know my name?,” Mary wonders, and then the old normal is gone forever and the new normal has begun. “It’s the Teacher; it’s Jesus!” She does what any one of us would have done, and, oh, how we long to do it in these days of social distancing. She reaches out to wrap her arms around him.
 
“Don’t hold on to me,” Jesus says, “I’ve got people to see, things to do, and places to be, and so do you!” It’s okay to grieve the loss of what was, Mary, but now it’s time to let go and embrace the new normal—the Resurrection normal.”
 
What does this current crisis and Easter Day 2020 say to us who are grieving the loss of what was normal and wondering what the new normal might be? What about the old normal should we let go? What are the possibilities for transformation wrapped in the caccoon of our current crisis that will enable us, if we are open to them, to live more fully into God’s intention for the human race and all of creation?
 
The book of Acts, which we’ll hear in church for the next few weeks, sets forth distinction between a world that wants to back to normal, back to a world without Jesus, and this growing group of Jesus-followers who have tasted the new normal of Resurrection life and refuse to go back to the way things were before.
 
The political and religious powers of the day did everything in their power to go back to the old normal, which at its heart was the attempt to maintain their control of the economy, politics, and religion. The followers of Jesus, however, energized by the Spirit of the Risen Jesus, choose to live in the new normal—the Easter normal. They make bold decisions to be inclusive; they sacrifice their reputation and their very lives; they give generously so that everyone in the community shares in the abundance of God.
 
Sisters and brothers, there are things about life the way it was before this crisis that are worth grieving over. I grieve with high school and college seniors who won’t be able to finish out their senior year. I weep with families who cannot hold the hands of their dying loved ones. I mourn that we could not celebrate Holy Week and Easter gathered in one place as a community of faith.
 
But there are some things about the old normal over which I will not grieve if we choose to let them go.
 
I will not grieve if we choose to put in the past the growing disparity between the rich and the poor that has become the norm for this nation. I will not grieve if we choose to let go of a broken healthcare system, where people cannot get quick treatment and die because they do not have health insurance. I will not grieve if Christians in our nation choose to let go of our obsession with political power, prosperity and celebrity so that we cannot do what Jesus told us to do: love God wholeheartedly and love our neighbors as ourselves.
 
I do not want to go back to the old normal of politics as usual, the disparaging of people and minorities in the public forum, and the disregard for truth and justice that has become all too common. Please, let us not go back to the old normal of over-scheduling ourselves and our children to the point that we can barely find time to breathe. Let us not go back to the old normal of taking our relationships, our vocations, and our faith for granted. Let us grieve over some things that we have lost during this time in history, but let us, for God’s sake and our own, choose to let go of things we know are dividing us, degrading our humanity, killing us and reeking havoc on God’s creation.
 
Thanks be to God, there are signs all around us that cracks are appearing the edifice of the old normal.
 
Did you read the news reports that folks living in northern India can see the Himalayas again because of the drop in emissions? Wildlife is returning the the canals of Venice. We are learning the names of next door neighbors. I see the Easter normal at work right here in our own faith community—people checking on one another, offering help, giving generously, worshiping faithfully.
 
Families have the time to work on puzzles and play board games. We have time to read novels, and take long walks, and check to see if the widow up the street needs Kleenex or toilet paper. Folks are returning to faith, or at least open to deepening their spiritual life, and realizing that their relationship to God is actually an essential part of their well-being.
 
Alan Lightman, a physicist who teaches at MIT, wrote in The Atlantic last week:
 
…there is something more to be regained [in this crisis], something more subtle, more delicate, almost impossible even to name. That is the restoration of our inner selves. By inner self, I mean that part of me that imagines, that dreams, that explores, that is constantly questioning who I am and what is important to me. My inner self is my true freedom. My inner self roots me to me, and to the ground beneath me. …perhaps the slower lifestyle in these months can help put the pieces [of our broken selves] back together. And perhaps a more contemplative, deliberate way of living can become permanent.
(“The Virus Is A Reminder of Something We Lost Long Ago,” The Atlantic, April 1, 2020)
 
The late poet John O’Donohue writes:
 
“You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.”
(Excerpt from the blessing, ‘For One Who is Exhausted’ from To Bless The Space Between Us)
 
That Easter falls right smack dab in the middle of this pandemic is worth pondering. If God can bring new life and new creation out of the death, disappointment, and disaster of the Passion Week of Jesus, what might happen if we choose to live in the new normal that is possible on the other side or our own Passion experience? What new thing might God be up to? What new and wonderful things could be birthed in our own lives, our families, our church, our nation?
 
I love how the Easter story ends. Mary runs back to where the disciples are hunkered down in their old normal. The text tells us she announces, she declares “I have seen the Lord!” She is the first apostle of the new normal—Easter, Resurrection normal.
 
The good news of this particular Easter Day is that even in our grieving and weeping God is with us, not chiding us because of our tears but calling us—each one of us, by name—to see through our tears the vision of a new normal that started 2000 years ago in a garden on the outskirts of Jerusalem. And not just to see it, but to embrace it and let it take root in our hearts so that we, too, like Mary, can shout to the world this day: “I have seen the Lord!”
 
Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

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From the Rector: God’s Love Is Constant

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This has been a roller-coaster week, hasn’t it? At first, we saw measures and changes to our daily lives introduced on a daily basis. Now it seems that the response and reaction to the spread of COVID-19 occurs almost hourly. While our lives have been disrupted, and many of us feel as though they’ve been turned upside down, there are a number of things that are constant, things to which we can anchor our lives during these unpredictable times.

God’s love for us is constant and never-changing. God’s love for us expressed in Jesus does not fluctuate like the stock markets; it is consistently given to us with no strings attached. Another constant is the relationships we have with our families, friends, neighbors, and, in particular, our parish community. Your response to requests, participation in online services, financial generosity, and offers to help others in need have been remarkable, and they have been a great blessing to me.

Today the bishop directed all parish churches to be closed through Easter Day, April 12. While that announcement distresses me greatly as your priest and pastor, it is necessary in order to slow down the spread of the virus. We will have Sunday services and all Holy Week services and Easter online. I’m going to be working with the clergy, staff, and altar guild about ways you can celebrate these events in your home as you watch online. I will send out a pastoral letter over the weekend outlining how we can stay connected and continue to do the work of this parish over the next few weeks.

Although the building is essentially closed for public gatherings right now, the work of the church continues. The staff is meeting and planning, the office is operating, leaders are meeting, parishioners are reaching out to one another, and the worship life of our community continues. Of course, we’re doing that differently and in new ways, but the work we do in partnership with God here in this place continues. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to work on additional ways to keep us connected and in touch with one another, and will be asking some of you to help with those initiatives. Watch for those, and please do read the communications that come from the parish.

Some have asked how I’m coping with all of this. To be completely honest with you, I’ve had a few sleepless nights lately. However, what has been helpful to me during all of this is really simple.

  • Before—and I emphasize before—reading or watching the news in the morning, I get coffee, find a quiet place, pray or just stare out the window, and usually give attention to Abi, our lab, who just can’t get enough attention. Begin the day with a centering practice of some kind; perhaps morning prayer or contemplative prayer. Read Scripture, especially the Gospels and the Psalms. For those new to the Episcopal Church (and some others who have been around for a while!) this would be a great time to explore the riches of The Book of Common Prayer. Meditate or practice yoga. The possibilities are endless!
  • Make a list, either mentally or on paper, of the things for which you are grateful. Gratitude for what we do have can help us frame and put into perspective what is going on in the world around us.
  • Stay in touch with others. Staying connected with family, friends, neighbors, and your parish community is vital. Use this as an opportunity to get acquainted with neighbors you don’t know or reconnect with friends. You might want to consider joining a group that is meeting online—a community service group, our women’s and men’s groups, youth group, or a special interest group.
  • Take care of yourself physically. Get out and enjoy this beautiful weather! Take a walk, work in the yard, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in our part of it. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, take a nap. Our physical well-being has a direct impact on our emotional/spiritual well-being.
  • Find ways to serve others. If you need ideas, reach out to me. Our Faith in Action Commission is meeting next week, and we may have additional ways to serve to share with you next week.
  • If you have time on your hands, learn about or explore something you’ve always wanted to know about but didn’t have the time. Although I’m pretty busy right now, I want to do some more research on greenhouse gardening.
  • Make the worship of God a priority. For Christians, this should go without saying, but one good thing that can come out of this is restoring the corporate worship of God to a central place in our schedules. Worship is not only for our comfort and encouragement, it is one of the ways God’s Spirit works in our lives to transform us.

Know that I am praying for all of you daily, and that our parish leadership stands ready to serve you in any way possible during these times. Since we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day earlier this week, I leave you with this blessing:

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.

May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.

May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.

May Christ shield me today.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit, Christ when I stand,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Amen.

With love for all of you,
Fr. Steve+


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From the Rector: Good Samaritan to Close for Two Weeks

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
 
Today the bishop directed all parishes in our area to close for services and activities for two weeks in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Here are some things you should know today:
  • On Sundays March 15 and 22, one service at 10:30am will be broadcast on Facebook Live. You do not need to have a Facebook account to view the service. There is additional information and a PDF of Sunday’s bulletin linked below.
  • All activities, the Wednesday night Lenten programs, are cancelled through March 28. It is possible that we will offer the Wednesday night sessions on prayer on FaceBook Live. Watch for details.
  • We will be offering Morning Prayer and Compline at various times throughout the next two weeks on Facebook Live. I will publish a schedule over the weekend.
  • Over the next two days you will be receiving a phone call from one of our parish leaders. They’re calling to check in to see how you are doing and share ways we can keep connected during this time. Please don’t hesitate to let them or me know if you are homebound and in need of groceries or supplies.
I know these are difficult and uncertain times for all of us. As Christians, we rest in God’s promise that God is with us, even in the midst of trying times. When you feel alone or discouraged or fearful, I encourage you to offer your feelings and thoughts to God in prayer. Our tradition has a number of wonderful prayers that can help shape your own prayers. We’ll be sharing those with you over the next few days. Because our baptism ties us inextricably together as One Body in Christ, we are a community called and empowered by the Spirit to care for one another and our neighbor. We are all together in this, and I think there is a great deal of comfort in knowing that.
 
If you need help or assistance, or you just want to talk or pray with someone, don’t hesitate to reach out to the clergy or others in our parish. Your leaders have risen to the occasion in a remarkable way, and I want to assure you that our worship and ministry together will continue, although in a different way for a little while. Remember that the church is not the building—we, wherever we are and no matter the circumstances, are the Church. As the great hymn reminds us, the Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, who promised to be with us forever.
 
With love for all of you,
Fr. Steve+

Instructions for Facebook Live

You don’t need to have a Facebook account to view our online services. Simply click here to view the church Facebook page. The service will go live at 10:25 am and play near the top of the page.
 
 

Instructions for Online Giving

Since we won’t be passing the plate in church on Sunday, visit our website for instruction on how to give remotely. Online giving requires you to create a profile in our giving management system. You can also send a check to our secure post offce box.

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From the Rector: Various Updates

The Guatemala Mission Team arrived at Seatac last evening around 6 pm, all 11 of us safe and in good spirits. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you on March 29 at 9:15 am during the formation hour. We are grateful for your prayers while we were in Guatemala. Keep us in your prayers this week as we re-enter the daily routines of life here and catch up on some sleep!

