Church as Hospital

by Charissa Bradstreet, pastoral associate for formation
 
When I was growing up, one of my pastors used to say, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” He said this in the ’80s, at a time when consumerism was in full glory and our culture celebrated icons who had “made it” who “had it all together” and were seemingly immune from suffering, complications, or want. For this pastor, the church was a contrast society, one in which people were unashamed of their need, their suffering, and their struggles because they had found a God who embraced them as they were, and a place that supported healing and called forth expression of the gifts they had to offer. Gifts born from the knowledge of woundedness, not perfection.
 
I have spent the last year working part-time at Harborview Hospital, a hospital that specializes in trauma. It is not a metaphorical hospital, for in that place I sit at actual hospital beds and at tables in psych wards and talk with people who face amputations, brutal burn recovery, homelessness, a lifelong battle with schizophrenia, or a loved one who has been declared brain dead. I have been engaged in the work of learning how to hold hope in these settings. And most days I do find hope there. I have watched the mentally ill carry out the difficult work of forgiveness and grace—at speeds I rarely see elsewhere. I have seen a paralytic do the difficult work of releasing spiritual platitudes to get more real with God, and then see his legs begin to work again. And some days I sit in a stairwell and cry because of a story I’ve just heard.
 
My experience at Harborview has helped me recognize signs of trauma, and not just the signs of trauma that accompany disease, accidents, and homelessness. Trauma visits pretty much every person on the planet, and comparative affluence can mask the wounds that many of us carry inside. We may say, “Well, I’m hardly a Syrian refugee, or an indigenous child born with fetal alcohol syndrome, so how dare I think of my issues as trauma?” However, trauma is trauma, regardless of who it happens to or any attempt to compare and minimize harm. At least at a hospital no one pretends there isn’t a wound. If the church is a hospital, then it is also a place where we don’t pretend, a place where we actively seek the healing we need. A place where we collectively tend to internal ruptures through encounters with God, and the image of God as expressed in one another. It’s not the place we come back to after we get ourselves all better. It’s the place where we learn what better feels like by placing ourselves in contexts that support the soul’s communion with God. Sometimes it’s through spiritual practices. Sometimes it’s through service. Sometimes it’s through small groups or friendships. Sometimes it’s through respecting what science has taught us about our brains and our bodies and interrupting bad habits.
 
We have just completed the “resilience experiment,” which has been all about playing in that space of spiritual practice, service, connection, and science—of exploring ways in which church is more than something that happens on a Sunday morning. Being church involves making seemingly minor adjustments and discovering what God can do within contexts of exhaustion, despair, and anxiety. Presiding Bishop Curry has spoken of the “two pandemics,” the pandemic of COVID and the pandemic of racism. All of us in this church are feeling the effects of these two pandemics—these two significant traumas—consciously or not. Let us truly be a hospital for the soul. Let us be a place where we do not pretend to be perfect or become isolated, and instead let us reach together toward that which heals. Jesus spoke of a kingdom that we can experience here and now, even in the very midst of suffering. Let us be that kingdom!

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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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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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You’re Invited to Go Deeper

by The Rev. Dr. Steve Danzey

Are you wondering why we are doing an adult formation series on Baptism? It may seem basic, or maybe you feel that you know everything about it already. But the truth is that there is always something to learn and ways to grow. Baptism gets to the heart of what it is to be a Christian—both the ways in which we encounter God’s grace and what it means to live as a Christian in the world. So whether you were baptized 60 years ago or are thinking about doing it now, diving into its meaning will stretch and deepen your faith as an individual and, just as importantly, the faith we share as a community.

If you missed the first week of “I Will, With God’s Help,” our current formation series on the Baptismal Covenant, you can still join us this Sunday for the remainder of the class. We meet at 9:15 am in the Narthex on Sundays. The youth of Good Samaritan have been exploring “I Will, With God’s Help” since September and we hope you’ll join them in learning about and exploring our faith.

About the Baptismal Covenant

In the Episcopal Church, baptism is when we say “yes” to God’s grace in our lives and to everything being a Christian means. We say “yes” by making the promises contained in our Baptismal Covenant—our job description, of sorts, as Christians as we understand it in the Episcopal Church.

Many of us were baptized as babies. Our parents and sponsors said “yes” for us at that point, promising to guide us in the Christian life according to the Baptismal Covenant, hoping that one day, we might make the promises and follow Christ for ourselves. You may have been confirmed at some point later on in life and have lived the promises as your own. The reality is that we always have room to grow, to be more faithful to our call as Christians, to make these promises again and again because we never live them perfectly. This is the reason why we say the Baptismal Covenant together, as a community, whenever someone is baptized in our church and several other times throughout the year. We need always to be reminded of God’s call and what it is we have promised to do as followers of Jesus.

Along with our formation series to explore the meaning of this in more depth, two opportunities to reaffirm the promises of our Baptismal Covenant are happening in the coming weeks:

  1. This coming Sunday, January 13, is the day we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, and we will renew the Baptismal Covenant together as we remember Jesus’ own baptism—whose example we follow.
  2. On February 10, Bishop Greg Rickel will be visiting during our regular services, giving the sermon, baptizing and receiving any new members, confirming youth and adults, and praying for those who would like to make a more formal recommitment to their baptismal promises.

