2018 Father Jim’s Annual Report

2018 saw a number of changes in our parish, in our Diocese, in the Episcopal Church and in the world-wide Anglican Communion.

In our Parish:
After an extensive “discernment process,” recommended and aided by the Bishops’ Office, we got off to a new phase of our corporate life as the Body of Christ. The “discernment process” was a collective, shared self-reflection on the gifts from God in our parish community. We continue our weekly Celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We continue to serve the community of Hudson and beyond with our bi-weekly Community Supper. After the Sunday School teachers who had worked tirelessly for several years had to retire for personal and health reasons, the Vestry found a new teacher. Unfortunately, however, we had to discontinue our Sunday School, for lack of children, perhaps more accurately for deficient support of the parents who could not bring their children in time for the School. We baptized many babies last year. We hope that, when they reach Sunday School age, we would be able to resume our Sunday School.

As we baptized many babies, our parish also bid farewell to some elderly parishioners who passed on after years of active participation in our parish life.

An important part of our parish’s continuing ministry is our ecumenical and inter-faith relationship in Hudson and Marlborough. The Rector continues active participation in both. We continue to believe that God is one, and therefore our ministry should be collaborative.

Most important, the Rector thanks so many people in the parish, especially the Vestry, our Organist and Choir Director (Amy Lepak) and our Parish Administrator (Cynthia Janeiro-Ehlke), without whom we cannot remain the Body of Christ. There are others who volunteer their time, talent and treasure to maintain our parish family. Officers of the Vestry deserve special thanks from all of us. The Senior Warden (Bill Carnes) is a hard working leader in all aspects of our parish life, including regular participation in our worship as acolyte. He is active in the Concord Deanery, as well as in the Diocese’s program for Brazilian ministry. Our Junior Warden (Bill Pye) is unfailing in his work with our buildings and grounds, as well as stewardship campaigns. The Treasurer (Loan King) is well equipped to serve in that capacity, given his professional work in Boston. June Miller returned to her work as Clerk, when Gail Orcheski left us for New Jersey for work. Before she left Hudson, Gail served our parish in so many ways, including her contribution to the Community Supper. No doubt, she is continuing her ministry in her new parish in New Jersey. We also thank Lisa Vickers for her leadership with Carol Hobbs on the Parish Life sub-committee of the Vestry. Their imaginative planning and execution are exemplary.
In our Diocese:

The team leadership by Bishop Alan Gates and Bishop Gayle Harris continues to bring far sighted and insightful ministry for the entire Diocese, serving a variety of constituencies, including youth, ministries on college campuses and ecumenical collaborations. For two years, the Rector was chosen by the Bishops to represent the Diocese in the annual “National Conference on Christian Unity,” held in Minneapolis and Washington, DC.

Many of the 180 or so parishes and missions in our Diocese face serious challenges, most notably declining membership, resulting in diminishing financial resources. More than half of them can afford only half-time or part-time priests. St. Luke’s is among them. This challenge requires a greater degree of participation by the lay people, especially the vestry, in running parishes, including pastoral visitations. Yet another challenge is the aging of parishioners. At the Diocesan Convention a year ago, someone observed that the average age of Episcopalians in our Diocese was over 60.
The Episcopal Church and beyond:

Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev Michael Curry, is making a mark for our national Church, as an energetic leader in the “Jesus Movement.” As the first African American Presiding Bishop, he addresses racism in and out of the Church. We are mindful that during the Civil War in the mid 19th century, the Episcopal Church turned the other way from the corrosive issue of slavery, for many of the slave owners in the South were Episcopalians.

Of course, we remember how Bishop Burry became an instant celebrity in the world, when he preached at the royal wedding, telecast from St. George’s Chapel at Winsor Castle, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (“Markle Sparkle”) were wed!

My own involvement in the national Church took on a new dimension. At the General Convention held in Austin, Texas, in July last year, I was elected to serve as a trustee of the General Theological Seminary. Since it is the first seminary of the Episcopal Church, the trustees are elected triennially by the General Convention of the Church. I will serve for a three year term. In May last year, I was also appointed to the Alumni/ae Council of the Union Theological Seminary in New York for a three year term. Although I never took a course there, while living in their dormitory, pursuing my PhD from Columbia, the two schools formed a collaborative relationship. Union now offers courses on religions other than Christianity, including Buddhism. The Episcopal Divinity School moved from Cambridge, MA, to Union Seminary. So, that is why they appointed me to this important role. I look forward to these new responsibilities.

