Where Have Our Wise Elders Gone?
The World Needs You!
Part of our course time on pilgrimage to Cambridge this summer included daily plenary sessions. Sir Tony Brenton, the former Ambassador to Russia (2004–08), gave a talk entitled “The Ukrainian Crisis and the International System.” Sir Brenton is a career diplomat with extensive experience in Washington DC and the Arab world and was a key negotiator at the international climate talks and in the establishment of the International Criminal Court. So basically, he is a bright guy with tons of experience who is eminently qualified to speak on the Ukrainian crisis.
Sir Brenton gave a thoughtful and reasonable assessment for why the Russians are acting as they are acting in the Ukraine. He talked of Cold War politics and the Russian economic collapse. He spoke of how the manner by which NATO gobbled up the former Soviet block countries was tantamount to what happened after World War I. The way in which NATO secured the peace created the perfect climate for future Russian hostility. His reflections were mature, thoughtful, and well reasoned—until he came to the conclusion, which is why I am writing this article.
Here is roughly how he put it: “Military intervention wasn’t an option, so economic sanctions became our only alternative. We knew it wouldn’t work and that it would only make Putin stronger at home, but we went ahead with it anyway.” What? That is like my 15-year-old saying, “There was pot and booze at the party. I didn’t want to do either, so I got drunk.” So I asked Sir Brenton this approximate question: “There were a bunch of smart people with tons of experience working on this issue. Wasn’t there some other option or new way of thinking they could have tried?” Sir Brenton sort of shrugged and then rambled on about Obama needing to look strong for political reasons back home, Syria and a line in the sand, and gay participation in the Sochi Olympics.
I am afraid we have entered the deteriorating logic of adolescent politics—of playground tough guys needing to be tough because they are at the playground. Where have the grown-ups gone? Where are the adults in government who can step back and consider the history, own our past errors, engage in thoughtful, non-inflammatory dialogue, and work toward mature and lasting resolution? Sir Brenton almost seems this type. Almost. Many of our leaders almost seem this type, until they run up against the realities of the kingdom of the world. These are realities of pride, power, prestige, ego, and partisanship. Who else is sick of this sad state of affairs?
Against this backdrop I wrote a letter to the Epiphany Pilgrims at Cambridge:
As I prayed for you each day by name, it came to my awareness how powerful and particular you are as a group. You have keen minds, you have long histories at Epiphany, you have vast world experience, and you almost all have grey hair. You are the elders of Epiphany, with the energy to make a difference and the wisdom to know how. I would like to invite you to actively own this role. This is important. Wise elders have lost their voice in the kingdom of the world. Youth is the idol, and with it is the reign of juvenile policies and politics that promise a mess for future generations.
The neighborhood church is the hope of the world, and I’d like you to take up the mantle for nurturing and mentoring this hope. What does that look like? Continued daily prayer and continued regular study, but also your regularly gathering together to hold one another accountable for how you are lifting up newcomers, supporting young families, befriending adolescents, funding necessary projects, mentoring young men and women, leading pilgrimages, teaching classes, writing spiritual accounts for the Weekly Word, and inviting people to live faithfully.
Now this gathering of elders doesn’t just have to include Cambridge Pilgrims. You know who the other wise elders at Epiphany are. Invite them as well. Make an open invitation. Self-organize. Decide to really impress upon a future generation what it means to be a Christian. Set church involvement as a very high personal priority. Invest in future generations of Christians. Will there be another generation at Epiphany like you if you don’t? That depends on you. We will not be trapped by the sad state of this world if you decide to actively reject collusion with it. Be missionaries in our midst of the message that love, service, and charity can change the world. Christians have done this in the past. We know the history. Will you be like them? Will you take your place in the hall of elders? Will you sit in the wisdom seat prepared for you? Will you be Wily Hemphill, Charley Bush, or Bette Sprague to future generations at Epiphany? It is a decision. It is a choice. You know the young families and newcomers at Epiphany. Are they worth it?
I’d like to invite you to step into this calling. The time is right, and the world is in need. Make a commitment. Be who God intended for you to be at this stage in your life. Answer the call. You will be tempted not to, for this is also the time in your life when you can do whatever you want, the way you want, when you want. Seek first the kingdom of God. The church needs you, and the world needs the church.
I share this letter with you because the world is dying, literally, for elders to lead and to teach real leadership to up and coming generations. This is kingdom of God leadership, and it abounds mightily here at Epiphany. Please consider my plea on behalf of future generations.
Thanks to the Picnic and Cleaning Volunteers!
We couldn’t have done it without you!
How about a big round of applause for the stars of the Fall Kick-Off Picnic? Individuals and small groups—too many to count—contributed time and effort to set up, tear down, provide extra food, and do what needed to be done to make it a successful event. In particular, Mary Anne Howard took on the coordination and planning of this huge event, and Terresa and Kevin Davis, the owners of Blueacre Seafood, brought an incredible meal to share with the parish. When you see them around, give them a thank-you hug!
AND ALSO, the day before the picnic on Saturday, almost 40 people showed up to clean the Church and Chapel, making our worship spaces sparkle and shine for homecoming Sunday. And it only took two hours! That’s what happens when you have a plethora of helping hands. Thanks to:
Nicole Hoyes Wilson
Chloe Hoyes Wilson
If anyone has been left off this list by mistake, email Emily so we can acknowledge them!
+TABLE Sign-Ups Are Happening Now
That’s not a typo; +TABLE (pronounced “cross-table”) is a program that gathers parishioners together in homes for a monthly potluck. Each group will be limited to eight (or so) adults (singles, couples, and families), meeting approximately once a month. It’s a great way for members to get acquainted, share their background and experience, and develop enduring relationships. Families with children will be matched with other such families. If you think you might be interested in participating or even facilitating a group, click here for more info and to sign up!
Contact The Rev. Kate Wesch with any questions.
Music Corner: New Members in the Choir
I’m pleased to report that new faces/voices will appear in the choir beginning this fall. Here are some short biographical sketches that will give you an idea of their backgrounds.
Soprano Meghan Hogan came to Seattle to do a postdoctoral fellowship in the UW School of Medicine, studying type-II diabetes. She lives in the neighborhood and found Epiphany on a Sunday morning out for a walk to get ice cream! After hearing the church bells and attending a service, she contacted her former choir director at St. James in La Jolla, California, who happens to be an old friend of mine, and the rest is history.
Soprano Joanne Reams visited Epiphany last winter during a search process for a new house. Joanne and husband Peter visited churches to first decide, based partly on a music program, on a church home before they looked for housing. During their visit, Joanne joined an Epiphany choir rehearsal. We gave her our usual warm welcome, and they decided that Epiphany would be their parish home. They have just moved in to their new home on Lake Washington Blvd. It so happens that Joanne had sung in the choir of St. Alban’s on the grounds of Washington Cathedral in DC with another respected colleague.
Tenor Samuel Rodarte studied voice at the University of Texas at Austin and Western Washington University. A former member of Seattle Pro Musica, he served as a vocal coach there for five years. Sam has been a staff singer at University Unitarian Church, St. James Cathedral, and at Our Lady of Fatima parish in Magnolia with some “singer friends of Epiphany.”
Tenor Bryan Lane comes to Seattle from southern California where he received degrees in voice from Westmont College (BM) and UC Santa Barbara (MM) as a Phi Beta Kappa scholarship recipient. Bryan has performed as a soloist in varied repertoire from early music to opera with the Santa Barbara Symphony as well as the Music Academy of the West. His extensive experience also includes choral singing and directing. He was tenor soloist at All Saints’, Montecito—under the direction of yet another friend and colleague!
Please welcome our new colleagues to the parish when you see them!
An Update from the Building Team
The Building Team continues to refine the design of the St. Francis Garden, as well as the Church, Chapel, and undercroft spaces. We have received design plans from our lighting and A/V consultants which we have given to our contractor for pricing. We also have frequent discussions about the construction schedule with the church staff and other interested parties. We aren’t close to defining the construction schedule yet, but it’s good that we continue to hear from folks so that we can build the best schedule when the time comes.
Introducing the Worship Review Survey
This is a transitional year in the life of Epiphany. Construction will start on a number of our church buildings in January, and we’d like to take the opportunity to brainstorm some new ideas for worship. Will you help us brainstorm? Fill out the Worship Survey online here or the paper copy you will find in your bulletin on Sunday. We want to hear from you!
Parish Prayer List
To view the prayer list for this weekend, download the PDF here.
Sunday Lectionary Corner
September 14, 2014
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 103:(1–7), 8–13