E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 7, 2021

Spring Gardens, Spaghetti Dinner, SJE Podcasts and more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 7, 2021 – Available in full online here.

Haga clic aquí para ver el mensaje de esta semana en español de nuestro misionero latino, Luis Valencia. 

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP
 
Dear *|FNAME|*

One of my absolute favorite parts of Lent is watching the season begin to turn from winter to spring. 

As I've mentioned before, the English word of Lent comes from the old English word from which we also get the word "lengthen." The days begin to lengthen in this season and the increasing amounts of sun brings hope for life renewed. 

Right now the snow piles are melting around the church. The sun is shining through my office windows and I can hear the birds singing. I know that pretty soon the Memorial Garden and St. Francis Garden will start coming to life again. And our Environmental Action Team is currently running their spring spaghetti fundraiser to raise money to expand the Good News Garden to provide even more fresh produce for the hungry and those in need. 

I also had a meeting today with a local artist who works with both wood and stone, Ruben Llano. We spent some time in the Memorial Garden talking about the possibility of installing a simple stone altar in that garden, right in front of the existing granite bench.

The altar could provide a lovely and fixed place for outdoor celebrations of Holy Eucharist during the week when the weather turns. It could also be used at the Great Vigil and even at small burial services. The idea is that the funds to build and install it could come from the money donated to the Undesignated Memorial Fund in honor and memory of Father Kennth, our priest associate who died of COVID late last year. Ruben also talked about inscribing a memorial to him in the altar itself, just as our memory and love for him is inscribed in the hearts of so many of us here. 

Stay tuned. I'll share more about this possibility when I get details from Ruben and the Vestry can begin a formal consideration of the idea. 

Even though COVID numbers seem to be plateauing a bit, not continuing to go down as we had hoped, I still have hope. Vaccine distribution continues to increase, with a new vaccine available this week. I'm hopeful that the risk factors in our state will begin falling once more, that we are only experiencing a slight bump in some areas, and that the diocese will then be able to enable us to move to Phase Two and begin some limited re-entry.

Until then, though, breathe deeply in that beautiful spring air. Life is beginning to poke through the dark and seemingly dead places in our world. Resurrection comes. 

Warmly,

NOTE: Risk levels for our County and Region of the State have finally downgraded below critical by COVID Act Now and the Mi Start Map. However, until the Diocese makes the move to Phase Two, we remain in Phase One of our plan for ministry in the Coronavirus Pandemic. The building is closed and worship is streaming online with no attendance. Continuing this Sunday, though, we are allowing Worship Ministers to offer their ministry live in the church rather than pre-recorded. This will still keep our numbers in the church at ten or less, according to current diocesan guidelines. Please stay safe, wear a mask, and maintain social distance from those outside your own household. 
 

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 7, 2021 online here

Not subscribed to our Weekly E-Newsletter? You can do that here: http://eepurl.com/n0r8P

Christianity and Life

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myths of what Christians believe about life… or at least, what often seems to be a myth given the perennial hypocrisy of the church on these questions. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

One of the number one reasons people give for not being a part of the church, is that it feels like the church is a hypocritical organization. One response to that is to take the approach of legendary Christian singer-songwriter Rich Mullins, who used to say the church isn’t full of hypocrites, we’ve always got room for a few more. What Rich was playfully pointing out was that everyone that is in church is hopefully trying to grow and that means at times they will be inconsistent in their actions and beliefs. Christians are not those who are perfect, they are those who fall down and then get back up through the grace and love of God. 

But another response to the perspective that the church seems to be a hypocritical organization is repentance and contrition for the times that charge is true. And I think one of the largest issues facing our world, one in which the church has often taken a conflicting and sometimes hypocritical stance, is the question of life. So today I like to try to break the myth about what Christianity believes about the value we place on life.

Most of the time a conversation with Christians arounds the value of life centers around the legality of abortion.  Being a priest in a church that affirms the tragic dimensions of abortion while also believing that legislative solutions don’t actually deal appropriately with what is involved… it means I often find myself on the other side of my siblings in Christ on this question. 

Roman Catholic nun, Sr. Joan Chittester, said it best, “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.” Years later, when the Trump administration was putting children in cages at the border, she stood by the statement, saying, “You have babies and pregnant mothers on the border. They’re innocent and defenseless, but those babies are being separated and segregated.”

Part of the problem is that many Christians base their opinions on questions related to life on the political views of the party with which they,  instead of basing their views on Scripture and a consistent ethic of life. That’s why you have people who are very strong believers and outlawing abortion but who also support capital punishment, war, and immigration policies that absolutely cause the death of those fleeing violence and poverty. 

But I want to be super clear here that I’m not only criticizing the right. Because the Democratic Party also fails significantly on this question. I know, some of you might think I spend most of my time disagreeing with the policies of our former president, but when President Obama was in office, I found plenty of time to disagree with him as well. Most significantly, I found his use of drones to kill people outside of the judicial process to be deeply disturbing.

And now, under the leadership of President Biden, I continue to be concerned. Reports are very clear that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Solomon approved the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamaal Khashoggi. Who knows why, perhaps due to some international relationships, President Biden has refused to hold the crown prince responsible for this murder. And the outrage is significant.

Don’t get me wrong, President Trump refused even to release this report when it was created. But now that the facts are known, for President Biden not to deal strongly with Saudi Arabia with regard to this murder is a tremendous dereliction of duty. I hope that the outrage over this decision pushes the administration to act differently, to demonstrate that the lives of all people do matter, including the life of Jamaal Khashoggi. 

I don’t know what the next four years of the Biden administration will look like, but I do know that I hope that the church stands up on the side of life. And I think that means we need to stand up on the side of social policies that will protect the most vulnerable, that means we must insist on an end to the cruel practice of capital punishment, that means we must resist constant militarization and war. That also means the church must come clean with its complicity in systems of homophobia and white supremacy that have resulted in the deaths of countless gay, lesbian, transgender people who had occupied some of our pews… systems that have resulted in the deaths of countless people of color, while so many Christians stood by, doing nothing. 

Either we really do care about life or we don’t. And an unbelieving world is watching to find out. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

March 2021 Parish Page

March 2021 Parish Page – Available in full online here.


From the Parish Administrator 
Cindi Sanders
 

Dear *|FNAME|*,

The March 2021 edition of the Parish Page is now published and available for download online here.

As always—and particularly in this time of the Pandemic—I am always happy to mail you a print copy—just contact me to be added to that list.

Mark your calendar for the Good News Garden Phase Two Fundraiser! You can sign-up today, and then pick-up your spaghetti dinner on Friday, March 19. More details in the article on page 8.  

You will find in this month's Parish Page information about Lent, including our Lenten Bookmark; Easter flowers & music; SJE Podcasts; World Water Day and much more!

Our hope is this Parish Page will let you know a little more about what's going on in the life of this church we all love so much.

I hope you enjoy this month's edition of the Parish Page. 

Stay Safe. Be Well.

With Joy,
Cindi

RECTOR’S INTRODUCTION
RENEWED COVENANT AT THE WILDERNESS EDGE  
 
FOLLOWING JESUS
2021 LENT & HOLY WEEK BOOKMARK      2
STEWARDSHIP – IT’S GOD’S MONEY         3
LECTIONARY BIBLE STUDY CONTINUES   4
SJE PODCASTS CONNECT YOU ON THE GO   4
RECTOR’S FORUM CONTINUES      4
 
INSPIRED BY WORSHIP
WORSHIP DURING THE PANDEMIC       5
EASTER FLOWERS & MUSIC             6
 
BOLDLY LOVING ALL
FOOD PANTRY NEWS             6
SHROVE TUESDAY VIRTUAL FOLLIES WINNER 6
KALAKI UNITY SCHOOL        7
MARCH BIRTHDAYS       7
GOOD NEWS GARDEN FUNDRAISER     8
 
EQUIPPING FOR THIS WORK
JANUARY 2021 TREASURER’S REPORT    10
 
NEWS FROM AROUND THE CHURCH
NATIONAL CATHEDRAL TOLLS BELL FOR COVID DEATHS  10
THE RT. REV. SKIP ADAMS ASSISTING BISHOP   11
JAPANESE ANGLICANS WELCOME NUCLEAR WEAPON BAN 13

 

Read more in the March 2021 Parish Page online here

E-Newsletter for Sunday, February 28, 2021

Lenten Book Study, Church Financials 101, Sign Up for Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser and more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, February 28, 2021 – Available in full online here.

Haga clic aquí para ver el mensaje de esta semana en español de nuestro misionero latino, Luis Valencia. 

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP
 
Dear *|FNAME|*

As we move toward the Second Sunday in Lent, I find myself wondering how Lent is going for you thus far.

As I mentioned in my sermon on Ash Wednesday last week, it kind of feels like we never really left the Lent of last year, when we found ourselves shutdown by a pandemic that has now claimed over a half a million lives in our country. 

In the taking things on department, I had a fantastic time this past Monday with our Lenten Book study conversation on Zoom at 8:00pm. We began our discussion of Jeffrey Burton Russell's book on the development of our understandings of evil and the devil, The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History.

A few participants acknowledged that they hadn't really wanted on their own to study the devil and evil this Lent, but did want to participate in the book study. As we talked and discussed during the hour, though, I think we all enjoyed the conversation and also felt like we had grown in our understanding of evil, goodness, and its connection to our Christian faith and how we live today. It's not too late to join us for next Monday's second session, where we'll be discussing chapters three through five at 8pm on Zoom

In the giving things up department, I know I've found it more of a challenge this year. We've all already given up so much during this past year, that adding on top of it is a challenge. However, the good news is that every morning we get to try again. That's one of the things I do love about Lent, it's great practice at standing back up after you fall down… and discovering God's grace is there both to catch you and help you stand back up.