Beyond the Episcopal Church, the “world wide” Anglican Communion is becoming less and less English and North American, and more and more African and Asian. The Anglican Church of Nigeria is now the largest “Province” of the Communion, closely followed by a few others in Africa. In Asia, the Church of South India, is a vital presence, beyond numbers, in the global Anglican Communion. When we look at churches beyond Anglican, we realize that the largest Roman Catholic Church is now in Brazil. The largest, and the fastest growing Protestant churches are in South Korea. In Africa, the largest competitor of Christianity is Islam, while in South Korea, it is Communism of North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. In Western Europe and North America, perhaps there is no opposition to Christianity, except for secularism, as Pope Benedict used to emphasize. Perhaps, that is the reason why Christianity is not growing in Western Europe, including Britain, and North America.

Challenges and Plans for 2019:

There are many challenges that we face, but we cannot address all of them. The only wise approach is to take them on, one at a time. This is my proposal as your Rector:

1. To bring in younger families and individuals; perhaps starting with parents who bring their babies to be baptized.

2. To resume offering Sunday School.

3. To increase financial revenues for the parish with a greater degree of parishioners who would “pledge.” The Vestry is considering renting the space in the church, but it would involve tax issues, as well as security and building issues.

4. To increase dedicated parishioners. At present, much of the hard work is falling on a small number of parishioners who give so much of themselves.
5. To restore some of the community engagements, such as the Fair, especially the International Fair, which we used to sponsor annually. Given the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity of our parishioners, we are uniquely qualified to host such an event. No other church in the Metro West has the diversity we do. Few other Episcopal churches in our Diocese offer a comparable diversity, unless we go to downtown Boston. Undoubtedly, it requires hard work by dedicated people.

Postscript:
During the spring of 2019, I will be on sabbatical from Wellesley College. I will divide my time between home and Japan. The chief purpose of the sabbatical is to work toward a book on Takashi Paul Nagai of Nagasaki, Japan, a radiologist, a Christian convert, a victim of the atomic bomb, and a Pacifist. He is the main reason why Nagasaki has come to be known as the “City of Prayer,” while Hiroshima is known as the
City of Anger.” I plan to be in Japan from late February until late May, and perhaps again in July. While at home, I will continue to hold services at St. Luke’s. I will stay connected to St. Luke’s through the cyberspace. I will be praying for you, and I hope you will for me.
With heartfelt gratitude to all of you and to God in Christ,
Fr. Jim +

An Advent Message from Fr. Jim

acorn advent blur bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

I send to all of you Greetings for the Season of Advent.

While we observe in the secular calendar the beginning of the new year on the first of January, for us Christians, the new year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, which occurs this year on the second of December. For Christians, the new year begins with preparation for the Birth of the Christ Child. Four Sundays later, we observe the Birth of the Christ Child on Christmas. It was in the twelfth century that it was decided that the Christian calendar was to begin with Advent. “Four weeks,” or “forty days and forth nights,” in the Jewish way of thinking, on which Christianity was based, meant “a long time.” “Forty” is not to be taken literally. That is why we undergo a long time before the Birth of Christ, just as we go through forty days before Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead, on Easter Sunday.

As we observe the beginning of the new Christian year, we renew ourselves. We begin anew. We welcome you anew to our parish family, as we celebrate on Sundays the Last Supper when he offered himself to the faithful. We also renew our parish family life with Community Supper. We continue to look for ways to resume our children’s education in Sunday School. We also reach out for our Christian sisters and brothers in Hudson and far beyond.

As last year, we will celebrate Christmas Eve at 5:00PM, followed by a Christmas Morning service at 10 AM. After the “twelve days of Christmas,” we welcome the Season of the Epiphany, when we remember to remember how the “Three Wise Men” journeyed from the “East,” most likely today’s Iran, following only the stars, to Bethlehem to worship the Birth of the Christ Child. By then, in our “secular calendar,” we will be in 2019.

Let us remember that from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day every year, some of us are so busy with family gatherings and parties with our friends. Others of us undergo the loneliest time of the year. This is the time when we hold each other, welcome each other, especially the homeless, the friendless and the lonely into our homes and churches.

