A CHRISTMAS THOUGHT
One of my favorite songs during the Christmas season is “Do you hear what I hear?” Carrie Underwood sings it beautifully. The first verse begins with, “Said the night wind to the little lamb, Do you see what I see, Way up in the sky little lamb, Do you see what I see, A star a star…”
This verse always reminds me of how my sight sometimes interferes with seeing through my eyes of faith. I don’t think I am alone in that difficulty. I think I have company. It also reminds me of a young girl named Madison. I was there at her birth and one of the first to hold her and bless her.
Months later, Madison’s mother and father were told that their daughter was totally blind. Her mother broke down in tears thinking her daughter would never see the beauty of the earth and all that lives upon it. But Madison was a very special child that taught them something very important.
At the age of five Madison went to the local school. Everyday her grandfather would meet her at the school bus to take her home. This one day when Madison stepped off the bus he noticed that she was holding her hand over a Dixie cup that she was carrying very carefully. Curious, he asked her, “Madison, what is in the Dixie cup that you are covering.” Madison replied, “I have sunshine in it so that later tonight you and I can see it.” A totally blind child catching sunshine. The eyes of faith seeing beyond the physical matter of the world.
The second verse of that wonderful song says, Said the lamb to the shepherd boy, Do you hear what I hear…A song, a song, High above the trees. The third verse says, Said the shepherd boy to the mighty King, Do you know what I know…a child, a child, Shivers in the cold, Let us bring him silver and go. The last verse says, “Said the king to the people everywhere…The child, the child, Sleeping in the night, He will bring us goodness and light…
“He will bring us goodness and light.” Seeing Jesus’ goodness and light is seeing through the eyes of faith. As you gaze at the Creche this Christmas see through the eyes of faith and embrace his goodness and light in your life. That is God’s dream and desire. The very reason for the season.
Blue Christmas Service
Sunday, December 22nd, at 5:00p.m.
Christmas Eve Service
Tuesday, December 24th, at 5:00p.m.
The Long Road of Grief - Erica Tonner
I was told once that the loss of a child is the worst loss to experience. Your children aren’t supposed to die before you. I think that is what is so difficult. I constantly ask why I will never see her wedding, grandchildren and other milestones. Of course, I have to ask myself the question of whether or not Rachel would have straightened out her life had she had the opportunity or if her life had taken a different turn for the better. I’ll never know. A drug overdose is suicide and such a waste of a life.
The grief doesn’t go away. It lives in my heart always. That doesn’t mean that I am not living my life in a grateful way. God guides me each day and helps me get through each day. I have two sons and four grandchildren whom I love dearly. What hurts the most is I miss my daughter so much. I miss talking to her and holding her. But I will see her again. I know that.
This prayer helps me get through each day – it’s on the inside back cover of the ‘Forward Day by Day’ booklet:
“O God: Give me strength to live another day; Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties; Let me not lose faith in other people; Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery or meanness; Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth; Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.” – Phillip Brooks.
From the Vicar
Erica’s reflection did not touch upon how she will experience Christmas, the time that we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Her grief like many other people’s grief will intensify. Like others the reason for the season will be a reminder of the emptiness felt because a loved one will no longer be in the family holiday pictures.
But death of a loved one is not the only reason that some people will feel sad during this holiday that is supposed to be joyful. There are others whose loneliness is heightened because of a broken relationship, or others who struggle continuously with depression throughout the year. Advertisements that express excitement about the season, or the special Christmas love stories or happy ever after family stories on television, or the continuous caroling in the malls and on radio sometimes deepens one’s sense of loneliness and sadness.
There are others, where the joy of the season is diminished because of the loss of a job or some form of income. The unaffordability and inability to purchase gifts for others can hurt deeply. Even the unaffordability -- not being able to provide for a lavish table filled with abundance of food as seen in many advertisements can bring about deep sadness.
Yes, it is a time when we are supposed to feel like celebrating and be filled with hope, love, joy and peace. Yet it can be a time for ourselves, our sisters and brothers that can also be filled with depression, loneliness, sadness and grief.
We at St. Ann’s By-the-Sea recognize that the traditional Christmas celebrations do not meet everyone’s needs. Many need the time to acknowledge their feelings of depression, loneliness, sadness and grief. Thus, this community is offering a Blue Christmas Service on December 22nd, at 5:00 p.m. A Blue Christmas Service is a time when we can, with others, acknowledge the "blue" feelings we have and the reasons for them so that we can offer them to God. We hope that you will be with us to find healing and support for yourself or to help bring healing and support to others.
This Advent, along with our daily Advent prayers, we have three opportunities to participate in an Advent discipline of giving to others. The first opportunity is purchasing the suggested foods in the list below for Helping Hands.
December 1 Box of cereal
December 2 Peanut butter
December 3 Stuffing mix
December 4 Boxed potatoes
December 5 Macaroni and cheese
December 6 Canned fruit
December 7 Canned tomatoes
December 8 Canned tuna
December 9 Dessert mix
December 10 Jar of applesauce
December 11 Can sweet potatoes
December 12 Cranberry sauce
December 13 Canned beans
December 14 Box of crackers
December 15 Package of rice
December 16 Package of oatmeal
December 17 Package of pasta
December 18 Spaghetti sauce
December 19 Chicken noodle soup
December 20 Tomato soup
December 21 Canned corn
December 22 Can mixed vegetables
December 23 Canned carrots
December 24 Canned green beans
The second opportunity is taking a tag with a child’s name and age on it from the Giving Tree. These children live on Block Island. We ask that you wrap the gift(s), and put the number and age of the child that you have selected on the outside of the package(s).
The third opportunity is bringing in adult/children mittens, gloves, scarves or hats to help decorate our Christmas tree in the narthex. All donations will be given to Helping Hands so that who will distribute them to clients who need are in need of them.
If you would like to participate in one or more of the above and are off island, we will be very happy to purchase either the food, the gift(s) for a child and/or an item for the Christmas tree in the narthex. Please call or email Eletha if you are interested.
A Bit of Humor
The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind and they may be seen in the church basement on Friday afternoon.
The rosebud on the altar this morning is to announce the birth of Roderick James Hillman, the sin of Revd. and Mrs. Hillman.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
A Bit of Wisdom From Thomas Merton
The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.
Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
Coming Events: December 22 at 5 p.m. – Blue Christmas Service
December 24 at 5 p.m, – Christmas Eve Service
MAY YOU HAVE A BLESSED, FESTIVE, AND SAFE THANKSGIVING
Living in the moment
My spiritual director, Mary Meader is purging some of her thirty odd years of journals. But before she discards them, she is rereading and remembering some very special moments of her journey. Included in her journals are comments, made by others, that had caused her to take time to reflect in the presence of God and thus glean moments of insight and awareness; some lasting, some fleeing.
One of the fruitful comments was made by Bishop Tom Shaw in 1985 well before he was elected bishop. At that time Bishop Coburn, the seated bishop, decided that it would be helpful for the staff members of the Diocese to attend a retreat as they were preparing for the new bishop elect, David Johnson to take over. At this retreat Tom Shaw said, “Being a person of faith is in part not knowing, and letting things unfold…”
Those words might suggest that we should be passive and simply sit back and let life happen, let it unfold. They also suggest that one should strive to acquire an attitude of acceptance and let go of the need to push against life as it unfolds and thus to let go of the need to control the outcome.
As Thich Nhat Hanh basically says in his book “Peace Is Every Step,” that it is important to strive to live in the moment and not live every moment of life living in the future because when we do live in the future, we miss the moment that we are living.
Think of the benefits such an attitude of acceptance, letting life unfold, would offer us. Our useless anxieties for tomorrows would not interfere with our today’s. We have heard it before. Even the health care system continuously tries to remind us that anxiety exacts a costly toll on our bodies, minds and spirits and on the health care system. Anxiety about what tomorrow will bring, what it might cost us personally, what might change in us, around us, about us, is not helpful for our well-being. Even Jesus said something about it. He said, “…do not worry about what tomorrow will bring…”
Actually, anxiety colors our waking moments with hues of gray some gray tones darker than others. Some so dark that they blur our vision and make us blind to the very moment we are living. I have heard others say (thank goodness I am not alone in this experience) that they have gone from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and do not remember how they got there. Sometimes those two points were miles away. Their anxiety about ‘something’ blurred their vision of the moment.
Can you just image what it would be like living without anxiety? We wouldn’t have to worry about how we are going to feel if and when something will happen, worry about how we are going to respond, or even worry about how others will react to our response. If we are not worried about ourselves, we do not have worry about someone else.
I admire Jesus, Bishop Tom, Thich Nahat Hanh and others who have not only striven for this way of being, but also live it many moments in their lives. I admire it especially when my anxiety takes over most of my living moments.
When I read Jesus’ comments about worrying about our tomorrows, I can’t help but think, ‘You must be kidding Lord.’ But Jesus wasn’t kidding. Our anxieties, our worries will not change our tomorrows. Life will unfold. But what our anxieties will change is the quality of our present life. As Jesus said, the anxiety is not going to add to the quantity, but it will take away the quality.
‘Being a person of faith is in part not knowing, and letting things unfold…’ It is about taking the time to notice and appreciate the present moment, seeing it clearly and not through a color gray that takes away its luster by worrying about the future. It is about letting God in, letting God walk with us, and trusting that as life unfolds God will be with us. It is living in the moment knowing that as St. Paul said, “That nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” It is a matter of getting one’s priorities straight – God or anxiety about the future. Let’s see which one is life-giving and which one is life-taking? Well that one is easy. Choosing to trust God over anxiety is without a doubt life-giving.
“Being a person of faith is in part not knowing, and letting things unfold…” When we adopt the attitude of letting things unfold, it is easier to live in the moment – be aware of the moment and sometimes even savor the moment.
