Capturing Family Moments

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.  - Aaron Siskind

My father was always an avid photographer.  He took countless photographs of our family and would consistently capture our trips. Often he would shoot until my sisters rolled their eyes and told him to stop. I suspect that was part of what he liked as well.

As time has passed we have all grown increasingly grateful for his love of the camera. My parents have freely shared the photos he has taken. It can be overwhelming at times as we work to sort through them, but that is far better than not having any to sort. We each have our favorites, however, they are all of family moments.

Smart phones and selfies have certainly changed the way we do all of this today. There are some moments worth being deliberate as we seek to capture a photo we will treasure in years to come. We hope to be a part of that at Ascension. We are creating three places that will be staged for photo opportunities this Sunday, since Easter is a time when we are often dressed our very best.

  • In the Narthex by the stained glass

  • In the courtyard on the benches 

  • On the large playground

I hope you will help welcome others as we make our way to these places for a photo. Families can help photograph one another, or you can take a selfie in these areas. We hope you'll use the hashtag "#ascensiondallas" as you post to social media too!

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Celebrating the Resurrection

The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.    - St. Augustine

Every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. Every Sunday is a "little Easter". The week leading up to Easter is an important time for us as a church. It is the culmination of all of our Lenten preparation, the homestretch of our Lenten disciplines.  The liturgies and traditions of the week were developed over generations to honor all that transpired as Christ made his way to the cross.

Participating in the services of Holy Week will accentuate the celebration we offer on Easter. As we gather this Sunday we recall the triumphant entry to Jerusalem, the trials that Jesus and his followers faced and the Passion of Jesus. Some have argued that including the passion is jumping ahead to Good Friday, although it is significant for us to consider these events as a collective whole. As the week progresses we examine the events more closely in our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.  

While many have attended to these traditions their whole life, others may be experiencing them for the first time. I hope that you will invest yourselves in as much of this as possible. A few things to highlight as you mark your calendars, the formation hour (9am) this Sunday will offer a variety of activities as we consider the story we hear on Palm Sunday; there is a "night-watch" from the Maundy Thursday service until noon on Good Friday, you can sign up here to participate; the Easter Vigil service recalls God's redemptive acts of mercy in a unique way, if you've never been to this service perhaps you can try it for the first time this year!

If you have any questions about the services of Holy Week don't be shy, reach out to Mother Marci or me by phone or email, or stay after to visit about what is offered. I look forward to our collective prayer and witness to these services in the week ahead.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

New Telephone System

“Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is when you have two,

opulence is when you have three - and paradise is when you have none.”  - Doug Larson

There have been some on-going issues with the office phone system at Ascension. Despite our best efforts, the old system was no longer viable. We are pleased to say we have a new system in place this week! The office number remains (214) 340-4196. As you call, or leave a message, please be patient as we learn this new system.

The new system brings several advantages in terms of connectivity. Each staff person will have a direct number once again, some of these were not functioning properly with the old system. Check your @Ascension email for the direct dial numbers.

The new system also allows us to take calls on these numbers via our cell phones, allowing greater access to the phone, but also to our voicemail. I believe this will be particularly helpful for any pastoral calls. The direct lines for clergy can be called at anytime, it may go to voicemail after hours, but we will get a notification and be able to return your call.

For those who are interested, further good news includes that the phones were free. The new service cost is slightly higher than the prior service, but the additional functions and flexibility improves our use of the system considerably. It also includes conferencing and video conferencing. We expect that all of these features will help us improve our total communication with everyone.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Building Connections

Name tags are one of those funny things we know are helpful, but many of us are resistant to wearing them. It's almost universal. In high school I didn't really like wearing name tags, a close friend and I had t-shirts printed with our names to wear whenever we knew we'd have to wear name tags.  

Later, I had a fascination with the variety of name tags encountered throughout a day - store clerks, wait staff, etc. I began asking people for their name tags which was the beginning of a rather odd collection of name tags from various places. I even managed to collect a vest from one retailer, complete with embroidered name tag. I attached my collection to this vest and wore it on "odd" occasions.

