Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer is a Gift from God

It is NOT snowing. It is OVER 50 degrees. Some days it even gets HOT. OK, there are a few mosquitos. But mostly this is a wonderful time to be outside without a jacket and snow boots.

Especially in Michigan, we need to thank God that we get this wonderful respite from the vagaries of our climate. Open the windows, take a bite of a June strawberry and say "THANK YOU" to the Big Guy Upstairs. It's summer!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Saint of the Week -- Irenaeus of Lyon

St. Irenaeus lived in the Lyon area of what is now France in the second century. He survived the persecutions under the emperor Marcus Aurelius, but he is best known for writing his mammoth work Against Heresies refuting Gnosticism.

This work was the main source for everything we knew about Gnosticism until the Nag Hammadi scrolls were found late in the last century. Irenaeus asserted the importance of bishops, of the long stream of tradition dating back to the apostles, and the authority of Scripture. The New Testament was not finalized yet, and Irenaeus argued for the reliability of the four gospels as four different and authoritative pictures of the life of Jesus.

Irenaeus helped to shape the church, the New Testament, and the future of Christianity. He is a "Father of the Church" in the Roman Catholic tradition.

+ Kit

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One Book, One Community

The selection for MSU's "One Book, One Community" program for this year is They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky, a book about three "lost boys" from Sudan who trekked to safety and freedom when they were just children.

I met yesterday with some other area clergy and representatives from the "One Book, One Community" committee. All Saints and other local churches are going to serve as gathering places for a symbolic 'trek' to campus on September 14, symbolizing the journey of the Lost Boys, and ending at Adams Field, where an African Cultural Festival will be held.

The book is assigned to all incoming MSU freshmen, and is offered to the wider community for us to read as well. A variety of events, including presentations by the authors, take place over the course of a month from late August to mid-September.

If you'd like to participate in "One Book, One Community", we will be able to get copies of the book at cost for sale at All Saints. Keep abreast of all the activities as they are added at the "One Book, One Community" website.

+ Kit

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Looking Ahead to Lambeth

The Lambeth Conference begins next month in England with some amount of trepidation and anxiety. This is a gathering of all the bishops from the Anglican Communion, which is held every 10 years at the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation. This Lambeth is marked by some invitations withheld (Gene Robinson and Martin Minns among them), some invitations declined (Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Archbishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, England, among them), the upcoming discussion of an Anglican Covenant, and a lot of posturing and mystery.

To try to sort out all the issues and players, the July-August issue of The Messenger, which is already online at our website and is in the mail to you today, has a look at Lambeth, what the fuss is all about, and how you might answer questions from your friends and co-workers, as Episcopalians and Anglicans make news for yet another summer.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 7

Well, this week's lessons are another great look at the concept of Biblical Family Values.

In the Bible, families really don't behave the way we think Bible families ought to behave. Brother kills brother, daughters get their father drunk and have sex with him, fathers sell their daughters for prostitutes, men have multiple wives and concubines, and Abraham, the founder of three world religions, has to be forcibly prevented from killing his son Isaac.

That's just the Hebrew scriptures ... in the gospel lesson, Jesus says "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

Do you find this difficult? Do you struggle with it? I am struggling this week myself, looking for the Good News for Sunday ...

+ Kit

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Episco-free World

I have been eavesdropping lately on conversations going on around me in public spaces. Not out of some prurient interest (although I still play Harriet the Spy’s ‘diner game’ from time to time, listening to people behind me and trying to imagine what they look like, then turning around to see if I guessed right.), but out of another kind of curiosity.

Simply this: What ARE people talking about these days anyway?

Well, let me tell you, people are NOT talking about the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson or Rowan Williams. The names Jack Iker or Robert Duncan do not pass their lips. Nor does the name of Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Despite the furor on the blogosphere, or in our Parish Halls, or in our diocesan gatherings, the things that are of such deep and obsessive interest to us are simply not on the radar of the general public.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. While we may be generally known as “the church that’s fighting over gay bishops,” it’s not really at people’s top-of-mind awareness. Which leads me to believe that there is room for us to work, room for us to create an awareness of our denomination that would go beyond the bickering and legal annihilation we practice so enthusiastically.

