Fr. Paul's summer plans

Each summer we each make plans for time with family, both near and far. I have also made a point to spend at least two weeks with youth programing each summer, including things like camp, mission trips, pilgrimage and EYE in the past few years. This year I will be the “Dean” during the second week of Camp at All Saints with many of our own youth in attendance.

Then, from July 8th to August 9th I will be in Seattle with Noah and Emma. In many ways it is hard for me to imagine being gone that long, longer than I’ve been away from a church since I was ordained in 2005. My decision came in part after Emma was diagnosed with Epilepsy earlier this year. Both Noah and Emma had been accepted to the Pacific Northwest Ballet Summer Intensive and had their hearts set on it. We knew they could only go if a parent was present now.

As I made my request to the vestry I included my plans for the time. I will spend two weeks focused on Continuing Education. In February 2015 I attended the “Daring Way” certified leader training with Brene Brown. This is excellent course work and gave me access to an online portal that offers continuing education videos led by Brene. Further, I completed the “Next Level Leadership Program” with Shane Hipps last year, it includes five bonus modules that I haven’t completed yet. I expect to spend part of these weeks focused on writing as well, I have three separate projects started that would benefit from a focused effort.

The third week I will continue writing some, but shift my focus to “out of office work”. There are many projects that would benefit from undistracted effort. Planning for our confirmation curriculum is high on my list. I also have another video series in mind that I hope to make progress on while I am away.

Finally, the last two weeks I will be on vacation. Cycling around Seattle, seeking out good food and good beer and generally enjoying time with the kids. Sarah will join us the last week we are there for some family time before Noah leaves for Idyllwild this fall.

I am very excited about this plan, but was a bit nervous to present it. Indeed, it makes me a bit nervous to leave for that long! I feel blessed to have found support from the vestry and many other leaders at Ascension. They recognize the value of the time away to study and rejuvenate and the value of the time with family. Further, I feel support as I seek to support our children in their pursuit.

Ascension will be in good hands with the staff and vestry tending to most immediate needs. They will be able reach me in the event of a crisis, pastoral or otherwise, but I will not check my email daily in order to be able to focus the aforementioned plans. I hope that this blog will help the community understand where I am and what I’m up to during this time. I know that many in the parish will be traveling during this same time, but hope that you will fully participate in worship and ministry whenever you are in town.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Storm update from Fr. Paul

The storm that swept through much of Texas took a toll on Dallas and many other communities. Prayers for all affected are needed, many are taking action too! I know many members are busy tending to immediate needs at their homes and helping others around.

At church there has been some substantial damage. The trees around our campus have been damaged, many will be lost entirely. Some damage to the roof, particularly where the tree in the herb garden fell onto the room. Further, the drains were clogged by excessive leaves, causing flooding above - the trickle down effect was in full force. Many ceiling tiles were damaged and the full extend of this damage is yet to be known. Some of our A/C units were damaged, others were blown off of their base and will need to be assessed further prior to powering up. Conduits to these roof units and some lighting also will need to be checked. The garden has also lost nearly all of the current plants.

All in all we are fortunate, the Nave saw some water around doors and windows, but no known damage there, including the organ and piano. It doesn’t appear that we lost any of our many, many windows!

Many members and friends stopped today to help as we begin our clean up effort, thank you! Clean up inside and out will continue throughout the week. Your help, as you’re able, and your prayers are appreciated. I have been in touch with the Diocesan Director of Natural Disasters, The Rev. Keith Tuberville, who may help us offer aid to those in our community in the days and weeks ahead. More updates will be posted as we’re able.

Blessings-
Fr. Paul

Celebration of Penecost

“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.”  Genesis 11:1

The importance of language cannot be overstated. Our capacity to communicate encompasses everything from basic needs to the complexity of emotion. The words we choose to share our experiences matter as we seek to create understanding. It is hard to imagine a world with just one language. Just think of the ease with which we could travel!

Even with just one language, I suspect there were a great many misunderstandings. I know I have experienced a failure of communication even when everyone shared a common language; regionalisms and intonations can leave us wondering what was really meant by another. Listening, really listening is another challenge we all face at times.

Pentecost is a celebration of God's power to unite us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As each heard the message of salvation in their own native language it did more than allow them to hear what was being said. It  improved understanding and generated great compassion and genuine appreciation for the different peoples gathered. I hope that our celebration of Pentecost unites us in God's spirit. I hope also that as we gather, each may feel entirely welcomed as God's own.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Who Is My Neighbor?

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives us a double commandment of love. Love God, and love your neighbor. When asked, "And who is my neighbor?," Jesus responds with the parable of the Prodigal Son. His message, of course, is that we cannot claim to love God and yet turn a blind eye to the suffering in our midst.  

Tracy and I experienced this in a powerful way as part of the Courts and Ports Program, in conjunction with the Texas Impact Board. We traveled to Brownsville and McAllen, TX, and Matamoros, MX, to observe the border crisis. In addition to attending federal mass arraignment proceedings in Brownsville, we assisted at a respite center and toured a sponsoring community called La Posada. As Congress continues to argue over $4.9 billion in border aid, we must ask ourselves, "Who is my neighbor?" Tracy and I will talk about our trip and show a video about our experiences at the border this Sunday, June 2nd, during the 9:00 a.m. formation hour. There will be plenty of time for Q & A, and brainstorming on ways Ascension can continue to address the refugee crisis.  We have always been a welcoming church. But the times, "they are a-changin'." We must challenge ourselves to even greater acts of service and charity in Christ's Name. Let's talk about it!

In the peace of Jesus,
Mother Marci+

Hosting Ramadan with The Dialogue Institute of Dallas

Over 80 people attended the Iftar dinner held at Ascension on May 14, 2019 in partnership with The Dialogue Institute of Dallas.  We learned so much about the practice of fasting and prayer practices by Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan.  We had an amazing time of fellowship with our Muslim brothers and sisters.  There was delicious food in abundance!  Stay tuned for more interfaith opportunities with the Dialogue Institute!

Ascension and the Diocese of Dallas - Our Relationship

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another
—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.“
  - Hebrews 10:24-25

The relationship between Ascension and the Diocese of Dallas has changed a bit in the last year. In previous articles the nature and impetus of these changes have been addressed; however, here I intend to address the continued importance this relationship holds. Whereas we receive pastoral oversight from a Bishop other than our own, we as a parish are still indeed members of the Diocese of Dallas. As such, we participate in the life and ministry of the Diocese.

Summer camp is one aspect of our involvement with the Diocese. We have a number of children and youth going to Camp All Saints for a week this summer (it's not too late to register). I will be there the second week of camp serving as a "Dean" to help lead worship and formation. I believe this is an important time and place for our children and youth as it can be a place where faith becomes their own.

This fall we will send delegates to the Annual Meeting of the Diocese of Dallas. This meeting governs our common life through elections and resolutions. Currently nominations are open for several Diocesan positions which can be seen within the nominating form here. These nominations are open until August 2. There is also an open process for proposing Canonical changes or Resolutions until September 3. We may find ourselves less involved in these processes, but it is still best that we are all informed.

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul

Bishop Wayne Smith's Visit

“Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.”- Francis Bacon

Blessings cannot always be seen as blessings. A teacher with high expectations may frustrate their students, while blessing them by instilling diligence. As the waters rise, more rain does not feel like a blessing, but may be needed to keep us from future drought. Other blessings can be seen more clearly. Part of following Jesus is trusting that the blessings will be made known in due time. 

The Feast of the Ascension always comes forty days after Easter Sunday. So, as Easter moves, so too our feast day moves each year. As it falls on a Thursday, we often move the celebration to a Sunday to ensure the fullest participation possible. This year we are blessed to have the presence of The Right Reverend Wayne Smith with us.

Bishop Smith provides pastoral oversight to Ascension, St. Thomas and Transfiguration. While he won't be able to join us on a Sunday this time, he will be present on Ascension Day itself: Thursday, May 30th. And this is exciting! I hope you will join us as Bishop Smith celebrates the re-dedication of our new community garden at 7pm. Bishop Smith will also address those who gather and we can continue to get to know him during the reception that follows.   

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul

Faith

“Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.” - Mary McLeod Bethune

Faith is a spiritual gift. That is, some seem to come by it more naturally, while others struggle, for each it can be cultivated. Faith is an important aspect of our relationship with God, although it is not the only place where it plays an important role. Faith is required whenever there are unknowns.

We can place our faith in one another, or in individuals. Here the cultivation or diminishment of faith may be more obvious, or at least more directly related to what has been done, or left undone. We can place our faith in a group or organization, trusting that the collective will do what is best even if we cannot examine all of the evidence ourselves. Often our relationships of caring require us to place faith in those for whom we care. Even as doubt creeps in, we trust that we are helping more than enabling as we offer our collective help in ministry at Ascension.

Faith is essential in parenting as well. Here, we generally experience a long view, both in what is offered by the parent and in the hopes and expectations for what impacts it will make on our children and on the world. I am grateful to both of my parents for the faith they have placed in me. As Mother's Day approaches I am particularly cognizant of my mother's role in cultivating my faith in God. She did so deliberately, but also inadvertently as her own faithfulness in action was observed. She also demonstrated firsthand placing her faith in others, letting each of us make our own mistakes along the way. 

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Update on Improvements

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." - Colossians 3:12

A dear friend of ours is fond of saying, " . . if you pray for patience, God will provide opportunities for you to learn patience." The wisdom this friend offers proves true, whether or not we pray for patience! It can be a challenge to maintain patience when things are taking longer than they ought to, or even just longer than we had hoped they would. Sometimes we are surprised how long some things can take, perhaps in part a result of our  otherwise instantaneous culture.

Work on our capital campaign project does indeed continue, some of it in small ways. You may have seen some of the repairs to the large wooden doors and more. Much of the work being done at this point is not visible. As you may recall, we made a difficult decision earlier this year to terminate a contract with the initial construction management company. This decision has been affirmed as we experience more proactive communications from the new contractor. Even without a gap between these contractors, we find some delay in the resuming of actual work. In part, the plans from the prior contractor were incomplete.

We expect work to resume soon, although we have no date yet. As we reengage the city for a permit for the whole project (only a demolition permit had been obtained by the first contractor) we will have a more definitive timeline. Meanwhile, we are also preparing for some of the work to be done in the Nave, particularly sound and lighting. I hope that these updates will increase in frequency soon, once work is underway I expect our collective excitement to grow!

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Our Spiritual Gifts

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.     

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

The Great Fifty Days of Easter is a time when we recall the Resurrected Lord returning to encourage the disciplines to continue the ministry begun with Jesus leadership. The Gospel readings on Sundays relay the stories of Jesus appearances. Further, each week we have readings from Acts to reveal how the disciples lived into this call.  At Ascension, we will have a preaching series that focuses on the readings from Acts. The series title is "Acting on Faith" which draws on the actions of the disciples, but also how we may feel called to act in light of the Resurrected Lord.
 
Part of this, responding to God's call, is prayerful discernment. Asking ourselves, what am I called to do? Further, we can pray and discern what spiritual gifts we may have. This Sunday (April 28th) our 9am formation hour will include a session on Spiritual Gifts. I will offer a short overview, then there will be time to complete a spiritual gifts assessment. This can be helpful, even if you have completed one before. There will also be some information as to how we might each serve at Ascension, once we know what our gifts are. If you'd like to get a head start, you can see some of the information and take the assessment here.
 
We wanted to offer this session before our Ministry Fair on May 5th. Having considered our spiritual gifts and how we might use them, the Ministry Fair will offer us all an opportunity to learn more about the various ministries already happening at Ascension. It is a time when each committee shares a bit about their ministry and notes different ways to get involved. It will take place at 9am on May 5th, but also continue after the 10:15 service to ensure as many people as possible can participate. I am also available to meet, during these times or by appointment, with those who are discerning how best to serve at Ascension.
 
Blessings -
Fr. Paul