Peace in this moment in God’s presence. Eletha
Announcements and Upcoming Events
On October 20th, the Executive Committee will be meeting at 10:15 a.m. in the Vicarage.
On October 27th, immediately following the 9:00 a.m. service we will be holding a Committee of the Whole. We do hope that you will join us. Coffee and goodies will be served.
October 27th, First Responders Appreciation Day, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. – Please join us at St. Andrew’s Parish Hall to show our appreciation to our 1st Responders. They are very dedicated people who care deeply about this community and its members. St Ann’s has purchased a number of plastic fire helmets, coloring books, crayons and stickers to give to the children who are attending this celebration. We need a volunteer or two to help give these little gifts to the children. Please let Eletha know if you would like to help.
On Tuesday morning a group of women meet to talk about various spirituality books. The book that we are now reading is by Joan Chittister. The title: The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage. The following is a quote the group liked. “The poet Mary Oliver may have written the best definition of what it means to be a prophet in contemporary spirituality. She writes, “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be Astonished. Tell about it.”
Weaving with God Mini Retreat
On October 11, 2019 five people attended the “Weaving with God” mini retreat. So often we tell pieces of our stories to others. Sometimes we even write them down in our journals and occasionally in the telling and the writing we come to recognize God’s presence. However, rarely do we express our stories in an art form. Taking the time to create a tapestry of a piece of our stories with fiber and color can express our individual uniqueness and beauty. Thus, as a strong Northeast wind was blowing outside, inside the church soft music was playing while hands with just the right colors of fiber created a tapestry of a piece of time in five individual’s lives.
Let us continue to pray for our leaders.
Creator God, may we be faithful, informed and thoughtful when praying and talking to others about our politics and government, and God may all those who are public officials be as faithful, informed and thoughtful in what they say. May they gain wisdom from all of the tragic events that have happen for far too many years in this country so that they can make decision for the good of this country and our brothers and sisters.
God, we ask you to pour out your Spirit on each of us so to help us discern good from evil. Give us courage to stand up and speak out when injustice seems to be prevailing over justice. We pray these words in Christ name.
A bit of humor
Seeing Eye Dog (it is a true story)
A passage said to his friend, I was flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles. By the time we took off, there had been a 45-minute delay. Everyone on board was ticked.
Unexpectedly, we stopped in Sacramento on the way. The flight attendant explained that there would be another 45-minute delay.
Everyone got off the plane except one gentleman who was blind. I noticed him as I walked by and could tell he had flown before because his Seeing Eye dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of him throughout the flight. I could also tell he had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached him and, calling his name said, “Keith, we’re in Sacramento for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?” Keith replied “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”
Picture this – all the people in the gate area came to a completely quiet standstill when they looked up and saw a pilot walk off the plane with the Seeing eye dog! The pilot was even wearing sunglasses. People scattered, not only to change planes, they also were trying to change airlines.
Blessings of the Animals
On Sunday, October 13th at our 9:00 am service we blessed four dogs and a very beautiful doll. At the 12:00 service at Abrams Farm, we blessed at least eight to ten dogs, one cat, one rabbit, all of the great variety of animals and birds that reside at the farm and a very special teddy bear. 1661 provided cookies, coffee and juice for this yearly celebration. We had a great time. I love blessing God’s creatures and some child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal.
Struggling with Loneliness
I kept myself so busy as a child that I never had experienced loneliness and it followed me into my adult life. Having four children and a husband in a prominent job kept me always busy. After my husband died and I was fifty-five, I began to re-look at my life and made a decision to make some changes. I resigned from all of our clubs, put our house on the market and with the advice of my neighbor, Livingston Taylor signed up for a fourteen-day trip down the Colorado River in small rubber rafts. It was like the CS Lewis book “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”; I had walked through the wardrobe into the unknown and came out a different person.
That summer I had breakfast with Tony Pappas and told him I was looking for some volunteer work. He suggested the Hopi Indian Reservation in the NE corner of Arizona, and I said yes, not knowing what I was in for. I drove out to the reservation in January with my dog Willy in a pick-up truck. I did my best to make a tiny stone house behind the church livable. The 20 x 24 square foot house had an old gas heater which made a loud boom when starting up, a tile floor with no mortar to hold it together, a small bedroom and a tiny corner on the porch which I used for meditation. I was isolated in a foreign culture with no help, guidance or support from the Baptist missionary minister and his wife. Being isolated and left alone to do my undefined task, I had severe bouts of loneliness.
The only way I could deal with it was to sit down in my corner, meditate and turn it over to God. I had a spiritual director for 20 years who taught me “Centering Prayer,” a form of meditation. After each 20 or 30 minute meditation, I was able to journalize what I was feeling. The writing kept me in touch with the outside world and kept me in balance – they were letters to God. One book which helped me understand the difference between loneliness versus solitude was written by May Sarton. Thomas Merton books were also very helpful, particularly The Merton Prayer which reads:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does, in fact, please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road.
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always, though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Those five months were rich with self-discovery and a couple of valuable life lessons. The first lesson was taught by my cocker spaniel dog, Willy. There were many wild dogs in the area and I knew that if I had him out on a leash that he wouldn’t survive. Dogs are very protective of their owners. So I took a chance and just let him go free. Sure enough, a number of dogs came running over to him. I was a bit anxious as I watched. But Willy just stood there wagging his tail, letting the dogs sniff, not resisting and not protesting. After a short period of time, the dogs just left and Willy strolled back to my very small abode.
Learning from Willy, the next day I went down to the post office and just stood around, smiling and greeting people. People started to come up to me. I was the only white woman in town. A couple of youngsters even wanted to touch my blonde hair. I soon began to always have chicken in a pot. The children quickly learned to know where to find a bit to eat. I also was the only person in town who had hot water. The women learned where they could find hot water – in my tiny brick house.
The other very important lesson that I learned was that when I placed myself before God, in silence, I would get new insights, new thoughts, and new directions. I learned that I could help manage the loneliness and anything else that came along in my life – that is with God’s help.
I survived and learned so much about myself and others.
Announcements and Upcoming Events
On August 16th, the Executive Committee will be meeting at 10:00 a.m. at Carol Hill’s home.
On August 25th, immediately following the 9:00 a.m. service we will be holding a Committee of the Whole. We do hope that you will join us. Brunch will be served. Do we have any volunteers to help us with brunch?
September 15th, Bishop Nicholas Knisely will be with us for our 9:00 a.m. service and for a gathering after the service. Once again brunch will be served. Are there any volunteers to help with brunch?
In the past few months I have presided at:
June 1st, Lauren O’Donnell & William Barr were married at the Spring House.
June 15th, Elizabeth Ann Pingpank & Matthew Hickins were married at the Sullivan House.
On July 21st, John Louis Deck was baptized.
On Tuesday, August 6th Jane Hofe’s cremains were buried at the Island Cemetery
Sunday, August 11th, Bruce Ferguson’s cremains were buried in our Memorial Garden.
Sunday, August 11th, Walter and Virginia (Dinny) Wileikis’ cremains were buried in our Memorial Garden.
On August 11th, at 5:00 p.m. We had a Special Prayer service under the tent for those who had died in the mass shootings. The Rev. Peter Preiser, from Harbor Baptist Church, joined us. Like all of you, we are deeply saddened and concerned over the recent repeated tragedies. Following are some of the prayers that we used in this service. We offer them in hopes that you will join us and offer one or more of these prayers (or your favorite prayers) to God every day. As the Psalmist declares in Psalm 121, “Our help comes from God, the maker of heaven and earth.”
For those who have died.
Gracious God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant that your children who died so tragically in the mass shootings be raised with Christ, and may they know the love of his presence, and rejoice in his eternal glory and may they find peace in your presence. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN
For families and friends
Grant, O Lord, to all the families who are grieving give them the spirit of faith and courage to face each new day without the one/s that they have loved and now have lost through a senseless act of another human being whose hearts was filled with malice. Be with them and comfort them with your love. Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray that you will use us as bearers of your love, to support all the friends and families in their grief and give us hearts and listening ears so that we may be present to them and each other as we grieve over the violence that is happening in our own country. Also, Lord, confer on us wisdom when our children come to us feeling fear and confusion. Lord, hear our prayer.
Grant us also a vision of your purpose, and assurance of your love and power, that we may ever hold fast to our faith and the hope which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.
For our leaders
Creator God, may we be faithful, informed and thoughtful when praying and talking to others about our politics and government, and God may all those who are public officials be as faithful, informed and thoughtful in what they say. May they gain wisdom from all of the tragic events that have to happen for far too many years in this country so that they can make a decision for the good of this country and our brothers and sisters.
God, we ask you to pour out your Spirit on each of us so to help us discern good from evil. Give us the courage to stand up and speak out when injustice seems to be prevailing over justice. We pray these words in Christ name. AMEN.
For the perpetrators of violence
As you taught us, Lord, we are to be merciful and we are to love our enemies. But frankly Lord in the immediate aftermath of such violence that we are experiencing in our Nation for the past few years it is hard to love those who perpetrate such heinous and unnecessary violence and deny others of their lives to live. We need your help in softening and opening our hearts so that we can be merciful. We acknowledge that they must have been deeply wounded by someone, but we grieve that what they perceived as their solution was costly to others. We know that they are your children as we are and that you have loved them as you have loved us. Be patient and be present with us as we strive to do as you called us to do – to love those who are now very difficult to love. We know that our faith and our commitment to you will in time bring us to that place where we can live according to your desire. AMEN
To remind us.
Rabbi Naomi Levy prayer: Wake me up, God; ignite my passion, fill me with outrage. Remind me that I am responsible for your world. Don’t allow me to stand idly by. Inspire me to act. Teach me to believe I can repair some corner of the world. AMEN
A little lightness for an ending.
Aging gracefully is about enjoying life. For example, I'm sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt. Agatha Christie knew about aging gracefully and had a great anti-aging view when she said: "An archeologist is the best husband any woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her."
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory. Unknown
In a conversation that I was having with Webb Moore, he quoted from the Westminster Catechism that answers the question, ‘What is the chief end of human beings (man)? The answer; Human being’s (man’s) chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
One of the definitions of the word ‘end’ is ‘purpose’, and one of the definitions for the word purpose is ‘reason.’ What is our reason for being? It is a question that most of us have asked at some time or other in our lives, especially when we are moving through a transition in life. There are numerous and varied causes that give birth to this question; a loss of a loved one, of a job, of status, etc. The aging process, the loss of mobility or an illness can elicit this pressing question. Even a mid-life crisis can throw us into our search for our reason for being – for the meaning of our lives.
One of my favorite books is Confession by Leo Tolstoy, perhaps because I read it during a time of a life transition. Tolstoy was fifty-one years old when he wrote it and came to believe that he had accomplished nothing in life even though he was a renowned author. Tolstoy entered into a very serious spiritual crisis. For a number of years, he struggled to resist the temptation of committing suicide, because there seemed to be no appeasing the yearning.
When Tolstoy was in his mid-twenties, he rejected the Russian Orthodox Church’s teachings of faith. Instead he embraced the faith of knowledge, poetry and the evolution of life. As he said, ‘My choice was very profitable and quite pleasant for me and my family.’ But he discovered something missing in this elitist religion. He discovered that all of this knowledge did not give him an understanding of the meaning of his life. He said, “…the question that had brought me to the edge of suicide…was the simplest question lying in the soul of every human being…The question is this: ‘What will come of what I do today and tomorrow? What will come of my entire life? “…is there any meaning in my life that will not be destroyed by my inevitable approaching death?” Initially, Tolstoy sought his answer through human wisdom. This is what he found.
Socrates said, “The life of the body is an evil and a lie. And so, the destruction of the life of the body is a blessing, and we should long for it.” Solomon observed that, “Everything in the world – both folly and wisdom, wealth and poverty, joy and sorrow – all is vanity and emptiness. A person dies and nothing remains. And this is absurd.” Buddha proclaimed, “It is not possible to live, knowing that suffering, decrepit-ness, old age, and death are inevitable; we must free ourselves from life and from all possibility of life.” (Such cheery men!)
After pursuing human wisdom Tolstoy realized that the field of knowledge had increased his despair. He said, “I was living in ‘this state of madness.’” Fortunately, something inside him impelled him to go on living and to go on searching until he understood that his question could not be answered with rational knowledge. In a moment of grace, as Tolstoy called it, the realization that faith in God would provide him with his answer.
He said, “Every answer of faith gives infinite meaning to the finite existence of human beings, meaning that is not destroyed by suffering, deprivation and death.” He said, “I remembered that I had lived only when I believed in God. Then, as now, I said to myself, ‘As long as I know God, I live; when I forget, when I do not believe in God, I die.’ To know God and live comes to one and the same thing…God is life. He said, “live, seeking God, for there can be no life without God…Thus I was saved from suicide.” Tolstoy’s agonizing search for the meaning of life had been a search for God.
Tolstoy not only found the purpose, the meaning of his life, but he also glorified God by his witnessing to whoever read or reads his words in his book, Confession. I am also sure that in finding God, thus finding life, he continued to live to enjoy God in the here and the hereafter.
In our times of questioning our purpose for being, our meaning of life, perhaps starting with the Westminster’s answer “to glorify God” will help us begin a new journey of “enjoying God for ever.” Hopefully, our willingness to witness this grace to others will help those who are finding life’s transition life-draining and perhaps life-taking, find new life with God and thus find their purpose for being.
A Bit of Wisdom from Joan Chittister book, Our Holy Yearnings
“Enlightenment is what enables us to discriminate between what is fascinating and what is valuable. As Einstein says, ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.’”
“Remember that old saying, ‘Two men looked out through prison bars/One saw mud, the other saw stars.?’ Well, Abraham Lincoln put it this way: ‘Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’”
“God is not somewhere else. God is everywhere. God is here. With me. In me. Now. ‘We have what we seek,’ the monk Thomas Merton wrote. ‘We don’t have to rush after it. It was there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.’”
A Little nourishment for the funny bone.
Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won't be there.
Stephen. Age 8, Chicago
Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister. Yours sincerely,
Arnold. Age 8, Nashville.
Dear Pastor, Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson. Sincerely, Pete. Age 9, Phoenix
Dear Pastor, My father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something. Robert Anderson, age 11
Dear Pastor, I'm sorry I can't leave more money in the plate, but my father didn't give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance? Love, Patty. Age 10, New Haven
Sunday, July 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th , at 9:00 a.m - Holy Eucharist under the Tent at St. Ann’s.
Wednesday, July 10th, 17th, 24th, at 9:00 a.m. – Book Study Group at Lonni’s.
