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

The work of the Spirit is at hand!

"The church's task in the world is to model genuine humanness as a sign and an invitation to those around.” - N.T. Wright

Every year, Pentecost reminds me of the power of the Holy Spirit.  The stories in the book of Acts capture this well, as the disciples emerge from locked doors to share the love of Christ they realize the power they hold in this ministry.  I have experienced the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways throughout my life.

I felt this power once again at Ascension as we renewed our Baptismal Covenant, it is a powerful liturgy.  I felt the presence of God as I witnessed so many coming forward at the offertory, offering ourselves to the life and ministry we share.  Our collective commitment demonstrates trust in God and one another.

This week the vestry spent time reflecting on the information gathered from the small group meetings that were held in conjunction with the Capital Campaign.  We know from the initial in-gathering that we can accomplish the priorities previously stated: classroom improvements, Upper Building renovations and HVAC controller.  We are coordinating with our construction management for more detailed estimates as we continue the work of prioritizing the scope of work.  We want to ensure we maximize the effectiveness of the dollars raised and complete the projects our congregation values.

Meanwhile, we expect to receive more commitments in the coming weeks.  On June 3rd there will be more information about the in-gathering to date.  The refined scope of work, based on our gatherings, will also be ready to share on the third.  I am grateful for each of you in this parish.  Thank you to each who has already offered a commitment to the campaign.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

This Sunday: Pentecost!

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. - Acts 2:4

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. We recall, through scripture and sacraments, the disciples stepping forward in ministry in new and profound ways. We read powerful stories from the book of Acts and recall our own part in this story by baptizing and renewing our own baptismal covenant.

Last year we began a new tradition at Ascension, hosting a ministry fair on this same day, an opportunity for all to step forward in ministry. This event begins in the Parish Hall at 9am with information from various ministries. Each member will have the opportunity to place a card with a commitment to ministry in the offering during worship along with a card for the Capital Campaign. Our mutual commitment makes greater things possible.

In celebration of Pentecost and the culmination of the Capital Campaign we will have a picnic following the 10:15 service. You don't want to miss this opportunity for food and fellowship. There are some special additions to the event this year including music, a bounce house and a dunk tank! There is a lot happening here at Ascension. I look forward to celebrating with each of youthis Sunday.

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul 

Communications!

"Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing." - Rollo May

Challenges to effective communication exist in every organization.  Yet, the value of improvements to communication make the pursuit worthwhile.  The Parish Survey highlighted a few areas of need and the Mutual Ministry Review stated several goals for the short term.

Access to a church directory is essential, both for purposes of ministry as well as for our sense of community.  I am including a link to a pdf directory (here-with the link).  I expect that we will improve upon this offering, but hope that including it in our weekly email provides immediate access to our community.

There will be some subtle changes to announcements in the bulletin, as well as this weekly email with hopes to connect everyone with the most information in the most effective means.  Your feedback can help us refine these changes.  Further, checking with those in your household and close friends as to whether they are receiving this email!  It has come to our attention that some members have not been getting this part of our communication.

New database options are being considered for the near future as well.  We hope this change will allow more ready access to a searchable directory, as well as a way to direct our communication to a particular group or demographic.

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul

Mutual Ministry Review

"To restore all people to unity with God and each other." - Mission of the Church

The vestry, staff and committee chairs gathered over the weekend to participate in a 'Mutual Ministry Review' (MMR).  Betsy Aylin of Bright Water Consulting led the consultation, along with the recent parish survey.  The MMR allowed us to examine the results of the survey, as well as set some goals to respond to the needs that were raised.

The value and depth of our sense of community was affirmed throughout the survey.  The desire to remain diverse and welcoming was heard, even as we seek to improve upon these aspects.  Some of the needs can be addressed very quickly.  For example, the survey affirmed the need for some improvements to our campus, as we set about this work in the Capital Campaign.

There was a lot of energy around improving our communication, particularly within our community as well as to those around us.  The MMR allowed for some brainstorming that I believe will lead us to some solutions that can be implemented in the next month.  Additional communication improvements will be developed in the next few months as well.

There was also affirmation for much of the formation that is offered, with a hope that we could develop a few specific things.  This work takes some time, but we anticipate a comprehensive formation plan to be in place for the fall.  It will include some changes to what we offer on Sunday morning and more.

Throughout this process I have learned a lot.  I am grateful for your commitment to Ascension, for your completion of the survey and for your patience as we implement change.  I will keep an open mind, open ears and open heart that God may guide us as we seek to be at unity with God and one another.

Blessings -

Fr. Paul 

This week at Ascension

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." - John F. Kennedy

I have heard from many of you regarding the Capital Campaign.  It is an exciting time, as we consider the possible changes to the campus.  It is also a challenging time.  I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received, but also for those who are willing to express their worries and concerns.  I find that I am learning a lot this Easter season.

Even as we wrestle with some of the process and particulars together, I feel blessed by the faithfulness of all.  The willingness to pray and seek God in this process is essential and the desire for that is deep here at Ascension.  The presentation from last Sunday is available via YouTube here and through the Capital Campaign page of our website.  Soon emails will go out as we work to schedule small group meeting where more Q&A can take place as well.

As we continue our walk through the Great 50 Days of Easter more information will be available, as well as opportunities to discuss the campaign.  I look forward to this time of conversation and prayer.  I expect that it will help us to continue to offer dynamic and life-changing ministry at Ascension and within our community.  

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

A Prayer to offer throughout our Capital Campaign

Join us in prayer throughout this season of Easter, as we hold a capital campaign.  See more details about the campaign here.

Heavenly Father,
Your son, Jesus, established your Church as a welcoming and loving home for all who seek You and inspired our forbearers to build Episcopal Church of the Ascension to be a place of prayer and community for all your children. We offer prayers of gratitude for the sacrifices and the hard work of previous generations of parishioners who have helped make our parish what it is today.  Help us to maintain that legacy through strengthening our communion and continuing to grow in faith, hope and love as we repair, renovate and address our youth, formation and outreach ministries’ needs. May we be as generous as we look to our future and Let Our Light Shine.  We humbly ask You to send your Spirit, guiding our parish community during this crucial time. Bless our capital campaign with a heightened devotion to prayer, a growing commitment to service and sacrificial levels of generosity as we work to advance the life and ministry of Ascension. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen

The power of observing Holy Week

"The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do” (Jn 13: 15)."  – St. John Paul II

Our Holy Week celebration have begun well with our Palm Sunday services.  Last week I noted a few significant elements of each service.  As we continue our walk through Holy Week I wanted to highlight a few things.  There are still times available during our prayer observance that begins at the conclusion of our Maundy Thursday service.  The best news is that most of them are in the morning (not the wee hours either!) of Good Friday.  It's not too late to sign up in the Narthex, or simply to show up to spend some extra time in prayer. 

As I read an email from another cleric this week, he spoke of the power of attending all of the services this week.  He was quick to acknowledge, that in addition to full schedules, there were often parts of a service that deter us.  Whether the foot-washing of Thursday, or the sorrow of Good Friday...yet we loose something when we miss one or more of these.  He concluded with a promise, one I can make as well.  If you attend all three (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil) it will change your life.

Together, these services call us to a renewed faith and sense of purpose.  As we prayerful consider our mission and purpose at Ascension, I hope you will also commit yourself to completing the Parish Survey.  Your input is essential as we consider our call and plan for our future.  Help guide our walk together by spending some time providing some feedback.  You can access the survey here.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul