Do You Feel Safe Here?

Our church is in a tough neighborhood, and every once in awhile I get asked whether I am concerned for my safety at Holy Trinity. I usually respond with some combination of the following:

  1. We know our neighbors, and they know us. When I walk around the neighborhood during the day, I exchange greetings with people I know. I make a point of acknowledging people I don’t know with a nod and smile so that they know I mean them well (without suspecting that I want something from them!). No, I don’t feel unsafe.
  2. After dark, N. Olive is both well-traveled and brightly lighted, so I’m unlikely to be mugged on the way to the car that I park under a street light. I park there, by the way, because that’s the furthest point from either of the two main doors, and I want to leave the closer parking spaces open for those with less mobility. No, I don’t feel unsafe.
  3. Yes, we have had car mirrors knocked off by speeding cars and windows shot out by BB guns, same as folks in many different types of neighborhhod. Looks like there are reckless people everywhere. No, I don’t feel unsafe.

I should note at this point that I’m not quite as stupid as I look. I do keep the doors locked when I’m at the church alone. If I need to meet with one other individual, I arrange to do so in a public space or at the diocesan office where there will be other people around. I do not allow children into the building when I am the only adult present—even when this means having mass on the front sidewalk! I should note, however, that these are steps I would advise any parish priest to follow, as much for the safety of others as for the safety of the priest.

Last Thursday was unusual, though. It was Maundy Thursday, and earlier in the day I was making pastoral visits. One of the elderly gentlemen I was visiting asked me whether I was concerned for my personal safety at Holy Trinity. I responded as I have indicated above.

That night, as everyone else left after the service, I stayed around to set some things in order and then to pray at the Altar of Repose. As I was going around turning out the lights afterwards, I remembered the earlier conversation and smiled to myself. There I was, alone in the building late at night, and I did not feel unsafe.

I walked to my car, got in, and started to drive home. I needed to turn left onto Prast, but someone on Prast was pulled over too far into the middle of the street. I swung wide to get around the other car, misjudged the location of the curb, and blew out my tire. I sighed deeply, pulled over at the corner of Prast and Elmer, and pulled out my AAA card.

Are you in a safe location? The voice on the other end of my phone call asked me? They always ask that. I thought about it. I was in my in my car at a lighted street corner. I could walk back to the church if I needed to. I had just called my husband to let him know I would be late. He was coming to sit with me. “Yes, I’m in a safe location,” I replied.

When the roadside assistance guy arrived around 9:45pm to change my tire, he remarked, “you sure picked an uncomfortable spot to have a flat tire!” I noted that I was the priest of a church a block away, that I knew my neighbors, and that I did not feel unsafe. He just shrugged and said he had moved out of the neighborhood because “I know what goes down here.” I didn’t argue with him—it had been a long day.

Then, this morning, I was driving to the church to pick up something I needed. It was broad daylight, and I was driving down Lincoln Way West. The pavement was wet, and I’m still driving on my spare tire, so I was careful to drive the speed limit. The white guy in the late model SUV behind me did not appreciate that. He tailgated me for several blocks, and when I slowed to a stop at a yellow light rather than speed up to go through, he screeched to a stop behind me and was waving his hands at me. When I gestured to the light, he started shouting and kept waving his hands.

At that point I did something stupid. Wanting to shame him with the knowledge that it was a priest he was harassing, I got out of my car and went to his window. He rolled it down so he could shout in my face. I said to him, “I was driving the speed limit and stopping for a red light. Get the F— off my tail!” I then turned around and returned to my car. Probably not one of my more pastoral moments.

The light had turned green, so I started my car and continued down the street. The guy sped up close behind me, then swerved around me to pass me on the left—where there was no lane. I slowed down, to put some distance between us, then realized I should get his license plate number. I took out my phone to take a picture. I’m assuming he saw me, because when the traffic light at Olive turned red, he pulled over into a parking spot on the right side of the road so that I did not pull up behind him. I assumed we were done.

I pulled into the left turn lane to go to the church.  Suddenly he crossed into the left lane behind me. At this point, I did not feel safe. I started to weigh the options of parking where I normally park or of pulling up to the convenience store across from the church. At the church I might hope for a neighbor passing by. At the store, I am known to the Muslim owner and manager, and there are video cameras, so I figured I’d be safe if this guy decided to menace me. As it was, he did not follow me through the turn but instead swerved back into the main line of traffic. I was safe once more.

How ironic that the one time I felt unsafe in the neighborhood around Holy Trinity, the cause of my anxiety was a white guy who had followed me into the neighborhood from a “better” part of town! Thanks be to God for neighbors around the church upon whom I could rely in a moment of danger! And next, time, may God give me the wisdom to stay in my car and keep my mouth shut.

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Reading Our Palms

At 10am on March 25 (Palm Sunday this year, and therefore not the Feast of the Annunciation), we will gather in the parish hall rather than in the church. After reading the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, we will bless palm fronds and distribute them to the congregation. Singing “All glory, laud, and honor” and then reciting Psalm 118:19-29, we will process outside, down the sidewalk around the church and then into the church.

Once we have entered the church, however, our song of triumph quickly turns into a groan of remorse as we begin our week-long contemplation of Jesus’ betrayal at the hands of his friends and suffering at the hands of those who considered themselves defenders of the faith. If you are afraid to take a good hard look at yourself, Palm Sunday is a good day to stay home in bed, for even as we wave our palms, we know that our cries of “hosanna!” will soon turn to cries of “crucify him!” There’s a reason we burn our palms to make ashes for Ash Wednesday—we are only human, and to dust we will inevitably return.

I am particularly mindful of the mortality of our intentions this year as many of us make plans to attend rallies against gun violence on March 24th. These March(es) for our Lives in Washington DC, Indianapolis and South Bend are a response most recently to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th that left 17 dead and 17 wounded. More broadly speaking, they are also a response to the stream of shootings that has plagued this country in recent decades, a response that demands an end to gun violence.

In our own neighborhood, gun violence has taken the lives of Tysiona Crawford, D’Angelo Jennings, Tyshawn Taylor, and  Daekwon Tobar. This is just to name the deaths of teenagers in the first months of 2018 in South Bend. Draw the circle wider, and the numbers climb. A 13 year-old was shot (but blessedly not killed) just a few blocks from us a couple of days ago. These are our children  To say that we who march are mindful of our own mortality and that of our children is a gross understatement.

Let us also be mindful, however, of our own inconstancy. If there is anything we learn from “reading” our palms throughout Holy Week, it’s that we humans are easily distracted from our firm intentions, by fear, by fatigue and even by boredom. We rally when it means a road trip with our friends on a Spring Day, but we sometimes pass on the chance to share our views with hostile family members and friends or to go to the polls on a rainy day. Or we may vote, but base our votes (at the polls and in the legislature) on other values that seem more important (or more efficacious) at the time.

The fact that not everyone who marches in March will vote in May and November might incline us towards cynicism and despair. Before we give up on humanity, however, let us remember the most important lesson of Holy Week—that God has embraced us in all of our inconstancy, taking on all the implications of our mortality. Knowing ourselves to have come within the reach of that saving embrace, let us act in hope for our common humanity.

Holy Week At Holy Trinity

Palm Sunday—March 25 at 10am

Eucharist and Procession with Palms

Terri Bays, Preacher/Celebrant

March 27

4-6pm Soup After School

6:30pm Tenebrae

Maundy Thursday—March 29 at 6:30pm

Foot Washing, Eucharist and Stripping of the Altar for Maundy Thursday

Adrien Niyongabo, Preacher

Terri Bays, Celebrant

Vigil at the Altar of Repose

 Thursday, 3/29 at 8pm to Friday, 3/30 at 12pm

 

Good Friday—March 30 12-3pm

Solemn Liturgies

with Solemn Collects, Veneration of the Cross and Mass of the Pre-Sanctified

Terri Bays, Preacher/Celebrant

(7pm Service at St. Michael and All Angels’)

Holy Saturday—March 31

10am Liturgy for Holy Saturday

10:30-2pm Parish Clean-up Day

with Pot-Luck Lunch

8:15pm Easter Vigil

Terri Bays, Preacher/Celebrant

Easter Sunday—April 1 10am

Eucharist

Terri Bays, Preacher/Celebrant

All Souls

Just a reminder that this Thursday is the Feast of All Souls, a day on which we remember and give thanks for the lives of the all departed who have influenced our lives for good or for ill. This is a particularly good occasion for mourning those whose funerals we have been unable to attend, or at whose funerals we were unable to fully grieve because we were busy making space for others’ grief. Even when we have been able to grieve at the funeral, All Souls is a good time for reflecting on the ways in which our memories of the dead have changed over time.

At Holy Trinity, we celebrate the Feast of All Souls with a service of remembrance and benediction of the blessed sacrament. We print the names of the departed on small slips of colored paper. As we read each name, we fold the slip of paper and insert it into spaces in a specially-designed monstrance. A monstrance is used for the exposition of the blessed sacrament. The one we use for All Souls is cross-shaped, with three vertical bars and three horizontal bars which create the spaces into which we insert the names. At the crossing of the bars is a space for the consecrated host.
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At the Eucharist, we consecrate an extra host which we insert into the monstrance. After a brief time of meditation, the priest blesses the congregation with the words, “this is the body of Christ which was given for you.” Our focus is thus on the way we are called to seek Christ both in the breaking of the bread and in the lives of those around us.

If you have not yet turned in your list of names, please do so by email before noon on 11/1 (tomorrow). Better yet, bring your names in person to the service at 6:30 pm, writing them either on the blank slips of paper made available there or on any (1” x 3”) slips of paper that are special to you. We will already have printed the names of all on our year’s mind list in advance.

Changes to Soup After School

Soup After SchoolFor the past three years, neighbors have gathered with us here at the Church of the Holy Trinity for Soup After School, an opportunity to sit down together for conversation over a free meal of soup, bread, a drink and something sweet. There is always something fun for the kids to do, and for us grown-ups it’s a safe, warm place to gather and get to know one another!
This year, we are staring a bit later—funny how folks don’t seem to want soup when it’s warm outside! We are also moving to the second and fourth Tuesdays rather than the first and third. In this way we hope to be more responsive to the needs of those who get paid on the 1st and 15th of the month, only to find that there are too may days, and not enough paycheck.
All are welcome, even those who don’t particularly need a good hot meal. Come just to sit and chat, or come to help out with cooking or serving soup, with supervising the children or with cleaning up. We offer you this time for a bit of peace (though not necessarily quiet!) in a busy and troubled world.

Dates For

Soup After School: 2017-18

  • October 24
  • November 14
  • November 28
  • December 12
  • January 9
  • January 23
  • February 13
  • February 27
  • March 13
  • March 27
  • April 10
  • April 24
While Soup After School is not, strictly speaking, a religious gathering, we do try to offer an activity each time that will engage the kids in the seasonal life of the church. After clearing away the dishes at 6pm, those wanting to join us for worship troop into the church for a 6:30pm Eucharist where we give thanks for the opportunity to seek and serve Christ in every human being. Our hope is that the transition from supper table to communion table will become yet another way in which we can offer our neighbors a taste of the life we share in Christ. Pray with us that, in that taste, both we and our neighbors will see that the Lord is good!

 

Beloved.

I have just gotten around to reading the Nashville Statement, issued Tuesday by the so-called Coalition for Biblical Sexuality. Call me inattentive, but I was distracted by local pastoral concerns and national events like Hurricane Harvey, the devastation it leaves in its wake and the courage and love folks are demonstrating in response.  Anyway, though I usually shrug off such manifestos on the theory that the less attention paid to them the better, this one offends so much of my understanding of God and of human sexuality that I feel compelled to state, here within my own parish family, just where I believe it goes wrong.

