Are We Ready for Some Holy Smoke! at Holy Trinity?

Can you believe that Holy Smoke! is coming up tomorrow? HolySmokeKettleWord is getting out—pray that the number of BBQ Cookoff Entries is enough to meet the appetites of our guests! Hmmm. . . maybe I should have included roast quail among the categories. . . and then again, maybe not!

Continue to post about Holy Smoke! in your social networks and to talk about it to your family and friends. Now is the time to strike up a conversation with that neighbor whose BBQ fills your street with mouth-watering aromas! Now is the time to let your music-loving friends know that the Oblates of Blues will be playing from 1-3! Now is the acceptable time for showing folks that Holy Trinity knows how to welcome and nourish the body of Christ!

Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

If you’ve seen one of the flyers for Holy Smoke! you may have noticed that our celebration includes “An Ecumenical Service of Prayer and Procession for the Feast of the Virgin Mary.” In case you’re wondering what that might look like, here are a few remarks about what we have in mind!

Coronation of the Virgin Mary by Diego Velasquez, 1645

Coronation of the Virgin Mary by Diego Velasquez, 1645

To begin with, the Episcopal Church holds that scripture contains “all things necessary to salvation.” What we mean by that is a refusal to consider any belief necessary that is not contained in scripture. While teachings from traditions other than scripture may be true, good and helpful, they are not necessary to salvation. With regard to Mary, we celebrate what we know of her from scripture. Although individuals among us may draw various conclusions about other aspects of Mary’s life, we don’t require anyone to share those conclusions.

August 15th is the day when we celebrate the end of Mary’s earthly ministry. Traditionally, we celebrate a saint on the day of the saint’s death. We do this to mark the day on which the saint entered into the fuller presence of God. We don’t know from scripture exactly how Mary did this, so the Episcopal Church does not require its members to hold any particular belief about it. What we know is that her ministry on Earth did end, and we presume that her Son was glad to receive her.

We share the date of our celebration with the rest of Christianity. Eastern Orthodox Christians call this day the Feast of the Dormition (sleeping), believing that Mary died a natural death, and that her body rested in the tomb for three days before being resurrected and taken up into heaven. Roman Catholics call this day the Feast of the Assumption, believing that Mary did not die a natural death but was taken bodily into heaven without dying. We all believe that Mary is in heaven and that she prays with us for the poor, the sick and the suffering.

Our focus will be on celebrating Mary’s release from the suffering she experienced in her life and on asking for her sympathy with those who likewise suffer. We will start our worship in front of the church. First we will go in procession around the outside of the church and then we will go around the inside. As we go, we will be singing a blues anthem, pausing after each verse to asking Mary to pray with us for the people of our neighborhood. Once we have gone inside, we will crown a statue of the Virgin Mary with flowers in celebration of the joy with which we presume she was received in heaven. After crowning the statue we with pray the Angelus. This prayer greets Mary with the words used by the Angel Gabriel in scripture when he announced that she was to bear the Son of God.

Our hope is that any Christian might be able to rejoice with us in this celebration of the faithful role Mary played in our salvation.

Does the Church need to Act Poor?

While I was away on vacation, my brother sent me a link to the following article:

Why churches are poor—By Rebekah Simon-Peter

Simon-Peter makes a number of interesting points around the question of whether it is “theologically necessary” for churches to  “act poor,” by which she means allowing money to be the limiting factor in our ministries.  For example, she asks:

What if we were to pray that God direct the riches of the world to us and through us to bring about healing, reconciliation, justice and wholeness in our communities and world? I wonder what might happen then?

We need a new consciousness around money — one that allows us to be honest about our needs and the unlimited God we serve. Money is not in short supply. But if we believe it is, we will act, and ask, accordingly.

. . . .

Money makes the world go ’round. And churches need it as much if not more than other organizations. We have holy business to attend to: acts of justice, works of mercy, support of denominational initiatives, paying the salary and benefits of leaders, mortgages, heat, light, etc.

So why these mixed messages about money? Why awkward silences and the lack of clear direction or invitation? The truth is, many people want to express their gratitude to God, yet they don’t participate in the offering.

These are the kinds of questions we have been working to ask at Holy Trinity, not only with regard to money but also with regard to people and other types of resources.

Now at Holy Trinity we have no need to “act poor” in the sense of pretending. We are genuinely having trouble paying our bills. In recent months, however, we have abandoned some of the following behaviors where we found ourselves “acting poor”:

  • hiding our real financial needs from ourselves by refusing to look at the budget
  • hiding our real ministry needs from ourselves by allowing a few people to do most of the work, regardless of whether they are called to or suited for that ministry
  • spending whatever money happens to be in the checking account “because it’s there to be spent” rather than looking ahead to what our needs might be over the coming months
  • refusing to ask for pledges from the congregation or to teach about what a faithful pledge might look like

In the meantime, we have been adopting behaviors along the lines that Simon-Peter suggests, as we consider the work to which God is calling us on the West Side of South Bend. For example, we have been:

  • asking God to supply our needs, not simply naming those needs as a matter of honesty but also trusting God to meet them as a matter of faith
  • assessing the gifts that we do have—such as really amazing hospitality—and praying that God will direct us in using those gifts for the benefit of our neighbors
  • forming relationships with our neighbors as a first step towards bringing about healing, reconciliation, justice and wholeness in our community

Instead of responding to our financial crisis by cutting back on outreach, we have decided to expand our outreach ministries. For example, we have decided to to invite the other Episcopal Churches in the area, nearby churches from other denominations, and other civic groups to join us in Soup After School so that we can offer it every week instead of just one week a month. When we do a fundraiser like Holy Smoke! we make sure that our neighbors are welcome and fed, regardless of their ability to contribute financially.

We are, slowly but surely, dealing with our financial crisis. Thanks be to God, who is turning a shortage of funds into an abundance of blessing!