Living Beyond Fear
a reflection by the Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
On Monday, December 14, Judy Naegeli, our communications manager, left for Zimbabwe to help build a hospital wing there. A couple weeks ago, her group received word about a travel advisory from the State Department warning them of a worldwide terrorist threat and saying that they are traveling at their own risk. That gave Judy some anxiety (but she went anyway). Similarly in this country, the FBI has issued an unspecified terrorist alert saying that we are in imminent danger, yet claiming there is no specific identifiable threat. Their advice is that we go about our regular lives, only more vigilantly. In other words, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, just be ready at all times for an unexpected attack.
And so I wonder, how does one live like that? How does one live in a world where we are asked to live normally while perpetually under threat? What does that life look like?
I remember years ago, when I was doing international relief, I found myself traveling with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Force in what was then northern Ethiopia. They were in the midst of a thirty-year civil war. We had arrived in the port city of Misawa. I was exhausted and had fallen asleep on the floor of an old mansion that was now the EPLF headquarters. I awoke to bombs going off. I scrambled to the basement where I found soldiers milling around. They joked with me about the bombing. I remember one urged me to go stand in the middle of a field and wave my arms. “That is the safest place when the Ethiopians are bombing,” he claimed, “because they can’t hit anything they are aiming at.” They all thought that was hysterical. I decided not to test it out.
For 30 years the Eritrean community lived in a constant state of threat, and one way they dealt with it was humor. It was effective, but only because of their underlying core commitment to their cause. They were unwaveringly committed to the cause of Eritrean independence—to the point of giving their lives. Living under this constant state of threat was a by-product: a necessary by-product, if you will, that came with seeking their higher cause. So they diluted their anxiety with humor and it gave them ease in the face of fear and a lack of control.
And so I wonder, in this world where we too live in a state of heightened vigilance, what is the higher cause to which we are attached? If we are destined to live in a world where our government says that whether here or abroad we are in imminent danger at all times, then I believe we must be able to answer these questions if we are to live beyond fear: What is my higher cause? Who am I? What is my identity? What is my purpose? Because without answers to these questions life becomes a constant state of medium-grade anxiety that spikes every time a terrorist attacks.
And what the terrorists are counting on, what gives them their power, is that we can’t answer the question: What is our higher cause? Who are we? What is our identity? What is our purpose?
It is a question the Eritreans could answer. It is a question the ISIS terrorists can answer. And those terrorists are betting that we can’t answer that question, or if we do, the answer is, “ourselves.” This is our higher cause: our survival and the survival of our families. If that is our best answer (not that it is a bad answer, it is a normal, natural way to respond), then they can hem us into a state of constant fear, anxiety, and paralysis. All they need to do is create a little bit of uncertainty at all times. Just enough uncertainty to cause us to build walls, isolate strangers, and give away our freedoms, in exchange for the promise of more safety, which by its own admission our government cannot do.
If our best answer to the question, “What is our higher cause?” is “Ourselves and our families,” then the terrorists will cripple us. The theologian Augustine of Hippo called this incurvatus in se—that is, the great turning inward, the curving in on oneself that happens when we think that we and our survival is the highest cause of life.
Followers of Jesus believe that God made all things and all people, and God called all of this good. Followers of Jesus believe that God is here and near, right next to us, and this reality is made permanent through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Followers of Jesus believe in eternal life, that we are bigger than the space our bodies occupy. And followers of Jesus believe that love vanquishes fears.
We are Christians, and we are fearless, because God loves us and came among us in the person of Jesus. That is how we repel the insidious nature of evil. Love stamps out fear. That is how we push back against terror. We are Christians. That is who we are. It is our identity. We have a higher purpose: it is the love of God. It is knowing the love of God. It is experiencing the love of God. And it is sharing the love of God. Our love matters. Our love makes a difference. Right now. Our love is the power and great glory that vanquishes evil, but it requires our knowing who we are and whose we are.
Stewardship 2016: Thank You for Your Pledges!
In this season of thanks and expectation, we want to express our gratitude to all of you for your generosity during this fall’s annual Stewardship Drive. From the day Doyt launched the process with his powerful sermon to today, we have made tremendous progress toward our goal in support of the 2016 operating budget.
Thanks to those who reached out to the congregation through thoughtful letters (Valerie Conn, Tim Hill, Dick Nelson, Jonathan Roberts, and Billy Rosewarne) and through inspiring witness messages (Jamie Balducci and Jim MacLean). And a huge thank you to all who have pledged your support for 2016, ensuring the financial health of Epiphany Parish, our spiritual home.
To date, an impressive 77% of the parish has made a pledge. As you know, our hope and prayer is to reach 100% participation before Christmas. If you have not yet had the opportunity to add your support, we encourage you to do so. You may contact Chinn Eap in the Parish Office (206-324-2573) or pledge online.
Again, thank you for your generosity. We are blessed to have had the opportunity to lead this year’s stewardship ministry.
With deep gratitude,
Brad Neary & Sterling Stiff
Diocesan Convention Recap
submitted by Jamie Balducci
Greetings Epiphany Family,
Your clergy and convention delegates had the great pleasure of participating with the Episcopal community of Western Washington in our Annual Convention on Nov. 13-14.
We had an energizing time of fellowship with the Epiphany delegation as well as our friends at our neighbor churches. I’d like to share some highlights of the two-day event.
Taking care of the business of our common ministry:
- Approved the 2017 Diocesan Assessment Rate of 15% (a continued reduction from 17% in 2015, and 16% in 2016) and 1.6% increases in Cost of Living for Clergy Salary.
- Approved the 2016 balanced budget for the diocese, which included a significant grant to Epiphany Parish to support our expansion to 4 services.
Presentations and programs:
- The convention was hosted by the campus ministries of UW and WWU. These young men and women provided a stirring thread of devotion, energy and faithfulness that made the convention so much more meaningful for all.
- Our local region (Churches from South/Central Seattle) presented the Bishop with a “Woolly Mitre” expertly crafted by our own Trish Wallis-Stone so he would have something fitting to wear for the next “Woolly Hat Sunday” in support of the Mission to Seafarers. Read the whole story on Trish’s website.
- The Cathedral, St. Marks, is embarking on a capitol campaign, please see their website for more details.
- Two new Missions have been recognized: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seattle and St. Germain, Hoodsport
- I was particularly proud of our own Tieran Sweeny-Bender who served as the Youth Delegate from our region. Not only did he serve expertly as acolyte during convention worship, he spoke eloquently to the assembly about the need for the Episcopal Church to be “out in front” in our communities in preventing gun violence. The diocese committed to engaging in this conversation over the coming year.
- We engaged, as an assembly, in Bishop Curry’s call for a renewal of “The Jesus Movement.” I commend to you the following videos: “The Jesus Movement” and his sermon at his Installation Service on Nov. 1, 2015. We are entering a season of energy and renewal and we should all be inspired to movement.
- One of our singer-leaders in the choir, Alan Wheaton, and his Compline Choir from UW provided an evening devotional after the banquet. The Compline Service was a most fitting and beautiful ending to a very tumultuous day (the Paris attacks happened during our gathering).
I am continually thankful for the wider church community and the Epiphany presence among them. I look forward to the year to come – engaging in challenging conversations and in the Jesus Movement! For a summary of the actions and documents from convention, please visit the Diocesan Website. Also consider following Bishop Rickel on Facebook or YouTube. His most recent video about engaging in relationship with our Muslim Neighbors is worth watching.
—Jamie, Diocesan Delegate Ministry Leader
Donate to the Christmas Flower Fund
Every year, we decorate our worship spaces with evergreens and poinsettias for Christmastide services. You can remember a special person or event this Christmas by donating to the Epiphany Parish Flower Fund. Perhaps you would like to acknowledge the birth of a baby, a marriage, or a loved one now departed in our Christmas service bulletins. Find more information and fill out the form here.
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
December 20, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)
Canticle 15 (or 3)
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
December 20: Adult Forum – Jesus
During this Advent season, The Rev. Doyt Conn tells the story of how Jesus came to be. God trumps His relationships with Noah, Abraham, and Moses by becoming one of us in Jesus. This forum will focus on the historic context for Jesus’s arrival. Learn of the prophecies of the good King Melchizedeck and who (and how many) the Magi really were. What was Herod really so afraid of? Why were Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem at all? What were the shepherds really thinking? Was there a star? And how many angelic appearances can you count in the events leading up to and through Jesus’s birth?
December 20: Due Date for Wellspring Christmas Drive
Bring your donations of winter clothing and family games to church on Sunday, December 20, and leave them UNWRAPPED in the Wellspring bin in the Great Hall. Read more about this Christmas drive here.
December 20: Caroling, Chili & Charlie Brown
Join Epiphany’s youth choirs for caroling in the neighborhood at 4 pm. We’ll meet in the Fireside Room, break into groups to walk routes around Epiphany, and then meet back in the Fireside Room for a chili supper to warm up. Bring head lamps or flashlights to help you see your music! Contact Kathea Yarnell with questions or to sign up to contribute to the chili dinner. Stay after for a screening of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special in the Great Hall following the 5 pm service.
December 24: Christmas Eve at Epiphany
4 PM, PAGEANT WITH HOLY EUCHARIST
See and hear the story of Christmas acted out and sung by our children in the Great Hall. The main parts have been assigned and rehearsed, but we always need more little ones to fill out our chorus of animals, angels, and stars! Report to the Christie House Library at 3:30 pm for costumes and roles. Click here for more details. Nursery care will be available in John, 3:30–7:30 pm.
6 PM, 9 PM & 11 PM, HOLY EUCHARIST
Epiphany Choir will lead us in three joyful services celebrating the birth of Christ. Nursery care will be available in John, 3:30–7:30 pm.
8:30 PM & 10:45 PM, MUSICAL PRELUDE
Come early to one of the two late Eucharist services to enjoy a musical prelude featuring flute and harp and the Epiphany Choir.
December 25: Christmas Day at Epiphany
On Christmas morning, join us for a Holy Eucharist service in the Great Hall at 9 am. No child care available.
December 27: the Sunday after Christmas
On the Sunday after Christmas, we will have our regular Rite 1 services at 7:30 am and 5 pm, and a single, combined Rite 2 service of Congregational Lessons & Carols with Holy Eucharist at 10 am. Nursery care available for the 10 am service. No Sunday school or formation hour programming.
Office Closed After Christmas
From December 25 to January 1, the Parish Office will be closed. The office will be open again on Monday, January 4. See you in the New Year!
January 6: Epiphany Holy Eucharist
Join us for a Holy Eucharist service with a soloist in the Great Hall at 7 pm. No reception. No childcare available.
El Centro de la Raza Christmas Tree Sale
Have you been waiting for just the right moment to buy your Christmas Tree? That moment has arrived! Purchase your tree from El Centro de la Raza and help low-income families receive the services they need. Open through December 23rd (or while supplies last), Monday-Friday 4-8 pm and Saturday and Sunday 12-8 pm at 2524 16th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144. Enjoy free hot chocolate and a one-dollar-off gift certificate for The Station coffee shop when you purchase a tree from our lot! Call Valeria at 206-957-4605 with any questions.