Change Can Be . . .

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”  - Frank Zappa

Change can be challenging, even when there is clear motivation and positive direction throughout. As we prepare for the holidays, most of us have a heightened awareness about tradition. There are things we would rather not see changed; yet each holiday gathering is also utterly unique. Even if the same individuals gather year after year, we each have changed.

There are some exciting changes at Ascension. There are new individuals and families among us in worship. Please help us continue our welcome to them and connect them to ministry. Further, the renovation project in the Upper Building is finally underway. Planning for our other capital projects continues with more updates in the coming weeks.

As we move toward Advent, we also face some changes with our relationship with the Diocese. Bishop George Sumner announced that Bishop Wayne Smith will be providing oversight for the parishes wishing to offer marriage equality. To read his full announcement click here.  Bishop Smith is nearing retirement as Bishop Diocesan in Missouri, but will continue this oversight in retirement. As we face the various changes in life and in our ministry together, may we seek God's guidance in all we do.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Making a Commitment


“Many hands make light work.” - John Heywood

Thank you to all who completed a pledge card already, it is a powerful image to watch so many individuals and families come forward to the altar to make an offering. While it is only one aspect of how we can each participate in the ministry of Ascension, it does have an impact on much of what we do. Cards will remain available on the Welcome Desk and can be placed in the offering at any time. There will be more personal mission statements to share in the coming weeks too!


The vestry, staff and other leadership at Ascension are deliberate in our budget process and how money is allocated and spent. In part, we each strive to be good stewards, as well as honor intent of those giving. Our upcoming workday, this Saturday starting at 8am, is one way we can help reduce expenses. Targeted deep cleaning, landscaping projects, and more, reduce expenses and improve our campus for our own use and how we can welcome others.

As we come together, in our pledge commitment, in our work day, and in the life and ministry here at Ascension, consider how it also sustains you. While the acts of giving and serving may be outward offerings, most who do so regularly can also describe what they receive in the process. Perhaps there are others who may join us as we endeavor to know God's love, as we seek to share it with the world.  

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

The Feast of All Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy Name, O Jesus be fore ever blessed. Alleluia, alleluia!

The Feast of All Saints occurs each November 1st.  Many churches, ours included, celebrate it on the following Sunday. Often celebrations offer some acknowledgement of the saints canonized by the church as well as the saints we have known in our own lives. Our 9am formation hour will feature intergenerational activities to commemorate the Feast. Not sure who the patron saint of ice-skating is?  Come learn this and more!

The liturgy and music will also celebrate All Saints Day. It is particularly appropriate to offer baptism and three children will be baptized this Sunday. Also, All Saints has been our ingathering Sunday the past few years. The Stewardship Committee has prepared us well as we consider the mission of the church and our own mission.

Perhaps you can take this as a reminder to offer your prayers today, on All Saints proper, and remember those saints who have been present to you. Then, come on Sunday, prepared to recall the great cloud of witnesses of ages past, as we recall our own baptismal covenant and celebrate those being baptized in our gathering. Come, knowing that your presence is a blessing and consider your commitment, financial and otherwise, to our parish for the year ahead.

 

Welcome to a New Staff Member

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  - Romans 8:28

The staff and other leadership at Ascension are a tremendous blessing to me.  There has been a lot of development in our formation offerings over the past two years as Sarah served as our Director of Christian formation.  The formation committee and others recognized that asking one person to oversee formation for all ages was too much.  We set about to find someone to help.  Specifically, we began looking for someone who would serve as a "Youth Leader."

This week we welcomed a new staff member at Ascension.  Jordan Hammons is known to many at Ascension already for his role and excellence as a soloist and member of the choir and was confirmed at Ascension in 2016.  As we searched for someone to work with Sarah, Jordan emerged as a well qualified candidate.  He will be taking the lead role in organizing and planning the activities and retreats for our Ascension youth.  Sarah and Jordan will work together to develop a holistic approach to youth ministry at Ascension, empowering youth to grow as disciples of God.  

Jordan completed graduate study at Southern Methodist University in 2017. He has experience working with youth through the Boy Scouts of America, serving for 4 years in summer camp administration, including 2 years as Camp Director at Camp Horne in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Over the past four years, Jordan has also worked as a private voice teacher working mainly with high school aged youth, and recently, began performing with The Dallas Opera's education outreach programs. 

Please help us welcome Jordan to his new role here in our parish.

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul

Personal Mission Statements

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” - Maya Angelou

The personal mission statements that have been shared the last few weeks have been powerful. The Stewardship Committee arranged for different people to speak at each service, and it's wonderful to hear everyone's stories. At first the task of writing a personal mission statement can feel quite daunting, but many have mentioned the sacred meaning found in this process.

For some, reflecting on personal mission or purpose is routine, something done annually. For others, it may be new, or something only considered in times of change. Being intentional about the values we hold and what we are called to do is an important part of our faith. It helps guide us toward the most meaningful service as well as our most authentic self.

I expect that as this process continues, we will find some way to share more of our statements. Part of the beauty of doing this together is that we will see how our collective mission is the mission of the church. Let us connect and support one another to fulfill God's vision for our church. We cannot do it individually.

Blessings -

Fr. Paul 

 

 

Clergy in Cars

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” 

                                                               - Rollo May

The way we communicate with one another has changed dramatically in the last generation. Many of the options at our disposal today did not exist twenty years ago. Even those that did, telephone and print media for example, have changed significantly in cost and access.

The rapid expanse can be a blessing, but also a challenge to navigate. When there were fewer options to communicate online, everyone read their email more carefully. So there is a challenge in how to capture people's attention and retain shared information. Perhaps we are aiming at a moving target! 

Over the summer I began using more videos to share information with Ascension: "Ministry Moments" to offer insight to what is happening at church and "5 Minute Bible Studies" to offer formation for those unable to make the other offerings. This fall I started a new series, "Clergy in Cars."  

This series is supposed to be an encouragement toward spiritual conversation and a look at social issues through a variety of perspectives. It is also supposed to be fun, a reminder that even serious content can be fun. Recently, the series also afforded me an opportunity to take a short ride with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry! 

All of these videos are posted to our Facebook page as well as YouTube. The videos have been popular among Ascension members, but have also given us the opportunity to reach out to others, sharing the joy and love we find in Christ and in our community. If you haven't had a chance to see them yet, you can view them here.  

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul

This Sunday, we celebrate all students and staff at Ascension Day School

The first full week of October marks the annual Episcopal Schools Celebration. This Sunday, we celebrate all students and staff that attend Episcopal Schools, including our own Ascension Day School.  We have invited our Day School teachers, students and families to join us for formation and worship and will offer a prayer for them as a part of our 10:15 service.  We are delighted to have some of our ADS families already attending worship, and are looking forward to seeing more of them worship with us!  Please join us in welcoming them.

As a reminder, the first Sunday of every month is designated as our Intergenerational Sundays, where we have formation and worship together. All children remain in the sanctuary and there is no Children's Chapel on first Sundays. Worship is designed with the children in mind, and the new Creative Worship Center shelf by the sound board is filled with activities and tools that help our younger participants engage with worship. Children are welcome at any time during the service to use that area and bring materials back to their pews. There are also sensory toys available that children may borrow during the service to help keep hands busy if needed. 

During this week's intergenerational formation at 9:00am, the whole group will hear a Godly Play story, a method of telling scriptural stories in an experiential manner that we use with our youngest worshippers. Following the story, there will be questions and activities to encourage participants of all ages to have conversations and learn together. It is World Communion Sunday, and it seems appropriate for our intergenerational Sunday as we come together to celebrate God's love in our lives. 

I hope you will join us this Sunday, and every Sunday, for formation and for worship.

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul

Hi, my name is . . . .

Late summer is a time when we often reconnect with folks and start new things. You may have noticed new individuals and families at Ascension recently. For that matter, some reading this email may have joined us in the last few weeks!  I want to encourage everyone, new and continuing, to help cultivate connections.

Please make use of the name tags on the kiosk. There is also a form to request one if you don't currently have one. More than this, I hope you will introduce yourself to someone you don't know. Many members take the extra step to then introduce guests to Mother Marci and myself, which we appreciate. 

There are many ways to help newcomers connect. Sitting together in church may help guide them through our way of worship. Asking about their interests can help introduce them to meaningful ministry and others that share similar interests. It can be easy to assume someone knows how to connect, but I hope we will each make the extra effort to ensure everyone feels welcome and valued as a part of our community of faith.

Blessings -

Fr. Paul

ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX

I'm a great believer in the Communion of Saints.  There is something very comforting in knowing that the holy beloveds who have gone before continue to watch over us here on earth. My favorite saint is St. Therese of Lisieux. She was born in France on January 2, 1873, the ninth and last child of her parents.  She was extraordinary in her faith and devotion to Jesus.  Therese entered the Carmelite Order at the young age of 15.  Diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 23,  her sisters encouraged her to write down her childhood recollections, which became the spiritual best-seller, The Story of a Soul. I highly recommend it to you.  In it, Therese instructs us in her "little way" of trust, complete self-surrender and doing all things simply and to one's highest ability.   Therese died in 1897, not yet 25 years old.  She was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II. 

Therese's feast day is October 1.  Fall is approaching, and there are many tasks that call us to busy-ness.  So Therese's feast day is a good reminder that we all should place our complete trust in God.  Whatever our task, we must approach it with humility and Therese's "little way" of simplicity and perfection. If that seems hard to do, it's time to take a deep breath and remember that we are all called to holiness, no matter our age or abilities.  Praying in faith, believing God will give us the strength to do what needs to be done.

Therese's name means "Harvester," and Ascension's fields are ripe for harvest!  Yet the laborers are few.  There are so many ways to get involved with the parish.  Ask your clergy where you might best fit in. Whether it's attending our Sunday formation offerings, cooking for the ill, becoming a Stephen Minister, acolyting, teaching or simply answering phones, we need you.  Think:  what will your sacred harvest look like in this coming fall season?  Let us reap a bounteous reward!

Your servant in Christ,
Mother Marci+

Finding the Fullness of God's Gifts

There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
                                                                                                                                  - Aristotle

Life calls us into action. Our actions will draw critique. Daniel Ek, co-founder of Spotify, is known for saying "We aim to make mistakes faster than anyone else."  I believe his underlying point is that experimentation includes failure and accelerating the cycle will mean faster improvement as well. 

I expect that we, as a church and as individuals, can learn from this. If fear of mistakes, or even failure, paralyzes us, that same paralysis prevents progress. This week I heard two different stories of cyclists setting out for a long ride and finding that they couldn't complete it. In cycling this is often known as "bonking," sometimes from lack of training or running out of fuel. The goal is not failure, but if we are not failing at something from time to time we are not reaching our full potential.

As we set out to be disciples, following where Christ leads us, we will certainly fall short of the expectation. We still need to leap into action. May we learn from the critique, may we learn from where we fall short, may we learn from our failures. May we fail faster, that we might find the fullness of the gifts God has given.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul