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

 

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