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

End-of-Life Care Planning and Funeral Guidelines

The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that “there is a time for every purpose under Heaven…. A time to be born and a time to die.” As we enter this season of Lent and reflect on our own mortality, it is a good time to consider end-of-life care planning.

While we all want to live as well as we can, as long as we can, it is prudent to plan ahead. This can save you and your loved ones from having to guess one another’s wishes; it can save precious time in the event of an emergency, and it can even assist your physicians should you be hospitalized.  

We have recently updated our End-of-Life Care Planning and Funeral Guidelines in order to better serve you. These new guidelines include the theological ideals that are found in the Rites of Christian Burial I and II. In addition, we have added more information to help you as you consider your end-of-life care planning. You will find helpful lists that will assist you in your estate planning, as well as recommended health documentation, guidelines for planning your funeral service at Ascension, and ideas for planned giving (bequests).  

The revised End-of-Life and Funeral Planning Guidelines are available at the Welcome Desk for the next few weeks, with the hope that most everyone will consider this process as a part of your Lenten disciplines. The guidelines are also available on our website.  If you choose to create a new funeral plan, or revise and update an existing one, please inform your clergy at 214-340-4196.  We are available for consultation and discussion about this most important subject.

In Christ’s Service,
Mother Marci Pounders

The Season of Lent

“Lent is a time to renew wherever we are in that process that I call the divine therapy. It’s a time to look what our instinctual needs are, look at what the dynamics of our unconscious are.” - Thomas Keating

The season of Epiphany is nearly complete and Lent will soon be upon us. The last Sunday after the Epiphany (the Sunday coming) typically includes the transfiguration story from one of the Gospels. Then, Shrove Tuesday, sometimes known as "Fat Tuesday," is our last hurrah before Lent properly begins on Ash Wednesday. The service on Ash Wednesday is solemn, but serves as an invitation into a time of penitence and fasting, of self-examination and repentance.

The forty days of Lent excludes Sundays, as they remain a remembrance of the resurrection. Still, our Sunday liturgy is reshaped to acknowledge the season. Most notably, we forgo all "Alleluias." Some take the Sunday celebration as a reprieve from their Lenten disciplines, although some choose to maintain their disciplines all the same. Either way, I hope you will consider committing to something that will add meaning to this sacred season for you.

In addition to the changes to our liturgy, our formation committee has plans for the season. "The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations" will be featured on Sunday mornings at 9:00 as well as Wednesday evenings. This will also be available online. The Godly Play lessons will also take a Lenten theme with some activities to take home. I hope that you will make a commitment to participate in these offerings even if you have not in the past.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Update on Capital Campaign Projects

“Delay is preferable to error.”    - Thomas Jefferson

An update on the Capital Campaign projects is overdue. While I spoke to this briefly at the Annual Meeting, I know that not everyone was present and there is more to say. The work on the Upper Building began long ago and at that time the general contractor assured us the renovations could be completed by now. There have been a variety of factors that delayed this process, most recently an incomplete bid list.

In January we realized that we likely would need to change general contractors in order to complete the project as intended. We identified a possible replacement and had preliminary meetings. In the last two weeks we terminated the contract with the original general contractor and are transitioning to new oversight and management of the project. Even so, we will not likely see immediate progress other than removal of the construction fence and portable office. We expect that this change will result in more timely progress thereafter and a better final product that will meet our future needs as intended.

Once a permit is obtained from the city and the bid process for the Upper Building renovation is completed, we will move to finalize the scope of work in the main building. The sound and lighting in the Nave remain high priorities along with other accessibility features (like push button door openers).  We are grateful for the support, financial and otherwise, of the parish as well as your patience. As things progress we welcome any additional commitments to the work of this campaign.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul


Invite Welcome Connect

“Ultimately, Invite Welcome Connect is all about relationship.” - Mary Foster Parmer

By now, many of you will have read the announcement in the bulletin about Invite Welcome Connect. Perhaps you still have some questions, or wonder what it will be like. I hope that you will take a moment to visit the website where you will find a variety of information and resources, including a video endorsement from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

There are two points of clarification that I think may be helpful. First, this is not a program, but a way of doing ministry. It is not to say that we are not doing these things well. Our facilitator, Catherine Miller, has been to Ascension and remarked that we are doing "Welcome" well. She is also aware of some of the things we have done lately to invite people.  

All of this leads to my second point of clarification; namely, these three elements, Invite Welcome Connect, are not independent activities. I believe this training will help us to more fully integrate these aspects. What are we inviting people into? How and when do we work to connect people with small groups and ministry? I suspect that "Connect" is where the church at large struggles most. Connection is essential for guests to have a sense of belonging and a long-term interest in our common life and ministry.

I hope you will consider joining us for the workshop at Ascension on March 1st and 2nd. On Friday March 1st, we will start at 6pm with a reception and an overview of the training being offered. On March 2nd from 9am to 4pm there will be a facilitated training. If you're unable to attend but are interested in knowing more, please let me know, as this will continue to shape how we engage with all who come here in the coming weeks.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Upcoming Lenten Series

“When spiritual conversations become an everyday reality,
you'll have a front-row seat as God changes people's lives.” - Mary Schaller & John Crilly

The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations was first presented at Ascension in the fall of 2017 as a part of a workshop titled, "Church Beyond the Walls." Co-author Mary Schaller was here to help present the material at that time. Since then, I have found the book to be an inspiration toward curiosity and better conversations. It has influenced my preaching and is, at least in part, the inspiration for "Clergy in Cars."

So, when the Formation Committee asked if I might lead something during Lent, this material was high on my list. I thought it would be helpful to explain a little more about the material and how it will be offered here at Ascension. Copies of the book will be available starting this Sunday for $12. It is also available as an e-book if you prefer. The book is not required for your participation, but I believe you will enjoy reading it as a part of the course.

The first Sunday of Lent (March 10) during Christian Formation will present an overview of the material and introduction. The book has four parts, which will be covered in the remaining 4 Sundays (March 17, 24, 31 and April 7). Following the presentation portion there will be time to engage with the material. A printed guide will be available for each person to help us engage in spiritual conversation.

We really want this to be available for everyone and recognize that not everyone is able to be present on Sunday at 9am. The presentations will be recorded to help more people access them. Each Wednesday evening during Lent, a group will gather at church for dinner and to watch the presentation together and have conversation about it. It will also be posted online, along with the guide. We hope that this combination of methods will help the whole parish engage with this life-giving material.


Fr. Paul 

Annual Parish Meeting

So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already. 
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 

The Annual Parish Meeting took place last Sunday at 9am. It was good to see so many members participate. Thank you for coming to take part in this important gathering and listening as we consider our common life. Whether you were present or not, the annual meeting booklet remains an important resource for us. Copies of the booklet will remain available at the church.

One thing to highlight in the reports is Dabney Dwyer's retirement as Outbound Director at the end of March. I intended to touch upon this in my report as well.  Dabney has been such an integral part of our Outbound programs. We will do more to recognize her and the other Outbound ministry leaders on Sunday, March 24th during the 10:15 service. Mother Marci will offer staff oversight and leadership in Outbound as Dabney retires. They have been working together over the past year in anticipation of this transition.

The vestry held a short meeting following worship this past Sunday. Together we elected Jane Burruss to continue to serve as Treasurer and Harry Breda to continue in his role as clerk. We elected Todd Rutenbar to serve as Junior Warden. I also shared that Jane Taber will serve as our Senior Warden. We are blessed with many talented and dedicated leaders in our vestry, our staff and our committee chairs. I hope we will continue to connect members to our ministries and help them share in this leadership.

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul 


Pilgrimage involves doing something with whatever faith you have. 
And faith, like muscle, likes being worked.

- Charles Foster (in The Sacred Journey) 

Some define the spiritual discipline of pilgrimage very narrowly, a once in a lifetime journey to a particular place. Others define pilgrimage very broadly, the Christian life is a pilgrimage. My inner Anglican seeks a middle way.  Including the whole life of a faithful Christian diminishes the particular act I mean by pilgrimage. I believe pilgrimage could include a variety of destinations, but a deliberate intention to move away from ordinary and toward something sacred.

Pilgrimage is decidedly different than a vacation. The primary difference is internal.  Indeed, a group of people could have the same travel itinerary and it could be vacation for some and pilgrimage for others. Sarah and I had the opportunity to travel to Israel while we were in college. I believe it was pilgrimage for both of us, although it may have been more of a vacation for some that were in the same group.

We prepared, along with a larger group, with books that helped cultivate expectations for the places we would visit. While the sites we visited were familiar from scripture, our study added to the depth of the experience. Like many spiritual disciplines, pilgrimage may be amplified in a group experience.

Our Ascension youth have benefited from pilgrimage and are in the process of planning another this summer. Perhaps we can each learn from their planning and experience as we interact with them over coffee on Sundays!

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Tithing and Other Forms of Giving

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed."

- Proverbs 11:25 

The series on spiritual disciplines continues this week on tithing and other forms of giving. If you've missed the prior disciplines they remain available on our website. Giving is a very personal topic and the particulars can remain private, but it is an important spiritual discipline that deserves our attention. Different faiths and churches interpret the spiritual discipline differently, but most include some form of giving to others.

For some, it is a matter of how and when to give. We receive many requests from organizations and individuals. Our giving is between us and God, but others do end up involved as we make our choices. Some faiths refer to giving alms. That is a practice of giving to the poor, most often directly. We can do this collectively, too. At Ascension we give alms through clergy discretionary funds. This method helps us to become more involved than when we give in passing.  Giving alms is an acknowledgment of our own blessings and helping those less fortunate.
Giving to the church is in some ways an "all-in-one" approach. Money received by the church supports ministry. Some goes to direct services through outreach, while other supports all the various ministries of the church. We can offer alms and give back to the community while also sustaining and supporting a ministry together. The upcoming annual meeting is a time when the budget is shared and we can consider how our total funds are being allocated.

As to tithing, it refers to a specific practice of giving one-tenth of one's income. For many it seems an impossible standard. No matter one's income, a tithe shows that giving is a priority. When I find that someone tithes, I always try to ask about their practice, when they started, what it has meant to them. There are too many stories to recount here, but each time I am moved by powerful stories of the experiences shared.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul


“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

-Matthew 6:16-18

The ancient spiritual discipline of fasting is part of many world religions and cultures. There is a long-standing Christian practice of fasting prior to receiving communion each week. This may help you understand how the "early" service became popular! Other short periodic fasting helps accentuate the significance of the sacraments, prayer and God.  

Longer fasts are common in Lent. Sometimes we commit to fasting from a particular food or act for a longer period of time to remind us of what matters most. Others fast from food for days at a time. While this is not possible for some, and hard for all of us to motivate ourselves to do it, it can be quite rewarding. Perhaps you fast already. If so, I hope you will consider sharing the experience with others.  

Several years ago, prior to our arrival at Ascension, Sarah led a youth group on a 30-Hour Fast. The fast began upon arrival for a weekend retreat on Friday evening and was broken late on Saturday evening. Some were reluctant to sign up for this retreat, even the adults, when considering how cranky some teenagers get without food. I believe all found the experience rewarding. Even a fast of this length drew our physical awareness to God. 

Each of us can benefit from the spiritual discipline of fasting. I do hope you will consider it and be deliberate, consulting your doctor if you are unsure. 

Blessings - 

Fr. Paul