First, though,  I suppose I should affirm the values I do share with the authors. If I thought they got nothing right, I would not consider them worth responding to, after all. It is precisely the attractiveness of these shared values that makes such statements dangerous. So, I agree that God has given us marriage as a life-long covenant that reflects to us the covenantal love both between God and individual human souls and between Christ and the Church. I agree that emotional and sexual fidelity within marriage is a significant characteristic of that reflection. I agree that all humans are “created in the
image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers.” I even agree that “sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant
and toward sexual immorality— a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality.” I agree that we are called to speak the truth in love to one another, even about sexuality, and I agree that “the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” I agree with the authors on all these points, yet I fear that what I mean by them and what they mean by them differs widely.

Let’s start with God giving us marriage, since that gift is at the heart of the matter. In Genesis 2, God makes Adam, takes stock of the situation, and then says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (2:18). God then presents each of the animals in turn, but Adam names and rejects them. God goes along with this, indicating that God wants us to have choice in the selection of our partners. Recognizing who is and who isn’t suited to us as a helper and partner is important to the formation of marriage as a particular type of covenant relationship. When God presents Adam with Eve, however, Adam recognizes her as both kindred—”This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”—and as other—worthy of receiving a name different from Adam’s own.

It is true that this first relationship is between one man and one woman. The Genesis account doesn’t give us enough humans at this point for polygamy or polyandry. It is, shall we say, a procreative relationship of necessity, because humanity would have died out had it not been. We humans have adapted the examples of Adam and Eve in many creative ways since then—for better and for worse—and the Scripture does not call us to follow them exactly. Part of being human is coming to some kind of terms with—in different ways that may include changing—the bodies into which we have been born. Thus there are many different expressions of masculinity and femininity and all the other “inities” between and around them that are all different reflections of the image of God.

Acknowledging in each other both our kinship and our differences, loving both the kinship and the differences, is our primary task in the covenantal relationship we call marriage, whether the kinships/differences are between our sexual organs, our mental ones, our emotional outlooks or our family histories. In marriage, we are called to speak the truth to one another and to the world about these matters. That truth is the foundation of the beloved relationship we are called into with our God who both is and is not like us. Likewise it is the foundation of the beloved relationship we are called into with another person who both is and is not like us.

Those two beloved relationships are primary while providing a model for our various secondary and tertiary relationships (and so on). Precisely because these relationships may resemble our primary relationships, we set boundaries around our primary relationships—”forsaking all others”/”no other gods”—in order to clarify what fidelity might look like. What that fidelity actually means on a day-to-day basis is part of what makes both marriage and religion such a wonderful adventure.

It is that adventure—that multiplicitous working out of what it means to be faithful to the command to love God and our neighbor with all our heart, soul mind and strength—that brings God the greatest glory. This is the purpose for which god has made each and every one of us. If God wanted slavish obedience to one and only one expression of God’s will, creating humanity was an awfully strange way to go about it. No, God created us because God wanted relationship with something both kindred and other than God’s-self. Thanks be to God for that!

—Terri+

The Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

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The Church of the Holy Trinity invites you to a Procession and Eucharist in Honor of

The Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin

on Tuesday, August 15 at 6:30 pm

Please Join Us on the The Feast of St. Mary the Virgin as we keep the ancient tradition of the Crowning of Mary in Solemn Procession followed by a Sung Eucharist. In the Episcopal Church, we celebrate the end of Mary’s earthly ministry and her joyous reception into the hosts of heaven without specifying how, in fact, this came about. So, whether you believe that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven without experiencing death or that she experienced a death as gentle as falling asleep, there is a place for you in the procession. What we all share is the recognition that Jesus’ joy in receiving his mother provides us a foretaste of the joy that will greet us when, having experienced the forgiveness of sins, we too will have entered the realms of heaven. We invite you to come celebrate that promised joy with us!