We think name tags are for others, not for us. They may be helpful to us, but really, they are a tool to help welcome visitors. At Ascension we have printed name tags for most members and regular attendees, as well as a form to request printed name tags or make changes. For first-time visitors, there are blank name tags. We have permanent name tags for greeters, ushers and vestry members. 

I hope that we will all commit to wearing our name tags regularly. Wear them for others who may be joining us for the first time; wear them for those who have arrived in the last weeks and are still getting to know us. It will help us build connections and be one body in Christ.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul

Celebrating Outbound Ministry

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” -  Galatians 5:13

All Christians are called to serve others. This can take many forms and most churches have several ways to offer service to others. Some churches, and individuals, are more intentional about this than others. Ascension has a long history of service through the Food Pantry and more, but the early 2000's brought an even deeper emphasis on being externally focused.

Since then, our outbound ministries have evolved and grown. Many at Ascension recall the language of "creating a zip code of hope" as the parish sought to meet the needs of those around us. As things progressed, Ascension has cultivated a reputation for being engaged with the community around us and more opportunities continue to reveal themselves.

All of this has been a labor of love for the community as a whole. It has also been a result of the leadership Dabney Dwyer has offered over these years. This Sunday we include a recognition of outbound ministries and celebrate the leadership Dabney has offered. Dabney is retiring from her position, but this ministry will remain a priority for us as a parish. Join us Sunday for this recognition, plan to stay after worship for a reception and light lunch.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Community Garden Renovations Nearing Completion

Our community garden is undergoing a major renovation!

In 2009, Ascension began conceptualizing a community garden to be located on the north end of the property. A committee led by Jeanne Neill was formed to evaluate options, visit other garden sites and to develop a plan. In spring of 2010, Ascension’s Garden of Hope with 42 beds opened welcoming gardeners from Ascension and the community.

Ascension’s Garden of Hope has been a blessing in so many ways. In addition to being a bridge from Ascension to the community, the garden has donated nearly 500 pounds of fresh produce annually to our Elaine Kadane Food Pantry. In addition to shelf stable items, our neighbors now enjoy a variety of fresh food!

Over the last several years, it became clear that the garden needed to be renovated due to the wear and tear over the years. After a year of planning, a proposal was submitted to the Vestry and renovation began the first week in March and should be completed in the next several weeks. The renovation includes fresh soil and compost and the addition of new garden borders created with Austin stone - a beautiful sustainable option over wood. Gardeners from the community and Ascension are excited to begin spring planting.

Ascension has been able to raise most of the money to complete the garden work including a soup luncheon benefit and a grant from the Lake Highlands Community garden.

Please take a moment to visit the garden and thank Diane Haack and Dustin Mitchell-Scott for their assistance in planning, procuring materials and identifying the landscape company that made this happen! In addition, Robert Gross, a gardener at both Ascension and Lake Highlands deserves a special thanks for his consultation.

Look for a special garden dedication soon!

Dabney Dwyer, Outbound Director
Diane Haack, Garden Coordinator

End-of-Life Care Planning and Funeral Guidelines

The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that “there is a time for every purpose under Heaven…. A time to be born and a time to die.” As we enter this season of Lent and reflect on our own mortality, it is a good time to consider end-of-life care planning.

While we all want to live as well as we can, as long as we can, it is prudent to plan ahead. This can save you and your loved ones from having to guess one another’s wishes; it can save precious time in the event of an emergency, and it can even assist your physicians should you be hospitalized.  

We have recently updated our End-of-Life Care Planning and Funeral Guidelines in order to better serve you. These new guidelines include the theological ideals that are found in the Rites of Christian Burial I and II. In addition, we have added more information to help you as you consider your end-of-life care planning. You will find helpful lists that will assist you in your estate planning, as well as recommended health documentation, guidelines for planning your funeral service at Ascension, and ideas for planned giving (bequests).  

The revised End-of-Life and Funeral Planning Guidelines are available at the Welcome Desk for the next few weeks, with the hope that most everyone will consider this process as a part of your Lenten disciplines. The guidelines are also available on our website.  If you choose to create a new funeral plan, or revise and update an existing one, please inform your clergy at 214-340-4196.  We are available for consultation and discussion about this most important subject.

In Christ’s Service,
Mother Marci Pounders

The Season of Lent

“Lent is a time to renew wherever we are in that process that I call the divine therapy. It’s a time to look what our instinctual needs are, look at what the dynamics of our unconscious are.” - Thomas Keating

The season of Epiphany is nearly complete and Lent will soon be upon us. The last Sunday after the Epiphany (the Sunday coming) typically includes the transfiguration story from one of the Gospels. Then, Shrove Tuesday, sometimes known as "Fat Tuesday," is our last hurrah before Lent properly begins on Ash Wednesday. The service on Ash Wednesday is solemn, but serves as an invitation into a time of penitence and fasting, of self-examination and repentance.

The forty days of Lent excludes Sundays, as they remain a remembrance of the resurrection. Still, our Sunday liturgy is reshaped to acknowledge the season. Most notably, we forgo all "Alleluias." Some take the Sunday celebration as a reprieve from their Lenten disciplines, although some choose to maintain their disciplines all the same. Either way, I hope you will consider committing to something that will add meaning to this sacred season for you.

In addition to the changes to our liturgy, our formation committee has plans for the season. "The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations" will be featured on Sunday mornings at 9:00 as well as Wednesday evenings. This will also be available online. The Godly Play lessons will also take a Lenten theme with some activities to take home. I hope that you will make a commitment to participate in these offerings even if you have not in the past.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Update on Capital Campaign Projects

“Delay is preferable to error.”    - Thomas Jefferson

An update on the Capital Campaign projects is overdue. While I spoke to this briefly at the Annual Meeting, I know that not everyone was present and there is more to say. The work on the Upper Building began long ago and at that time the general contractor assured us the renovations could be completed by now. There have been a variety of factors that delayed this process, most recently an incomplete bid list.

In January we realized that we likely would need to change general contractors in order to complete the project as intended. We identified a possible replacement and had preliminary meetings. In the last two weeks we terminated the contract with the original general contractor and are transitioning to new oversight and management of the project. Even so, we will not likely see immediate progress other than removal of the construction fence and portable office. We expect that this change will result in more timely progress thereafter and a better final product that will meet our future needs as intended.

Once a permit is obtained from the city and the bid process for the Upper Building renovation is completed, we will move to finalize the scope of work in the main building. The sound and lighting in the Nave remain high priorities along with other accessibility features (like push button door openers).  We are grateful for the support, financial and otherwise, of the parish as well as your patience. As things progress we welcome any additional commitments to the work of this campaign.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul


Invite Welcome Connect

“Ultimately, Invite Welcome Connect is all about relationship.” - Mary Foster Parmer

By now, many of you will have read the announcement in the bulletin about Invite Welcome Connect. Perhaps you still have some questions, or wonder what it will be like. I hope that you will take a moment to visit the website where you will find a variety of information and resources, including a video endorsement from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

There are two points of clarification that I think may be helpful. First, this is not a program, but a way of doing ministry. It is not to say that we are not doing these things well. Our facilitator, Catherine Miller, has been to Ascension and remarked that we are doing "Welcome" well. She is also aware of some of the things we have done lately to invite people.  

All of this leads to my second point of clarification; namely, these three elements, Invite Welcome Connect, are not independent activities. I believe this training will help us to more fully integrate these aspects. What are we inviting people into? How and when do we work to connect people with small groups and ministry? I suspect that "Connect" is where the church at large struggles most. Connection is essential for guests to have a sense of belonging and a long-term interest in our common life and ministry.

I hope you will consider joining us for the workshop at Ascension on March 1st and 2nd. On Friday March 1st, we will start at 6pm with a reception and an overview of the training being offered. On March 2nd from 9am to 4pm there will be a facilitated training. If you're unable to attend but are interested in knowing more, please let me know, as this will continue to shape how we engage with all who come here in the coming weeks.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul