Friday, December 28, 2012

Sermon on the Killings at Sandy Hook Elementary

This is a sermon given on December 16th 2012 by the Very Rev. Gary Hall, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral. In a morning sermon delivered to more than 1,000 Episcopal congregants in Washington, D.C., he vowed to mobilize the nation's faith communities to fight the influence of pro-gun lobbying groups and advocate for stronger gun control laws.

We gather this morning in the aftermath of a national tragedy: the killing of 28 people—20 of them children—at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Like you, I am still in the process of sorting out all my emotional responses to this horrifying incident. In times like this, we all come together seeking not so much answers as a community in which to make sense of the questions.

The only reliable way I know through something like this is to start with my own response, trusting that in many ways it resembles yours, and then holding that response up to the Gospel light, asking God what we should all do next.

It appears that most of those who died on Friday were first graders. There is nothing like a primary school classroom: it’s not only the bright colors and the fun things that make it special. It’s the sense that you’re in a place where children are making an important transition, moving from innocence to experience, engaging the world afresh and anew. So my first response to Friday’s shooting is a kind of wounded horror at the thought that these emergent children were killed so brutally and that the children around them were terrorized as well. I grieve, of course, for the adults too. But it is the loss of the children—the lives not lived, the hopes extinguished—that touches me first.

My thoughts move next to the parents. As I remember my own days as the parent of a young child, I recall my own visceral sense that my primary purpose in life was to protect and nurture the life of my son. When you have a child you are emotionally exposed. Not only can I not fully take in the way the children were traumatized; I cannot even begin to grasp the pain experienced by their parents.

And then from the parents my thoughts go to the shooter. While I resist the temptation to speculate about his mental or emotional state, it’s hard to imagine someone carrying out such an act who wasn’t in an awful lot of psychic pain themselves. We reflexively turn to calling such people “evil,” as if in so doing we mark them as somehow different from us. Was the shooter “evil”? In the sense that he caused a lot of innocent suffering, yes I suppose he was. But can we call him “evil” as a way of excluding him or his actions from the realm of humanity? No, I don’t believe we can. We need to understand his action—and the actions of all violent people—as a part of what it means to be human. Like it or not, we are bound up with each other in a complex matrix of motivations and actions. To understand is not to excuse. Let’s not apologize for the shooter, but let’s not try to pretend that he’s someone other than us, either. If he was mentally ill, he was also a member of a family, and we know that existing laws make it very difficult for families to control or institutionalize their violent members.

And thinking about “us” makes me ask the last, the harder question. Why do we as a society tolerate these massacres in increasing numbers? These mass shootings are happening with increasing frequency, and they more and more seem to be targeted directly against children. What does it say about us as a society that we continue to tolerate so much violence against children? What does it say about us, as a community of human beings, that we are willing to put our children (not to mention their teachers) in so much jeopardy? In every school I know they have lockdown drills, and the threat of invasive gun violence is taken very seriously. What kind of a society would let itself get to this point, to where teachers and students routinely have to practice what they will do when a shooter comes on campus? If you stand back from it for a minute, you realize that our continued shared tolerance of this violence directed against our children is insane.

All of which leads me, finally, to ask the Gospel question: what are we, as people of faith, to do? As a way into answering that question, I turn to this morning’s Gospel passage, the account of John the Baptist addressing the crowds who are coming to him out of some kind of personal and spiritual and social desperation. What does he say to them? “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” What he means is: stop doing the crazy thing you’re doing and do a new thing, a new thing that will bear fruit, that will bring about the change you seek.

The crowd asks him, “What then should we do?” And John gives this direct and plain-spoken answer:
“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” [Luke 3: 10-14]

Now you don’t have to be a New Testament scholar or an ethicist or a moral philosopher to understand what John is saying here. He’s saying: it’s not that complicated. You already knew the answer when you asked the question. Share what you have, live honorably, value the well-being of the other person as highly as your own. We make our ethical dilemmas seem more complicated than they really are. In today’s Gospel, we’re asked, simply, to repent, to turn around, and then to bear fruits worthy of repentance. We’re asked to live mutually and honorably and compassionately for the well-being of all.

Which leads me to say, on behalf of this faith community at least: enough is enough. As followers of Jesus, we have the moral obligation to stand for and with the victims of gun violence and to work to end it. We have tolerated school shootings, mall shootings, theater shootings, sniper shootings, workplace shootings, temple and church shootings, urban neighborhood shootings, for far too long. The massacre of these 28 people in Connecticut is, for me at least, the last straw. And I believe it is for you. Enough is enough. The Christian community—indeed the entire American faith community—can no longer tolerate this persistent and escalating gun violence directed against our people. Enough is enough.

