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

Capturing Family Moments

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.  - Aaron Siskind

My father was always an avid photographer.  He took countless photographs of our family and would consistently capture our trips. Often he would shoot until my sisters rolled their eyes and told him to stop. I suspect that was part of what he liked as well.

As time has passed we have all grown increasingly grateful for his love of the camera. My parents have freely shared the photos he has taken. It can be overwhelming at times as we work to sort through them, but that is far better than not having any to sort. We each have our favorites, however, they are all of family moments.

Smart phones and selfies have certainly changed the way we do all of this today. There are some moments worth being deliberate as we seek to capture a photo we will treasure in years to come. We hope to be a part of that at Ascension. We are creating three places that will be staged for photo opportunities this Sunday, since Easter is a time when we are often dressed our very best.

  • In the Narthex by the stained glass

  • In the courtyard on the benches 

  • On the large playground

I hope you will help welcome others as we make our way to these places for a photo. Families can help photograph one another, or you can take a selfie in these areas. We hope you'll use the hashtag "#ascensiondallas" as you post to social media too!

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Celebrating the Resurrection

The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.    - St. Augustine

Every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. Every Sunday is a "little Easter". The week leading up to Easter is an important time for us as a church. It is the culmination of all of our Lenten preparation, the homestretch of our Lenten disciplines.  The liturgies and traditions of the week were developed over generations to honor all that transpired as Christ made his way to the cross.

Participating in the services of Holy Week will accentuate the celebration we offer on Easter. As we gather this Sunday we recall the triumphant entry to Jerusalem, the trials that Jesus and his followers faced and the Passion of Jesus. Some have argued that including the passion is jumping ahead to Good Friday, although it is significant for us to consider these events as a collective whole. As the week progresses we examine the events more closely in our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.  

While many have attended to these traditions their whole life, others may be experiencing them for the first time. I hope that you will invest yourselves in as much of this as possible. A few things to highlight as you mark your calendars, the formation hour (9am) this Sunday will offer a variety of activities as we consider the story we hear on Palm Sunday; there is a "night-watch" from the Maundy Thursday service until noon on Good Friday, you can sign up here to participate; the Easter Vigil service recalls God's redemptive acts of mercy in a unique way, if you've never been to this service perhaps you can try it for the first time this year!

If you have any questions about the services of Holy Week don't be shy, reach out to Mother Marci or me by phone or email, or stay after to visit about what is offered. I look forward to our collective prayer and witness to these services in the week ahead.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

New Telephone System

“Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is when you have two,

opulence is when you have three - and paradise is when you have none.”  - Doug Larson

There have been some on-going issues with the office phone system at Ascension. Despite our best efforts, the old system was no longer viable. We are pleased to say we have a new system in place this week! The office number remains (214) 340-4196. As you call, or leave a message, please be patient as we learn this new system.

The new system brings several advantages in terms of connectivity. Each staff person will have a direct number once again, some of these were not functioning properly with the old system. Check your @Ascension email for the direct dial numbers.

The new system also allows us to take calls on these numbers via our cell phones, allowing greater access to the phone, but also to our voicemail. I believe this will be particularly helpful for any pastoral calls. The direct lines for clergy can be called at anytime, it may go to voicemail after hours, but we will get a notification and be able to return your call.

For those who are interested, further good news includes that the phones were free. The new service cost is slightly higher than the prior service, but the additional functions and flexibility improves our use of the system considerably. It also includes conferencing and video conferencing. We expect that all of these features will help us improve our total communication with everyone.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Building Connections

Name tags are one of those funny things we know are helpful, but many of us are resistant to wearing them. It's almost universal. In high school I didn't really like wearing name tags, a close friend and I had t-shirts printed with our names to wear whenever we knew we'd have to wear name tags.  

Later, I had a fascination with the variety of name tags encountered throughout a day - store clerks, wait staff, etc. I began asking people for their name tags which was the beginning of a rather odd collection of name tags from various places. I even managed to collect a vest from one retailer, complete with embroidered name tag. I attached my collection to this vest and wore it on "odd" occasions.

We think name tags are for others, not for us. They may be helpful to us, but really, they are a tool to help welcome visitors. At Ascension we have printed name tags for most members and regular attendees, as well as a form to request printed name tags or make changes. For first-time visitors, there are blank name tags. We have permanent name tags for greeters, ushers and vestry members. 

I hope that we will all commit to wearing our name tags regularly. Wear them for others who may be joining us for the first time; wear them for those who have arrived in the last weeks and are still getting to know us. It will help us build connections and be one body in Christ.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Celebrating Outbound Ministry

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” -  Galatians 5:13

All Christians are called to serve others. This can take many forms and most churches have several ways to offer service to others. Some churches, and individuals, are more intentional about this than others. Ascension has a long history of service through the Food Pantry and more, but the early 2000's brought an even deeper emphasis on being externally focused.

Since then, our outbound ministries have evolved and grown. Many at Ascension recall the language of "creating a zip code of hope" as the parish sought to meet the needs of those around us. As things progressed, Ascension has cultivated a reputation for being engaged with the community around us and more opportunities continue to reveal themselves.

All of this has been a labor of love for the community as a whole. It has also been a result of the leadership Dabney Dwyer has offered over these years. This Sunday we include a recognition of outbound ministries and celebrate the leadership Dabney has offered. Dabney is retiring from her position, but this ministry will remain a priority for us as a parish. Join us Sunday for this recognition, plan to stay after worship for a reception and light lunch.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Community Garden Renovations Nearing Completion

Our community garden is undergoing a major renovation!

In 2009, Ascension began conceptualizing a community garden to be located on the north end of the property. A committee led by Jeanne Neill was formed to evaluate options, visit other garden sites and to develop a plan. In spring of 2010, Ascension’s Garden of Hope with 42 beds opened welcoming gardeners from Ascension and the community.

Ascension’s Garden of Hope has been a blessing in so many ways. In addition to being a bridge from Ascension to the community, the garden has donated nearly 500 pounds of fresh produce annually to our Elaine Kadane Food Pantry. In addition to shelf stable items, our neighbors now enjoy a variety of fresh food!

Over the last several years, it became clear that the garden needed to be renovated due to the wear and tear over the years. After a year of planning, a proposal was submitted to the Vestry and renovation began the first week in March and should be completed in the next several weeks. The renovation includes fresh soil and compost and the addition of new garden borders created with Austin stone - a beautiful sustainable option over wood. Gardeners from the community and Ascension are excited to begin spring planting.

Ascension has been able to raise most of the money to complete the garden work including a soup luncheon benefit and a grant from the Lake Highlands Community garden.

Please take a moment to visit the garden and thank Diane Haack and Dustin Mitchell-Scott for their assistance in planning, procuring materials and identifying the landscape company that made this happen! In addition, Robert Gross, a gardener at both Ascension and Lake Highlands deserves a special thanks for his consultation.

Look for a special garden dedication soon!

Dabney Dwyer, Outbound Director
Diane Haack, Garden Coordinator