Drop By Any Time and We’ll Talk About The Soul
Since the first of the year the number of pastoral care conversations I’ve been having has gone up. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it has something to do with the frayed edges that appear as the campus is taken apart and reconstructed. Maybe it has something to do with my Sabbatical. Maybe it has something to do with our continued growth (January attendance was up by five percent over 2014). Maybe it has to do with our moving beyond the 300 average Sunday attendance mark, and my inability to know everyone and my inability to be as specifically attentive as I was (maybe) when we were a smaller church. Maybe it has to do with Epiphany becoming a place that is unyielding in our desire to seek first the Kingdom of God, and this demands seeking and understanding our souls, and that can be a scary thing for most, if not all, modern people.
I was sent an article from Christianity Today this weekend, and as I read it I thought of our current comment life. Below is an excerpt:
When Bob and Carol Stratton arrived at my study for their appointment, all of the air in the room immediately disappeared. It was clear that this was going to be a hard hour. Before he even sat down, Bob began his now-familiar litany of complaints about the choir director, and Carol was already fishing around in her purse for a Kleenex. (Why are you already crying? What does that mean?) “I just don’t understand why you keep that woman here,” Bob said as he finally settled back into his chair. “She has absolutely no regard for the wonderful heritage of worship in this church, and she insists on driving people away. I’ve heard from members of your choir, and they’re so unhappy that I’d be surprised if there even is a choir in another month. You’ve got to do something, and do it now.” I was already rubbing my temples as I asked, “What do you want me to do, Bob?” “Well, I think we all know what needs to be done. What we don’t know is if our pastor is a strong enough leader to do it.” “Ah, yes, I understand, but I don’t think your concerns are really about me,” I responded. (I’m not biting on that.) “Let’s get back to the issue that brought you here. What exactly is it about our music that has you so upset?” After blowing her nose, Carol joined in. “She never uses the anthems our previous director of music, Dr. Adams, wrote. You know he was here for over 25 years, and in those days our church was highly regarded in this community. People came just to hear him play the organ. (Is that true? Should it be?) Now it’s an embarrassment when that woman gets up there and starts waving her arms in front of the choir.” “So you don’t like the way she conducts the choir?” I asked. “No, it isn’t just that,” Bob said quickly. “She plays the organ too loudly, she’s thrown out all of the music Dr. Adams wrote, and it seems to us that she’s just up there performing. Frankly, the music just isn’t as good as it should be. You know, pastor, we’re a sophisticated congregation (That can’t be good), and we’re not going to be able to worship with all of this noise she produces.” I sat forward in my chair and as quietly as possible said, “I’ve noticed that both of you mentioned Ted Adams. He was clearly a great musician, and I know he was also a very close friend of yours. You must miss him a great deal.” They both looked down at the floor, silent, for a very long time. Every pastor knows this kind of conversation all too well. Seldom do people make an appointment just to tell us that they’re overwhelmed with gratitude. If there isn’t a problem in their personal life, then it’s usually a problem they have with the church that has brought them to the pastor’s study. It has taken me too long to figure this out, but most of the time, even when they’re talking about a complaint with the church, the true issue is closer to home. Complaining is usually a veiled lament about deeper issues of the soul. Since people are unaccustomed to exploring the mystery of their own souls, they will often work out their spiritual anxieties by attempting to rearrange something external, like a church’s music program. But it doesn’t matter how many changes they make to the environment around them. They will never succeed in finding peace for the angst of the soul until they attend directly to it. This is why people have pastors.
That, of course is just one pastor’s story, and I’ll say right now: our music department rocks and so does Tom Foster! I’ll also say Epiphany is a gym for the soul. It is where we come to thank God and to explore the depths of our eternal relationship with God, and that link is made through our souls. Jesus is the master teacher and the savior, the one who unlocked for us the reality of eternity and invites us to deal with the messiness of being human in relationship with other human beings, living within human systems, like the church. The church uniquely is that divinely inspired human system designed to attend to our souls, and that is Good News. It can also be scary, and sometimes it seems easier to rearrange something external.
Here is my bottom line, Kate and I are open for business all of the time for all complaints (as long as they are not anonymous, which as you know I don’t ever read) and all issues of pastoral care, because our commitment as priests in Jesus’ church is to be soul companions to you all. That mostly finds expression in liturgy and in our preaching and our teaching, but also in our advocacy for small groups, and our offering programs to make space for you to pursue a relationship with God and your neighbor. Our goal as priests is to make sure Epiphany is a place that at all times and in all ways attends to your soul in a way that is bigger than our individual aptitudes and capacities. Soul work requires daily prayer and spiritual friends and sacred reading and long walks and fasting and other spiritual exercises. It may even require medical intervention. Epiphany is a gym for the soul and it is a place that points to the signs along the way directing us to on how to wrestle with our soul rather than be anxious about external things.
Have a Heart Report
Some donations and payments are still trickling in, and all expenses are not yet accounted for. But already we can see that Have a Heart once again proved the giving spirit of this parish. The Service and Outreach members are deeply grateful to everyone who gave in any way to this wonderfully successful event. We will provide a more complete report, including proposed allocation of these proceeds, when the accounting dust settles.
Have a Heart 2015 by the Numbers
140 tickets sold
114 households made financial contributions
$31,500 2015 funding goal
$31,870 gross proceeds to date (before expenses)
84 individuals, including members of the youth group, lent a hand for this event
2015 Projected Service & Outreach Spending
Have a Couple Hours to Volunteer?