For a variety of reasons our political culture has been unwilling and unable to address the question of gun control, but now it is time that you and I, as followers of Jesus, help them to do that. In his emotional statement on Friday, President Obama called for “meaningful action” in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, and I pledge my and this community’s help in crafting and taking that action.

Our political leaders need to know that there is a group of people in America who will serve as a counterweight to the gun lobby, who will stand together with our leaders and support them as they act to take assault weapons off the streets. As followers of Jesus, we are led by one who died at the hand of human violence on the cross. We know something about innocent suffering. And we know our job is to heal it and stop it wherever we can.

In my statement on Friday, I said in part, “Washington National Cathedral pledges to pray for the victims, their families, the assailant, and the survivors. And we pledge to work with our national leaders to enact more effective gun control measures.” To my way of thinking, the best way for us to mourn the Sandy Hook shooting is to mobilize the faith community for gun control.

In her statement on Friday, Bishop Budde announced that she is calling on our national leaders to enact more effective gun control measures. We know from experience that such calls go unheeded. But what if this time, you and I took up this issue and wouldn’t put it down until something was done? … Today we grieve, but soon we act.

“What if this time, you and I took up this issue and wouldn’t put it down until something was done?” What would Jesus do? What would John the Baptist do? What should you and I do? You knew the answer even before you asked the question. “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” “Today we grieve, but soon we act.” As people of faith we can no longer tolerate the epidemic of gun violence in America. If we are truly America’s “National” Cathedral, as we say we are, then we must become the focal point of faithful advocacy of gun control, calling our leaders to courageous action and supporting them as they take it.

Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby. I don’t want to take away someone’s hunting rifle, but I can no longer justify a society that allows concealed handguns in schools and on the streets or that allows people other than military and police to buy assault weapons or that lets people get around existing gun laws by selling weapons to people without background checks at gun shows. As Christians, we are obligated to heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable, and stand for peace. The cross is the sign and the seal of that obligation. And we know both from faith and experience that the cross is mightier than the gun. The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.

On this Third Sunday of Advent, we await the birth of the one who will die on that cross at the hands of sinful and violent people. Let us rededicate ourselves as agents of Jesus’ love and justice and healing in the world. Let us pray for the children and adults who died on Friday. Let us pray for the parents and the surviving children and the pain they continue to endure. Let us pray for the shooter and the miasma of sickness and pain he suffered. Let us pray for the mentally ill and their families, and let us help those families more effectively cope with their sickest members. And let us pray for ourselves, that we may have faithful courage to act, so that the murderous violence done on Friday may never be repeated, and that all God’s children may live lives of wholeness and blessing and peace. Amen.

Source: Washington National Cathedral

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Letter from the Rev. J.B. Pratt Rector of St. Philip's Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In her much-loved children’s carol, “Once in Royal David’s City”, Cecil Frances Alexander wrote:
            Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by,
            We shall see him, but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high;
            When like stars his children crowned, all in white shall wait around.

Like most of her children’s hymns, the carol presents a future hope of being in the presence of Christ.  The message:  If you are good little boys and girls, following Jesus’ example, you will have a place in heaven.  There’s nothing wrong with her message, it’s just incomplete.

The complete good news of the child in the manger, the Word made flesh, is that God is present among us here and now, sharing our humanity, including our frailties and mortality.

It makes a huge difference.  If we believe that we will experience the presence of God only when this mortal life is over, then all we need do is live upright lives, avoiding doing wrong to others, and we have our ticket to heaven.  But, if we believe that God is incarnate in the world, then we must live our lives seeking to encounter Christ in one another and in strangers, and seeking to be the presence of Christ to others.

More and more at St.  Philip’s, we are moving towards living out the Incarnation in this way.  We come together for fellowship, not just around the altar, but around the tables of our Harvest Pot-luck and other community meals.  We are making a difference in addressing poverty and hunger in our community; over 40 members of SPC participated in the NDG Food Depot’s annual food drive, and we gave the Depot over $1000 from our Coffeehouse and Community Yard Sale.  Members and non-members came together this fall to discuss the environmental crisis in the context of Scripture, faith and hope, and started some small actions by which we can start to make a difference.    This Advent, a group is gathering on Tuesday nights to explore how to deepen our personal encounters with God in prayer and meditation.

All these actions help us to live out the spirit of Christmas, not just once a year, but continually.  By being a vibrant community which lives out its faith, we can share the gift of the presence of Christ with others.  

As we welcome Christ into our hearts and homes once again this Christmas, may we continue to live and to share the Incarnation throughout the year.

May you have a blessed Christmas.
The Rev. James B.  Pratt                                                                                            

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Child: A Christmas Message from Archbishop Fred Hiltz the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Dear sisters and brothers,

In this Holy Season of Christmas we celebrate the nativity of the Christ Child. With the angels we give glory to God. With the shepherds we come to adore him. With the magi we offer our gifts. With all our forbears in the faith we rejoice in His birth.

Even as our eyes are focused on the Child we know that great truth penned by the hymn writer:

Though an infant now we view him,
he shall fill his Father's throne,
gather all the nations to him;
every knee shall then bow down.

But for these 12 days we do linger around that stable in Bethlehem. As we sing the carol, "Away in a Manger" my eyes always well up as we come to the line, "Bless all the dear children in thy tender care."

My tears and perhaps yours as well reflect the great love with which we hold our children and grandchildren and the compassion with which we are called to care for so many other children who live with extreme poverty, the ravages of disease and the atrocities of war. I think of the dear children of Sub-Saharan Africa, The Congo, Syria, and Gaza.

As many of you are, I think of those dear children and their teachers who were innocent victims of multiple shootings at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. I ask that these children and all others who suffer, be remembered in prayer this Christmas.

As with Mary and Joseph we adore the Christ Child; let us love our own children and let us teach them well. Let us so celebrate Christmas that they come to know its true meaning and blessing for us all.

May love and peace be yours this Christmastide.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz
Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent Podcasts by the Rev. Dr. Arthur Boers

Advent IV: Wonder and Awe

In this podcast for the fourth week of Advent, the Rev. Dr. Arthur Boers starts with the unlikely, wonderful pregnancies of Mary and Elizabeth. Where are our astonishing moments, asks Boers, where we find deep wonder and awe?

Advent III: Joy and Relief

In this podcast for the third week of Advent, the Rev. Dr. Arthur Boers looks at how joy—real joy—can exist and survive in the midst of bad circumstances.

Advent II: Preparation and Anticipation

In this podcast for the second week of Advent, the Rev. Dr. Arthur Boers looks at themes of preparation and anticipation. He wonders, how can average people like us lead lives that welcome the Messiah?

Advent I: Promise and Prophecy

In this podcast for the first week of Advent, the Rev. Dr. Arthur Boers explores themes of promise and prophecy—the promises we think we’re getting at this time of year, and the powerful prophecies that are true right now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Meet the Community: One Family's Journey of Faith - An Interview with Jean-Guy, Lori Ann and Sophie-Claire

We are pleased to announce the start of a new “Meet The Community” interview series. Through this series we invite you to get to know the people that comprise our community at St. Philip's Church. As part of this series we will be interviewing different people in the church in a mixed media format which will include text interviews and videos. 

In our first installment of “Meet The Community” we interview a tight knit family as they share their inspirational thoughts on their early religious experience, how they found St. Philips and what they get from being part of our parish life.


Jean-Guy and Lori Ann are a professional couple in their forties, they are the proud parents of their 10 year old daughter Sophie-Claire. This family enjoys spending time together, hiking, canoeing and listening to classical music.

Early Religious Experiences

Jean-Guy is a husband, father and nature enthusiast who has excellent skills in fine wood working. He also bikes extensively with club Vélo Passion. His relationship to the church began as a boy at a time when church was part of school. Jean-Guy was raised as a Roman Catholic and he fondly remembers how he helped to serve mass for several years. He explained that he had a much closer relationship to the church than most children do today. Jean-Guy laments the fact that church has been pulled out of schools and has now been replaced with academic teachings rather than spiritual guidance.

Sophie-Claire is a bright eyed girl who enjoys horseback riding, dog sledding and taking care of the family's Labrador Retriever. She elaborated on her father's words saying that at school she takes a course called "Ethics and Culture," where they learn about politeness and cultural diversity.

"I find that is not helping them connect with their interior, their inside force if you will," Jean-Guy said. "To talk and have a dialogue with the spirit. So being exposed as young kid having the priests come into the home and at school, it was very present from month to month, it was not something in the background, it was part of our lives. Which is maybe something that is missing, taking the time just to go into just your inner feelings of what you really feel when you are praying for instance."