I hope you will join your church family and make the commitment to go deeper with us this year as we go on a journey with Jesus. Baptism is the beginning of our Christian life, just as it was the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. After we renew our Baptismal Covenant in the coming weeks, we will continue following Jesus’ journey of love through his life and death in Lent, through his resurrection in Easter, and finally through his charge to the church at Pentecost. Each stage of the journey is important and your presence is what makes us a community as we travel together.

—Fr. Steve+


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The Way of Love: On the Journey with Jesus

On Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, I described the Christian year as a journey with Jesus—a journey with him through his birth, baptism, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection. I also invited the congregation to a year of intentionally leaning into that annual journey the Church has given us. Now that we’ve journeyed through Advent and celebrated the birth of Christ, our pilgrimage leads us to those places and events in the life of Jesus where God’s love and grace is revealed in particular and powerful ways.

Beginning this Sunday, January 6, and concluding on February 3, we will unpack the baptismal covenant and prepare for Bishop Greg’s visitation on February 10. Using the curriculum “I Will with God’s Help,” we’ll dig deep into each component of the baptismal covenant each Sunday at 9:15am. I encourage every parishioner to consider making a formal renewal of your baptismal vows at the bishop’s visitation. This formation series will prepare you for that. The series also serves as preparation for Confirmation or Reception into the Episcopal Church. I’m also asking new members or those considering membership to attend this class as part of their introduction to the parish. And for those who are just curious and not really sure about making a formal commitment, you are especially welcome! Forms for renewal of baptismal vows, Confirmation, Reception, and new member registration (with an explanation of each) will be available again this Sunday. I’m particularly excited about this series as it will be something we do together to deepen our faith.

After the bishop’s visit and continuing through the season of Lent, we will continue our journey on “The Way of Love.” Inspired by our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Curry, this Sunday morning series will explore practices that help us on the journey of Love. Bishop Curry writes:

Before they were called “church” or “Christian,” this Jesus Movement was simply called “the way.” Today I believe our vocation is to live as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement. But how can we together grow more deeply with Jesus Christ at the center of lives, so that we can bear witness to his way of love in and for the world? The deep roots of our Christian tradition may offer just such a path.

Each session will focus on a particular Christian practice, with some time for reflection and practical application. We’re working, too, on activities and events during the week to follow up on what we’ve been learning about and discussing on Sundays, including the possibility of a short retreat at one of the local monasteries.

After Easter, we’ll continue the Journey leading up to Pentecost, which is celebrated on May 31 this year. Pentecost, remember, celebrates not only the coming of the Holy Spirit Jesus promised, but the sending out of the Church into the world to do the work of the Kingdom. During this season, we’ll be very intentional about putting into practice what we’ve learned and discovered throughout Epiphany and Lent about the Way of Love.

As either Fr. Brian or I say every Sunday as we invite you to the Lord’s Table: Let us walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us…”

Fr. Steve+


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On a Journey with Jesus

by the Rev. Dr. Steve Danzey

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you—it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, on your body.” –Anthony Bourdain

I’ve been a fan of the late Anthony Bourdain’s travel episodes since they first appeared. If you’ve seen them you’ll know what I’m talking about; each episode not only described the place but also the people, the food, the culture, and what it felt like to be a person living in that place—a place not just to visit but to experience. “The journey changes you—it should change you,” he wrote. The same can be said of the Christian journey—it changes you, it should change you.

On Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, I described the Christian year as a journey with Jesus—a journey with him through his birth, baptism, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection. I also invited the congregation to a year of intentionally leaning into that annual journey the Church has given us, and to begin it together this week.

I hope you will join your parish family in worship, study, and serving as much as possible over the next few weeks as we journey through this Advent season and prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. Our journey continues after Christmas as we move into the season of Epiphany. Beginning January 6 and concluding on February 3, we will unpack the baptismal covenant and prepare for Bishop Greg’s visitation on February 10. Using the curriculum “I Will with God’s Help,” we’ll dig deep into each component of the baptismal covenant each Sunday at 9:15 am. I encourage every parishioner to consider making a formal renewal of your baptismal vows at the bishop’s visitation. This formation series will prepare you for that. The series also serves as preparation for Confirmation or Reception into the Episcopal Church. I’m also asking new members or those considering membership to attend this class as part of their introduction to the parish. Forms for renewal of baptismal vows, Confirmation, Reception, and new member registration (with an explanation of each) will be available next week. I’m particularly excited about this series as it will be something we do together to deepen our faith.

After the bishop’s visit and continuing through the season of Lent, we will continue our journey on “The Way of Love.” Inspired by our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, this Sunday morning series will explore practices that help us on the journey of Love. Bishop Curry writes:

“Before they were called ‘church’ or ‘Christian,’ this Jesus Movement was simply called ‘the way.’ Today I believe our vocation is to live as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement. But how can we together grow more deeply with Jesus Christ at the center of lives, so that we can bear witness to his way of love in and for the world? The deep roots of our Christian tradition may offer just such a path.”

Each session will focus on a particular Christian practice, with some time for reflection and practical application. We’re working, too, on activities and events during the week to follow up on what we’ve been learning about and discussing on Sundays.

As Bourdain points out, the journey is not always comfortable. Sometimes it does hurt or break your heart. But there is also joy to be found on the journey, and companions who make the journey worthwhile. As I said on Sunday, our spiritual journey as Christians is not an aimless wandering. Although there are many twists and turns, our journey is toward God, which makes both the destination and the journey itself worthwhile.

– Fr. Steve+


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