The staff has compiled a short list of small one-time jobs for volunteers—things like cleaning candleholders and shredding papers. If you have a free hour or a whole morning and would like to help out, contact the Parish Office to coordinate a time and space. Thank you!
Walter Brueggemann to speak in Seattle in March
One of the things I got from Santa Claus this Christmas was Walter Brueggemann’s book Sabbath as Resistance. I have never read a more compelling argument of the need to observe the Sabbath, both personally and as a community that seeks to live with justice and compassion. Brueggemann, a rock star among Old Testament scholars, is an electrifying speaker. After hearing him last spring at St. Mark’s, I wondered if he was the reincarnation of Isaiah. (Just kidding, Doyt!)
You can hear his lecture on “Sabbath Justice: Beyond Pharoah,” on Friday, March 13, at 7 pm at The Well at Queen Anne United Methodist Church. He will also be giving two workshops, “Sabbath: The Rhythm of Creation” and “Sabbath: The Miracle of Neighborhood,” on Saturday, March 14, from 9 am to noon at St. Mark’s. Tickets for both events are available online here.
Release Forms for ALL Children 18 & Younger
Parents and Caregivers,
Please help us start the year off right by filling out a Release Form for each child who attends Epiphany. We know that these forms aren’t a lot of fun to complete, but they are vitally important in the case of an emergency and extremely helpful in making sure that our records are accurate.
- Print it out, complete it, and give it to either Elizabeth Walker or Laura Sargent or return to Christie House Office.
- Complete it on your computer, save it, and email it to Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org or Laura at email@example.com.
- Pick up a paper copy from the Christie House office or back of Church on Sunday, and return it to the Christie House office.
We would like to have a complete form for every Epiphany child aged 18 and under by February 28.
Many thanks and please let us know if you have questions,
—Elizabeth Walker and Laura Sargent
LIBERATION UCC IS TEMPORARILY MOVING TO MADRONA GRACE
Liberation UCC, the church where I am a member and how I found my way to Epiphany, has decided to temporarily move off campus during construction. We think this will make Sunday life easier for Liberation and Epiphany during Phase 2 construction especially. We’re not going far. Starting this Sunday, March 1, until construction is complete, we’ll be worshipping at 1:30 pm at Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church right up the hill at 32nd and Marion.
We’ve been worshipping at Epiphany for several years, and although it’s not “our” building, it’s the only church home we’ve known. Liberation was worshipping in a community center before we found a church willing to rent and share space with a “multicultural, charismatic, radically inclusive” church. We give thanks for the relationship we have with Epiphany and this beautiful space.
We’re celebrating our 8th anniversary on March 8 with guest preacher Bishop Yvette Flunder from City of Refuge UCC in Oakland, California. Please join us for worship on March 8 or anytime you’d like to visit. We’d love to see you!
Emily (for all of us at Liberation)
Liberation’s Past Moderator
Epiphany’s Associate for Staff and Ministry Formation
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
March 1, 2015
Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
February 27: Noonday Prayer and Contemplation with Doyt
Join The Rev. Doyt Conn in the Chapel for noonday prayer using Hour by Hour, followed by optional silent, unguided meditation. He will be leading this informal prayer time every Lenten Friday until March 27.
March 1: Adult Forum – Rude Sermon Q&As
Have you ever left a service wondering what the sermon had been about? Have you ever heard a sermon so eloquently and sublimely given that you just wanted to hear more? Has your mind ever wandered into a particular theological crevasse during a sermon and you got trapped? However you relate to a sermon, now is your chance to ask any question you want (no matter how rude!) and enter into the fullness of the preachers theological reflection by joining us at 10:45 am for Rude Sermon Q&As. We will meet in the Christie House library to talk with the preacher.
March 4: Evening Prayer
Every Wednesday until Holy Week, join us for prayer, hymns, and a lay homily at 5:30 pm in the Chapel. This week, David Holversen is giving the homily.
Events Down the Road
March 7: Monthly Women’s Mini-Retreat
Join the women of Epiphany at 9 am in the Christie House Library for fellowship, prayer, and a continental breakfast on the first Saturday of the month.
March 7: Lenten Day of Quiet
The Epiphany campus will be dedicated to silence and meditation from 11 am until Evening Prayer at 4:30 pm. There will be an orientation in Christie House Library, followed by activities to enhance our focus on the Divine. Come for all or part of the day. Click here or contact Diana Bender for more information.
March 14: Safeguarding God’s Children
This training is designed to raise awareness concerning issues of sexual and emotional abuse and to provide tools for prevention that we can all use to protect our children from harm, promote safety, and bring healing. Everyone is encouraged to attend on Saturday, March 14 at 9 am in Christie House Library. Contact Laura Sargent to sign up.
February 28: KAIROS Palestine – A Call to Action in a Moment of Truth
The Mideast Focus Ministry at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle has joined forces with Kairos USA to offer a dynamic one-day workshop to explore the Palestinian Christian community’s urgent appeal to the global Christian community as expressed in the Kairos Palestine document. The day will include lectures, small group discussion, 7 action-focused workshops and a packet of materials. Buy tickets here.
March 13 & 14: Walter Brueggemann Lecture Series
You can hear this Old Testament scholar lecture on “Sabbath Justice: Beyond Pharoah,” on Friday, March 13, at 7 pm at The Well at Queen Anne United Methodist Church. He will also be giving two workshops, “Sabbath: The Rhythm of Creation” and “Sabbath: The Miracle of Neighborhood,” on Saturday, March 14, from 9 am to noon at St. Mark’s. Tickets for both events are available online here.