REMINDER: The Parish Office will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the holiday.
May Your Thanksgiving Be Full of Grace
A reflection by The Rev. Doyt Conn
The first Thanksgiving was a community meal shared with people from different tribes. They sat and ate, and then they got up, left, and later fought. It is possible to do this. In fact it happens all the time. It may even happen in your home. Thanksgiving can be wonderful, but it can also be stressful. Old wounds get reopened, resources get stretched, responsibilities get poorly allocated, and sometimes someone has too much to drink. And all of this happens after everyone has gone around the table and said what they are thankful for, most often mentioning family and friends. What is the hitch that trips us up as we trip over ourselves tripping over other people? What is the internal dial that just can stay tuned to the “always be good” channel? This is a sincere question because I’m that guy. I’m the guy who misses the hint that I should help clear the table. I’m the guy who wants to watch football instead of a “family movie.” I’m that guy the sort of complains about taking an after-dinner group walk. I’m that guy, and I don’t know why. Any thoughts? Just kidding; no responses please…
Here is a thought: GRACE. Maybe getting along and making the holidays wonderful has to do with grace and how we embrace grace. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” Pretty technical. Really it means God has done something wildly generous and crazy in our life just because God loves us like crazy. You remember the story of the Prodigal Son? He ditches his dad, saying in essence, “I consider you dead.” (He probably said it at the end of a Thanksgiving meal). He goes off to a far-away land and squanders his inheritance. In the end he is living in a pigsty, wrestling pigs for corncobs. Then he comes to himself. He remembers, I guess, that he isn’t really a pig, and that deep down inside he is more. And when he remembers, he thinks of his dad. So he decides to go home and work as a servant in his dad’s house. The son is a mess. He has grown and shrunk all at the same time. And yet, even when he is far off, his dad spots him, and takes off like a shot toward him. Imagine it. When is the last time you saw your dad run full out as fast as he could? And if you have seen that, when have you seen that in the spirit of joy? Well, that is what this old man did. He took off like a shot, with servants trailing behind trying to figure out what the heck was happening. He grabbed his son and embraced him. The King James Bible says he put his head in the boy’s neck. That’s Old English for “bear hug.” His boy is home, and that is that.
That is grace. Unmerited. Unworthy. The boy deserves the rod. The dad deserves an explanation. But this is God. This is grace, and we are the sons and daughters loved beyond our wildest imagination. In truth we all stumble. We all reject God. We all turn away from God, probably to an exponential factor of our bad behavior on Thanksgiving Day. But God is not worried about our turning away; God is worried about our turning back. Does it hurt God when we turn away? Let me put it this way. Have you ever watched a toddler learning to walk? You let them go, even though they are going to fall. And they do fall. And when they do, it hurts you on the inside, probably more than it hurts them on the outside. But you don’t keep them from falling because you know that that is what it takes for them to learn to walk. And, it goes without saying that you don’t yell at them for falling. Then the day comes that they make it across the room, and you are crazy thrilled! That is how God feels about us all of the time, like we just made it across the room. Grace is God’s massive bear hug.
This Thanksgiving know that God is there in the room with you (all day, even if you change rooms) pumping out the grace. Accept it. Return the hug. When it is your turn to say what your thankful for this year consider saying “God’s hugs,” or (if you’re too cool for school) just “grace.” Remember that we are God’s children; see God in your mind’s eye as your old dad running down the street to hug you; consider all the ways you have been ungrateful this pass year, or more than that, just plain self-centered; then consider God’s grace. That is what Thanksgiving Day can be about: “Thank you, God.” And when you do, the walks will be better, the “family movie” funnier, the hints more obvious, and the wine full of joy.
Advent Lessons and Carols
Date: Sunday, December 7
Time: 5 pm
Location: Church, followed by a Wassail Party in the Great Hall
Rooted in the liturgical church (Episcopal, Lutheran and Roman Catholic) the season of Advent precedes Christmas as the venerable time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is a four-week time of waiting, of expectant anxiety and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
The church’s finest poets and musicians from centuries ago to the present time have given us words and music for hymns and carols, to sing year after year; and the wealth of appropriate choral music for choirs is almost endless. As Episcopalians and heirs of the Church of England, we inherit this tradition from late 19th century England. In our country, the oldest continuous tradition, begun in 1928, is alive and well at the Groton School, Groton, Massachusetts. It is safe to say that during the annual season of Advent, hundreds of parishes throughout the US will offer their own unique form of this service.
Counter-culturally, during this period we do not sing Christmas hymns and carols in church; rather we bathe in the recounting of the Old Testament prophecies, rich with imagery and fascinating story. We purposely hold back the urge to echo the music heard during Advent throughout public areas. Rather, we honor and revel in the colorful majesty of word and music dating from the 4th century to the present day. The Advent story is found poetically in our Hymnal 1982.
On the Second Sunday in Advent, December 7 at 5 pm, Epiphany will offer our service of Advent Lessons & Carols. In this liturgy, the congregation becomes the chief actors in their attention to the readings and singing the hymns. Readers from the parish will recount these age-old prophecies and Epiphany Choir and Choristers will offer music which illuminates the stories.
A gala reception will follow the service hosted by St Nicholas Guild and friends; we hope you will join us in this annual drama of expectation of the birth of our Savior.
Recently I had the pleasure of traveling in England. I spent hours staring out a train or bus window, transfixed by the beauty of the countryside. Southwest England was a vast patchwork of greens and browns and golds stitched together with dark green hedgerows. Here and there were clusters of slate or clay roof tiles of a village, and often, rising out of their midst was the square Norman tower of an ancient church.
My travel included walking Cornwall’s Southwest Coastal Path from St. Ives to Penzance. My companions and I passed through several villages, and we stopped at every parish church. How could we not? They were so beautiful, and their doors were always open.
Each church was a window into the very long life of its parish. Invariably there was a framed document listing the names of parish priests. Below the usual disclaimer, “Names of earlier rectors not recorded,” the first names dated from the 1200s. We read the names and stories on the tombstones in the churchyard and noted the very long lives and the very short. We read memorials to the Simons and Thomases and Williams who had fallen in the Great War. We admired the stone arches and vaults, the stained glass windows, the carvings on the pews, and the beautifully kept altars. We found prayer cards left to help visitors break the ice with God. We sat in the pews and in the silence and imagined the centuries of life the ancient stone and wood had witnessed, the long-dead there with us with their antique dress and speech.
These little churches made me wonder what it was like to live in a community that is dominated at least physically by a church—a church that had always been there, the tallest, oldest, and grandest structure in the village, something you passed daily on your way to the shop, bus stop, school, or pub. Is it so familiar that it is invisible? Or is it a permanent reminder of God’s presence, its tower a mute call to prayer?
In some territorial views of our own city, if you knew where to look, you might make out the blocky box of St. Mark’s Cathedral or the bell towers of St. James and Immaculate Conception. But clearly churches rarely dominate a modern city skyline, nor the life and culture of most communities. Some of us, with sour experience, would say that’s not a bad thing.
It’s easy to tell what dominates our present common culture. Future historians and anthropologists (if any such remain) might conclude the single most important feature of our culture, our one true religion, was the worship of our bodies. They might say that only our bodies mattered to us—what our bodies looked like, wore, ate, and smelled like; what our bodies did, how they performed in an office, schoolroom, bedroom, or athletic field; where our bodies lived and what kind of car they drove or the class of airline seat they merited—that our deepest belief was that our bodies were ourselves and that we existed only to consume products for those bodies, even “religious” and “spiritual” products. Conventional culture rarely portrays our bodies as the marvelous vessels meant to bear our hearts, minds, and souls through this life back to God.
Since returning from England, I have started looking for churches (temples, mosques, whatever) whenever I drive or walk about our city. I suggest you look, too. Look for the little Lutheran churches in Ballard, the evangelical storefronts along Rainier Avenue, the little brick Catholic church of St. Peter’s on Beacon Hill, Mt. Zion on Madison, the Buddhist temple near St. Mary’s, the starkly modern Jewish temples in Seward Park. Each time you spot one, speak to God. Say anything you need to say: Thank you. Help me. I am afraid. Forgive me.
Our neighborhood places of worship—big or small, grand or shabby—simply by their presence, might help us resist our obsessive culture of the body. Let them remind us who we really are, eternal beings overwhelmingly loved by God. Let them remind us that our bodies, marvelous as they are, in the end only serve much like little overnight bags on our journey home.
Or pick an opposite trigger, say a shopping mall. Oddly enough, whenever I drive by Safeco Field (usually on my way to Costco, I admit), I think of Epiphany. Perhaps because I am relieved that if our culture has thrown up monuments to the mass consumption of athletic spectacles, there are still places like Epiphany to remind me who I really am and who is really worthy of my worship.
Donate to the Wellspring Holiday Toy Room
This Christmas we encourage your family to consider contributing to Wellspring Family Services’ Holiday Toy Room and help parents whose financial vulnerability prevents them from being able to shop for gifts. Epiphany Parish is collecting family games and winter clothing for children of all ages (coats, pajamas, hats, gloves, jeans, hoodies, etc.) If you are able to help, please bring your unwrapped gifts to church by Sunday, December 14 and leave them in the Wellspring basket at the back of the church. Contact Charissa Bradstreet with any questions.
An Update from the Building Team
The Building Team has been working to define the payment schedule for the project, according to the scope and budget that the Vestry approved earlier this month. We continue to drill down on mechanical and electrical designs so that their work can be done as efficiently as possible. We are working with Parish staff to define the schedule for moving things out of the Parish Hall, and Tom Rohm has briefed the staff on the packing protocols that Emerald City Movers use.
The Next 100 Years Building Team
Ed Emerson, Laura Blackmore, Bob Barnes, Jim Marlow, Ben Bradstreet
Contact the Building Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
November 30, 2014
First Sunday of Advent
Psalm 80:1–7, 16–18
1 Corinthians 1:3–9
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
November 27: Thanksgiving Day Eucharist
Start the day of thanks by giving thanks to God for everything God has done. Put the turkey in the oven and come for a short Eucharist service at 9 am in the Chapel.
November 30, December 7 & 14: Family Caregiving Near and Far
Do you provide care to an elder (or a friend) who is struggling with dementia or other chronic conditions, such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, or mental health issues? Are you concerned about a family member who is in decline and who seems to be in denial about it? In small group discussion and case study presentation at 9:15 am in the Fireside Room, Kathryn Barrett, RN and Parish Nurse, will lead an exploration of the challenges and rewards of providing on-going care. Read more here.
November 30: The Racism Is Real Conversation Continues
Join the group that has been engaging in conversations about race on Sunday, November 30 after coffee hour for a potluck lunch and a viewing of PBS’ documentary RACE: The Power of an Illusion, Part 2. Contact Diana Bender with questions or read more here.
Events Down the Road
December 3, 10 & 17: Learning to Walk in the Dark
Join The Rev. Kate Wesch in exploring Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Learning to Walk in the Dark during the Wednesday Evening Advent series. Each Wednesday, we will start with Evening Prayer in the Chapel and then discuss the book over a potluck in the Christie House Library. Read more here.
December 6: Women’s Monthly Mini-Retreat
All the women of Epiphany are invited to a morning of refreshment and prayer on Saturday, December 6 at 9 am in the Fireside Room. Read more here.
December 7: +TEC Sunday Forum – Building Q&A with Doyt
At 9:15 am in the Great Hall, gather with Doyt and members of the building team to get all your questions answered about the renovation of our church buildings that will start in January. Click here for Building FAQs posted on our website.
December 7: Advent Lessons and Carols
You’re invited to an annual Epiphany tradition: our service of Advent Lessons & Carols at 5 pm in the Church. In this liturgy, readers from the parish will recount age-old prophecies and Epiphany Choir and Choristers will offer music which illuminates the stories. A Wassail Party will follow the in the Great Hall. Read more here.
December 13: Advent Day of Quiet
On Saturday, December 13, much of the Epiphany campus will be devoted to silence between 10 am and 4:30 pm. While December is so crazy (usually), it’s lovely to carve out a window of time to stay in the true (and non-commercial!) spirit of the season. In Advent we celebrate with quiet waiting for the Light who is to come. Feel free to come for any part or all of this experience. Read more here.