Senior Warden Reflections – July 2023 to September 2023

A Note from the Senior Warden, September 27, 2023:  COFFEE HOUR

If you have spent any time at all in an Episcopal Church anywhere, either as a visitor or as a member, it’s likely you attended a “Coffee Hour”.  At the very least, an invitation was issued during the announcements.  On a hunch, I googled “coffee hour in Episcopal Churches” and came up with the two links included at the end of this article.  Who knew coffee hour would be on the web?  With some statistics, no less!  While the reason for my writing about this subject is not directly related to these links, the articles are thought-provoking none-the-less and I commend them to you.

Elsewhere in this newsletter, there is a call for volunteers for very important ministries that literally serve to make our service sacred, meaningful & welcoming.

Coffee Hour is also a ministry.  And always needs volunteers.  I have wondered why more people don’t volunteer.  Although the Coffee Hour is not a “required” element of our weekly service, I would argue it is a necessary one.  It offers an opportunity for true fellowship, where we can catch up with friends and welcome “not-yet-friends” (aka new visitors).

I have a suspicion people don’t volunteer for a couple of reasons, all of which are valid. Permit me to offer my thoughts on how these reasons might be looked at differently.

The Issue: “I don’t know what to do.” “I don’t want to do it alone.”

New Idea: Ask someone to partner with you who has done Coffee Hour before.

The Issue: “What if my contribution isn’t as good as someone else’s?”

New IdeaCoffee Hour is NOT the Pillsbury Bake Off.  It is not a contest.  Think about it as your gift to the congregation.  Store-bought cookies are fine.  And it doesn’t have to be a lot of them.”  It can also be just coffee, tea and drinks.

The Issue: “I’m already doing enough. I just don’t have the time.”

New IdeaI believe church, of all places, should be a “no guilt” zone.  If you feel you are already doing enough, then be happy with that.  Be sure to thank the Coffee Hour host, however.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Unavoidable Coffee Hour” from ECF Vital Practices

https://www.ecfvp.org/blogs/1429/the-unavoidable-coffee-hour

Is Your Coffee Hour Chaotic Enough?” from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership

Growing Congregations and Coffee Hour:  9% – have no coffee hour; 6% – have a ‘typical’ or ‘formal’ coffee hour; 27% – have a “vibrant” coffee hour; 30% – have a “chaotic” coffee hour

https://www.churchleadership.com/leading-ideas/coffee-hour-chaotic-enough/

~Barbara

A Note from the Senior Warden, September 20, 2023
“Be strong and courageous.”  Joshua 1:9

“God is our refuge and out strength.”  Psalm 46: 1-3

Recently I’ve been thinking about fear.  I almost didn’t write about this topic.  I had to ask myself why that was.  What was I afraid of?  Was I worried I would be judged?  That this might be too negative a topic? Not inspiring (which is what I like to aim for)?  Boring?

While it may seem obvious, it became clear pretty quickly that I needed to decide which attitude I wanted to choose.  Stay with the fear and write about something else?  Or step fully into the fear and develop the theme?

If you are reading this, you know which path I chose.

In our spiritual belief system, we often hear about fear, mostly in connection to what God is telling us.  “Fear not, for I will be with you always.”  It sounds great on Sunday morning, right?  Maybe not so great on Sunday afternoon when you learn something that causes you to be fearful, or what is already fearful comes back into your mind.

Like most emotions, fear can our behavior drive if we let it.  Fear can loom really BIG, like the fear of dying.  It can be so-so, like “I’m afraid my dinner guests won’t like my apple pie, so I guess I’ll make pumpkin.”  It can also be something that has been nagging you for quite some time.  “I’m afraid to make (‘x’) choice because I’m uncertain about the outcome.”  Things such as changing jobs, opening up a new friendship (or closing one out), taking a trip to a foreign country.  There are many more examples, but you get the idea.

When I dive into my own feelings about fear, I am able to recognize that the fear isn’t as awful as I was making it out to be.  That’s not new for me.  What is new, however, is becoming more aware of my need to trust God.  God won’t solve the issue for me, but I need to keep working on the belief that God will be there for me, regardless of my choice, even if I’m still afraid.