What I'm most looking forward to as this journey continues, however, is my own hope for a limited reopening of our worship sometime in the next week or two. The factors the diocese outlined in their announcement last week are heading in the right direction and if they remain low for a just a few more days, we should be able to get a reopening date. 

Because, in the end, the journey of Lent is always richer in a community—and while virtual community is better than nothing, embodied community is where grace is the most profound. 

Stay safe. Be gentle with yourself. We'll find resurrection on the other side of this, I'm sure. 

Warmly,

NOTE: Risk levels for our County and Region of the State have finally downgraded below critical by COVID Act Now and the Mi Start Map. However, until the Diocese makes the move to Phase Two, we remain in Phase One of our plan for ministry in the Coronavirus Pandemic. The building is closed and worship is streaming online with no attendance. Continuing this Sunday, though, we are allowing Worship Ministers to offer their ministry live in the church rather than pre-recorded. This will still keep our numbers in the church at ten or less, according to current diocesan guidelines. Please stay safe, wear a mask, and maintain social distance from those outside your own household. 
 

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, February 28, 2021 online here

Not subscribed to our Weekly E-Newsletter? You can do that here: http://eepurl.com/n0r8P

Good Enough

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myths that you’re not good enough—a myth we often tell ourselves, or the church tells us, particularly in Lent. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

As we wind up the first full week of Lent today, if you are observing the season, you might be finding your Lenten disciplines beginning to be a bit more of a struggle—if they weren’t already. I know we’ve all already had to give up so much during this past year, that giving up something extra in Lent can feel like a true burden (which is one of the reasons why last week I talked about how Lent is about much more than giving something up!). 

But I know I’ve struggled more than normal in my own disciplines this year, and I would imagine I’m not alone. All of this brings out one of the unintended consequences that Lent can sometimes result in: you just feel worse about yourself than when you started.  And, given that sometimes it might feel like the big goal of Christianity is to make you feel worse about yourself, I think this is a good week to break the myth that you’re not good enough.

In my evangelical upbringing, I grew up with a fairly normal amount of guilt—at least, normal for evangelical Christianity. Like other church traditions, I often felt like I just couldn’t measure up to the expectations of God and the church. I felt like I did way too much sinning. I was always confessing to God. I was always trying to do better… and never quite enough. 

While contrition for the sins we’ve done, for the things we’ve left undone, while this is an important part of the spiritual life, an important part of growing and maturing spiritually, it can get out of hand when you start truly doubting whether you are good enough for God, good enough for the church, good enough for anything.

So, let me state one thing very clearly: you are good enough for God. You are so good, that God in Christ was willing to lay aside the powers of divinity and suffer death on a cross so that you might know how much God loved you, so that God could forgive your sins and heal your brokenness. You matter very much to God. And, even though we don’t know each other, you matter to me as a priest. I’m honest. You do. 

One of the things I love about the catechism of The Episcopal Church, as it is articulated in our Book of Common Prayer is where it begins. Our catechism begins with the question, “What are we by nature?” Given so many of the messages I’d heard from the church over the years, my own answer would probably have been something like “we are sinners” or “we are all broken” or “we are all wretches in need of God’s grace.”

But that’s not the answer our prayer book gives. Instead, it says, “We are part of God’s creation, made in the image of God.” The prayer book reminds us that, though we do all have our own brokenness, though we all have our own struggles and sins, that is not at the core of our nature. The core of our nature is the image of God, pressed upon your very soul. At your beginning, you are good.

The catechism goes on to acknowledge that humans have misused our freedom from the very beginning but that our help is in a God who revealed God’s true nature to us and who sent Jesus Christ to bring us back home, to make us truly the children of God we were meant to be. 

So, if you’re feeling at this early part of Lent that you’re not good enough, I’d encourage you to perhaps spend some time in stillness, practicing the presence of God and letting God’s love wash over you. 

And if you are in a church that tells you you’re not good enough, that your messed up or damaged goods—particularly if you are getting that message from the church because of your gender or sexuality—then I’d encourage you to do what I say at the end of every one of these segments: live your faith out in a community that accepts you and challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

But you can’t grow to be better tomorrow unless you first know that you are loved today. And who you are, particularly your gender or sexuality, is never something broken. It is the way God has created you. And it  is beautiful—and God wants to harness who you are in good and powerful ways. 

You are a beloved child of God, good at your creation—gay, straight, cis, trans, someone who is doing great at Lent or someone who cannot seem to get through one day right this year. NO matter who you are good as you were created. And the image of God is pressed in your very being. The capability of being the hands and feet, of being the words and actions of the love of Jesus in this world is who you are meant to be. But you cannot show others God’s love unless you first feel it yourself, until you know that you are indeed enough… more than enough… you are indeed beloved. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

On Preaching to Demons and Love Triumphing over Suffering

The audio of Fr. Cramer’s sermon for the first Sunday in Lent, Year B, preaching on the epistle reading for today from 1st Peter 3:18-22 is below:

The video of the sermon is available below as well:

Lent – More than Coke or Chocolate

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myths about Lent and the idea that it’s primarily about giving up coke or chocolate or some other delight. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Here we are on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent and the day that many of you have started giving up soda or chocolate or alcohol or some other delight in life. 

While giving up something is an important part of observing this season (I’m giving up something, too), it’s not actually, though, at the heart of what Lent is about. So, today I’d like to bust the myth that Lent is primarily about not having coke or chocolate. 

Lent began in the early church as a period of fasting, prayer, and preparation for catechumens—those who were going to be baptized at Easter. Over time, though, the preparatory aspects of Lent spread and were practiced by all those in the community, not just those preparing for baptism. Lent also became a time when those who had been separated from the church due to some kind of notorious sin were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness. 

So, the first thing to remember, is that the point of Lent is to prepare you for Easter. Lent is not meant to be simple mortification, or giving things up. It is not like a second round of New Year’s resolutions. If you give something up, it is to help you do the spiritual work you need to do so that you can more fully celebrate at Easter. 

In the Episcopal Church, we invite people to the observance of a Holy Lent with five different practices—not just giving up something sweet. 

The first practice of Lent is “Self-Examination and Repentance.” Called examen in Latin, the examination of conscience is one of the fundamental Christian spiritual practices. It was first enjoined by St. Paul who warned that, before receiving Holy Communion, you should “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Throughout history many spiritual mothers and fathers of the church have urged a daily examination of conscience, which also includes repenting from sins you have done and seeking to amend your life. 

The second practice of Lent is “Prayer.” And, as I’ve said before on Christian Mythbusters, we must remember that prayer is primarily about practicing the presence of God. Or, as our prayer book says, it is “response to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” During Lent you try to me more intentional about your prayer life, about setting aside time to be in the presence of God and responding to God’s presence in your life.

Fasting is the practice of going without food for a period of time… sort of. Traditionally there are two related practices here. “Abstinence” means lowering the quality of your food, for example, abstaining from meat. Fasting means lowering the quantity of food you eat. So, having a great big basket of fish and chips because it’s Lent is not really what it is about. My wife and I decided to fast one year by eating vegetarian for the entire season—but we also quickly discovered you can do that without actually lowering the quality of the food you eat by much. What you should focus on for your Lenten fast is eating more simply and also eating less. A traditional fast is eating one main meal with two smaller meals at other times during the day, those two smaller meals, put together, still being less than a full meal.  

Self-denial is where you get to the giving up chocolates or soda part of Lent. You are to deny yourself something you normally enjoy for the purpose of increasing your willpower and spiritual discipline. Every time you crave what you have given up you remember the choice you have made, the commitment you have placed upon yourself. Studies have actually shown that engaging in self-denial can increase your willpower in other areas of your life. 

The final practice is reading and meditation on God’s holy Word—the Bible. If you are only giving things up for Lent and not taking anything on, you are missing the richness of the season. Because while you are fasting and abstaining, while you are more active in prayer and more attentive to your inner spiritual life, you will also become better able to hear God’s voice in Holy Scripture. So, find a good reading plan and carve out a few minutes a day to read Scripture. Whether you follow the Daily Office (as many in our church do), sign-up for a plan on a Bible app, or just choose to read through a section of Scripture, you will be blessed by the opportunity to listen more carefully and closely to God’s call in your life. 

Self-examination and repentance. Prayer. Fasting. Self-denial. Reading and meditating on Scripture. These are the ingredients for a Holy Lent—and if you use them all, it will be a much more powerful experience than just giving something up. 

And if you’d like to have a community to begin Lent with, you’re more than welcome to join us. We’ll be streaming live on our YouTube channel (youtube.com/sjegrandhaven), a service in English at noon and a bilingual service in English and Spanish at 6pm. And you can even come to the church parking lot at 524 Washington in Grand Haven, after the services, from 1:00pm-1:30pm or from 7:00pm-7:30pm, and receive ashes and Holy Commnuion. I’d love to see you. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

The Company of Prophetic Resistance

Father Cramer’s sermon for today, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, on the Hebrew Bible reading from 2 Kings 2:1-12, the story of the ascent of Elijah into heaven in the chariot of fire and his authority moving to Elisha, his successor.

The audio of the sermon is available below:

The video of the sermon is available below as well: