From the Rector: The Open Door

If you’ve been in a vestry meeting with me over the past four years, you’ll quickly learn that my “go to” resource for leadership and mission is Peter Steinke. In his book, A Door Set Open, he writes:

Mission is the expression of the church’s deep, abiding beliefs. Mission provides the major standard against which all activities, services, and decisions are evaluated…. It is about God’s love for the world, not about what I like or don’t like about my church. A major function of the congregation’s stewards is to be the creators and guardians of the mission…. They keep the mission alive (p. 78).

I remember sitting in a vestry retreat with Peter years ago in Dallas, Texas, hearing these words and how they washed over our vestry and me. The mission of the local church is rooted in nothing more or less than God’s love for the world. It still blows me away and, to this day, helps keep my work as a priest and pastor focused and grounded.

In September we began a three-month re-visit of our parish’s statement of mission, starting with reflection upon the question of “why?” Why do we exist as a parish? Simply put, and I hope this has been clear, we are here to invite each other and our neighbors to walk in Jesus’ Way of Love. Now we turn to reflect on the “how.” How do we as a parish and individuals go about walking the Way? What does it look like and feel like?

Weirdly enough, we begin our conversation around that question with the celebration of one of the church’s most loved and popular saints: St. Francis of Assisi. And, lest we forget, his spiritual companion and friend, St. Clare, played a very important role in his life, ministry, and legacy. I hope you can join us on Sunday as we reflect on what St. Francis and St. Clare can teach us about how to more faithfully live into our mission and walk Jesus’ Way of Love.

Arrf, arrf. (Translation: Our dog Abi sends her greetings and wants treats and to lick your hand and face and get treats on Sunday!)

—Fr. Steve+


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Off the Rails?

A couple of weeks ago Fr. Brian mentioned in his sermon that over the course of the summer we were going off the rails of the Lectionary track for a few weeks. The rubrics (instructions) in the Book of Common Prayer allow for this, and although I rarely do it, I chose to focus our attention over the summer on the Fruit of the Spirit. I did this for two reasons.
 
First, since the beginning of 2019 we’ve been on a Journey with Jesus, walking with him from his Baptism to the Resurrection. Then, walking with the early Christians on their journey from Easter and the promise of the Holy Spirit to Pentecost. Because the Holy Spirit fills us with the Spirit of Jesus, what does it actually mean in very practical terms to be a follower of Jesus filled with his Spirit? What difference does it make in our lives? How do we live and grow deeper in that reality?
 
The second reason has to do with our national conversation and, in particular, the co-opting of the Christian faith for political purposes. When one claims to be a follower of Christ, what does that actually mean? Does it mean simply that Jesus saves us from our sins so we can go to heaven when we die, but we can do pretty much whatever we please in the meantime? Does it mean that we can recite the Creed and with the same mouth vilify people who are different or disagree?
 
This is why I believe we as Episcopalians have a clear message to share with our friends and neighbors. To be a Christian is to pattern our lives after Jesus of Nazareth–to talk about and treat others with the respect we ourselves would expect were we the subject. I believe St. Paul wrote his description of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians with Jesus as his example. If we are followers of Christ and his Spirit lives in us, then we take on the characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, and so on. To be a Christian—a Christ follower—means that we are seeking, with God’s and each other’s help, to form our character after the character of Jesus.
 
Now, I want to be quick to say that none of us perfectly manifests all of the Fruit of the Spirit. We are on a Journey, as our mission statement suggests. Sometimes we are very patient, and then we blow our cool in traffic! We seek to be more loving, then we listen to the news or something happens that makes it hard for us to respond with love and grace. So, we take two steps forward, and when we take one or two steps back, we lean into God’s mercy and ask forgiveness from those we’ve offended. Then, we continue to move forward, asking for God’s help to open our lives to grace, so that we actually reflect the character of Christ more and more. This is not an option for Christians. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and, yes, to love our enemies. Jesus was clear that how we treat the poor, the sick, the stranger, and the marginalized is how we treat our Lord himself.
 
The good news is that God, by the Spirit, will help us bear all the Fruit of the Spirit. We have God’s help, and the help of fellow Christians. That’s why worshiping and learning together as a Christian community is not just important, it’s absolutely critical if we want to live a Jesus kind of life. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to live a life overflowing with joy, love, peace, patience, and generosity? And the really great news is that this kind of life is possible.
 
