From the Rector: A New Sermon Series You Won’t Want to Miss

“As divided as our country is, so is Christianity. We have, over time, developed on a more overarching level, two distinct and nearly opposite theologies. One I call ‘personal freedom theology’. . . . The other is a communion theology. It is based on a totally opposite idea, that the common good, the good of all, is the Gospel.”
—The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel

The above quote from Bishop Rickel’s recent blog article “A ‘Pissing’ Section in the Pool” underscores the reality that there are two primary, distinct versions of Christianity attempting to guide our national conscience. These distinct expressions of the faith are usually described as conservative vs. liberal, or fundamentalist vs. progressive, or Bible-believing vs. culturally relevant. While those descriptions do apply to some degree, there is a deeper distinction and tension at play. One popular version of the faith appeals to dogma, doctrine, and cultural dominance; the other attempts to shape belief and practice using the life and teachings of Jesus as its primary reference point. One is more focused on personal salvation; the other embraces a communal understanding of salvation. So, which one is true? Which one is more “Christian?”

The truth is no version of Christianity or denomination is absolutely right or true. It’s also true that often it’s not simply a question of “either/or.” Often truth is found somewhere in between. The Reformers of the 16th Century tossed around the phrase “Ecclesia semper reformanda est”: The church must always be reforming. In other words, we must constantly be exposing what we say and believe Christianity teaches to scrutiny. Anglicans/Episcopalians seek to do that using Scripture, reason, and tradition. Of course, the beginning point must always be the life and teachings of Jesus. After all, Christians are called to follow Jesus, not a religious tradition, a book, or a particular doctrine.

So, using our Anglican/Episcopal toolset of Scripture, reason, and tradition, what does the Christian faith teach about the Bible, God, and Jesus? What is salvation? What does Christianity say about racism, sexuality, economics, and politics? How do we talk with our non-Christian friends or Christians with whom we deeply disagree about our particular understanding of Christianity?

Join us as we begin 12-week series entitled “Christianity: A Faith of Paradoxes” on September 6. And then, beginning September 13 after the worship service, join in a deeper discussion of each week’s topic via Zoom. Invite friends or family members who are curious, questioning, or even turned off by Christianity to watch online or join in the discussion forum.

We’re excited about this great opportunity to explore and share our faith with one another and with others!

Sermon Topics

September 6 “Is the Bible really true?”

September 13 “God is out to get you!”

September 20 “Does Jesus matter?”

September 27 “Are you saved?”

October 4 “Where is heaven?”

October 11 “God’s favorite people”

October 18 “Who does God want you to vote for?”

October 25 “What keeps God up at night?”

November 1 “Is God transgender?”

November 8 “The end is near!”

November 15 “God’s economic stimulus plan”

November 22 “Is Christianity dying?”


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Pastoral Letter

Dear People of God,

As I sat down to write this letter to you, one of the best-known opening lines of a novel came to mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I’m sure you recognize that line from the opening chapter of Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Most of us have not lived through what many are saying about our current circumstances, describing them as the “worst of times.” We are indeed living in unusual and troubling times. On the other hand, in the midst of a pandemic and political unrest, many good things are happening. We see the best of human nature being revealed in many ways—medical personnel, caregivers, teachers, and many others who give sacrificially of themselves and their resources. Many of them are quite literally putting their lives on the line. Others are speaking out against injustice and racism, calling our nation to account for how we treat the vulnerable and marginalized.

Taking a more microcosmic view, since our founding in 1990, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church has never endured an extended period of time when we could not meet in person for worship, formation, meetings, and fellowship. When the bishop ordered the shutdown of all church buildings in mid-March, I put a sign on the door of the building stating, “The building is closed.” The words were chosen intentionally, because we have been operating under the assumption that although the building is closed, the Church is not!

I am writing to give you a brief update on how we have stepped into being The Church since March 15. As a member of the parish, I ask you to set aside a few minutes to read this entire letter and the attachments. It’s an occasion to celebrate and give thanks for God’s work in and through us, and also to prayerfully consider ways you can continue to support and be engaged in the ministry of this parish.

While most of what you read below involves events, activities, and doing the business of the Church, these things are not what have been most significant in our parish life over the past few months. I’ve observed a renewed commitment to communal prayer, a real hunger for Christian fellowship and the Sacraments, and a desire to grow deeper in faith. Folks have reached out to ask how they can serve and assist those in our parish who might need help. Our leaders have approached the challenges caused by the pandemic with energy, creativity, and passion. Conversations in small groups and Bible studies have been rich, with a healthy, life-giving vulnerability.

Jesus told us that he would build his Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The Spirit of God has been, and is, at work among us doing just that: building up the Church and bringing about more fully God’s kingdom of love, justice, and peace–not only in us, but in our community. Not even a pandemic can prevail against the in-breaking of God’s kingdom among us.