Lori Ann is a wife and mother who loves to knit, her interests include ballroom dance, ice dance and Ashtanga yoga. All four of Lori Ann's great-grandparents came from Eastern Europe and they were very religious. Her paternal grandmother would go on pilgrimages and she was also a major contributor to the MaryKnoll Sisters. In addition, her paternal grandmother put Lori Ann's cousin through seminary and he is now a Monsignor.

She recalls that her great grandmother's house was full of religious iconography. As she put it "you could not escape Jesus' gaze, because there were so many pictures it was intimidating." Like so many Catholics during that time, she was constantly being warned that "God is going to punish you."

Although Lori Ann's parents were not very religious and even though her family did not regularly attend church, Lori-Ann always felt a very deep connection with the divine. As Lori Ann described it "it was all here in my heart," she said motioning to her chest.

Lori Ann treasured her children's Bible and a prayer book her mother had given her, but she felt no connection to the Catholic priests that she knew and while she went to catechism, she came back with what she describes as "very little."

In high school Lori Ann started going to church with her friends, but after she graduated she got caught up in her job and other material preoccupations. But as time went by she started to feel an absence of meaning pervade her life and she felt like she needed to come back to the church.

How They Discovered St. Philip's

In response to a question about how they came to be part of the parish at St. Philip's, Lori Ann described how when she first moved to Quebec seven years ago she was struggling with day to day preoccupations of having a child and home ownership

"I felt life becoming increasingly overwhelming. We’re not getting younger, we had Sophie-Claire later in life, and I naively imagined that life would become easier with age’’, she said. "To us, it was becoming apparent that amongst our friends, life was all about what you have, as opposed to what kind of person you are. It was superficial and shallow. At times we were putting way too much importance on things, nearly seven days a week. I was starting to burn out. Sadly, the past few Christmas seasons I was completely overwhelmed. The ‘’race’’ was moving with increasing speed, and all I could think was, where is the meaning in all of this?"

She recalled a conversation with a religiously inclined girlfriend who would refer to some church-goers as C&Es, (people who only go to church only on Christmas and Easter). Although it did not sit well with her she was forced to admit that technically she was indeed a C&E.

The materialistic preoccupations of her peers was overwhelming. Lori Ann was feeling empty, even though she was going to yoga, she felt like she needed the kind of peace and the tranquility that she could only get from a church. She was also looking for a place for Sophie-Claire to continue with her sacraments, study and have her first communion.

These concerns provoked conversations with her husband Jean-Guy. Together they resolved to give church a try and they started attending different churches in their neighborhood. They attended francophone churches and they tried anglophone churches, but none of these experiences worked for them.

Nonetheless, they both believed that there was something better out there. At this point Lori Ann had a very bad bout with rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time Sophie-Claire was doing ballet at St. Philip's church. They ended up driving past the church on Sunday morning just as people were filing in for service.

Lori Ann was curious, she said "OK, it’s an Anglican church, but what does that mean?" She started going online to research Anglicanism while asking herself, "is it going to be hell, fire and brimstone if we change?" She had many heart to heart conversations with God about the prospect of attending an Anglican church.

One day when she was with Sophie-Claire she summoned up the courage to go into St. Philip's with the intention of grabbing some literature from the back. Then and Sophie-Claire said, "why aren't we going in mummy?" Despite a litany of excuses she provided to keep her from going into the church, she peeked through the door and after looking inside she said to herself, "I want to come here."

Lori Ann proceeded to talk to Jean-Guy and they said they will give it a try. She called Father Pratt right before Good Friday and they had a nice long conversation. As Lori Ann put it, she "felt like my gosh this is all clicking. I am really looking forward to this."

They began attending St. Philip's church on Palm Sunday and they have not looked back since.

A Deep Appreciation of St. Philip's

Prior to attending St. Philip's, Lori Ann was not a morning person, particularly when she was sick, but she does not feel like that anymore. "I actually feel, yes I want to go," she said. For Lori Ann St. Philip's brings her the peace and tranquility she was seeking. She appreciates the message, the fellowship and the music. She is also enamored with the gothic architecture of the church.

Lori Ann deeply appreciates the leadership of Rev. James Pratt, "I love Father Pratt's sermons," Lori Ann said, "I love listening to him."