So, I hope you’ll be in church as often as you can this summer as we “go off the rails” of what we normally would do in preaching to drill down on what life in the Spirit is all about. God knows I need to hear it, and so does our hurting, broken world.
 
On the Journey,
Fr. Steve+

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Note from the Rector: Come, Holy Spirit

This Sunday, June 9, we will recall and celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to his first disciples: that he would send the Holy Spirit who would make Christ’s presence known throughout the whole earth to every believer until the end of time. Pentecost, as some of you may recall, is actually a Jewish feast (Shavuot) and was primarily a thanksgiving festival for the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. It was later associated with a remembrance of the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. The church’s transformation of the Jewish feast to a Christian festival was thus related to the belief that the gift of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus was the firstfruits of a new dispensation that fulfilled and succeeded the old dispensation of the Law. The gift of the Spirit also serves as the source of our unity as Christians, and our call and empowerment for ministry and service in the Church and the world.
 
This Sunday our Journey with Jesus does not end; it is just the beginning! Walking with Jesus through his life, death and resurrection, learning from his teachings and example how to walk in the Way of Love and seriously considering what it means to be his Beloved Community where we are is really the groundwork and foundation for actually doing the work of Jesus in our own context. In other words, now the real fun begins! As part of our celebration on Sunday, we will meet one last time this spring for adult formation at 9:15 am to discuss the next step in our journey to be God’s Beloved Community here in Sammamish. Please join us for this important conversation!
 
After we celebrate the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, we will delve into how the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, helping us to become more Christ-like in our character and strengthening us to do the work he has given us to do. Beginning on June 23, the same day we begin the summer worship schedule (one service at 9:30 am), we will begin a 9-part summer sermon series on the fruit of the Spirit. Plan to be at church on these Sundays when you’re in town as we explore love, peace, patience, joy, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
 
With much anticipation,
Fr. Steve+

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A Note from the Rector: “Becoming”

On Tuesday evening, Stephanie Spellers reminded us that the first word in “Becoming Beloved Community” is “becoming.” We don’t just arrive at a point where it’s perfect and where we don’t have any more work to do. Becoming a life-giving, liberating, loving community is, as our mission statement puts it, a journey.
 
Last week, most of us who walked the Portugues Cominha arrived back home from a two-week journey from Porto, Portugal, to Santiago de Compestela, Spain. Our journey took us over 140 miles, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that it was an inward journey of the soul as well. As I told the folks in worship last Sunday, what developed in our journey was a sense of real community—we got to know the good, the bad, and the ugly (especially those blisters!), and yet our love and care for one another grew deeper with every mile. It was truly a transformative experience.
 
That is my hope and dream for Good Samaritan: that we would enter more deeply into the journey of Becoming Beloved Community. Not just for ourselves, but for the families who attend our preschool, the people who live down 244th, and, indeed, this parish’s circle of geographical influence. Jesus has given us not only the example of what that looks like, but through the power of the Spirit, the ability to actually pattern our lives and the life of our community after the way of Love. The conversation has begun, and I promise you that it will continue!
 
I invite you to join the conversation we are having about “Beloved Community” at adult formation the next three weeks. This Sunday we’ll do some unpacking of what we heard and discussed on Tuesday evening with Stephanie. If you weren’t able to attend, we’ll bring you up to speed so that you can join the conversation.
 
-Fr. Steve+

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And on the sixth day…

Week 6 REST

 
The earliest recorded account of Creation (Genesis 1) shows us a pattern of labor and rest. Scripture tells us that for six days God created (worked), and on the seventh day, God rested. Other parts of the Old Testament tell us that the ancient people of God saw in the creation story a pattern of working and resting, and sought to instill that pattern in their own communal life. As the group discussed on Sunday at adult formation, the Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath. Dedicated time for restoration and wholeness is not only critical for our bodies and minds, it’s also an act of trust that God will take care of us, as well as all those things that occupy our time when we’re not resting.
 
As a priest, one of my greatest concerns for the spiritual life of my parishioners is schedules that are so full that there is little time left for God, community, and family life. Lent is a good time to reflect on our schedules and ask ourselves if we are really taking time during the day or the week to reflect, rest, and enjoy the blessings of life. Last Sunday, the formation group read the story of the Valley of the Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1–14) and discussed how that related to Rest. Perhaps the lesson is that without intentional times of rest and renewal, our lives can end up dry and joyless.
 
Take a few moments this week to reflect on the passage, and these questions.
  • What gets in the way of practicing sabbath rest? Is it hard to rest? Why?
  • The act of rest and restoration is a part of the cycle of rebirth that is God’s hope for us and gift to us. What does this mean to you?
  • How can I encourage others to rest?
  • How do I practice sabbath rest within my body, mind, and soul and within communities and institutions?
 
Thanks to Philip Ballinger and Claire Nold-Glaser for leading adult formation last Sunday. Join us this Sunday for a discussion of how we can give witness to the love, justice, and truth of God by crossing boundaries.
 
—Fr. Steve+

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To Pray Is to Change

On Sunday, March 3, your new vestry met for its first official meeting. We always begin the meetings with a meditation and prayer, which I heartily recommend before any discussion of finances, building issues, the abandoned car in the parking lot, and why the copier keeps breaking down! At this meeting I read a paragraph from Peter Steinke’s A Door Set Open.

“Mission is the expression of the church’s deep, abiding beliefs. Mission provides the major standard against which all activities, services, and decisions are evaluated. Mission is the preserver of congregational integrity. It is about God’s love for the world, not about what I like or don’t like about my church” (p. 78).

Then I had the group list and discuss those things we deal with as vestry that would fall into the categories of “maintenance” and “mission.” We had a good discussion, then I led the group in prayer.

On the way home it occurred to me that we could have skipped the prayer I led, not because we didn’t need to pray but because we had already been praying! Having a conversation about how we lead the church in its mission was the prayer. If God is listening all the time, then God was a part of the conversation. And that’s what prayer is in its essence; conversation with God, talking, listening.

A few hours earlier on Sunday, we held our second session of “The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life” at the adult forum. The topic was PRAYER. We broke up into groups, then gathered back in the big group and had great discussion on some really practical questions and observations. The materials provided by the Presiding Bishop’s office describes prayer this way: “…when we pray we invite and dwell in God’s loving presence.” I shared with the group this quote about prayer from Richard Foster:

“To pray is to change. This is a great grace. How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control” (Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 6).

My guess, if you’re like me, is this: “I want all the love and joy and peace I can get!” Conversation with God, dwelling in God’s loving presence, helps us grow in these virtues.

If you missed last Sunday, you’ll find the scripture passage we used for our discussion and some reflection questions. I hope you’ll join us this Sunday, 9:15 am, for the next step in our journey on the Way of Love.

Prayerfully,

Fr. Steve+


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What Is Worship?

On Sunday the adult formation group had a lively discussion about worship. We explored these questions: what is worship, what is most meaningful to you in a service of worship, what does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth, is regular attendance in corporate worship important? We just scratched the surface!
 
Worship of God is expressed in many forms. St. Paul urged the Roman Christians to present their bodies to God as a living sacrifice as an act of worship. Worship is something we do in private or small groups or in a larger congregation. It includes adoration, thanksgiving, hearing and reflecting on Scripture, and celebrating the sacraments. The discipline of worship in community is regularly gathering to thank, praise and dwell with God. Regular participation in worship with the community is not just about what we receive from it, but also what we are able to share with the larger group. Just our physical presence can be an encouragement to others. We read and discussed the following passages from Scripture:
  • John 4:7–24
  • Acts 2:44–47
  • 1 Corinthians 14:23–25
Reflect on these and on the questions listed above. As part of your Lenten journey, participate in corporate worship as much as possible. There are plenty of opportunities!
 
On the Way,
—Fr. Steve+
 

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Statement on the Klahanie Graffiti Incident

Last week, several homes in the Klahanie neighborhood of Sammamish were spray-painted with racist graffiti. The police are investigating this incident as a hate crime. As our Baptismal Covenant states, we believe all human beings are formed in the image of God, and as such deserve respect, understanding, and protection from harm. Races, ethnicities, and the wide variety of human experience reflect the very character of God who delights in the richness of diversity. I am grateful that our parish exists in a community of diverse cultures and languages where we can learn from each other and grow in our own understanding of what it means to be part of the world which God created. In the Sammamish City Council’s statement, they observed that at least 27 languages are spoken in our city. Our preschool children reflect the diversity of our community, and it is with joy that every day we see children from all over the world learning and playing together. This, I believe, is God’s dream for the world. In the face of this incident and others throughout our nation in recent days, what can we do? I believe that each one of us, as the Baptized in Christ, not only has a responsibility to resist racism, but to actively engage in the work of justice and peace. There are several ways to do that in our context, and here are a few ideas:

  • Attend one of several peace events being held around our city in the coming days, one of which will be held on April 3 when State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez comes to Sammamish to speak on racism and inclusion. Details to come soon on this event.
  • Of course, calling out racist statements when you hear them is another way to respond. Sure, it might be uncomfortable, especially if it’s a friend or family member, but as Christians it is the way we are “salt and light” in the world.
  • Reach out to neighbors, acquaintances, folks you meet at the grocery store who are from another country or of a race or religion different from your own. Get to know them; let them know that you are glad they are part of our community.
  • Join the conversation the Faith in Action Commission is having about partnership and ministry with our sisters and brothers at La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurreccion in Mt. Vernon.
  • Join in the conversation on Sundays at 9:15 am as we explore Jesus’ Way of Love and how we more faithfully live into it. Pray. Pray for our country, for our leaders, for our community. Pray for justice and peace. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer aligns us with the will and purposes of God, which is, as St. Paul declares, reconciliation with God and breaking down the barriers that divide us.

These are just a few ways to respond, you’ll think of others, I am sure. Speaking of prayer, this one from the Book of Common Prayer beautifully expresses our hope as Christians”

“O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Hopefully, Fr. Steve+


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The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers

The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers is coming for a short speaking tour in the Diocese of Olympia in May, assisted by Jeremy Tackett. The following events are open to the public, but require advance registration. Register for one or all here.

Becoming the Beloved Community

Tuesday, May 21, at 7 pm (Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, Sammamish)

Stephanie Spellers, the Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation, and the Care of Creation, is doing a speaking tour of the Diocese of Olympia, beginning here at Good Samaritan. She will be speaking on Becoming Beloved Community—an exploration of the Episcopal Church’s call and commitment to reconciliation across barriers of race, ethnicity, and culture. Don’t miss this rare opportunity! Learn more at episcopalchurch.org/beloved-community.

Are We There Yet? Racial Healing and Reconciliation in Our Time

Wednesday, May 22, at 7 pm (St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle)
An interactive reflection on the reality of racism and the hope for justice and healing in our time. Gain courage and renew your commitment to being agents of transformation. Learn more at episcopalchurch.org/reconciliation.

Episcopal Evangelism 101

Thursday, May 23, at 7 pm (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Olympia)
A practical, uniquely Episcopal take on evangelism that’s relational, mutual, and humble and inspiring. Reimagine evangelism and get ready to share and celebrate the love of God in new ways. Learn more at episcopalchurch.org/evangelism.

About Stephanie Spellers

The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers serves as the Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation, helping Episcopalians to follow Jesus’ Way of Love and to grow loving, life-giving and liberating relationships with God, each other and the earth. The author of Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Spirit of Transformation—as well as The Episcopal Way and Companions on the Episcopal Way (with Eric Law)—she has directed mission and evangelism work at General Theological Seminary and as a canon in the Diocese of Long Island; founded The Crossing, a ground-breaking church within St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston; and led numerous church-wide renewal efforts. A native of Frankfort, Kentucky, and a graduate of both Episcopal Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, she makes her home today in New York’s Harlem neighborhood.
 
 

About Jeremy Tackett

Jeremy Tackett has been the Episcopal Church’s Digital Evangelist on the Presiding Bishop’s staff since early 2017, and has recently expanded his portfolio to include management of Creative Services for the Episcopal Church Office of Communication. He builds relationships, creates community, and fosters an aspirational online social presence by managing the church’s digital evangelism ministry.
 
Twitter + Instagram: @jeremytackett

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Revival

Rev. Mercedes Tudy-Hamilton Speaks About God’s Love

Wednesday, March 27, at 7 pm

Get ready for REVIVAL with Rev. Mercedes Tudy-Hamilton, pastor of Primm Tabernacle AME Church. As we learn more about the Way of Love and the practices that center our lives on Jesus Christ, this special event will remind us of God’s unique loving work in the world through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
 

About Rev. Mercedes Tudy-Hamilton

Reverend Mercedes Tudy-Hamilton, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been serving the members of Primm since August 2011. She accepted God’s call in Christian Ministry in 1997 while living in Los Angeles, CA. Pastor Mercedes was ordained as an itinerant elder in the Southern California Conference in 2004 and earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership from Biola University in La Mirada, CA. She spent 5 years at a church in Great Falls, Montana, where she completed her Masters in Transformational Leadership from Bethel University before being called to serve as pastor at Primm Tabernable AME Church in Seattle.
 
Her ministerial foundational scripture is, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come” Luke 4:18–19 (NLT).

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