What are you afraid of?  What does fear stop you from doing?  When do you, or do you not, remember that God is always there for you.  Something to ponder for this week.

~Barbara

A Note from the Senior Warden, September 13, 2023

Our hearts are full of gratitude and hope.

By now, most of you are aware that The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson was elected to be the new Bishop of Albany.  Our prayers have been answered.

In many ways, this is an historic election.  It is the first time in several decades that Albany has elected a Bishop from outside of its geographic boundaries. It is the first time ever that the Diocese will have a Bishop who supports, and has performed, marriages between two loving people of the same sex.  Bishop Elect Williamson is only 43, meaning he could be among us for many years.  His wife, Jennifer, is an ordained Methodist minister and he has two you sons, Oscar and Isaiah.

What does this mean for St. Andrew’s?  I can only imagine that our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are deeply grateful and have breathed a sigh of relief. They are no longer viewed as “less-than” They are now officially recognized in this Diocese as full members of the Body of Christ, with the same rights and privileges enjoyed by the rest of us.  Another aspect of Bp. Jeremiah’s election is that we at St. Andrew’s are likely to have more opportunities and a real voice to be actively involved in the Diocese, to serve on committees, to volunteer and to be more fully engaged in the life of the Diocese.  Our new Rector will truly have a “Pastor”.  Who knows, we might even get a Deacon?

So what do we do now?  We pray!  We pray for Bishop Elect Jeremiah Williamson. We pray prayers of thanks for his election.  We pray for Bishop Elects Jeremiah’s family, Jennifer, Oscar and Isaiah.  We continue to pray for the Standing Committee, as their work is not yet finished.  We pray too, that those who are not as joyful as we are about the election will find peace and acceptance.  This is a very difficult time for them. They too are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  If you have read Bishop Elect Jeremiah’s letter, you have seen that he is very aware of this and wants to be fully their Pastor as much as he will be to those who agree with him.  We also pray for everyone at St. Andrew’s that we will find ways to make the new Bishop feel warmly welcomed, fully supported and always held up by our prayers.

~Barbara

A Note from the Senior Warden, September 6, 2023

WELCOME BACK!!  WELCOME HOME!!

Welcome ~ whether you come every Sunday or just “now-and-then”.  Welcome if you are new to St. Andrew’s.  Welcome if St. Andrew’s has been your home since you were a small child.

Know that you are always welcome at St. Andrew’s!

What’s up with the special focus today on “WELCOME BACK”?  A life-long Episcopalian friend called this the “The Feast of the Resumption”!  He was being funny, of course, but it’s somewhat of an accurate description.  We are “resuming” the activities that are typically suspended for the summer months.  Todd Sisley has blessed us all summer with beautiful music and an occasional solo or quartet offering.  This Sunday, however, the whole choir will be back in their usual spot.  Please remember to welcome them back!

Martha Iannacone will be with our children this week, in Carmichael Hall, showing them how God’s love is present in their lives, in ways they can relate to.  Thank you, Martha, for doing this with such passion and dedication.

Traditionally we have celebrated this occasion with a special brunch following the service. Episcopalians love to eat and we assume everyone else does too. So plan to be with us as we welcome and celebrate each other.

Most of all, we gather to celebrate and welcome God’s presence among us, not just this Sunday but every day.  When we are together in community, God shows up in special ways. Some are obvious, as when we welcome someone new, or we witness how gently we relate to people who are different. Others are not so obvious, but if you look carefully you will see something that tells you God is always with us. And sometimes, it’s not seen with our eyes. Rather, it’s a feeling. No matter, just be open to welcoming God into your presence.

So, yes, this Sunday is special in many ways. Be sure to be grateful to welcome and be welcomed.

WELCOME BACK!  WELCOME HOME!

~Barbara

A Note from the Senior Warden, August 30, 2023

I was inspired by a note in another part of this Network, where it says how blessed we have been over the summer and, among other things, how attendance has been up, so let’s keep the trend going.

YES!! Let’s keep the trend going!!

When we make the choice to join each other in community, to worship and pray for each other, to break bread together and to revel in each other’s presence both during and after our services, we are acting as “God Images”.  We are literally seeing the “God-presence” in each other.  We are acting as Jesus would have as we love, support and care for each other; and by welcoming the stranger as we offer spiritual and worldly refreshment.  We are truly living our Mission.

Too often I hear about people, especially younger people, not having a purpose, feeling disconnected from community, rudderless.  That makes me sad.  And while I feel rather helpless in helping someone directly find their purpose, I look around me on Sunday and feel that the people in the pews on Sunday have a purpose!  That makes me feel blessed.

I feel blessed by every one of you.  I feel supported and loved.  You are helping me live my purpose.

What would St. Andrew’s look like if we invited others to join us, so they could experience what it’s like to “live on purpose”?  Now, that’s something that would keep the trend going!

~Barbara

A Note from the Senior Warden, July 26, 2023

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  Psalm 133.1

I’m tired of hearing the word “sue”.  It’s ubiquitous.  Yesterday, I tried to count the number of times I heard “sue” on WAMC.  I gave up.

Schenectady County is suing NYS.  DOJ is suing Texas.  A woman sued Shop Rite for $35,000 because she bought what she thought was an apple pie but was cherry.  She gave it to her daughter & says her daughter got sick.

What’s happened to us that we think our only recourse is to sue?  Don’t we talk to each other anymore?  Don’t we try to work things out between us?

When I was a kid and my brother & I weren’t getting along, my mother told us to stop fighting and work it out!  I don’t remember if it worked, she had the right idea.

The challenge is HOW?  Simple but not easy, right?  We’re not born with conflict resolution skills.  We come equipped with egos easily bruised.  To reach out, to work it out, takes intention, patience, and practice.  And the humility to forgive.

Scripture offers many examples of forgiveness.  The most powerful for me is when Jesus, from the cross, forgave the thief.

Yesterday, I heard a story about a driver, who, when texting while driving, slammed into the buggy of an Amish family.  Their three children were killed.  The parents of the dead children showed up in court the day of the sentencing, to tell the court they had forgiven this young man.  They asked he not be sent to jail, because he was needed more at home, and that his conscience would be his jail for the rest of his life.

How can we be more like Jesus?  Or the Amish family?

~Barbara

A Note from the Senior Warden, July 19, 2023

THE STAR FISH STORY

Once a man and a woman were walking along a beach.  The sun was shining.  It was a beautiful day.  Soon they noticed hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand.  There were so many, sure to perish in the hot sun and the dry sand.  They saw a young boy picking up starfish, one by one, and throwing them into the surf.  The man said, “You must be crazy.  There are thousands of miles of beach covered with these starfish.  You can’t possibly think that you alone can make a difference.”  The boy looked at the man and the woman.  Then, he stooped down and picked up yet another starfish and threw it back into the ocean.  He turned back and looked at the couple just standing there.  Finally, just before returning to the task at hand he said, “It sure made a difference to that starfish!”

How many starfish have you made a difference to recently?
~Barbara

A Note from the Senior Warden, July 5, 2023

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”  Psalm 86:5

Do you know what an “ear worm” is?  It’s a song that keeps playing over and over in your head.  I’ve been plagued with two ear worms lately.

One is a song by the Kingston Trio (OK, I’m old enough to remember them) which starts “They’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain…”.

The other is from South Pacific (now I’m really showing my age), which starts “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, … it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.” *

Both of these were reflections of the times in which they were written.  How is it possible that nothing has changed?  How sad!

I have also been playing with the idea of how to forgive an “abstract”?  Both songs represent something or someone(s) that is abstract.  How can you forgive the people who were causing starvation in Spain?  Or the people who were teaching their children to hate and fear? We have no idea who they were or why they acted the way they did.

The two songs come to me when I read yet one more story about how someone is spewing hate, or how our leaders take actions that hurt their constituents. How do I forgive in this situation?  It seems like a huge ask!  It’s also confusing.  If I do forgive, what do I do next when “they” do the same thing over and over again?

Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

OK Lord, I hear you.  I’ll just keep trying.  Maybe this Bible verse that will become my new “ear worm”.

Let’s keep praying for each other, that we can acknowledge our imperfections and have the grace to forgive each other.

~Barbara

*If you want the lyrics to either or both song, let me know.

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