A Reflection by The Rev. Todd Foster
Recently I attended a conference led by Dr. Brian DesRoches, an author and psychotherapist who is based in Seattle and teaches widely. Dr. DesRoches has a particular interest in neuroscience and how recent learning in neuroscience might inform the life of faith. At his presentation I learned two new ways to think about my own faith – and my own thinking.
Though memories can be broken up into various categories, it is really only the long-term memories that shape us through time. These are the things that stick with us and inform who we are and who we become. Some long-term memories are “explicit,” conscious memories. These include things like your social security number, your street address, and the password to your phone. Explicit memories in the realm of faith might include verses from the Bible or favorite hymns that you’ve memorized, creeds and catechisms, and wise sayings that are particularly helpful to you.
The larger quantity of memories are those that have been so internalized that they become “implicit” or unconscious memories. These are the memories that enable you to drive a car without thinking about the details of operating that very complex machine, from where to insert the key to what you should do when you reach the stop sign at the end of the block.
What is interesting about implicit, unconscious memories is that they tend to be much broader than a simple piece of data. Instead, implicit memories tend to involve neurons from all over your brain, firing together to reflect a specific state. Memories are stored in the state you were in when an experience happens. When those memories are recalled, the whole state is reconstructed in your body! When I say, “apple pie” you might be able to smell it – and your mouth might start watering. When you go home to the house you grew up in, no matter how old you are, you may feel like a little child again – and you may even act like it! When a veteran hears a gunshot (or a car backfiring), her body may return to that traumatized state with which she associates gunshots.
Implicit memories can be positive or negative.
Often the memories that we struggle with are the negative ones. The most common themes for negative emotional learnings are neglect (I don’t matter), rejection/disapproval (I am not enough), betrayal (I can’t trust myself or others), endangerment (I’m not safe), and engulfment (you matter more than me – I lose myself). The most common feeling associated with these states is fear. Different words or situations will send us into sadness, depression, anger, or even terror.
These implicit memories are the reasons behind most of our emotional responses. Do you ever look at a situation and wonder why you reacted so strongly? It’s because you weren’t reacting primarily to the present situation: the present was simply a trigger which took you back in time to something you learned long before, something seated very deeply in your heart.
But just because things are seated deeply, even unconsciously, in our hearts, doesn’t mean that they can’t be changed. Neuroscientists like to talk about the brain’s plasticity: its capacity to change in fundamental, permanent ways.
Whenever you find your emotions firing, a particular memory – usually implicit – has been triggered. The good news is that this creates an opening. The pain, the trauma, the anger, the intense emotion you experience is a sign that a memory has been opened and, while open, is available for healing. Perhaps the simplest, most direct way to pursue healing is prayer: surrender the pain to God and ask for healing. Ask God to send the Holy Spirit into this memory, so that when it gets triggered in the future, the dominant result might be an experience of God’s healing presence rather than the trauma once associated with the memory.
Few of us have the presence of mind to pray like this in the moment. Dr. DesRoches points to settled neuroscience research indicating that there is a five-hour window within which a memory like this can be re-shaped. It may even be that you want to build set times into your day in which to inventory the openings you have experienced, and to deal with them while they’re still there. (Some people call this the Daily Office or the Liturgy of the Hours!)
The goal is not forgetting or erasure: it is reshaping. The goal is surrender to the power of God and to the Comforter. The goal is the transformation of our minds, claiming the peace of Christ at every moment. The goal is that God’s Kingdom will come not only in the world around us, but in our own hearts, too.
May 13 * 10 am to 3 pm
Come one, come all! It’s the annual celebration of the community of the Diocese of Olympia. There will be a ceremonial ground-breaking for the Capital Campaign construction. Carnival games, cathedral tours, food trucks-and much more! Fun for all ages, whatever the weather! For more information go to https://cathedral-day-2017.eventbrite.com.
Scrapbooking Affinity Group
Do you have boxes of photos and memorabilia you’ve been meaning to organize? Now is your chance! Please join us at 5:30 PM on Saturday May 20 in the Fireside Room for an evening of scrapbooking and fellowship. All are welcome, whether you are an accomplished scrap booker, want to organize a box of photos, work on journaling, or just come see what it’s about! Please contact Jessica Yates, (206) 931-5119, email
The Politics of Islamic Mysticism
This Sunday, May 14 at 10 am in the Great Hall
Ali Altaf Mian, Assistant Professor of Islamic studies, Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University
Does mystical experience have social and political significance? This presentation sheds light on the basic themes of Sufism, or “Islamic Mysticism.” It focuses particularly on how Muslim mystical practices are communal in nature and can have positive effects on society and even politics. At the same time, “Islamic mysticism” is often used to paint a limited, one-sided picture of Islam, especially in post 9/11 America. This presentation looks at the politics of Sufism, both its political resourcefulness and how it is selectively used in the current political climate.
Ali Altaf Mian is Assistant Professor of Islamic studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. His research interests include: Islam in South Asia; Islamic law and ethics; gender and sexuality; feminist theory and practice; Sufism and comparative mysticism; continental philosophy; comparative religion; theory and method in the study of religion. Currently, he is working on two manuscripts: Muslims in South Asia (contracted with Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming in 2019) and Surviving Modernity: Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi (1863-1943) and the Making of Muslim Orthodoxy in Colonial India. His publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Islamic Studies, Muslim World, and Journal of Shi’a Islamic Studies.
Celebration of Life
The Reverend John P. (Jack) Gorsuch
The Rev. John P. Gorsuch, witty, innovative and progressive, undoubtedly transformed Madrona’s Epiphany Church, and in significant ways, the wider Episcopal Church in our city and region.
Submit by Sunday May 14th.
Duruflé Requiem, a memorial to family and friends
Sunday, May 21, at 5 pm will be a very special evening of music and a special occasion for the parish.
The beautiful Duruflé Requiem was completed and published in 1947 and dedicated to the memory of the composer’s father. The work will feature Epiphany Choir with orchestra and soloists Kathea Yarnell and Martin Rothwell.
This work was selected specifically to be offered as a memorial to family and friends of Epiphany Parish. Tom will be directing this work in his final Epiphany Seattle Music Guild concert. He is the founding visionary of the guild and has provided years of dedicated service to the parish. We will celebrate his time with us at Epiphany at the reception immediately following the co
Please fill out form and return to parish office by Sunday, May 14th, if you would like to memorialize a departed loved one in the program for the Requiem, or email the information to Diane at email@example.com.
Phone #: _______________________________________________
In memory of: ____________________________________________
Click here to download the Requiem Memorial form.
Hommage à Duruflé
Soloists and Orchestra
Joseph Adam, organist
Sunday, May 21 at 5 pm
A Celebration of the music of Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), among the most important French composers of the 20th century.
Messe ‘Cum Jubilo’ for tenor and bass voices with organ; Solo Organ Works; and Requiem.
The Requiem was completed and published in 1947 and dedicated to the memory of the composer’s father. The work will be performed by Epiphany Choir, soloists Kathea Yarnell and Martin Rothwell, string orchestra, and organ. Nearly all the thematic material in the work comes from Gregorian chant melodies from the Mass for the Dead. This opulent and mystical work is among the most-performed early 20th century masses.
The Requiem will be offered as a memorial to family and friends of Epiphany Parish; names as requested will be listed on the program.
A reception follows the concert in celebration of Tom Foster and his June 4th retirement from Epiphany.
This performance is made possible by the generous financial support of the Epiphany Music Guild. As a result, this concert is presented without charge.
Go to Epiphany Seattle Music Guild webpage epiphanymusicguild.org for more information.
Join us at the reception following the May 21st concert to honor Thomas Foster.
In reflection, the children described the experience as: holy, like a giant ball of string, weaving, like a kitten trying to get out of a security system, peaceful, welcoming, open, and closed.
Of note: All parishioners are invited to Walking with Daedalus: A Hands-On Introduction to Labyrinths, a 3-part series for all ages during the Everybody Hour on June 11, 18 & 25 and concluding with a dedication of Epiphany’s labyrinth.
Upcoming Baptisms at Epiphany
Please contact The Reverend Todd Foster for more information at 206-324-2573 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you love playing in the dirt?
The Epiphany gardens are a work in progress and are always in need weeding, planting, and care. Gather your friends and have some fun! If you love gardening and your parish, contact Alice at email@example.com.
Vacation Bible Camp
Vacation Bible Camp (VBC) at Epiphany is a place for all ages to experience God’s love in a safe and welcoming environment. Activities include Bible storytelling, crafts, games, chapel, music, and service.
Information and online registration at epiphanyseattle.org/vbc.
Cathedrals of the world.
Get involved in this fun project!
Send to Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, May 13
On Saturday, May 13, join your neighbors at the Madrona Mayfair! The parade lines up at Al Larkins Park at 9:15 am and proceeds, led by Charles the Clown and the Seattle Firefighters, to the Madrona Playfield. There will be all manner of entertainment for children, including bouncy houses, pony rides, face painting, and balloons. There will be lots of food, too, including popcorn provided by Epiphany! Come meet our neighbors, donate to the playground for Madrona School, and enjoy a fun Saturday morning. If you would like to help with the popcorn, please contact Todd Foster at email@example.com.
Sunday Lectionary Corner
Fifth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:2-10
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Click here to view Prayer List