Since this pandemic began, I have thought often about Winston Churchill’s speeches to the United Kingdom during World War II. At a very dark time during the war, he gave a critical speech in which he urged his fellow citizens to resist despair and stay strong. He ended that speech by saying, “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

I do believe that this can be one of our finest hours as the people of God known as Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. God is with us and will give us what we need to do the work he has given us to do, and to be the people he has called us to be.

Faithfully yours,

Fr. Steve+

What has been happening in our parish since March 15?

Our last Sunday of in-person worship was March 8, the day the Guatemala Mission Team flew home. Because of the excellent work of the staff and a few lay volunteers, we were able to begin offering online worship the very next Sunday, March 15. We’ve learned a lot since we began, and I think the quality of the online services has improved every Sunday. We are investing in a more professional grade video/audio live-streaming system, which will greatly improve the audio and video online feed. We began offering outdoor in-person worship in July, which has required quite a bit of preparation and administrative detail.

During the week, we began offering Morning Prayer and Compline. To date, we’ve hosted over 200 mid-week services! I am grateful for Joe O’Neil, Carol and Doug Stamper, and Charissa Bradstreet who, along with me, have been leading the services twice a day, five days a week.

Other highlights include:

  • A Regathering Task Force was created to do research and make recommendations on how to offer worship and open the preschool in accordance with government and diocesan guidelines as safely as possible.
  • The Facilities Team has kept the building and grounds maintained, as well as doing research on video equipment, overseeing cleaning in the building, evaluating our HVAC system, and, working with the Regathering Task Force to conduct a deep clean of the building in March.
  • The men’s fellowship breakfast group moved online, as well as the two women’s groups. I began a weekly Bible study on the Gospel of John. Youth continued to meet via Zoom on Sundays and Wednesday evenings.
  • We said goodbye to Rev. Chris and Rick Jillard and welcomed Charissa Bradstreet, our pastoral associate for formation.
  • The Vestry has continued meeting monthly and deeply engaged in the work of the three priorities set forth at their retreat earlier in the year. They have done really good, faithful work over the past few months.
  • The Faith in Action Commission, along with the Vestry work group, has met regularly and is about to make a major announcement about the new education scholarship fund.
  • A team of vestry members and others formed contact groups to keep parishioners updated on parish events and to offer help and support.
  • Financially, pledge giving has been steady and on track. Due to the generosity of our congregation, over $20,000 was given to boost the Rector’s Discretionary fund for COVID-19 relief and we have raised 93% of the $20,000 needed for the creation of the new baptismal font.

What should we expect in the fall?

My initial response is “who knows?” We are literally taking this one week at a time, just like you. With that said, we have done lots of planning for the fall. All of it, of course, is subject to change or modification should circumstances change due to the pandemic.

  • God willing, we will return to a modified form of indoor worship in September. Seating will be limited, but we believe we can do it safely. Our plan for resuming indoor worship meets and exceeds the state’s guidelines and was approved by our diocesan chancellor. The current plan is to offer two worship services on Sunday, both limited to 35 persons at each service. Service times will be 9am and 10:30am. The later service will be offered online, as we have been doing.
  • Beginning September 5, we will begin a new sermon series entitled “Christianity: A Faith of Paradoxes.” In this series, we will explore both the core teachings of the Christian faith and current social issues from our Anglican/Episcopal perspective. In this series we will attempt to address two questions: 1) What differentiates our understanding of the Christian faith from other expressions you’ve observed in our culture? and 2) How can we talk to others about those distinctions in a way that is reasoned and grace-filled? Topics include the Bible, the nature of God, Jesus, sexuality, politics, and racism.
  • Formation for all ages will be offered online until Phase 3. Adult formation will begin on September 13 and will be held after the 10:30am service on Zoom. We will dig deeper into the sermon topic for the day and have plenty of time for questions and discussion. Articles and videos about the topics will be sent out in the Weekly E-News on Thursdays. Children and youth formation will be offered in some creative ways online. Contact Charissa Bradstreet for details (charissa@goodsamepiscopal.org)
  • Consecration of the Baptismal Font and Bishop’s Visitation is set for Saturday, November 7, at 2pm. A preparation class for those desiring confirmation, reception, baptism or renewal of baptismal vows will be offered beginning the last week of September.

What are the challenges we face as a parish?

As we began 2020, all of us were faced with challenges we never expected. That is certainly true for the parish, as well. As I see it, we face three primary challenges as a parish:

  1. The first is engagement: making sure that we’re doing all we can to help all our members stay engaged in the life and ministry of the Church. Many of us have Zoom and Facebook fatigue! Watching services online or attending a Zoom meeting is just not the same as being present physically.
  2. The second is safety: making sure that we are strictly observing all the safety and health guidelines in our preschool, office, and services. This requires a great deal of work on the part of the staff, the facilities team, and the Regathering Task Force. The good news is that we’re doing a great job at this, thanks to the hard work of these groups.
  3. The third challenge is finances. We were fortunate in that we were able to obtain a Payroll Protection Program grant, which helped offset some loss in income. Because the enrollment in our preschool had to be reduced in order to meet state guidelines, and because of the loss of facilities rental income, our 2020 income will be reduced by approximately $35,000-40,000. The finance committee is working hard to deal with this deficit, but we will all need to do our part to make sure the parish is financially healthy this year and next.

How can I support our parish over the next few months?

  • Participate in worship either in person or online. Your presence is an encouragement to others!
  • Invite friends and relatives to watch the services online. We’re going to pull out all the stops to advertise the fall series because we want to get out our message about God’s Way of Love. You can put up a yard sign in your yard advertising the sermon series; those will be available in just a few days.
  • Volunteer to serve the parish in some way. We need more hands and heads engaged than ever before! To start, consider serving as a greeter or usher at outdoor services.
  • Give generously of your financial resources. Keep your pledge up to date, if you pledged. If you didn’t pledge or you are not currently giving, give. Give generously. Start praying about your pledge for 2021.
  • Pray for your parish. Pray for me, your staff, and your lay leaders that would make wise decisions as we navigate these strange times. Pray for and encourage one another.

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Baptismal Font Q&A

The Liturgical Arts Committee is grateful for the generous gifts given towards the new bronze baptismal font. Your deep generosity shows the bountiful abundance of our thriving congregation. Our conversations, several questions have come up which we’d like to address here.

Why do we need a new baptismal font?

Like Episcopal congregations all across our diocese and the country, Good Samaritan has historically placed a high value on liturgical arts. The reredos, stations of the cross, and hand-painted banners were created by members of our congregation. Thousands of hours of time and talent were spent adding these elements to our scared worship space. It follows that we put the same care and value into choosing a new baptismal font for our church.
 
Holy Baptism is the full initiation of a person into the body of Christ. It is an entry point to a new relationship with God, a new role within the community of the church, and participation in the principle act of Christian worship: Holy Eucharist. As people enter the nave, the font is the sacred object that expresses who we are and what we are about: an invitation to experience the abundant living waters of Jesus Christ. The font will say to all who enter our sacred space: We take what we do here seriously, and we are here to serve our community for generations to come. The font draws us toward the altar and the ritual completion of our journey–hands outstretched receiving the body of Christ. The path from the baptismal font to the altar is a symbol of our Christian pilgrimage toward God.
 
It is time to complete our space and path from Baptism to Eucharist. We are almost there.

What goes into creating a new baptismal font?

The committee spent nine months researching and creating a liturgical vision for our worship space which would draw the worshiper’s attention to the two great sacramental acts of the Church: Baptism and Holy Eucharist. Many hours were spent by committee members in conversation and discussion, visiting artists’ studios and looking at metal samples.
 
Upon visiting Classic Foundry, whom we chose to create our baptismal font, we were in awe of the care and reverence that each artist showed in their work. The manager of Classic Foundry, Ion Onutan, visited Good Samaritan, which led him to design this beautiful bronze baptismal font which compliments and strengthens our existing altar and sanctuary. We feel his design encompasses our vision and our needs to permanently and formally complete our sacred sanctuary space.

Why not a prefabricated baptismal font?

The Liturgical Arts Committee, Fr. Steve, and the Vestry chose not to go with a prefabricated baptismal font due to its short-term life. Prefabricated baptismal font materials and design do not match up the high quality of Classic Foundry’s craftsmanship, and the designs out in the marketplace do not match the aesthetics of our nave. The materials and construction are not strong nor do they represent permanence. They may cost less, but the money saved would lead us back to our current font problem of having a temporary fixture that has broken numerous times over the years.
 
A custom designed font meets all of our needs. The strong bronze bowl has a hidden drain for easy cleaning. The hidden retractable wheels in the cherry wood base allow for mobility. The cherry wood matches the wood of all the altar furnishings. The durability of the bronze will allow generation after generation to experience baptisms, and all who enter will be welcomed into our sacred space with the sense of God’s permanence, beauty, and mystery.
 
We have faith that Classic Foundry’s team of highly skilled, experienced sculptors, artists, and engineers will bring our vision to life. Good Samaritans will be invited for a tour of the foundry to experience first-hand the creation process.

Why does the proposed baptismal font cost $20,000?

The cost of the new font includes the design, the casting, the construction of the base, and the installation. Bronze was chosen because it is a natural element and one of the earliest metals known to man. It represents strength, durability, and longevity, just like our congregation.
 
The current font was never meant to be permanent. The new font, made of bronze and wood matching our altar furniture, will serve our community of faith for many years to come.

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Report on the 2019 Diocesan Convention

109th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia

Lynnwood Convention Center, November 8 & 9, 2019

 

Over 400 clergy and lay delegates attended the convention, representing over 90 congregations in our Diocese. Good Samaritan was represented by Fr. Steve, Rev. Chris, Sally Farrell, Merri Alexander, and Rick Tidball.
 

The meeting began with a series of breakout sessions that included a report on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a report on a task force studying the issue of homelessness, the state of the Palestinian crisis, and many more. The homelessness task force is asking parishes to see if they have underutilized space that might be converted to temporary housing, or explore the possibility of using church parking lots to house car/RV camping during the week. In the afternoon, a series of reports were presented, including a Standing Committee report from Fr. Steve. Rev. Chris gave a Board of Directors report that stated the Diocese was divesting itself from fossil fuel stocks, and reinvesting those funds in clean and renewable energy. Rev. Chris also talked about climate change and the Diocese’s commitment to reducing our overall carbon footprint. Additionally, our Diocese has signed a covenant with the Episcopal Diocese of the Southern Philippines to purchase carbon offsets by planting trees.

Several resolutions were voted on, including cost of living adjustments for clergy and our commitment to affordable housing. The delegates elected four clergy and four lay delegates to attend the 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, in July 2021.

The Good Samaritan welcome video was shown to the entire convention in the afternoon session as an example of how the Diocese can help churches with marketing and raising awareness. Bishop Rickel gave a talk about his recent Walkabout and his discernment to determine if he will continue as our Bishop after serving for the previous 12 years. He expects to make an announcement by the end of the year. Bishop Rickel also discussed how funds from parish assessment fees are used. Good Sam’s current assessment rate is 14.5%. While some of the funds are used to operate the Diocese, much of the funding is used for wonderful outreach programs. You can access information on the Diocese website.

The convention concluded with a Holy Eucharist and a lovely Deacon ordination. All in all, it was a privilege to sit with members and clergy of other local parishes to share information and worship together.


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The Role and Responsibilities of the Vestry

The vestry is the legal representative of the parish with regard to all matters pertaining to its corporate property. The number of vestry members and the term of office varies from parish to parish, but at Good Samaritan the vestry consists of nine persons serving on a rotating basis for three years. In some years, a term vacated by resignation or death is filled, as well. Vestry members are elected at the annual parish meeting. According to the by-laws of our parish, persons are nominated by the Vestry and presented to the congregation at least two weeks prior to the annual meeting. The presiding officer of the vestry is the rector. There are two wardens. The senior warden leads the parish between rectors and is a support person for the rector. The junior warden often has responsibility for church property and buildings, but this also varies from parish to parish. A treasurer and a clerk is elected at the first vestry meeting of the year after the annual meeting. These officers may or may not be vestry members. The basic responsibilities of the vestry are to help define and articulate the mission of the congregation; to support the church’s mission and ministries by active involvement, to select the rector, to ensure effective organization and planning, to secure and manage the resources and finances needed to further the mission of the congregation, and to choose individuals to fill various positions of leadership and representation, including the nomination of delegates to the diocesan convention, and the selection of others as the diocesan canons may stipulate. The vestry also serves as an advisory council to the rector who by church law is the parish’s chief liturgical and pastoral officer.

All vestry members should strive to the best of their abilities to:

  • Demonstrate a commitment to following the way of Christ as set forth in the Baptismal Covenant;
  • Be active in and knowledgeable about the congregation, its programs and governance;
  • Be fair, interact well with people and strive to earn the respect of the members of the congregation;
  • Purposefully strive to “check one’s ego at the door”;
  • Purposefully strive to be a servant of the people without the need to be the “most important person” in the congregation or the need to be the one with the right answers to everything;
  • Have enthusiasm and vitality for this ministry.

All vestry members should be able to make the following time commitments:

  • Vestry meetings
  • Vestry retreat(s);
  • Weekly worship services (rotating occasionally if more than one);
  • Congregational events: coffee hours, meals, fundraisers, adult education programs, work parties, etc.;
  • Diocesan meetings, as necessary;
  • Annual meeting.

All vestry members are responsible for:

  • Offering talents to support the congregation’s ministry;
  • Praying daily for the rector, leaders and members of the congregation;
  • Pledging financial support early in the stewardship campaign;
  • Being active ministers of the Gospel in daily life and work;
  • Bringing one’s whole self to the table; being present – mind, body, and spirit;
  • Risking openness with one’s ideas, beliefs and desires.
  • Completing Safeguarding God’s People and Safeguarding God’s Children and any other training required by the Canons of the Church.

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