Notes on Liturgy

"Liturgy is the means that the church uses to keep baptized Christians in living touch with the entire living holy community as it participates formationally in Holy Scripture." - Eugene Peterson

The 'liturgy' or order of our worship is consistent, passed through the ages.  It centers on God's word, as we find it in the scriptures and the sacraments of the church.  Even as some elements change to acknowledge the passing seasons, the shape of the liturgy is relatively unchanged.  I want to offer a few notes that may help enrich your participation in our liturgy.

First, do not underestimate the power of arriving early.  Our culture leaves us rushing from one thing to the next.  If you can find a way to arrive a few minutes early to get situated it will magnify your experience of everything that follows.  Perhaps this will be a Lenten discipline for some?

The Celebrant guides the worship.  Watching the celebrant helps one to know when to sit, stand or kneel.  They also guide the pace of worship.  Listening to the celebrant, along with those close to you helps us pray together, rather than simply in the same space.

Music enriches our worship in many ways.  Here at Ascension we are blessed with a dedicated choir, talented direction and musicality as well as with an instrument that further enhances what is offered.  Music can add to the synchronicity of worship, uniting our voices and connecting our hearts rhythm.  The power of music is sometimes palpable, particularly after an anthem or solo.  We may be accustom to applauding for a performance, however these works are offered as worship.  Awed, reverent silence is more appropriate in worship.  Expressing your appreciation for a piece to the choir or soloist following worship is also meaningful.

There is more to note about our liturgy than can fit in one post, next week I will offer a few more notes, particularly on receiving the sacraments. 

Blessings -
Fr. Paul


The importance of parking lots...

"Be generous with your time and money - it has an amazingly fast payback. Be in the moment with everyone you love - and this frequently means tuning out work completely. And drive slow in parking lots." - Scott Weiss

The importance of parking lots can easily be missed.  Whether at work, a restaurant, or out shopping, often our focus is already on the next task and parking becomes an automated ritual.  The parking lot is an important place, as a first impression as well as a transition point from our last stop, or even the act of driving, into the next thing.

At Ascension we are blessed with a lot of parking.  Some have noted that it sometimes takes weeks or months for a new member to know that parking wraps around the north end of the building as well.  The staff can all tell you which spots are shady on a summer day, as well as how that moves from morning to afternoon.  A rainy day may leave us all scrambling for a spot closer to a door...any door.

As we work to update some of the signage on campus we will be reducing the number of "guest" spots.  There are currently eight spaces designated for guests.  I'm an optimistic man, but eight is more than we need.  Further, I believe we need to leave spaces with limited mobility and those with small children.  If you can read between the lines a bit, I'm asking all those able to walk easily to leave the closest spots for those who need them, a good practice everywhere for that matter.  

Blessings - 
Fr. Paul 

Hurricane Harvey

I imagine many of us have been overwhelmed by images of the flooding in Houston and other parts of Texas.  Hopefully, we have also found some small joy in learning of the effort of the "Cajun Navy" a group of volunteers that are helping with the rescue effort.  I know many of us traded stories and "check-ins" with relatives as we gathered for church yesterday.

Moving forward, I wanted to note a few ways we can help.

Pray.  Don't underestimate the power of prayer for those in the affected areas. 

Give.  You will likely get various requests for monetary support, for this and any other number of causes.  Let me recommend giving through Episcopal Relief and Development.  This is a go-to way to help following a disaster with a faith-based, responsible approach to supporting various needs.  The Bishop wrote today to encourage our support in this way too.

Offer.  Some are listing their homes, or rooms therein on AirBnb and other sites with no fee for victims of flooding... there are other ways to 'jump in' and offer time and talent here in Dallas, as we are "close".  Items are being collected at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church as they offer a local response.

May the Spirit of God watch over us, and those in need across our world, as we endeavor to be Christ and reflect the love we have received back to the world.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Wearing your faith for all to see

"The finest clothing made is a person's own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this." - Mark Twain

Our clothing is often an extension of our personality.  It can offer a glimpse to who we are, or even hint at our profession.  It can also help us connect with others who share an interest, whether sports team or university alum.  I was stopped in a crowd recently as someone stepped over to say, "Aloha" recognizing my shirt with a phrase from Hawai'i.  We briefly traded stories about living there.

Those who have attended youth gatherings with me can attest to my affinity for shirts with Jesus on them.  One with Jesus on a surfboard is particularly popular, others include clever captions, most of them help begin conversations with others and an opportunity to talk about faith.

We have started a "Booster" campaign, where you can order shirts that feature the church logo.  Our family has placed an order and I hope you will too.  There are a few options, men's and women's styles, long and short sleeve.  This method allows you to place an order that can be shipped to your house, or to the church.  It will reduce overages, but also will help us raise money to support our life and ministry at Ascension.  The shirts will be helpful as we go to serve together.  

The timing of the order is such to allow delivery before 'Fresh Food Day' this fall.  

Order yours here

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Keeping up with sermons

Sermons are an important part of our worship.  They are a first step at 'responding' to God's word, they offer interpretation and hopefully an important step in forming us as disciples.  While most preachers wrestle with worthiness in this important task, we continue to stand before the congregation and offer our best.  I find this to be a real blessing.

Being present for the sermon as it is delivered live is best.  It fits in the context of our worship service, framed in prayer, worship through song and the scriptures.  It fits in the context of our gathering as a community as well.  That said, we do our best to capture it and offer it online as well.  

We post the sermons online for several reasons.  Those members who are unable to join us on Sunday, either temporarily because of travel or illness, or more permanently due to location or advanced age.  Currently, we record the sermon both in audio and video format.  We have a great team that helps make this possible.  

The audio is posted to a podcast that can be accessed through this site, or through 'Podbean' or iTunes (Apple Music).  The video files are posted to YouTube, mostly these are posted to the "Ascension Celebrations" page that can be accessed through our video page.

More recently we have started experimenting with live streaming too.  Mostly this been via a personal Facebook page, but may soon make it to our Ascension page.  This has the added advantage of being real-time, but also remains on Facebook.

We hope all of these options help our members stay connected when they cannot be present.  We also hope that they serve as a means of evangelism.  If a sermon has been particularly meaningful to you, you can share the recording (audio or video) with a friend or family member.  Those who find us online can view some of the sermons and find out a bit more about who we are through this medium too.  

Thanks for listening (and reading).  Thanks for your support in this community of faith.  Thanks for sharing the sermons, as a means of sharing your faith community and your faith.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul