News & Reflections

A triple profile of faith

Roberta & Lynnette photo

If you attend the 10 o’clock service, chances are you already know Lynnette Holder and Roberta Holder-Mosley. With rare exceptions they are in place each Sunday, Lynnette in the chancel as an acolyte and Roberta in the organ loft as a chorister — you might say they hold down opposite ends of the church.

The sisters have been making the trek to 99th and Amsterdam from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, since the mid-1980s. Though they grew up as Christadelphians, their maternal grandmother was baptized in an Anglican church in Barbados. “We seem to have come full circle,” Lynnette says.

It’s been a full-family commitment. Says Roberta, “I was married at St. Michael’s; all five of my blended-marriage children were baptized at St. Michael’s. Their father was memorialized there and he’s in the columbarium. And the next generation is my 4-year-old granddaughter, who was baptized there and goes to Sunday school regularly.”

Lynnette is the supervisor of a clinical chemistry lab in a hospital, while Roberta is in a second career with the New York City Department of Health after retiring from the federal government.

Why travel so far so faithfully? In large part, for the ministry opportunities each has found here. Lynnette recounts that when she was growing up, as a woman “you didn’t lead prayer, you didn’t lead service, you did not give a sermon.” She is also aware that as a black woman acolyte, she is very visible: “If I can be up here, anyone can be up here.” (Anyone who has seen Lynnette’s expert handling of the thurible on a festival Sunday might disagree that “anyone” could do it.)

Roberta has found special fulfillment singing in the alto section of the volunteer choir. Her granddaughter’s ministry? Sharing her positive personality!

Both sisters also appreciate less obvious aspects of St. Michael’s. Roberta says, “Do you know the expression, ‘a thin place?’ Where it’s easier to get closer to the Spirit? The very first time I walked into St. Michael’s I felt that.” Lynnette adds, “St. Michael’s is my home church. People here have known me since who-knows-when. That’s hard to find in New York.”

Saturday Meditation: Praying for collective healing

St. Francis statue image

Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

By Denisha Williams

8 April

O Lord, in your goodness you bestow abundant graces on your elect: Look with favor, we entreat you, upon those who in these Lenten days are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant them the help of your protection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 85:1-7 ▪ EZEKIEL 37:21-28 ▪ JOHN 11:45-53

While we in contemporary U.S. society tend to emphasize individualism even in our spiritual lives, the readings for today lead us to consider the higher well-being of the collective, especially “the nation.” At a time when our own country feels more divided into dissenting factions than many us can remember, and when nations in many parts of the world are torn apart by violent divisions, we need to deeply connect individually and collectively with the healing, unifying power of the Holy Spirit.

We pray that each of us can be cleansed of our egotistical needs to be right and of our anger towards those with whom we may feel divided by differing viewpoints.

We pray for guidance to let go of our cherished false idols and rigidness, particularly when we let our political positions get in the way of staying loving towards others. And we ask to be brought together in the unifying peace that passes all understanding, to be “one nation, no longer divided . . .”

We pray, too, that every country in the world where strife and warfare rages will be cleansed of anger and nestled into the supreme healing power and deep peace of God’s divine love.

As St. Francis so beautifully said, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace . . .” Amen.

Denisha Williams has been a member of St. Michael’s since 2002, and is deeply grateful for the loving spiritual community of our congregation and those we welcome. Since the founding of the 6:00 PM Intersection service in 2006, she has attended Intersection regularly.

Pray wherever you are, online and off

Pray As You Go logo (large)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” — Hebrews 13:8

In her book Tweet If You Heart Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation, religion scholar (and Episcopalian) Elizabeth Drescher writes about how digital ways of relating to one another and expressing ourselves are changing religious observance.

My smartphone gives me continuous access to resources that can enrich my spiritual life — and tools that can both remind me to take time for it or distract me from doing so.

For instance, during Lent I can connect with a community of learners participating in an initiative of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston. Every day I receive an email with a brief video teaching by one of the society’s monks, as well as an invitation to discuss a reflection question via comments on the brothers’ webpage.

As a New Yorker, I find it helpful to have resources available on the go. Mostly I use them at home during my regular prayer time — but I’m grateful to have them when I’m in transit and need an encounter with the Divine.

Here are some of my favorite apps:

Pray As You Go

Pray As You Go logo

A 12- to 13-minute audio prayer session, produced by the London-based Jesuit Media Initiative. Bells, music, scripture readings, reflection questions and prayer prompts await your daily commute or mindful chore time. Also available as a podcast. Free. pray-as-you-go.org

NeuBible

NeuBible logo

The Bible at your fingertips in an elegantly readable, easily searchable format created by product designers at Facebook and Yahoo whose goal was “to get rid of everything between you and scripture.” Currently available only for Apple. $5. neubible.co

Daily Office

Daily Office logo

The Daily Office liturgy and readings from the Book of Common Prayer. Configure your liturgical preferences and move on to what matters: praying. Currently available only for Apple. $10. argyle-software.com. (Android users can default to Electronic Common Prayer, $10.)

— The Rev. Kyle Oliver

A version of this article originally ran on Building Faith.

From the Rector: Come and let Love lift you into life again

Flowers in snow photo

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

My college town lay in the midst of wheat fields, the rich Palouse of southeastern Washington state. In my last year there I rented a small ramshackle house on the edge of town with two other students.

That year, my first year as a daily runner, the snow was heavy and the ice lingered on the farm roads out of town. So when the spring came at last, the green of the shoots spiking up from the dark earth was overwhelming. Just when it felt like the winter would never end, birdsong and greenness began to fill the air.

Our Easter celebration is coming. Easter is late on the calendar this year, but so, it seems, has been the winter. It is high time for the birdsong and the sun’s warmth—not a moment too soon.

Throughout Lent we have been focusing on our part of the relationship with God, the work we do in worship, in prayer and scripture reading, in forgiving and being forgiven. We have been tilling our soil, pulling weeds, watering and feeding the planted seeds. Now it is time to watch for the growth—to see how the sunlight brings forth the green, to have the story enacted for us, to see Love live and usher us into life as well.

Come and let Love lift you into life again this Holy Week and Easter. Our service schedule is here; make it your part to show up to worship during the week, beginning with Palm Sunday and continuing through the weekdays of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Worship this week is full of drama, music, movement, darkness and light—far more than the ordinary. Come and let God do the work of bringing forth life from dark places.

From the Rector: Lent – Are we there yet?

Kate Flexer headshot

The word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for springtime, related to the word “lengthen,” as the days begin to lengthen. Perhaps it feels like the season of Lent is lengthening as well. Will we ever get to the end?

Good news: The fourth Sunday of Lent, just past, is sometimes known as Refreshment Sunday, a lightening of the fast and a sign that the season is nearly done. And indeed, in just one week we will celebrate Holy Week together, walking with Jesus to the cross and on into the resurrection of Easter Sunday.

Like an aid station along the path of a marathon, Refreshment Sunday is a chance to refuel and reenergize for the race. Is your sense of renewal flagging? Has your discipline slipped? Are you tempted to forget why we’re on this path?

Here is a reminder to take nourishment and begin again, in spiritual practice (on the move or in the quiet of your home), community (in our families and church family alike) and St. Michael’s legacy of justice and inclusion. As we move into the home stretch of this journey, may we remember how deeply and profoundly we, and all, are loved.

— March 28, 2017

Saturday Meditation: Living water

Water over text image

Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

By a St. Michael’s parishioner

1 April

Mercifully hear our prayers, O Lord, and spare all those who confess their sins to you; that those whose consciences are accused by sin may by your merciful pardon be absolved; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 7:6-11 ▪ JEREMIAH 11:18-20 ▪ JOHN 7:37-52

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

What struck me about this reading was the fact that rivers of living water were to flow from the believer’s heart. Similarly, Jesus told the Samaritan women that for all believers who drink of the living water which he will give,the water . . . will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Now Jesus is asking us to offer living water to others. Water is essential to life. As I write this, people from around the country have offered their support to Native Americans at Standing Rock as they fight for water rights. The people of Flint, Michigan have yet to receive clean living water. Palestinians in the West Bank have limited access to water, and more than 90% of the water supply in Gaza is contaminated.

How can we offer living water to those people in need around the world? Is there a concrete way to share the living water that is in our hearts to others? Sharing information about the needs of the world’s thirsty people with our community is one way we offer rivers of living water. Finding a way to do something concrete about their need for water is even more important.

Just as Jesus brought living water to the Samaritan woman, as believers we are compelled to offer living water to those to whom it has been denied.

Middle School Group reaches out to Saturday kitchen guests

Sock drive photo

During Saturday Kitchen on Jan. 28, Rick Hamlin rang the bell in the reception hall and announced that this was “Sock It To Me Saturday” — with new pairs of socks available for the guests.

In September the Middle Schoolers made a list of world problems, including homelessness. How to serve the needy? “The socks idea was simple — all sizes, for men, women and children,” a Middle Schooler said.

Supply and demand came together when they realized that the Saturday Kitchen guests were potential recipients. Parishioners contributed more than 240 new pairs of socks.

On distribution day, two Middle School Group members joined teachers Kris Ishibashi and Helen Graves in the Pilgrim Resource Center in the Gray Lounge. (Fellow teacher John Avery was serving on the kitchen line.)

“We always talk about reaching out to others,” one of the students said, “and here was our chance to actually do that. The guests were very friendly and they kept saying, ‘Thank you.’”

“It felt good to give out the socks,” the other said. “The day was really cold, and we felt like we made a difference.”

Saturday Meditation: On humility

Potter and clay photo

Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

By Elisabeth Avery

25 March

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 51:15-20 ▪ HOSEA 6:1-6 ▪ LUKE 18:9-14

Today’s Proper examines self-righteousness, humility and frailty— traits we’ve all experienced.

It’s easy to have moments of vanity or smugness. I won’t say I go as far as the Pharisee in the parable and pat myself on the back every time I go to church but, if it’s really cold outside, I admit to feeling somewhat noble about making my two-block walk to St. Michael’s.

The Collect instructs that although we face many dangers and temptations, we can’t do it alone. Last December I was hospitalized for five weeks for pneumonia. Although I have great faith in antibiotics, I was frightened about the eventual outcome and I called upon God many times.

What I have never understood is humility. Unlike today’s Psalmist, I don’t doubt that God sees the purity of my intentions, nor would it occur to me to wonder whether I’m worthy of receiving the sacrament of communion.

In my family—a string of independent women, starting with my great-grandmother who pioneered Indian Territory, to my lawyer grandmother, to my aeronautical engineer mother—humility just didn’t come up. But it’s a major topic in the Bible, and all the other major religions praise it. So, I looked it up. Here’s what I found about the Judeo-Christian tradition:

In Judaism humility is an appreciation of oneself, one’s talents and virtues. It is not meekness or self-deprecating thought, but the effacing of oneself to something higher. Humility is not to think lowly of oneself, but to appreciate the self one has received.

Similarly, in Christianity humility makes someone a fit recipient of grace. The humble person recognizes his or her gifts and their limitations; sees the virtues and talents of others; and, submits to God. For those who submit to God, it is like submitting to joy.

Elisabeth Avery sings with the choir and has been member of St. Michael’s with her husband John and daughter Cordelia for about 22 years. Elisabeth is currently working on a thriller.

Beth Krause fights for the rights of immigrants

Beth Krause photo

 

Parishioner Beth Krause is on the front line of the tumultuous fight over United States immigration policy.

Since October 2016 Beth has served as the supervising attorney of the Legal Aid Society’s Immigrant Youth Project, which represents children and young people in Family Court, Immigration Court and before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

President Trump has signed four executive orders about immigration, including the newly revised “Muslim travel ban.”

“People are scared to go to work and bring their kids to school — things that the rest of us take for granted,” Beth says. “Parents are seeking advanced planning directives in case they are detained by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and separated from their citizen children. People really need to be prepared for the worst case scenario.”

On Jan. 29, after the 10 a.m. service, Beth facilitated a conversation in the Chapel among fellow parishioners.

“Anyone who is concerned about the current anti-immigrant environment can make it known that you support your neighbors, regardless of their immigration status,” Beth says.

Beth, a native of Lamont, Mich., graduated from Notre Dame and earned her law degree at the University of Maryland. In college, Beth interned at a refugee resettlement agency in South Bend, Ind., and was later an Americorps volunteer there.

“I was inspired by the attorney who led the organization and I decided to pursue law as a career,” Beth says.

Beth and her husband, Serhat Krause, from Istanbul, became St. Michael’s parishioners shortly before the birth of their 2-year-old daughter (who is due to have a sibling in April).

“We were looking for a church home that combined a great community with a social justice outlook,” Beth says. “We found it at St. Michael’s.”

For a summary of the orders in effect, visit www.legal-aid.org, and in the left-hand navigation bar, click on “Executive Action on Immigration.” This article was updated March 9, 2017.

Image: With liberty and justice for all – the three Krauses.

 

Saturday Meditation: Grace and the prodigal son

Rembrandt Prodigal Son photo

Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

By Leigh Mackintosh

18 March

Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 103:1-4 (5-8) 9-12 ▪ MICAH 7:14-15,18-20 ▪ LUKE 15:11-32

The parable of the prodigal son is a meditation on spiritual grace. Consider the impatient, impulsive younger son who selfishly seeks instant gratification, who seeks reward without effort, who squanders his inheritance choosing a path of cheap grace. Only after losing everything does he discover life’s true value and rewards. Returning home on a path of repentance and humility, the younger son encounters true grace in the reconciling, healing love of his father. How might you encounter God’s grace in desiring nothing and receiving everything?

Consider the elder son: the workaholic who worships work and glorifies obedience as a moral duty. The one who disconnects from the joys of community, family and servanthood to become slave rather than son and heir. His is the path of pride and self-righteousness where grace is always another fatted calf to be won, an inheritance to be hoarded, a future salvation to be gained. Focusing only on his own merits and future’s rewards, he fails to rely on anyone or anything (including God). What is the focus of your life and work? Do you live only for the future and its rewards? How might you be more present to receiving rather than achieving God’s gift of grace?

Consider the third son Jesus, author of the parable and Son of God who shares a mutual loving relationship with the Father. He reveals that grace brings us together to create, incarnate, redeem, and transform the world. Jesus joyfully shares his ministry with us his disciples giving each of us power to become children of God. (John 1:12) Such an inheritance is not meant to be squandered or hoarded away, but extended and made possible for all to share in its rewards. When have you experienced God’s grace? How might you share this grace with others?

The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh is Associate Rector at St. Michael’s and looks forward to another year of growth, challenge, and transformation together on our spiritual journeys. She is married to Stephanie Eads and lives in Inwood, N.Y. 

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