What if we really COULD get people talking about the Episcopal Church? What if we could overhear folks in coffee shops and supermarkets, on line in the airport or riding on the bus, saying things like:

“You know that school was built by the Episcopal Church for our children … not the rich children, but our children, right here in the barrio.”

“I went on a mission trip to Haiti, and you should see all the things the Episcopal Church is doing in that country … the feeding programs, the sustainability projects, the schools, they even started an orchestra.”

“Well, I know the Episcopal Church will speak up for us against these developers.”

“I have a whole new sense of my purpose in life. I have to tell you about my church and how God has changed me … yes, my church. It’s that Episcopal Church on the corner.”

It’s something to hope for, and something new to strive for. In the meantime, I think it’s helpful to listen. To hear what people care about, are curious about, are enraged about, are tickled about. To hear the voices of people going about their everyday business, chatting about their everyday concerns. That business, those concerns are of deep and abiding interest to the God we serve. Perhaps they are even of more interest to God than the internecine battles of our tiny denomination.

(This also appeared today on Episcopal Cafe.)

+ Kit

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Food, Fun and Fellowship -- A Spiritual Practice

The "Three F's" we used to call them, teasing our youth minister, who always promoted Food, Fun and Fellowship as the "bait" for any youth group gatherings. And his youth group meetings were fun, and there was food, and the youth found themselves making friends with other teens from at least six different high schools, because of the fellowship.

He was on to something, and the something he was onto was community. We live in a culture starving for community, where people chat and text and Facebook and email, but rarely sit face to face, even around a family dinner table. Luis Coehlo's piece in today's Episcopal Cafe essay reminded me again of how important community gathered around a common meal -- whether it's the Eucharist, coffee hour, a potluck, or the church picnic -- can be.

Coehlo writes, "In churches, similar events also happened. From “dinners on the grounds” to Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers, food, community and conversations have always been part of our Church life. The rich noise of children running around the parish hall and vivid conversations between parishioners of different sorts still can be heard in many of our Churches across the world. In many places, however, this community life centered around food and conversation is dying, often substituted by an innovative “consumer Gospel”, which produces short term growth, but in the long run has increasingly contributed to empty houses of worship."

All Saints knows the gift of the common meal, the gift of the "Three F's." This is a place where people do gather to eat and chat at leisure, building bonds of community that sustain us in the rest of our lives throughout the week. We'll be eating again tomorrow at Patriarche Park, rain or shine, in the picnic pavilion. Service at 10, food, fun and fellowship directly after.

+ Kit

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Official Church of Major League Baseball

As you break out your gloves and warm up for the softball game that will be part of our parish picnic this Sunday, I thought you might like this April Fool's article from Episcopal Cafe. It purports to name the Episcopal Church as the official denomination of Major League Baseball.

It's a lovely thought, even if it's a joke. Our church and baseball do seem to have an affinity for one another. The made-up quote from Bud Selig puts it well: "Selig said that Episcopalians bring the right mix of arcane tradition, an appreciation of minutiae and a tolerance for long stretches of relative inaction that make them 'a good fit for us. We believe that Episcopalians understand the nuances of the game and won't meddle with our traditions too much.'"

And two opportunities to go to the Lansing Lugnuts are coming up. You can go with the Diocese of Michigan on Sunday, July 6 at 2 p.m. Bishop Gibbs will throw out the first pitch. Cost of $22 per person includes a buffet lunch. Contact Sue McCune in the diocesan office ( for more info. Also, All Saints will make our annual trek to the ball park on Sunday, August 10. Tickets are $8 and you can sign up on the sheet that will be passed around at the picnic this week.

+ Kit

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vacation Bible School -- God's Big Backyard

All Saints is hosting a Vacation Bible School this summer, for our own children and also for any kids in the East Lansing area who want to come join in the fun and learning. "God's Big Backyard" teaches kids how to serve Jesus, their families, their neighbors and their communities. There will be singing, crafts, stories and fun for children age 3 through 5th grade.

The VBS will be held from 5:45 to 8:15 on the evenings of July 7-10, to accommodate working parents. A light supper will be provided, and the rest of the evening will be devoted to learning more about how to serve God and others. On Sunday, July 13, we'll get to hear some of the songs from the week in our 10 a.m. service.

