From the Rector

Fr. Paul's summer plans

Each summer we each make plans for time with family, both near and far. I have also made a point to spend at least two weeks with youth programing each summer, including things like camp, mission trips, pilgrimage and EYE in the past few years. This year I will be the “Dean” during the second week of Camp at All Saints with many of our own youth in attendance.

Then, from July 8th to August 9th I will be in Seattle with Noah and Emma. In many ways it is hard for me to imagine being gone that long, longer than I’ve been away from a church since I was ordained in 2005. My decision came in part after Emma was diagnosed with Epilepsy earlier this year. Both Noah and Emma had been accepted to the Pacific Northwest Ballet Summer Intensive and had their hearts set on it. We knew they could only go if a parent was present now.

As I made my request to the vestry I included my plans for the time. I will spend two weeks focused on Continuing Education. In February 2015 I attended the “Daring Way” certified leader training with Brene Brown. This is excellent course work and gave me access to an online portal that offers continuing education videos led by Brene. Further, I completed the “Next Level Leadership Program” with Shane Hipps last year, it includes five bonus modules that I haven’t completed yet. I expect to spend part of these weeks focused on writing as well, I have three separate projects started that would benefit from a focused effort.

The third week I will continue writing some, but shift my focus to “out of office work”. There are many projects that would benefit from undistracted effort. Planning for our confirmation curriculum is high on my list. I also have another video series in mind that I hope to make progress on while I am away.

Finally, the last two weeks I will be on vacation. Cycling around Seattle, seeking out good food and good beer and generally enjoying time with the kids. Sarah will join us the last week we are there for some family time before Noah leaves for Idyllwild this fall.

I am very excited about this plan, but was a bit nervous to present it. Indeed, it makes me a bit nervous to leave for that long! I feel blessed to have found support from the vestry and many other leaders at Ascension. They recognize the value of the time away to study and rejuvenate and the value of the time with family. Further, I feel support as I seek to support our children in their pursuit.

Ascension will be in good hands with the staff and vestry tending to most immediate needs. They will be able reach me in the event of a crisis, pastoral or otherwise, but I will not check my email daily in order to be able to focus the aforementioned plans. I hope that this blog will help the community understand where I am and what I’m up to during this time. I know that many in the parish will be traveling during this same time, but hope that you will fully participate in worship and ministry whenever you are in town.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Storm update from Fr. Paul

The storm that swept through much of Texas took a toll on Dallas and many other communities. Prayers for all affected are needed, many are taking action too! I know many members are busy tending to immediate needs at their homes and helping others around.

At church there has been some substantial damage. The trees around our campus have been damaged, many will be lost entirely. Some damage to the roof, particularly where the tree in the herb garden fell onto the room. Further, the drains were clogged by excessive leaves, causing flooding above - the trickle down effect was in full force. Many ceiling tiles were damaged and the full extend of this damage is yet to be known. Some of our A/C units were damaged, others were blown off of their base and will need to be assessed further prior to powering up. Conduits to these roof units and some lighting also will need to be checked. The garden has also lost nearly all of the current plants.

All in all we are fortunate, the Nave saw some water around doors and windows, but no known damage there, including the organ and piano. It doesn’t appear that we lost any of our many, many windows!

Many members and friends stopped today to help as we begin our clean up effort, thank you! Clean up inside and out will continue throughout the week. Your help, as you’re able, and your prayers are appreciated. I have been in touch with the Diocesan Director of Natural Disasters, The Rev. Keith Tuberville, who may help us offer aid to those in our community in the days and weeks ahead. More updates will be posted as we’re able.

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

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

Holy Week

 

"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown." – William Penn

As we prepare the enter the final week of Lent, several unique liturgies emerge.  These are have been a part of our tradition for generations.  They have a unique place in our prayer books, as very few holy days have their own liturgy.

Palm Sunday celebrates a triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  This day is also marked by the reading of the Passion Gospel.  This tradition has taken many forms.  The challenge, in part, is how to offer a longer portion of the Gospel, as any smaller segment excludes too much of the story.  Many churches also use palm branches as a part of a large procession, bring the story to life.  We also tend to include intergeneration activities during the formation hour at 9am.

The liturgy Maundy Thursday recalls both the institution of the Eucharist, as well as Christ washing the disciples feet.  The Eucharist is more familiar, as we practice it every week and rarely wash the feet of one another.  The connection between the humbling nature of foot-washing and the Eucharist is one we ought to carry with us throughout the year.  This service is made complete with the stripping of the altar, that is the removal of all items in the sacristy.  It is reminiscent of Jesus being taken away from the garden.  A prayer observance continues in the church until the service on Good Friday.

Good Friday is a solemn occasion as we remember the crucifixion.  We gather for prayer and reflection.  It is the only day the church expects us to fast from the Eucharist.  Where the sacrament is received, it would be from reserve sacrament from the Eucharistic prayer is universal.  This service often includes Stations of the Cross (although we will forgo that this year at Ascension), or some reading of the Passion Gospel.  The Passion Gospel for Good Friday is always from the Gospel of John, whereas we read from the synoptic Gospels on Palm Sunday.  This year we will also reinstate the tradition of a veneration of the cross, although the practice will look different than in years past. 

The Easter Vigil can properly occur anytime between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter.  It begins with the kindling of new light in the form of a flame.  The first part of the service includes a magnificent chant and readings that mark the story of God and the faithful who have followed God.  It often includes baptisms and is properly the entrance into Easter.  As the first Easter proclamation is made, more candles are lighted and the fullness of the church lighting is offered.  It continues with the first Eucharist of Easter. 

I hope this overview helps entice you as we prepare for Holy Week.  There are more formation and fellowship offerings throughout this week, noted the announcements.  I am looking forward to experiencing these powerful liturgies with you once again.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Mission

"Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission." - Zig Ziglar 

The word "mission" has Christian connotations.  Even as it is used in secular context, it is often to reference the deep, abiding sense of purpose that Christianity holds in sharing the Gospel.  The Book of Common Prayer defines the mission of the church within the catechism, "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."

The vestry of Ascension adopted this as our mission statement too.  It is precise, yet inclusive.  The catechism goes on to say, "The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love."  This is all true at Ascension, in our gathering and serving the community around us, we fulfill our desire to restore unity between God and all people.

More often, when we speak of "mission", it is in reference to an annual youth trip, one that is focused on serving others.  This use of the word, aligns with the aforementioned descriptions too.  And, just as our various meetings and ministries fulfill our purpose, so too, the particulars of the youth mission vary from year to year.  

This year our youth are preparing for a trip to Alaska.  This is more extreme than many prior mission trips, our prior connections there have helped ease some of the typical challenges.  Our youth will certainly need our support, in prayer and in their fundraising to complete this aspect of our collective mission.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul