October Letter from Rev. Noble Scheepers
Friends, as I sit staring out the window from the church office (upstairs), I look at the trees, and marvel at God’s creation. It is Fall, or Autumn in my native culture. From pumpkin-spice to haunted houses, there is so much to love about the fall. Autumn represents change– the changing of the leaves, the start of a new school year, and maybe even the beginning of Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas planning. But somehow this season of change feels oh-so-familiar. Autumn represents the start of the holiday season, packed full of our nostalgic memories and traditions. And the annual shedding of the trees' leaves holds the everlasting promise of new blooms to come. Although, raking of leaves has become a new chore since I arrived in Boston thirteen years ago. There is some truth to Shira Tamir’s "Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day."
I have grown to feel more and more impressed in every conversation I have had with a few of you beloved people of St. Johns. My greatest joy through it all has been listening to people and discovering the connections and movements of God’s Spirit in the spaces between us. In this short time I have collected wisdom, distilled by those whose hearts are full of love and who are certain we stand at a historic crossroads. During this Stewardship period, I am reminded of St. Paul’s words in Philippians 4: “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” “For in my spiritual life I press toward the mark” (3:14). Quite literally, we will be walking toward the mark when we partake in the “Walk for Hunger” ecumenical event on Sunday. I hope many of you will join me. We begin our Sunday School this coming Sunday, and we hope you will press toward the mark by bringing your children and grandchildren. We have begun our Stewardship campaign, and with our blessed purses we will strive to reach our financial mark. As we prepare for the commemorations of All Saints and All Souls days we will connect our spirituality with those whom we venerate, have loved and have lost. In Advent we press on to the mark when we acknowledge that we live in the miracle that God is no silent universal principle, but that God comes to us in the depths. That depth that puts us on the track of homeless and refugee routes; the world of mental cases, illnesses, prodigal sons and poor widows; the world of cheating, dying, and killing. We are pressing towards the mark. “Praise the Lord!”
I attended the Clergy Day program this week, and was intrigued by Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop, who presented the “State of the Episcopal Church” through the lens of her book, “ THE CHURCH CRACKED OPEN Disruption, Decline, and New Hope for Beloved Community.” Quoting the passage from the Gospel of Mark “While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head” (Mark 14:3). In spite of the rebuke towards her by the disciples, Jesus said, “Wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her” (Mark 14:9). Like the wise woman with the alabaster jar, we seek to triumph over fear and muster the courage to break the jar - or let God break and disrupt us. After the cracking and decentering, do we race back to the center? Do we reassemble the pieces so they resemble the precious original? Or do we choose solidarity and recenter ourselves with Jesus, who so clearly cast his lot with the most vulnerable peoples? Stephanie included the following prayer. This is an extract:
You and your church, you are holding a beautiful jar. You are used to grasping it with both hands, tilting and pouring the contents with moderation through the carefully crafted spout. Someday, you will have to break it open so the contents flow free, or God will do it for you. You and your church, you think loving a thing means protecting and maintaining it exactly as it was handed to you. Someday, you will understand what it means to love something enough to let it crack apart and just sit with the pieces, notice what needs to be removed for good, and then faithfully piece together what matters most to make something more whole, something more like what God intended all along. Someday, you will lose your life and gain real life. Oh child, this could be one of those times.
As we press toward the mark, let the times ahead be a time of anticipation, where we receive the Spirit of God joyfully as the family of St. Johns.
Pax et Bonum
St. John's resumes providing dinner for Oasis in Boston
Above is a photo of the spacious sanctuary at Old West Church, where Jen Whitmore, drector of Oasis, has recently resumed serving indoor suppers for homeless men and women. Until a few weeks ago, through the worst of the pandemic, she and other dedicated volunteers provided take-out meals under a tent in front of Old West. On Monday, October 11th, St. John's returned to what has been a regular ministry at our church for literally decades! We tried a new supper menu: numerous big trays of lasagna, salad, and fresh fruit and cookies. It was a big hit! We will be delivering this same dinner on the first Monday of every month. Hopefully when the Covid situation improves, we will resume serving as well as cooking. But for the moment, providing a meal is still a huge help! Thank you to all who helpd out! Please speak to Jane Kaveney if you'd like to help us prepare dinner!
Interfaith Mini-Walk for Hunger was a big success!
On Sunday, October 17th, many faith communities from Westwood and nearby towns gathered at Temple Beth David for the annual 3 mile mini-Walk for Hunger. We had a cheerful group of walkers, (with many dogs), music, prizes, and several large tables overflowing with food donations! Chris & Joe Previtera and MaryAnne Carty helped deliver to the Westwood Food Pantry, one of five local pantries benefitting from the event.
Here's some amazing news: we raised twice as much as in years past: over $13,000! Next year we'll have twice as many walkers! Thank you to all who helped make a difference to Project Bread in Boston. We couldn't have had a more beauiful fall day for a walk, or a better reason for our various faith communities to come together -- to help alleviate hunger.
St. John's and Sacred Ground
A group of St. John’s parishioners recently completed the Sacred Ground program series, which is part of Becoming Beloved Community, the Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice. We were joined in the discussion series by members of the Church of the Advent, Medfield and Epiphany Church, Walpole.
Beginning in October 2020, we met for ten months and used films and readings as the basis for our discussions. Race, racism and whiteness were the primary focus. We looked at family history/ identity, socioeconomic class, political views and regional identity. Sacred Ground is primarily intended for white people to address these themes in our lives and our country – all while grounded in our call to faith, hope and love.
Sacred Ground was developed by Katrina Browne, Producer and Director of the documentary film Traces of the Trade. Browne is a life-long Episcopalian who is dedicated to racial justice and healing. The series is built around a powerful online curriculum of documentary films and readings that focus on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories.
To conclude the series, parishioners from all three Churches met (for the first time in person) at St. John’s for a meal and liturgy service. Participants from
St. John’s were: Chris Beukman, MaryAnne Carty, Jackie Collier, Leslie Davie, Sanne Dinkel, Karen Fraioli, Jamie Harper, Lynne Kozlowski, Emily Sugg, Tom Viti and Maryann Wattendorf.
If you are interested in Sacred Ground please speak with any of us. Here’s the link for Sacred Ground https://episcopalchurch.org/sacred-ground
This series was especially designed to help white people talk with other white people. Participants are invited to peel away the layers that have contributed to the challenges and divides of the present day – all while grounded in our call to faith, hope and love.
The Long-term Commitment
Becoming Beloved Community represents not so much a set of programs as a journey, a set of interrelated commitments around which Episcopalians may organize our many efforts to respond to racial injustice and grow a community of reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers.
Sacred Ground is a film- and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith. Small groups are invited to walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity.
Sacred Ground is part of Becoming Beloved Community, The Episcopal Church’s long-term in our personal lives, our ministries, and our society.