Updates to COVID-19 Response

I want to give you some updates on our response to the COVID-19 virus. We are receiving daily communications from the King County health officials and will continue to follow their recommendations on gatherings and health practices for both the school and the parish. The Facilities Team will be reviewing our janitorial services to ensure that surfaces in our building are being cleaned in accordance with health official recommendations. The bishop’s office has been sending out regular communications to the clergy with up-to-date information. I’ll continue to follow their recommendations and advice, and I’ll reiterate here the consistent recommendations that are coming from health officials:
  • If you are sick, stay home. If symptoms such as fever, coughing, and headache persist, seek medical attention immediately.
  • If you are in a high risk category, avoid large gatherings. High risk groups include people over 60, those who are immune-compromised, and person with chronic underlying medical conditions.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cough and sneeze into the elbow or into a tissue. Throw away the tissue immediately after use and wash hands.
  • Practice social distancing. Keep as much distance between people, ideally maintain a distance of six feet or more.
  • Refrain from hugs and handshakes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often and at least twice per day.
These recommendations mean that for some us attending church services at this time may not be advisable. That’s a personal decision you’ll have to make. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and follow the recommendations of health officials and directives from the bishop regarding worship services. The school will remain open unless health officials direct us otherwise.

Community Assistance

As people of God, we put our ultimate trust in God and seek to serve others, especially in times like these. If you are home-bound and need food, supplies, or assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I encourage you to reach out to neighbors or acquaintances who may need help at this time, too. While taking precaution to protect our own health, it’s important to remember that our baptismal covenant calls us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
 
For those of you who were not in worship yesterday, there are links to the bulletin and the sermon recording below. I encourage you to read the lessons, offer the prayers, and listen to the sermon. We’ll include the service bulletin in the E-News this week as well, and I’ll be having conversations with those who are more technically savvy than I about the possibility of live-streaming our 10:30 am service on Sunday.
 

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me via email or phone. It’s good to be back home, and I look forward to seeing you face to face soon.

Blessings,
Fr. Steve+


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From the Rector: You’re Invited into Lent

In the Ash Wednesday liturgy of our Church, the Presider says the following: “Therefore, in the name of the Church, I invite you to the observance of a holy Lent.” For many centuries, and still to this day in some parts of the Church, an invitation to Lent was about as exciting as receiving an invitation from the dentist for a root canal! All that talk of fasting, prayer, penitence, discipline, and figuring out what to give up for Lent that won’t be too overbearing or inconvenient. I remember breaking the Ash Wednesday fast at a restaurant near the parish church I served in Chicago after the service. I was talking with a server at a restaurant in Chicago about Lent (I still had remnants of ashes on my forehead, which, on my forehead really stand out!) and he said to me, “Oooh, I grew up in church, and Lent was always absolutely the most horrible time of the year!” Somewhere, somehow, someone missed the point, don’t you think?
 
As the early church grew and developed, the liturgical year came into being as a way of recalling, celebrating, and learning from the life of Christ. In time, the period before Easter was set aside as a time of preparation for the great celebration of the Resurrection. In fact, the word “Lent” comes from a word which means “spring.” Beside our deck there are several dozen blooming crocus plants, announcing to the world that spring is right around the corner. They also announce to me that it’s time to prepare the flower and vegetable beds, plant some seeds in the greenhouse, and start the pruning of the rose bushes. That’s what Lent is really all about—giving attention to the soil of our souls so that God can bring new life, new growth. Therefore, I invite you to prepare for the new thing God wants to do in your life.

Prepare the Soil

We’re offering several ways to prepare the soil of our heart this year:
  • On Sundays, the adult formation offering and the sermons will be geared toward finding ways to be more open to God’s work in our lives.
  • On three Wednesday nights during Lent, March 11, 18 & 25, we’ll explore how prayer is an essential part of our Lenten preparation work, and the different ways in which we can pray.
  • During the week, you can engage in a fun spiritual practice called Lent Madness.
Serving by giving of your time and resources is “heart work,” too.
  • The youth are collecting items for personal hygiene kits,
  • Issaquah Meals will prepare and serve dinner on March 14, and
  • we’ll collect the Good Friday offering that goes to support the social ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
Often, it’s helpful during Lent to think about what to subtract so there’s more space to just relax or enjoy time with family, friends, or yourself. I read an article over the weekend on the spiritual discipline of doing nothing. In our culture, doing nothing really is a spiritual discipline.
 
Whatever you decide will be helpful to you during this holy season, I encourage you to be intentional and consistent. After all, Lent is about responding to God’s invitation to the full and joy-filled life Jesus promised us. You’re invited!
 
Hoping you’ll RSVP “yes,”
Fr. Steve+

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From the Rector: On the Seventh Day, God…

I recently read an article published some years ago in The New York Times by the neurologist Oliver Sacks on the topic of Sabbath. Sacks abandoned his Jewish faith as a teenager, but later in life came to be somewhat of a spiritual seeker. As he moved toward the end of life, his appreciation of the Jewish observance of Sabbath deepened because he saw in it a metaphor for how life is to be lived: “doing good in one’s work and activity and enjoying the peace of the Sabbath.”

Let’s face it. As American Christians we take the “doing good in one’s work and activity” and run with it! We fill our schedules with activities and social events. Busy-ness has almost become a sign of moral uprightness for most of us. Don’t get me wrong. Doing good in one’s work, engaging in activities that keep us healthy and growing, taking on projects that help others—all those things are good, and Scripture is clear that God sees those works as holy. Scripture also tells us that after six days of creative activity, God rested. One of the ten commandments, remember, is to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy (set apart). Jesus observed the Sabbath, too, although he flipped his lid when the religious leaders objected to his healing work on the Sabbath. Jesus reminded them that humans were not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for them. In other words, Sabbath is a gift.

As Christians, we don’t observe Sabbath in the ways that Jesus or our Jewish sisters and brothers do. Nevertheless, the principle of Sabbath—a time for rest, worship, and renewal—is a gift from God, and is part of our faith tradition. Keeping Sabbath, after all, made it into God’s top ten things to do or not to do! So, what does Sabbath mean for us and how do we unwrap the gift that it is in our own day? How do we make space in our busy schedules and in our cluttered minds for rest and renewal?

During the season of Lent, we are going to explore what Sabbath means for us today, why it’s essential for living a healthy life, and how we can open our lives to the rest and renewal God desires for us, even in the midst of our busy lives. We’ll address it in sermons, discuss it in adult formation, and explore the role of prayer in Sabbath on three Wednesday nights in March. We’re working to make this teaching as practical and accessible as possible. I hope you’ll commit to engage as much as you can as a part of your Lenten observance.

Faithfully,

Fr. Steve+


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From the Rector: Send Us Out

In the Book of Common Prayer 1979 there are two options for the post-communion prayer. The second option concludes with a petition asking God to “send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” That petition is a reminder that the vast majority of God’s work goes on outside the walls of the church building the other 166 hours a week!
 
On Tuesday afternoon I attended the retirement reception of one of our parishioners, Dr. Philip Ballinger. Philip, husband of our former deacon, Kathryn, is Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at the University of Washington and is retiring this month after over 30 years of service in university admissions and enrollment. At the reception, speaker after speaker spoke about Philip’s integrity and collegial spirit. What struck me most was the work he has done to increase fair and equitable access to higher education. During his time at UW, the racial and ethnic diversity of the student body at UW has grown dramatically. In reality, Philip has been doing God’s work—Kingdom work—in his career in higher education. It was evident, too, that the Christ-like way in which he approached his job has made a lasting impact on his colleagues at UW and literally around the world.*
 
Philip, of course, is not the only lay person in our parish doing ministry through their vocations. Week after week I hear stories about how people in our parish are living out their faith and making a difference in the world. Teachers who bring the values of our Baptismal Covenant into the classroom, managers who treat their teams with fairness and respect, parents who seek to instill Christian values in their children, volunteers who work with and lead in community service organizations, parishioners who are kind to their neighbors—this is what it means to be the Church sent out to do the work God has given us to do. Not just on Tuesday at the retirement reception, but almost every Sunday I hear what you are doing to make God’s love known in your everyday life. Your stories and your commitment to follow Christ throughout the week wherever you are inspires me!
 
At our vestry retreat last weekend, your vestry chose three ministry priorities for the year: 1) marketing and evangelism, 2) youth and families, and 3) what I will call, for now, “missio,” the Latin word for “to send.” We decided on these priorities after doing discernment around our call as a Christian community to “gather, transform, and send.” The send, or missio, priority arose as we asked ourselves how we were doing as a parish in preparing and inspiring one another to leave our corporate worship experiences to do God’s work in our family life, work life, social and civic life, and, yes, even in our parish life. You’ll be hearing more about these three priority areas of the vestry soon. Suffice it to say here that your vestry, Rector, and the Faith in Action Commission will give even more intentionality to how we can lead, guide, and support one another as we are sent into the world to do the work God has given us to do!
 
Excitedly,
Fr. Steve+
 
*Philip will be our guest speaker at the Seasoned Saints luncheon on March 9, at 12 noon, here at the church.  He’ll share more about his training as a Jesuit priest, his career in higher education, and the new project he’s working on with UW.

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From the Rector: Church Policies for Inclement Weather

Dear all,
 
It snowed on Thursday, January 9, which brings back vivid memories of last year’s Snowmeggedon. In response to that chaos, we formulated an inclement weather policy, and since more inclement weather is expected in the next few days, here just a few reminders:
  1. The church office and the preschool follows the Lake Washington School District closure protocol. If the school district declares schools closed, we are closed. If they are open, we are open. If there’s an early closure, we observe that too.
  2. If inclement weather is expected on a Sunday, I will consult with the wardens as to whether we cancel services. We will usually make the decision by 6 pm on Saturday. At that point I will notify the staff, and we will send a parish-wide email. We will also put a pop-up on our website, and send a text from MyGoodSam to those who have signed up for that service.
  3. If a significant weather event takes place overnight on a Saturday, we’ll make any decision and get information out by 6 am that Sunday.
  4. The staff and the Facilities team will do their best to keep an eye on the driveway, sidewalks, and porch area for snow and get a plow if possible.
As always, weather conditions may be different at the church than where you live. Don’t go out if road conditions in your area are treacherous.
 
Let me know if you have questions or concerns.
 
—Fr. Steve+

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Staff and Children’s Ministry Update

In our Baptismal Covenant, parents and godparents of children being baptized make solemn promises to raise the child in the Christian faith. The Celebrant then addresses the congregation, asking if they will do all in their power to support the child’s life in Christ (BCP 303). Over the past few years, I believe we as a congregation have taken the necessary steps to ensure that we are fulfilling the promise we make to children and their parents at Baptism. As you know, when Fr. Brian’s curacy was coming to an end, we began the process of evaluating our staffing needs for children and youth. The result of that process is that the Vestry and I have come to some conclusions, which we are now ready to share with the congregation. I am pleased to announce that the Vestry has created a new staff position: Director of Children’s Ministries. I have asked Lisa Treadway to serve in that position, and she has accepted and will begin her new role on November 1.

So, what does that mean, you may be asking? In addition to serving as the Director of Good Samaritan School, Lisa will serve as the minister to children (age birth through 5th grade) and families for the parish. She will give oversight to the children’s formation programs, as well as working with the clergy to plan and implement ministries that support the faith formation of our families with children. We are in the process of working with Lisa to provide additional administrative support for the School, and she will step away from other leadership roles in the parish, including coffee hour. You’ll be hearing more from the parish leadership in the coming days about how you can support our ministry to families and coffee hour, so stay tuned!

As your Rector and Head of the Good Samaritan School, I cannot be more pleased with this decision and Lisa’s willingness to serve in this new position. She has led our School to become one of the most sought after preschools in our area. The school is flourishing in every way, and as I write this note to you, the enrollment is near capacity. Lisa understands her role in the School to be more than a Director, but as a minister, as well. Every weekday, I watch her serve the students, parents, and the staff in a manner that represents and reflects the Christian faith and Christ’s Way of Love. She is a blessing to the School, and now brings her expertise and passion for serving children to our parish. Thanks be to God!

I know that you’ll join me in giving your support to Lisa and the team who so faithfully serve our children Sunday after Sunday. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me or any member of the Vestry.

Gratefully,
Fr. Steve+


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From the Rector: On Being Community

By now most of you are aware of the tragic deaths this past weekend of two students at Skyline High School. The deaths were due to accidental drug overdoses of fentanyl, an opioid that has caused thousands of death in our country. It’s almost instinctive to immediately react to such news with disbelief, shock, anger, and deep sadness, and often we look for someone or something to blame. But as the shock wears off and we are able to sift through emotions, it is possible to gain clarity. We have a problem in our community that will only be addressed when we admit there is a problem and come together to address it. To use “churchy” language, it’s confession and repentance. For many of us those two words carry a negative connotation, but the reality is that both are gifts given to us so that we can identify those things holding us back from the fullness of life Jesus promised and begin to make choices that are life-giving. This work, however, cannot be done alone. Do you notice that in our church we begin the confession with “we”: WE confess that WE have sinned. The hard but life-giving work of facing a problem and dealing with it is not done in isolation; we do it together as Beloved Community in a variety of ways.

Over the past few days, I’ve watched our community come together to mourn, pray, and support one another, especially our students. I think we’ve been shaken, too, by these deaths and am hopeful that there is a willingness to look the problem in the eye, name it, and work to address it. Many have asked me “what can I (we) do?” Together, and with God’s help and our commitment to address a very real problem in our community, we can take action that will make a difference. You will be hearing more about how our city leaders, school officials, law enforcement agencies, and faith groups are responding in the coming days. In the meantime, I offer the following of things all of us can do right now:

  • Pray. Pray for our students, parents, teachers, school officials, and community leaders. Pray for the students who have died, for their families and friends, and for those who seek to comfort and support them. Pray for those who struggle with addiction. The Book of Common Prayer offers us this prayer for pray for the victims of addiction:
    “O Blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery; and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and persevering love. Amen.”
  • See. Acknowledge and get to know the children and youth in our parish. Let them know that they are visible, that we see them, welcome them, and support them. Just a simple “hello” or “that’s a pretty dress” or “what grade are you in” speaks volumes and will make a difference in the lives of our youth. I daresay most of us who are older can point to moments and persons in our lives who just simply acknowledged us or encouraged us in some way that made a huge impact. Do it this Sunday; let our youth and children know that they are an important part of our community.
  • Get informed. Know what’s going on our community, in our schools. It effects all of us. Did you know that two of our parishioners, Joyce Bottenberg and Tom Ehlers, serve on the City of Sammamish’s Health and Human Services Commission? Talk with them; they have their ears to the ground and can help gain a wider and deeper perspective on the issues.
  • Show up. On Wednesday, October 16, at 7 pm, a community-wide discussion will take place at Skyline High School. All are welcome, and I encourage your attendance. Just showing up makes a statement that we care and want to be a part of the solution.
  • Stay tuned. Our Faith in Action Commission is working with other faith leaders and the Sammamish YMCA to start a mentoring program for youth. Tom Ehlers and I have been part of this initiative. You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months, and if you’d like to be a part of exploratory group, please speak to Tom or me.

Wherever you are or whatever you are doing when you read this, please join me in this prayer:

Gracious God, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in your, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (BCP, p. 829).

Hopefully,

—Fr. Steve+


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