We look forward to seeing you at St. Luke’s in many of our activities, especially in our Sunday morning services at 10 o’clock, followed by fellowship in the Ebens’s Room downstairs.

Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

Fr. Jim+
Rector

Here is a poem that might move you, as it did me:offered by our parishioner, June Miller:

“In this Advent of expectation
draw us together in unity,
that our praise and worship
might echo in these walls
and also through our lives.
In this Advent of expectation
draw us together in mission,
that the hope within
might be the song we sing,
and the melody of our lives.
In this Advent of expectation
draw us together in service,
that the path we follow
might lead us from a stable
to a glimpse of eternity.”

Copyright © John Birch, 2016 · Prayers written by the author may be copied freely for worship.
If reproduced anywhere else please include acknowledgement to the author/website ·
http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Advent.htm#ixzz5XOfXotN1

St. Luke’s Words of Wisdom

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The balmy summer is now long over, and the crisp autumnal air is in and winter is not far away. Soon, the beginning of our church calendar, the Advent Season, is upon us. For those seasoned in life, every passing year may seem a repetition of the same. Upon closer reflFr Jimection, we realize every year is new, bringing new challenges. This year, we face divisions, here and abroad, rooted in historic enmities that are magnified by the leaders’ inability to tell the truth not only about their adversaries but also about themselves. Some describe the discord as “tribalism,” which many of us find quite telling. Gone are the dreams of global cooperation, of rich and privileged nations helping the struggling developing, smaller nations. The United Nations’ pledge to do all they/we can to avoid another scourge of war. Withdrawals from multi-national collaborations, coupled with retreat to “our country first,” have exposed this and other nations to much feared vulnerabilities. “Cold War” seems to be back with escalation of the possibility of nuclear confrontations. In today’s volatile world, nuclear arms seem to equalize large and powerful nations with smaller ones. Are these intractable problems that confront all of us? Or, are there ways to curtail the dangerous course? What are our responsibilities as Christians who seem to follow the way of God in Christ? What in our small community, our small parish church, do to speak for the best in our nature? Questions abound.

We might remember that the great prophets of the Hebrew Bible lived in times of deep crisis. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Amos, among others, lived in a time, not unlike ours today. Boldly they demanded that the powers that be on earth repent of their ways and urged them to heed and follow God. In their prophetic world view, God could not be manipulated by people in power; God firmly stood against them. John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth continued in the same prophetic tradition.

Some may wonder why, in our small town and in a small parish, we need to
bother with what is going on in the wider world, far beyond what matters to us daily. The Body of Christ has no October 2018

boundaries, political, linguistic, racial or cultural. The Body of Christ is one. If any part aches, the rest of the Body not only feels the pain but seeks to heal it. Tribalism, let alone division, has no place in the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is global, encompassing everyone, especially those crying out for help. God loves the whole world. To think that God serves only the Christians is to misunderstand the teaching and ministry of God in Christ. When we greet each other as “brothers and sisters of Christ,” our hands reach out far and wide. God’s love not only has no boundary; it breaks all boundaries.

Since the dawn of environmentalism in the second half of the 20th century, advocates and activists have often used the expression, “Think globally, Act locally.” We cannot simply clean up our own homes, towns to clean up the world. But, that is where it starts. Don’t we see rivers and ponds, where nobody lives, full of plastic bags and straws? In parts of Asia, I have seen plastic water bottles strewn all over the streets, choking up waterways. Who is cleaning them up? Whose responsibility is it? All too often we think locally and act only locally. “World peace” begins at home, at our church. “Think globally, Act locally” began with the environmentalists who warned us of pollution and climate change. Now is the time when we must apply it to other arenas of our vital concerns that can, must, change the wider world, not just for the good of our own communities, but, ultimately, for the good of all.

Yesterday, I was able to attend the revival service in Worcester, where our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, was the chief speaker. For nearly an hour, he spoke with exuberant passion. Were I to dare summarize his message, it would be: God is love; love is God.

As we face the beginning of the Advent Season, and as we face the ever-fractured world around us, time is ripe for us to seek and find the timelessness of God, whom we proclaim as our Creator and Redeemer.

Ever yours,
Fr. Jim +