Advent begins Sunday December 3; and immediately we begin Year B, and our journey through the Gospel of Mark. Mark will move us right along – we will hear a story of Jesus and then immediately move along to a new story, a new place, a new view of Jesus and the unfolding life, ministry, and teachings. But before we turn to the year ahead, I want to take a moment to reflect on the year we are ending.
The Gospel of Matthew called us to go into all the world to preach the gospel, and to remember and to take heart from Jesus’ promise at the Gospel’s end: Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. At St. Philips, we heard that message and responded to it throughout the year. As I look at all that has happened in our parish life, I am amazed at what God has been doing in our midst – In and through our congregation, we have experienced God Present with us in so many ways!
We had a great Epiphany Service, with burning of greens and toasting of marshmallows. We began Lent by remembering that ‘we are dust and to dust we shall return, with services at church, and “on the go” on a corner in Castle Rock. We joyfully participated in Easter and Pentecost services, and committed ourselves anew to being disciples on the way… Crazy Christians in the Jesus Movement, as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry would say. We have embraced the spiritual inventory of RenewalWorks, and its invitation to deepen our spiritual relationship with God and others. We are on the journey, and there have been many markers along the way that show us we are on the right path.
We have celebrated baptisms, weddings, and life’s end; we have completely renovated our wonderful historic church, inside and out; we have celebrated the Eucharist together in the church, in the parish hall, on the patio, and in a tent on the field. We have served people in need of help in Denver at St. Francis Center, day shelter for the homeless; served dinners to our community at Dinner at the Rock; given food at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving for local families through the Task Force; supported families in crisis with Christmas gifts and support through the Crisis Center.
We have visited and spent transformative weekends with men and women incarcerated in prisons through Kairos Prison Ministries; helped the Youth Group give love to our community with Laundry Love, BBQ and prepared meals to folks at Castle Rock Motel; Blessed Bikes and Bicyclists and all manner of vehicles at Perry Park Rd. We blessed doggies in our midst at church and all kinds of creatures, including bearded dragons, at the Blessing of the Animals with Christ Church and Well of Hope Church in October. We have packed Thanksgiving Meals for 12 local families, and are now in the midst of again preparing Angel ornaments for our Angel Tree of Christmas gifts.
So it is with a joyful heart that I invite you to give thanks for all that we have shared in this last year. In all of our work, play, worship and prayer, we have sought to follow our Lord more closely and faithfully, to serve those we have encountered, and to love our neighbors more deeply – to love and forgive as we ourselves are loved and forgiven by our Lord and Savior.
We look forward to the journey with Mark – and we invite all who would like to explore and journey with us to please come join us. That’s the year that was in brief… the year to come remains a mystery and a blessing to be discovered. Come and join us in the journey!
St Francis Center
On the third Saturday of every month a group from St. Philips volunteers time at the St. Francis Center, a day shelter that provides services for homeless individuals in the Denver metro area. Parishioners collect toiletries, socks, underwear, jeans, shirts, towels and other necessities throughout the year for distribution to those in need. The St. Francis Center is located at 2323 Curtis St., Denver, CO 80205 and is open daily from 6:00am to 6:00pm.
Douglas/Elbert Task Force
St. Philips Church collects non perishable food stuffs and toiletries on a weekly basis for the Douglas/Elbert Task Force. Parishioners also provide Easter and Thanksgiving food boxes and periodically make cash donations. The Task Force is located in Castle Rock, CO at 1638 Park St.
Dinner at the Rock
On the second Wednesday of every month St. Philips parishioners assist the Church of the Rock to prepare and serve a hot meal to the Castle Rock community. The meal is provided free of charge to all comers.
Kairos Prison Ministry
Men’s and women’s Kairos teams from St. Philips join other Christian groups to provide outreach to prisoners incarcerated at the Men’s Territorial Correctional Facility in Canon City and the Women’s La Vista Correctional Complex in Pueblo. The mission of the Kairos Prison Ministry is “to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities”. (Kairos website)
St. Philips Church also participates in additional outreach to both the local community and the world. We provide monetary support to the Bridge of Hope (provides housing and mentor support for women and families in transition); the Interfaith Hospitality Network (provides shelter and food for people in need during the winter months); the Buddy Center and Denver Dumb Friends League (provide shelter, food, medical care and adoption services for homeless pets); Colorado Haiti Project (serves Petit trou de Nippes with community support and resources for health care, water, agricultural development, and education).
If I had to choose one word for this new year, it would be Hope.
Hope for people who are facing and walking in trials or darkness.
Hope for our country as we try to find a way forward together.
Hope for the church as it seeks to be a channel of peace, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Hope for St. Philip in the Field as we seek to follow Jesus in word and deed in all that we do.
Hope, in short, that we see that the Light shines in the darkness; and the Darkness does not, cannot, and never will overcome it.
My hope for St. Philips is that we grow in love and lovingkindness; that we continue to serve our community and neighbors here and around the world with God’s own tender loving care. I hope that we will grow in our ability to see Christ in one another and to seek to serve him in each and every person we meet.
I hope that this year brings each of us more joy in knowing that we truly are God’s Beloved, with whom God is well pleased – and that we know and feel that in the depths of our being.
I hope that we honor and give thanks that we have made great strides in our life together in Christ – we have given of our time talent and treasure to serve our neighbors and our church family; we have welcomed many to join as we serve. We have served food and drink to the hungry, given clothes and shelter to the homeless, gone to those in prison, visited the sick, comforted the sorrowful, and come together to pray, sing, praise, and lament. In addition to direct giving through donations to the Discretionary Fund we have supported families in our congregation and our community including the Crisis Center, Elbert/Douglas Task Force, Bridge of Hope; in our region we have supported St. Francis Center, Kairos Prison Ministry, and books for schools; in the world we have helped ministry in the Dioceses of Jerusalem, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Haiti. Please read the reports in the Annual Report booklet to get a sense of all that we have done together this year – it is very good, God-Blessed work!
…In all of our service and gatherings, we have been given signs of hope for our journey.
Let these signs of hope strengthen us in this new year, and be lights on our journey of loving and serving the Lord. And let us never forget that in all that we are given to do, God is With Us. Take heart!
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Thank you, and Blessings, Beloved!
As we reflect on last Sunday’s Blue Christmas Service, I hope these words from The Rev. Becca Stevens – an Episcopal priest who has helped thousands of women in need of healing from physical, emotional and spiritual wounding through an amazing group called Thistle Farms – help shed light and hope and help:
Let’s be honest… Sometimes the holidays are hard. Trauma, abuse, dysfunction, and loss can be magnified in a season where we are implored to be cheerful. We hear you, Thistle Farmers, and we want you to know that we light a candle for you every single day. We know despair. We know loneliness. We know desperation. We also know that everyone needs help sometimes. We also know, beyond any possibility of doubt, that #LoveHeals.
Love Heals. Remember and hold on to that.
Also, here is a classic C. S. Lewis insight for the daily challenge of living… in this broken world with its sorrows and losses, and with its invitations to bring love, healing and comfort to the darkness and brokenness. As always, he says so well that which you know to be true as soon as it’s articulated… and he speaks that truth in love and gentleness. I hope it is balm for you, as it is for me. Blessings, Beloved.
Excerpt from a letter from C. S. Lewis, 3 December 1959, to Sir Henry Willink, whose wife had just died:
On bereavement and grieving.
I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt one, those who keep silence hurt more. They help to increase the sense of general isolation which makes a sort of fringe to the sorrow itself. You know what cogent reason I have to feel with you: but I can feel for you too. I know that what you are facing must be worse than what I must shortly face myself, because your happiness has lasted so much longer and is therefore so much more intertwined with your whole life. As Scott said in like case, ‘What am I to do with that daily portion of my thoughts which has for so many years been hers?’
People talk as if grief were just a feeling—as if it weren’t the continually renewed shock of setting out again and again on familiar roads and being brought up short by the grim frontier post that now blocks them. I, to be sure, believe there is something beyond it: but the moment one tries to use that as a consolation (that is not its function) the belief crumbles. It is quite useless knocking at the door of Heaven for earthly comfort: it’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.
You are probably very exhausted physically. Hug that and all the little indulgences to which it entitles you. I think it is tiny little things which (next to the very greatest things) help most at such a time. I have myself twice known, after a loss, a strange excited (but utterly un-spooky) sense of the person’s presence all about me. It may be a pure hallucination. But the fact that it always goes off after a few weeks proves nothing either way.
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray,
and to give more than we either desire or deserve:
Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,
except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect for October 2- Proper 22
We come to October with joy – Look Around and see the magnificence of our valley and the world we live in! This time of year shows it off in a way that’s almost embarrassing – the white peaks, blue skies, golden aspen and cottonwoods, red heathers… all bathed in golden sunlight, warm days and cool nights. For respite from the trials, troubles, and worries that also surround us, we can sit and gaze at God’s Awesome Creation and find Peace, give Thanks, and leave Restored in Spirit. What a great gift it is to live in Colorado, to come to Plum Creek Valley, and to worship at our little historic church, St. Philip in the Field!
That is my paean to this inspiring time of the year – and I invite you to come any day to sit on one of our benches and gaze at the peaceful scene that unfolds before you – Perch Ponder Pray – the words affixed to our old wooden bench says it all.
We need this recharging to continue the good work we are doing, and to prepare ourselves to do with gladness more good works that God has prepared for us to walk in. October holds two Kairos weekends where our members will work in prisons to bring the 4 day program of introduction to God’s Love and Forgiveness to people inside prison facilities at Territorial and La Vista Correctional Facilities. Many more from St. Philips will come to Sunday “Closings” of the Kairos Weekend to show their love and support for those inside the walls whose lives have been touched and transformed by God’s Amazing Love.
We will continue serving the homeless and needy at St. Francis Center in Denver – third Saturday of the month. And we begin serving meals to the community at large as well as specifically those in need, at second Wednesday Community Meals at the Rock. Please make time to join this ministry whether you choose to cook, serve, host at a table, troubleshoot or welcome guests. You find yourself blessing and being blessed. In it all, we will be acting on the Gospel imperative to care and look out for the least among us, those in need, those who it can be easy not to see.
Finally, this month also ushers us into the final days of our liturgical year; just as the days get short, leaves fall and trees are barren, and darkness and cold return to our days as well as our nights, so our readings point us to the end of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth. Yet, into the dark days that come with Jesus’ departure comes the promise of his return.
In it all, as the Collect reminds us, let us continue to pray, and to hold on to hope and forgiveness and mercy as we work together to continue to spread the joy and promise and love we find in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who walks with us even now, each and every step of the way. Thanks be to God!
Blessings, Beloved ~
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things,
but to love things heavenly;
and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Collect for the third Sunday of September
September – Fall- the changing of the season from our summer heat, hail, and flowers galore, to days of bright blue skies, rattling red and yellow leaves, with cool evenings and football. I love it!
This fall, it is also a time when two teams with members from St. Philip’s are preparing to visit two prisons for 4 days of prayer, sharing of stories, singing, laughing… weeping… and in it all, bringing love and hope to men and women who are often unseen and uncared for. It is a time when all involved in Kairos – team from the outside, team from the inside, candidates on the course, guards and officers – all come closer to God Present, God Loving, God Pouring Out Spirit on All Flesh. Please join our teams in bringing God’s Love to men and women on the inside by signing up to pray, coming to the Closing Ceremony (sign-up sheets are in the Parish Hall), or helping to fund a meal. All help is needed and welcomed and treasured!
12 Step Eucharist
September also brings a 12 Step Eucharist Service – both services – Sept 18. This ser- vice is remarkably adapted to our liturgy, and brings to life the spirituality of the 12 Steps, and underscores that the 12 Steps are not for “them”… they’re for all of us!
Hooper Memorial Bench
Sunday Sept. 25 we will have the blessing of the memorial Hooper Bench – it is installed at the playground and takes in the stunning view of the valley and mountains.
Looking Toward Fall
Looking a bit further ahead, fall also brings the Blessing of the Animals on Sunday Oct.2, the Diocesan Convention in Denver Oct 6-8, and a baptism on Sunday Oct. 9.
In our readings, September holds challenging readings from Luke – we will be clearly called to stand up and make hard choices – to carry our cross, to give up all manner of ease, so that we can embrace, even rejoice in God’s mercy, righteousness, and relentless pursuit of the lost, the needy, and the poor in spirit. The readings, the season, the special services, the books… they all work together to call us to heed the changing of the season, to note that time is passing; therefore, let us not delay to do good while we can – and to look out always in all ways for the needy among us. Therefore… Let us hold on, even as the seasons change, to the continuing message of hope, mercy, and reassurance of God’s care for all!
Peace be with you, Beloved!
The Vicar’s Brief will resume on September 01, 2016.
Be Filled With the Holy Spirit!
Here we are, looking forward to summer – to time off from school, the beginning of new jobs after graduation, to time to grow, plant, harvest, rest and play. In short, time to recharge, refresh, renew. Hallelujah! As part of our renewing and refreshing, our newsletter will take a summer breather… so I am encouraging you to prepare now to look ahead, and to join together at St. Philips to recharge, refresh, and renew as we continue on our journey as Episcopalians in the Jesus Movement.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry exhorts us to embrace this journey and our calling to The Jesus Movement, and to remember that we will look like Crazy Christians when we do so! Craziness in summer- yep, sounds good! As a good and easy and inspiring summer read, pick up Crazy Christians, or, Songs My Grandma Sang, and let PB Curry’s words and thoughts pick you up and encourage you on. You’ll be glad for time with those great books of exhortations on the Way!
We also will have at least two offerings at St. Philips to capture group energy as we are encouraged along together, and I hope you will join in. First, we will look at the Benedictine Way for us as a parish, and as one way of entering more fully into prayerfulness and openness on the Way. And next, we will do a book group of Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward. If you have read Falling Upward, and want to enhance that reading with other of his works, take a look at Breathing Under Water or Dancing Standing Still… or Immortal Dia- mond, The Naked Now, or any other of his works – they all help us enter into the life of a contemplative in action in prayer and new life in Christ.
But now, back to the Benedictine Way of Life….
Always we begin again…
With these words, the Benedictine Way of Prayer becomes real, and true, inspiring, and livable to me. They remind me that perfection may be out of reach, but the getting back up and continuing on the way is in my reach, and is my job. … or returning to the way… is the true Way. Although we may get discouraged, overwhelmed, and ready to give up, Always we begin again reminds us that God is with us, and will not leave us or forsake us. So we can let the Spirit dust us off, let Jesus take our hand, let God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit- walk with us through it all!
Always we begin again is a great maxim not just for individuals, but for the Church… the church universal…and the church in particular here at St. Philips. We have been picking ourselves back up, dusting off the disappointments, betrayals, and traumas of the past, and intentionally moving on in sharing love, service, and hope. If we are a bit Crazy on that Way – well, great!
Along the way, Bishop’s Warden Katherine and I have been sharing stories of our experiences at CD I- Congregation Development Institute. We have learned a lot, have learned a lot about what you think and have learned along the way from interviewing many of you (more to come!) – and we plan to share as much of what we have learned and discerned as we can.
To that end, we are looking forward to having as many of you as possible join us in a summer session introduction to parish prayer, grounded in Benedictine Practice. We will commit and pray in ways that will help us all, individually and together, to grow spiritually in depth, strength and joy. The areas of our lives that we will use to focus our prayer are hospitality, generosity, and service. This intentional prayer will enrich everything, and will help us to fulfill our mission to transform our life together, our life in our community, and our life in the world! So sign up – tell us what timing works best for you, and then Come, Begin Again!
May this summer be a time of moving deeper and deeper into the awesome mystery of prayer, and living in the hope and power and love of God. May we find rest, refreshment, renewal. May we play, and harvest and be Crazy Christians on the Way.
Come! Let us – with joy – Begin Again!
Be filled with the Holy Spirit!
I am writing to you in 70 degrees with bright blue skies – snow almost all melted – Alleluia! In these wonderful, joyful days of Easter, anticipating the great celebration of Pentecost, I am feeling the hope and joy of the Good News – looking for God Present – God with us and making all things new! As NT Wright says, when God runs the show, well… righteous- ness, truth, goodwill and love abound and reign – Good News Indeed!
Living in the hope and expectation of God even now making all things new doesn’t just happen. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says it comes by embracing that we are members of “The Jesus Movement”, aka Crazy Christians. He says:
“We need some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those who would follow him, those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but they are called to craziness.”
Our Thursday night potluck with NT Wright underscores this call – Wright is encouraging us to see Hope everywhere – to see it and embrace it and proclaim it! Yes, it may seem crazy at times to be acting in Hope when all around us we see sorrow, grief, need, violence and selfishness. But, as Crazy Christians – as people who choose to live in the Hope that God calls us to, we are not defeated by the needs of the world, but instead are empowered to bring Hope to them.
We bring Hope by giving food and serving those who come to The Task Force, our local Crisis Center, to Bridge of Hope and to St. Francis Center; by going to the prisons and speaking God’s peace, love, and plan for good for all; by meeting together on Sunday for services and sharing God’s own presence and Being in Holy Communion; and by coming together, 2 or 3, praying, serving, worshiping. In it all, we change and transform the world in Hope!
In all these and so many other ways and times and places, God is with us, encouraging us to keep moving, and to keep being Crazy Christians in the Jesus Movement! On Pentecost, as we celebrate the Holy Spirit who will keep us going, I will ask us to share our particular plans to keep moving. And I hope we will be crazy enough to join one another in making those plans happen. Crazy Christians… come one, come all, come together!
With Blessings and Love,