Friday, July 12th, at 6:30 p.m. – Ecumenical Service of Prayers for migrants at St. Andrew’s Parish Center.
Sunday, July 14th 10:00 a.m .- Coffee Hour discussion: ‘10 Ways to Care for Creation’.
Thursday, July 18th, 6:30 p.m. – Holy Eucharist on the beach
June is the kick-off of our Episcopal Charities Campaign. In the church entrance you will find donation forms and envelopes. We do hope that you will support this very important ministry. The following is an article from Betsy Fornal, Director of Episcopal Charities of RI
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:31
We all know this easily recognized verse from the Bible which has its foundation in the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses as the way of life for God’s people. We find them summarized again by Jesus when the leaders of the temple, so afraid of his power, were seeking to trip him up so that they could find him guilty of blasphemy. They sent a group of Pharisees and the teachers of the law to ask of him, “Of all of the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus answered them, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Let me tell you a story about neighbors. I grew up in a small town in New York as did my parents before me. The population was small enough and the community close enough that my friends and I believed that we knew everyone and everyone knew us. Of course, this was both a blessing and a curse as we were growing up since it was very hard to get away with anything however innocent our activities might have been! Since everyone in our town wanted to keep our kids safe AND everyone knew our parents or grandparents, aunts, uncles or so on, the tales of our antics always got back to our families faster than lightning.
I imagine that living on an island as you do has some of the same characteristics. Everyone knows everybody and with that knowing comes one example of the love about which Jesus was speaking. You take care of your own.
But Jesus’ didn’t stop there. Through the stories Jesus taught his followers, we know that he is not only commanding us to love the neighbors we could name or those we live among, but also those who are strangers to us or different from us or even those whom we will never encounter because they live away from us. Jesus’ definition of ‘neighbor’ includes everyone who is in need of receiving our gifts, our service and our love.
Will you join Episcopalians in Rhode Island to help our neighbors in need? Episcopal Charities of Rhode Island began its mission in 1952 with the desire to help those in need in our state. Our goal is to share the love of Christ with all of our neighbors. We strive to change the lives of Rhode Islanders by funding social service programs in our churches and throughout the state. Donors, volunteers, agencies, churches and people like YOU work together to implement this program.
Each year, Episcopal Charities raises funds for grant distributions through the generous spirit and caring of individuals in the Episcopal churches of the Diocese. We are proud to say that 100 percent of your gift is used for direct support of the agencies and ministries we fund. Episcopal Charities has a separate endowment to cover all of our administrative costs.
This year, we are focusing on raising money for agencies and ministries that provide for basic human needs (food, shelter, healthcare) for our at-risk children and elders in our state. The need is great: one child out of every six in our state lives below the poverty level and one in five RI elders does as well.
In late 2018, we awarded 53 grants for a total of $337,500. They include grants to:
agencies and ministries that serve over 640,000 meals a year at meal sites and through meal deliveries to our elderly, homebound, and homeless neighbors.
ministries and agencies that provide more than 22,000 vacation and summer meals for children who rely on free or subsidized school lunches.
two free health clinics which provide much needed medical care to more than 6,000 of our neighbors each year who have no insurance and nowhere else to turn to deal with their health issues.
You can make a donation to Episcopal Charities through your church’s annual campaign, or by mailing a check to Episcopal Charities of Rhode Island, 275 North Main St., Providence, R.I. 02903, or by giving online at
Betsy Fornal, Director of Episcopal Charities of RI
In May the women’s book group continued to meet on Tuesday to read and discuss Joan Chittister’s Book, Between the Dark and the Daylight. Joan has written many books and they are very insightful. They now are reading the New York Times best seller, The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. Brene said, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
On four Saturdays in May, Peter Preiser, Pastor of Harbor Church, and I led a study and discussion group using the Episcopal Church program, “To Serve Christ in all Creation.” At the end of the four weeks the group made the following recommendations that will hopefully be published in the Block Island Letters to the Editor.
1) Sign up at 350.org to join a movement for environmental responsibility.
2) Join in asking the Town Council to establish a charging station for electric cars.
3) Figure out and implement ways to remove trash from various beaches, especially at the North Light.
4) Encourage restaurants to use recyclable to-go containers.
5) Install solar panels now – in 2020 the 30% tax deduction is still in effect.
There are so many more areas in caring for our Creation that need our attention. Any interested people are welcome to join our discussions. Our next meeting will be on July 16th at 8:00 a.m. at the Harbor Church.
On June 3rd and 4th, Catherine Carver, Master Level Reiki III, taught eight participants to use Reiki on themselves as well as others. Each participant will receive a certificate and will be able to offer Reiki sessions.
Come one come all to our Church meeting on June 30th, immediately following the service. Eletha is hoping to find volunteers to co-host a luncheon under the tent following the meeting. Sign-up sheets will be out next week.
“Just as each snowflake is unique, so is each person. Your primary purpose in life is to experience life from one individuals’ unique point of view. You are an expression of Infinite Being as it experiences itself from all possible viewpoints.” ~ Owen Waters
From the desk of Eletha+ May 2019
Back in 2012, The Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts, sent with her Christmas greeting a poem written by H. Mark Smith. With all that is happening in our world lately, I thought I would share it with you at this Eastertide.
Peace in our time.
Love without borders.
Broken bits healed.
Delighting in difference.
Communion, holy union.
God dwelling among us.
Plows over swords.
Redemption the norm.
On earth, as in heaven.
Hope seeks only permission.
Hear the knock? Clear the path.
From imagine, expect. From expect, demand.
The dream of God, as near as our hands.
(H. Mark Smith)
On June 9th, we will celebrate Pentecost, the Sunday that we are reminded that the disciples and all of his followers since receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. We will hear Jesus say, “…the Holy Spirit, whom God will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." Just imagine if in every space that we occupy we lived into receiving the Holy Spirit, claiming it as our own, and then accomplishing all that this poem gives us to imagine. The dream of God, as near as our hands. Don’t just imagine it, believe and give it life in your life. Eletha
In Lent we held two candlelit Taize services (the pictures are on our website) and two healing services. In each case, those participating expressed appreciation for the prayers, music and the quiet setting. During Holy Week we celebrated Maundy Thursday with the traditional service including the washing of the feet and the stripping of the altar. On Good Friday we offered the Stations of the Cross in a contemporary setting and were joined by people from the Harbor Church. During that service we were very blessed with Carrie Johnson singing, Where You There When They Crucified My Lord, while Susan Matheke’s feet danced. It was very moving and powerful!
We celebrated the Easter Vigil with St. Andrew’s Church. Father Joe was very welcoming and inclusive. It was a wonderful service.
The Easter Concert was very well attended and the choir, of course, aced it. It was a wonderful selection of music, some pieces more difficult than others. There was one piece I never did totally conquer. But in those three or four measures that I did not quite get, my mouth was still moving without a sound coming forth. Who knew I wasn’t singing except for my tenor brothers and sisters and they were too focus to notice!
On Easter Sunday Lisa Sprague sang, How Great Thou Art. She was accompanied by Jayme Hennessey. It was a lovely service.
The Comings once again hosted their Daffodil Brunch potluck on Sunday, April 28th. I never realized that there were so many varieties of daffodils, and I cannot imagine planting that many bulbs. The flowers were beautiful, the food was delicious and the conversation was delightful.
The women’s book group continues to meet every Tuesday. We are now reading Joan Chittister’s Book, Between the Dark and the Daylight. We will start a new book, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown on May 21.
On May 11th, Peter Preiser and I are going to co-lead a study and discussion on Creation Care using the Province One Course, entitled To Serve Christ In All Creation. We will meet for four Saturday mornings beginning at Harbor Church at 9:00am. We hope that you will join us. Please call me if you need additional information.
On June 3rd and 4th, Catherine Carver, who is a Master Level Reiki III practitioner is offering those who are interested to learn Level I of Reiki. Reiki is a Japanese word that means universal life energy or force. It is the power which flows through everything and is the essence of all matter. Reiki can be used to self heal and also used to ignite inner healing in others. The fee is $125, with the $25 non-refundable. If you are interested please call St Ann’s By the Sea at 401-466-2911.
Deck Sale – On June 8th, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Rain date Sunday June 9th), is the date and time for our yard sale on our lovely brand-new wrap-around deck. There are many great items that are being dropped off for the sale almost daily. Come and buy someone’s discarded treasures at very reasonable prices.
Words of Wisdom
“Our lives are fashioned by our choices. First, we make our choices. Then our choices make us.” – Anne Frank
A Quick 2nd Look at a Book
Genesis a Living Conversation by Bill Moyers –
Temptation – Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
Leon R. Kass, Author and Addie Clark Harding Professor, University of Chicago.
Page 45. – “I think there’s a more radical reading of the text. God has made a human being who, potentially, has freedom. To live in freedom means to live on the basis of one’s autonomous opinions about what’s good and bad. To exercise free choice is implicitly to act on some notion of better or worse. That means you can’t have a human being without having, at least somewhere in the vicinity, knowledge of good and bad. And yet a benevolent parent knows that the freedom to choose is not the same thing as choosing well.”
Marianne Meye Thompson, author and associate professor in New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Page 46 – God has made a command that Eve turns into an option. God says, “don’t eat of that tree." It’s not hard to figure out how to obey that command. Eating of that tree is a violation of what God has said is good for her. But in becoming autonomous, Eve loses some of her freedom because, as Leon said, freedom to choose does not mean choosing well. Once you choose wrongly, it can become a habit, an addiction. You lose the freedom of choosing well.
ST. ANN’S BY-THE-SEA
In December when I came to Block Island for an interview, Theresa Sisto took me around the Island. One of the stops that we made was at Barbara MacDougall’s labyrinth. Her labyrinth reminded me of the times I walked the labyrinth at the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation convent in Dighton, Massachusetts. I wrote a reflection on one of my experiences there and I thought I would like to share it with you.
I am sure that most of you know that a Labyrinth is not a maze that tries to confuse people. It is a ritualized journey with a single circuitous path winding in and out in one direction. It has been used for over a thousand years and for Christians it symbolizes the journey in the life of Christ. The winding path with its many turns always brings one to the center and then back out to the entrance again. Many people, like me, use it as a spiritual exercise talking to God throughout the journey.
It was one of those days in the Fall where it felt more like winter. There was a biting cold chill in the air, but after a few minutes of contemplating whether I would venture into the Labyrinth’s entrance, I started the journey.
Where I entered, the path was clear of any dead leaves, but when I arrived at the west quadrant fallen dead leaves completely covered the path, thus making the turns of the Labyrinth path invisible.
I started brushing the leaves aside with my feet as I searched for the next turn. I wanted to walk the Labyrinth path as it was laid out. While brushing them aside I thought, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could simply brush aside all of the dead debris of our past, the past that influences and interferes with how we live today and tomorrow.” So often the past influences our feelings about ourselves and even interferes with the decisions that we make today and sometimes tomorrow.
But wouldn’t it also be wonderful if we could always follow the path that God had designed for each of us and never ever lose our way. Perhaps if we did there wouldn’t be as much debris to brush aside.
I continued to brush aside the dead leaves until I reached the next quadrant. The path was clear of debris once again. At this point I couldn’t help but think of God’s words; “I make all things new.”
As I stood in the center of the Labyrinth, I realized that “making all things new” did not mean that all the hurts, wounds, troubled relationships, mistakes and negative voices were totally and immediately forgotten. The past is the past and our experiences are just that – something we experienced.
We do not, all of a sudden, develop amnesia when God makes all things new. Instead, when we believe and experience God’s words – believe and experience - it means that we could find ourselves in a time when the past no longer determines and influences the quality of our lives in the present and the future, that is when we do the work of healing with God, we no longer have to live out of our wounds.
Healing does not come with a foot brushing aside the debris or a magic wand that makes it disappear. But wouldn’t that be wonderful! Healing takes work. It takes time, it takes faith and it takes remembering God’s words. The work can be painful. Digging out the infection that lives just below or on the surface, can hurt a bit. But when the work of healing is done with God’s guidance and with prayer, God can and does make all things new.
I am always in awe when I encounter God’s presence in my meditations. It always brings me to an awareness that I might not have had if I had not taken the time to offer my heart, prayers, and spirit up to God. For me the labyrinth seems to be one of those places where I have those experiences.
I am looking forward to the spring time, when even in a cool chilly wind I can stand at the entrance of the Labyrinth on Barbara’s land, offer a prayer or two and begin to walk the journey to the center and then back out again. I do hope that others would like to join me.
A Quick Look at a Book
One of the books I have been reading is, “From Age-ing to Sage-ing,” A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older. It is by Rabbi Salman Schachter-Shalomi. The publishers said, “Twenty Years ago, respected rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi felt an uneasiness. Growing older and haunted by fears of death and infirmity, he embarked on a mission to get to the bottom of his agitation. Through a series of events including a vision quest in a secluded cabin and studying with Sufi masters, Buddhist teachers, and Native American shamans Reb Zalman found a way to turn again into the most meaningful and joyous time in his life.”
I would like to share with you a paragraph from Rabbi Zalman’s book. In Part One, The Theory of Spiritual Eldering, rabbi Zalman said, “Then what are elders? They are wisdom-keepers who have an ongoing responsibility for maintaining society’s well-being and safeguarding the health of our ailing planet Earth. They are pioneers in consciousness who practice contemplative arts from our spiritual traditions to open up greater intelligence for their late-life vocations. Using tools for inner growth, such as meditation, journal writing, and life review, elders come to terms with their mortality, harvest the wisdom of their years, and transmit a legacy to future generations. Serving as mentors, they pass on the distilled essence of their life experience to others. The joy of passing on wisdom to younger people not only seeds the future but crowns an elder’s life with worth and nobility.”
How often have you wished that you had your ancestor’s stories written down so that you could read them and pass them on? I know that I have. Everyone’s life is filled with stories that can be passed down to future generations. Your life review may yield an awareness of a wisdom-keeper with much to offer to others. If anyone is interested in talking about this book or beginning a group to talk about meditation, journal writing, and life review, please let me know.
A Bit of Bible Trivia
Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?
A. Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.
Q. What was the greatest female financier in the Bible?
Pharaoh’s daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.
Q. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?
A. Samson. He brought the house down.
THE PRAYER OF SURRENDER, by Thomas Merton
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know if I do this, you will lead me the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore, I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face peril alone. AMEN
If you would like to share a story or a bit of humor, a quick look at a book and or a prayer, please let Eletha know. She would also appreciate feedback on the format of the newsletter. Thank you.