As Lori Ann explains it, there are many facets that they enjoy at St. Philip's. ‘’Returning home after church we enjoy being together as a family. We are quietly content. There is a simpatico, a quiet simplicity, a calming; it’s something that we didn't always have on Sunday afternoons", she said.

Jean-Guy said he appreciates the formal service at St. Philip's, "the singing, the organ, are all part of it. I found in trying other churches I felt that the services were rushed through to some extent" he continued, "I like that the church is a small, I find it helps you connect with other people."

Jean-Guy describes services at St. Philip's as a "moving experience." "To me I find Father Pratt very inspiring." Jean-Guy said indicating that Father Pratt helps to guide his thought process. "I am not sure I would have connected with the church had father Pratt not been there and when we started coming I actually said that I do not know if I am going to St. Philip's because of my own needs or because father Pratt is inspiring me for my whole week. So its a mix of between the service and the actual delivery of the service but also what I get out of it for my week through the teachings, the readings and seeing how the other people also tend to be a closely knit group. There are different currents that pull in different directions nonetheless there is still a community aspect in this church."

Father Pratt helps to build connections within families. "You have a lot of families that are for whatever reason not living together, they live under the same roof, but they are not a family, they are not connected, they dont pass on knowledge," Jean Guy said. "That is how I felt Father Pratt was very inspiring to me...That is what I need in a priest to help me with my thought process and my feelings about different things. You cant just be left on your own in the church, thinking that you will work it through by yourself. To me the leader of the church is extremely important [and this is] a huge responsibility."

Lori Ann continued with Jean-Guy's train of thought saying, "I’ve never ever had an experience like I have had here at St Philips, I don't want him [Father Pratt] to stop talking... I could listen to him all day! I feel so fulfilled, to be able to take home these inspirational messages every Sunday. I wish I could convey this to others!’’

Lori Ann added, ‘’my experience at St. Philip's makes me feel centered. We are trying to instill these things in Sophie-Claire." When asked about what she likes most about St. Philip's church Sophie-Claire was quick to mention the Children's message given by Rev. Pratt. When asked if she had a message for other children who may not know about what you can get out of church she responded, "[I like church] to recharge our is good to learn about things, to know more and more about Jesus."

Lori Ann went on to say, "I hope that we can help somehow . . . with our words perhaps . . . to instill in others that this is an enriching experience. I didn't think that we would get so much out of it. Every week our experience has been inspiring. Father Pratt’s sermons have enlightened me over the past six months! Oftentimes, in the middle of a stressful week, something that was said at Sunday mass will come back to me . . . in reflecting on these inspirational messages, I can find tranquility and calm.’’

"I’ve found that my patience has increased (and I am quite a patient person already). I can feel the calming, centering energy from Sunday coming through me during the week. Often this is just the right remedy to remind me to take a step back, breathe and say, everything is OK."

The Church Community as an Antidote to our Consumer Culture

Jean-Guy concluded by saying that there is a lot of competition for their attention from clever marketers. He points to our consumer culture which he refers to as an insatiable new religion based on instant gratification. Church is an opportunity to slow down and get involved with community. "[Y]ou need to create a sense of community, you can show up at church every so often but you will never connect, it takes time, it takes time to develop, you grow into connecting with others, growing into a community"

As explained by Lori Ann, what she gets from church cannot be bought in stores. "[T]hese experiences . . .you take with you wherever you go, no matter where you are; at work, at home, happy times and sad. If one could reach deep down inside and get in touch with these amazing feelings, it may help to stay at peace and to live with hope.’’

"For me the church is extremely important. This was a missing component, and I’m thrilled to bring this experience back into my life," Lori Ann said.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Parishioners Efforts to Eliminate Styrofoam Cups in the Church

Recently some members of the St. Philip's community successfully launched a campaign to stop using styrofoam cups at the church. The initiative to replace styrofoam cups with ceramic cups was started by Carol a 50 year veteran of the church and a longtime member of the choir. Carol is a nurse who understands the environmental and health problems associated with styrofoam. This effort was also supported by Rosemary and Steven.

Styrofoam is created from modified petroleum and involves materials like polystyrene. According to Rodale, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, polystyrene is considered to be a “probable carcinogen.” And as explained in a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal, when Styrofoam is heated, chemicals can leach out of the styrofoam and into beverages.

Carol, Steven and Rosemary were prominent participants in the recent Ecology and Spirituality discussion group at the Church. Carol said that through the group she gained a renewed appreciation of the biblical call to stewardship which "gave her a new vocabulary to talk about care for the Earth."

