Syrian Refugees

At our vestry meeting just the other day, we were discussing ways in which we might become more involved in global concerns. We’ve been focused pretty intently on the question of our own survival and the needs of our local neighborhood recently, and we were envisioning a time in the not too distant future when we might have the luxury of expanding our vision somewhat.

Randy brought up the Syrian refugee crisis. The plight of refugees attempting to cross Eastern Europe particularly touches our hearts on account of the Hungarian heritage of our parish. We were thinking that we might begin contributing in some small way to an organization working for refugee resettlement in the United States. We asked Randy to do some investigation of our options.

A few days later, Randy received the following notice from Notre Dame:

Syria Speaks: Syrian Refugee Amin Ahmed comes to Notre Dame
When: October 29th from 11:00am – noon
Where: DeBartolo 155

Please note: due to the danger faced by our guest no photos will be allowed at this event.

On October 29th we have the tremendous privilege of welcoming to our campus Syrian refugee and activist Amin Ahmed, who will tell us firsthand about the refugee crisis and do a Q&A. Come hear his voice on behalf of the millions of silenced refugees. After the Assad regime’s crackdown in 2011, Mr. Ahmed joined an effort to secretly aid wounded and sick civilians. When his work was discovered in 2012 he was forced to flee. Now in America, he has joined the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, a coalition of over 50 organizations who have combined forces to raise awareness and emergency funds for disaster relief agencies working on the ground in the Middle East.

He will be joined by Dr. Georgette Bennett, founder of the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees and President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Dr. Bennett has also served in the U.S. State Department Religion and Foreign Policy initiative’s working group which developed recommendations for the Secretary of State on countering religion-based violence. Together they will share with us their unique perspective on the refugee crisis and tell us what we can do to help. Approximately 30 minutes will be available for Q&A.

Information about how to help refugees in the South Bend area will also be made available. Don’t miss this unique opportunity!

This event is cosponsored by the Graduate Theological Society at Notre Dame, the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley, and the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees.

I would encourage as many of you as are available to attend this event!

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A little bit of this and that: Paintings by Janet Johnson

“A Little Bit of This and That,” an exhibit of paintings by Janet Johnson, will be on display at the GLBT Resource Center of Michiana (1522 Mishawaka Ave, South Bend, Indiana 46615) from October 25 – November 22. Johnson is a local artist, residing in Mishawaka, and you may have seen the exhibit of her icons on display at St. Mary’s College last fall. Permeated with spirituality, Johnson’s art is informed by her study of the Orthodox tradition of icon painting.  Johnson herself says in her artist’s statement:
A Little Bit of This and That

Everything is a discipline; spending time with these images assists me in my spiritual journey. Whether it is Mother and Child, Jesus, or a saint, I have much to learn from them. With every brush stroke I am able to focus with a special intention for someone, a small prayer or mantra, or a kind of divine obedience to be quiet in the presence of the image on which I am working. . . . By looking into the face of an icon, a relationship may develop and will assist others on their spiritual journey.

Check out the exhibit opening on Sunday, October 25 from 3-5 pm with a talk by the artist and light refreshments, or visit during the Center’s open hours (W/Th/F 4-7pm) and Saturdays, 2-4 pm.

The Theory and the Practice of Liturgy at Holy Trinity

This past Tuesday we held a Prayer Procession and Eucharist for the Feast pof St. Michael and All Angels. We called it Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones, and, looking at the bulletin I posted the other day, you might think it was a pretty formal affair.

It wasn’t.

It really wasn’t. Indeed, it ended up being so “informal” (some might even have called it “chaotic”) that I figure I need to say something here about the difference between the theory and the practice of liturgy at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

You see, when I am designing a liturgy, alone in my quiet office, I routinely forget that we are a small church in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. I routinely forget that not everyone speaks the way I do, and not everyone reads my big words and complex sentences as easily as I do—I after all, already know what it is that I’m trying to say! I routinely forget that straight lines aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. As a result of this routine negligence on my part (there I go again!), the written part—the theory—of our liturgies often looks quite different from the practice.

The practice of liturgy the other evening went like this:

  • We started out with four children and five adults (none of whom were related to the children). Two of the adults were unable to process, one due to fatigue and the other due to disability.  This left three adults with four children.
  • The children had come over to the church looking for Soup After School. When I told them that Soup After School doesn’t start until next Tuesday, they decided to participate in the service anyway.
  • When the three girls asked if they could take their turns reading the prayers (the boy was by far the youngest, and too young to be reading yet), I agreed, not really thinking through the fact that the language would be above their reading (and probably comprehension) level. We ended us with one of them reading with me following along and prompting where needed (about 1 in 3 words).
  • Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones turned out to be a good hymn choice, since when in doubt, you can just sing “Alleluia” really loud, over and over again.
  • Let’s just say that flinging holy water around was a big hit, and the priest might not have been the only one wielding the aspergillium (or fingers). . .
  • Halfway through the procession, the little boy decided he didn’t want to be with us, so I said he could do his own thing as long as he crossed the street with us. At one point he decided to push that boundary by sitting down in the middle of the sidewalk. His big sister had a word with him and eventually persuaded him to come along before I had to pick him up and carry him across the street, but it was a close thing!
  • Back at the church for Eucharist, the kids came up to acolyte—1 for the wine, 1 for the water, 1 for the handwashing, and 1 for the bells.  Lots of whispered instructions ensued.
  • We all hit the snack cabinet after mass was over and clean-up done. If you have donated juice and granola bars or other healthy snacks, this is what your donations are going towards!

In other words, this was an awful service from the standpoint of theoretical liturgy, since next to nothing went as planned. From the standpoint of practical and pastoral liturgy, however, this service was every inch a success!