March 1, 2012
From the Rector
The Importance of And
“John Cassian struggled with the problems of living the Christian life in a time when the world seemed to be falling apart.” (Holy Women, Holy Men, p. 250) This past Wednesday, February 29th, we celebrated the feast of a saint of the Church, John Cassian, Abbot at Marseilles, who lived in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. (one could argue that he is quite a lesser saint since his feast day falls on a leap day) Cassian was one of those who retreated to the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa in the three or four centuries following the beginnings of Christianity, and is remarkable in that he moved up to Gaul (modern day France), there establishing a monastery for monks, and later for religious women.
It was there that Cassian more fully developed his monastic practices, both individually and communally. In his biography in Holy Women, Holy Men it is said that his balance of the personal ascetic life, combined with the understanding of the necessity of Christian community, formed the foundation for Benedictine monasticism, the template for monasticism in Western Christianity. Cassian was clear that one person, no matter how dedicated and pious they might be, that one person could not practice Christianity alone. The contemplative nature of the monastic life had to be balanced by active participation in community.
Several years ago the Roman Catholic Franciscan friar Richard Rohr established a center in New Mexico called, “The Center for Action and Contemplation.” When asked about which was more important, “Action” or “Contemplation,” Rohr responds that actually the most important word is “and.” Because you cannot fully live into one element without the other. To live one’s life totally in action leads off without aim, often rushing off to the next or latest issue, without critical thought or necessary discernment. And to simply remain in contemplation means that one will inevitably turn inward on one’s self, deafened to the cries of the world.
This is one of the particular challenges of Lent. From Jesus’ time in the wilderness, to our prayers and tradition, there is a clear call to “pause, reflect and pray.” And yet, our time preparing for Easter cannot just be internal. It is because of this time spent in reflection, listening, being silent, creating that “hallowed” space, that we can then fruitfully and faithfully engage the world around us through acts of mercy and practices that bring justice.
The 5th century, notable for the decline and collapse of the Roman Empire, formed the context for John Cassian’s life as a desert ascetic, monk and abbot. While we are not in the same milieu as Southern Gaul of that time, there are striking similarities as we experience the demise of the American Empire in this 21st century, watching as the world as it has been known for some time seems to be falling apart. Whatever is in store for us as followers of Christ, the example of John Cassian can be a light on our path this Lent and beyond, a beacon of a contemplative in active community.
First Steps on the Journey
This past Wednesday evening over 70 souls gathered for the first of the five evenings of our Lenten Series, “We Cannot Walk Alone.” After a filling and delicious soup supper, and an introduction to the series from the Rev. Dr. Horace Griffin and the Rev. Phil Brochard, we watched a section of the documentary film, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Savior”, a documentary film about the intertwined origins of slavery and the Episcopal Church in this country.
After the film, two members of the parish family, Ray Concepcion and Gloria Fleming, shared personal stories of the effects of racism in their lives. From the subtle to the overt, their stories brought to light the deforming nature of personal and systemic racism. Their stories were followed by table discussion, centering on the experience of hearing the narratives, seeing where the Biblical story interacted with the narratives and where the stories might be leading us. The evening concluded with prayers of reconciliation and compline. Please join us for the next four Wednesday evenings as each night three more members of the Body will share their story.
Standing Rock Rectory Renovation
For generations the Priest in Charge of the Episcopal Churches on the Standing Rock Reservation lived on the reservation, in the town of Wakpala, next to St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church. In 1955 a new Rectory was built and first occupied by the young family serving Standing Rock, Margie, toddler Jim and the Rev. Bill Fay. For decades that small building was the home for the priests and families on Standing Rock. Over time, though, it fell into disrepair and was unlivable. The priests serving the reservation moved across the river (off the res), into town. A few years ago, youth and adults from All Souls led a trip with other Episcopal youth and adults out to Standing Rock and some of our time was spent working on this home.
We replaced the roof, laid insulation, painting the outside, did some demolition and other work. And we were overjoyed to recently receive this message from the current Priest in Charge of Standing Rock’s Episcopal Churches, Fr. Rob Schwarz. They should be moving into the home in a few weeks, once again having the priest live with those with whom they serve. Thanks be to God.
“I’m sitting in the house. It only needs appliances, floor-refinishing and painting to move in. Gutters aren’t up yet, but it has new soffit and facia. I love it! I can’t wait for you guys to stay here. Thank you so much for all you’ve done to make this possible. Please forward this email to those who did so much to make this vision a reality, this building a resource for the church for another 50 years.”
Standing Rock Episcopal Mission, SD
Update from the Finance Committee
The Finance Committee continues to meet monthly to review the finances of the parish. Judith Lothrop has served with great dedication as our Bookkeeper and Treasurer, and will continue to serve as Bookkeeper. The Vestry approved Sherry Markwart as our new Treasurer in early February and we’re thrilled to have her take on this new role. Sherry will eventually also serve as Finance Committee Chair once she becomes more familiar with our systems. In the short-term, Michelle Barger will serve as Interim Finance Committee Chair.
And now on to the year-to-date report. The end of January marks 8.3% of the year, and you will see that our pledge income – which is the primary source of funding for our annual budget – is already at 17%. This high percentage is due in large part to prepaid pledges made by parishioners. Other sources of funding for the annual budget include offering plate gifts from Sunday services, rental income from the use of our facility, and other gifts to the parish. The plate offerings for January were at 6%. The total operating revenue for the year-to-date is at 18%, again reflecting in large part the prepaid pledges made by some parishioners.
Now turning to the expense side of the budget. As is common with most non-profit organizations, personnel represents the most significant category in expenses. At 7% as of the end of January, we are slightly below budget.
Michelle Barger, Interim Finance Committee Chair