Carol's sensitivity to environmental issues has been part of her life since she was very young. Her grandmother was an important early influence on her eco-sensibilities. In a recent interview, Carol reminisced about how her grandmother shared her knowledge about the natural world while on long walks in the woods.

While camping with the Girl Guides as a child Carol appreciated the practice of "leaving things better than they found it." This is a philosophy that she applies to this day. She also sees the value of being "thrifty" and she strives to use only what is needed and to reuse things as much as possible.

Carol launched the initiative to end styrofoam cups because she knows that in addition to being harmful to human health they are also environmentally destructive. Styrofam does not fully decompose in landfills; according to some estimates the Styrofoam disposed of today will still be present in landfills one million years from now.

It is estimated that Styrofoam waste constitutes up to 30 percent of all landfill space. In Canada, 1.6 billion paper and polystyrene cups are thrown out each year. This translates to 23 lbs of waste per year for everyone who drinks just one cup of coffee or tea each day.

The decision to replace styrofoam cups with ceramic at the church is a great idea whose time had come. Although ceramic cups have an environmental footprint (manufacturing, shipping and washing) according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), after factoring in all the energy and water usage, a ceramic cup is far better than a styrofoam cup for the environment. The EDF estimates that using ceramic cups reduces solid waste by over 80 percent.

This was not the first time that Carol has tried to replace styrofoam cups with ceramic cups at the church. Many years ago she made a similar attempt but the parish was not ready to make the change. Thankfully she patiently persevered and now she has spearheaded a change that everyone in the church can be proud of.

Carol, Steven and Rosemary have succeeded in reducing the church's environmental impact and protecting the health of parishioners all while saving money. Carol said she would like to see more responsible use of electricity in the Church that would translate to savings in both energy and the bottom line.

Carol would also like to see the church continue to move towards better health and more responsible stewardship. Her aspirations include applying her skills to the cultivation of a vegetable garden on church grounds and she would also like to see composting of food waste.

Thanks to Carol, Steven and Rosemary, St. Philip's has taken one small step towards becoming a healthier and more environmentally responsible community.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Series: Worship in the Style of Taïzé

In the preface to his book on prayer, Be Still and Know, Archbishop Michael Ramsey explains the title as describing “a recurring plea in this book that stillness and silence are of supreme importance and that the neglect of them is damaging to the Christian life.”

Our society and our lives are increasingly focussed on busy-ness.  We are constantly active, and often multi-tasking.  Most of us don’t even have enough time in our busy schedules to get a good night’s sleep.

As we draw near to Christmas, our schedules often get more hectic, as we count down the shopping days to find the right gifts for everyone on our lists, as we decorate and bake, and prepare for relatives and guests. 

But the season of Advent should be a time of spiritual preparation.  In order to experience the joy and wonder of the Incarnation, God among us in the Babe of Bethlehem, we need to take time to prepare in heart and in mind for Christ’s coming.  One way of doing that is to be more deliberate in prayer.

For the three Tuesday nights of Advent, our regular 7:30 Eucharist will be replaced by worship in the style of Taïzé, with meditative chants and periods of silence.  Immediately following the Eucharist, we will discuss and then practice a different style of meditative or contemplative prayer.
December 4:     Lectio Divina (the Benedictine method of meditating on Scripture)
December 11:   Centering Prayer
December 18:   An Ignatian method of meditating on Scripture

Participants may come for all three sessions, or only for one or two sessions.   This is an opportunity to “try on” different methods of prayer.  All of us are different, and we will find one method “works” for us better than the others.  

If several people want to continue the exploration, we may form a prayer group to support one another in learning and deepening our practice of prayer.

Monday, December 3, 2012

NDG Food Bank: 2012 Campaign

The 2012 edition of the NDG Food Bank drive was a major success. Many thanks to the large numbers of people who came out to help. It was great to see so many people - especially the youth from St. George's, Loyola, St. Ignatius, St. Philip's, and elsewhere. We were also blessed to have a dry day (albeit a bit cold!).

There were clearly more groceries this year than in the past. There are ~200 boxes/crates of food sitting in our lower Hall. Another ~150 boxes/bags were loaded on a truck this afternoon and taken directly to the NDG Food Depot.

The sad reality is that this food will last the Food Depot only a few months. But they also received many cash donations, so that will certainly help.

We didn't raise a penny for SPC today, but we together we joined hands with our neighbours to put Matthew's gospel into practise:

 "...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me."