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

 

Important Conference in Dallas Next Week

"The work of community, love, reconciliation, restoration is the work we cannot leave up to politicians. This is the work we are all called to do." - Shane Claiborne

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. & Rt. Hon. Justin Welby and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry are coming to Dallas next week! While the magnitude (and novelty?) of this may be lost on the general public, I hope you share in the intrigue of what a meeting like this may be.

There are several events planned during their visit. The clergy of the Diocese of Dallas have been invited to a luncheon, but the event that follows that afternoon is open to the public. "Love & Reconciliation" a conversation sponsored by The American Friends of the Anglican Centre in Rome will be hosted at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Girata will moderate a discussion centering on love and reconciliation. Please see the attached flier for more information about the event. The Diocese of Dallas has worked with Church of the Incarnation to plan an additional event that evening, which requires registration. Those details can be seen here: https://radvoco.org/. I encourage your participation where possible.  

Blessings -

Fr. Paul 

August is "National Make-a-Will Month"

"Let planning be the springboard, so that spirituality can be our splash."    - Robin S. Sharma

Last week I learned that August is "National Make-a-Will Month." Perhaps it's fitting that I write of this in the last week of August, as matters such as this are often put off. Perhaps it is best that I mention it at the close of the month, so that you don't feel as though you can put it off even longer? I know many of you have such plans in place, but if you do not, please do not wait until next August!

Creating a will and reviewing it periodically is important. Sometimes we make assumptions about what happens to our wealth or possessions after we die, having documentation in place makes a big difference. Creating a will clarifies your hopes and expectations for your family and friends and simplifies things for them after you've died. A legal document can also ensure your assets are distributed according to your preference.

Advanced directives can help guide decisions in crisis as well. All of this can begin in having conversations with loved ones. Capturing your preferences in any meaningful capacity is a good place to begin, but moving toward actual documentation is important. In addition, the church maintains records of plans for memorial services.  We are in the process of creating an online version of the form and will include a reminder once it is complete!

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Pray for the Protection of our Children

"For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel."    - Martin Luther

Every Sunday, Christians from a great many denominations pray for the "holy catholic church." Together we recognize the unitive power of the Holy Spirit to work through our collective ministry in ways that are beyond our individual recognition. There is a sort of spiritual equity that is built up as we reflect God's love to the world.

At the same time, we each lament the wrongdoing and hardship of any Christian church or people. The latest news of the abuse in the Roman Catholic Church is disturbing. Any misdeed by the church is troubling, but these are particularly tragic. Abuse of children cannot be tolerated and discovering a coverup makes it more abhorrent. All God's faithful should lament this together and hold all affected in prayer.

The Episcopal Church, along with many others, have made a strident effort to ensure our churches are a safe place for all God's people, most especially children. First, we require those who serve with children to be a part of the church for a year or longer. We also require training, sometimes referred to in short-hand as "Safeguarding." This training helps staff and volunteers to be more aware of signs, both of potential abusers and of those abused.

As we prepare to begin another program year, I hope you will help us to remain vigilant in our collective prayer in our protection of children. May our prayers and actions help to restore the image of the church, that it may be a reflection of God to the world.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

A Well-Timed Smile is Gold

"A smile is the universal welcome."   - Max Eastman

A well-timed smile is gold. It can assure someone they are welcome, open doors, and turn someone's day around. A smile is contagious, spreading simple happiness, even joy. At times, I am fairly certain it can also get you out of trouble. 

I see a lot of smiling faces on Sunday at Ascension. It is a real blessing. I believe it is part of what makes us an inviting and welcoming community. Perhaps it is the underlying reason we gather, the joy of God welling up within us. I often see the welcome extend well beyond a smile. I want to affirm a few practices that will help us as we seek to encourage our guests.

If you see an unfamiliar face, introduce yourself. Sometimes we worry that the person will be a long-time member that we just haven't met yet . . . an introduction may still be in order! Introduce the guest to someone else nearby. Sit together in worship. Our way of worship can be intimidating, offer help as we balance bulletin with Prayer Book and Hymnal.  

Encourage guests to complete the guest card so we can be in touch. Some take this an extra step and introduce the guest to the clergy, which we appreciate very much. Some members also invite guests to join them for lunch following the service. This truly helps us connect with those who are looking for a church! Last, but not least, pray. Pray for those who have visited, by name when possible. I hope these suggestions will help as we seek to welcome all guests visiting Ascension.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

OUR SHARED COMMITMENT

"We are afraid to care too much, 
for fear that the other person does not care at all."

                                                      - Eleanor Roosevelt

Within my address at the Annual Parish Meeting this year, I noted that I see Ascension as moderate. Many smiles and nods seemed to affirm this description. Indeed, I intended this as a compliment, although any 'label' can be misused or misunderstood. In part, I wanted to affirm that we are a place where all are welcome, as well as be a place where self-identified conservatives and liberals (or whatever other labels we may choose) commit to community together.  I believe this needs to be stated, or reaffirmed.

Even as I speak to a particular issue in church, I am grateful for our differing opinions. These differences can prompt difficult conversations, but in turn can lead to a greater understanding of the complex issues of our time. Our collective desire for God diminishes whatever differences we may have. The unitive power of the Holy Spirit also fosters our connection.

Political affiliations, as important as they may be, pale in comparison to the bond we share in Christ. May we remember our shared commitment in our Baptismal promises. May Christ be our companion as we speak with one another and with others about the issues of our time. May God grant us courage and wisdom as we seek to offer the world the love we receive from God.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

EPISCOPAL GENERAL CONVENTION

"If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets
the glory, all the parts celebrate with it."    - 1Corinthians 12:26   

I wrote of General Convention recently and because a number of you have expressed interest, I wanted to provide more information. First, The Rev. Neal Michell wrote a "Primer on General Convention" for the Diocesan website that I thought might prove helpful. The website for the convention itself is also helpful. This site includes information about how to volunteer, the cost as a visitor, what to expect at the worship services and more. I know several members from Ascension have mentioned plans to attend.

Many attend the convention to observe the process and catch up with friends from around the country. Others may take interest in particular proposals or actions. This year there will be meetings about Marriage Equality. There will be discussion about the rites that were previously approved for trial use and how the policies have been lived out across the country. There has been some work on this topic from within our Diocese, including the production of a video, "Dear General Convention". The vestry also offered a resolution to support Marriage Equality this year.

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul

OPHELIA

"A dog will teach you unconditional love.   If you can have that in your life, things won't be too bad."     - Robert Wagner

In 2001, Sarah and I made at least three big commitments.  The biggest commitment was to one another, we got married that summer!  The second was that we bought our first house together.  The third was finding our first dog.  I had grown up with dogs and cats, but there is something different about this, especially as a young couple.

I remember the day well, we had hoped to get a dog for a while and it was nearly Christmas.  We went to look at some Bassett Hound puppies and there was no leaving without one.  We took her to my parents house where Sarah and my mother conspired to name her Ophelia, ultimately saving her from my naming selection process.  My mother is fond of names from Shakespeare and we all agreed a dramatic name is in order for this particular pup.

Ophelia proved to be a pastoral soul, who was always ready to comfort us in hard times.  She also celebrated life's many joys with us and shared a great many experiences as we moved from place to place.  She watched our family grow and helped keep the floor clean of dropped food through all of it.  She surprised us all as she exceeded all expectations of life-span for her breed, but we knew she would not remain with us forever. 

Last Thursday our Ophelia died.  We gathered close and kept watch with her in her final days.  We miss her more than we can say.  She was a part of our life for a long time and indeed part of our ministry here.  We appreciate your prayers for comfort.  We treasure our memories as we seek to soothe our souls, something that always seemed easier with a dog by my side.  

Blessings -

Fr. Paul 

PROGRESS REPORT ON THE CAPITAL CAMPAIGN

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.     - Philippians 4:13

I want to begin by thanking everyone for their participation in the Capital Campaign. I am particularly grateful to John Owen for chairing the committee. Lisa Breda, Bill Dunham, Tom Dwyer and Doug Taber also provided leadership and we are grateful for their efforts. The initial in-gathering of the Capital Campaign provided more than fifty commitments totaling over $660,000.

These commitments are more than enough to accomplish the three stated priorities: renovations to the Upper Building, improvements in the classrooms, and the HVAC controller. Work in the classrooms is underway and work on the Upper Building should begin soon. The vestry is coordinating with Myler Construction as we refine the scope of work to fit the commitments received to date.

Further commitments will allow for the expansion of priorities. Our small group sessions revealed that sound and lighting in the nave were a high priority for many. Accessibility improvements, like automated door openers, were also of importance. We expect to publish more information about this process as it continues.

Blessings,
Fr. Paul

79th General Convention in Austin, Texas

Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.                                                                                                   - Book of Common Prayer

This July the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will convene in Austin Texas.  This is a gathering of Episcopalians from across the country that occurs every three years.  It is an opportunity for discussion and stating positions on various issues.  There are two main rooms for business to be conducted, one for the House of Bishops, another for the House of Deputies (elected lay and clergy from every Diocese).  The full schedule also includes fantastic worship offerings, an exhibitors' hall and spaces for various committees and hearings.

There will be numerous tasks and resolutions before the convention.  A few highlights will include a discussion on possible Prayer Book revision and a continuation of what marriage equality looks like in the Episcopal Church.  Volunteers are always needed and visitors are welcome (but must register).  I plan to attend for a day once I know more about the schedule of some of the hearings.  I have heard others from Ascension plan to go as well!  If you'd like to know more about General Convention, visit their website: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Blessings -

Fr. Paul