If you are interested in having your child attend, call the church office at 517-351-7160 or email allsaints-el "at" (not making it an official email link to cut down on spam ... substitute the @ sign for the word "at" ...)

I am excited about offering this opportunity. Vacation Bible School is such a fun, happy and rewarding time in a parish.

+ Kit

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 6

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?"

St. Paul asks this question, rhetorically, to the churches in Rome. He seems to think that their answer should be ... "Well yes, we DID know that."

Do YOU know that? Is that what you think about when you attend a baptism, or contemplate your own baptism or that of your children? What does it mean for you to know yourself baptized into that death of Christ on the cross, that death that destroys death, that death that is vindicated and undone by God in his resurrection?

I don't think most parents think that this is what they are doing when they bring a beautiful child to our beautiful font on a beautiful Sunday morning, with friends and family gathered around. Spend some time trying to get your head around this image of being baptized into Christ's death today...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where Are You?

There's a new feature on this blog called ClustrMaps, a counter that not only records the number of visits to the blog, but also maps where people are when they view the page. (It's down the right-hand column, if you scroll down.)

The first day, there were three dots: Michigan (of course), one out in the far Midwest, maybe Mebraska, and one in England (a Findley relative, perhaps?).

This morning, the dots are even more widely spaced. Three on the West Coast ... in the Pacific Northwest, and then the San Francisco and LA areas. There is a dot tantalizingly floating on the U.S./Canada border, somewhere near ... Montana? Also Pennsylvania, Boston and South Florida.

It's fascinating to realize that people from quite far away are interested in the doings of a medium-sized Episcopal church in a medium-sized Michigan city. And to see the dots begin to bloom on the map is a visible illustration of the Communion of Saints that connects us even when we don't even realize it.

For all you far-flung readers ... if you get to East Lansing, drop in and say hi. We'd love to share that communion with you at our altar and face-to-face.

+ Kit

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Next Week -- Picnic!

Next Sunday is our annual Parish Picnic, plus the 10 a.m. service will be held in the pavilion at Patriarche Park (Saginaw and Alston in East Lansing).

If you plan to attend church next week, please note that the 8 a.m. service will be held as usual in the lovely, air-conditioned chapel at All Saints.

But the 10 a.m. service will be at Patriarche Park in the picnic pavilion. We'll sing, praise God, share Eucharist, then expand our feast to the business at hand ... the picnic.

The parish will supply drinks and hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. You are asked to bring a dish to share. If your last name begins with A-N, bring a salad/side dish. If your last name begins with M-Z, bring a dessert.

If you want to play softball, bring your glove!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Saint of the Week -- Enmegahbowh

Enmegahbowh was the first Native American to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. His name means "He who prays (for his people) while standing."

Enmegahbowh was an Odawa native from Canada, who joined an Ojibwa tribe in Minnesota. James Lloyd Breck started a mission there in 1851, and Enmegahbowh was trained and baptized by him. Enmegahbowh was ordained and took over a mission in Crow Wing, Minnesota, in 1851.

Enmegahbowh was a man of peace, working to bring reconciliation between the Native Americans and the United States. As his people were moved from reservation to reservation, he traveled with them, providing leadership and spiritual support. On June 12, 1902, he died at age 95 at the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Establishment No More?

A study released yesterday by Calvin College in Grand Rapids reveals shifts in the political preferences of different religious groups.

Of interest to us as Episcopalians is the shift in the politics of mainline Protestants (Episcopalians, Methodists, Presybterians, UCC, etc.). Where once mainline Protestantism was a bastion of the establishment and Republican Party, now for the first time in history, more mainline Protestants are likely to vote Democratic than Republican (by 46 to 37 percent).

An old joke about the Episcopal Church was that it was "the Republican Party at prayer." Perhaps this is no longer the case.

Also of interest is that religiously unaffiliated people -- atheists, agnostics, believers who don't attend church or affiliate with one -- are the fastest growing group. They are more likely to vote Democratic or independent, but least likely to go out and vote.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 5

This week's reading from Genesis is about Abraham and Sarah's visit from three strangers. They come to Abraham's tent under the oak at Mamre, he feeds them, and they tell him they will return in one year and his wife Sarah will have a son.

This famous icon, after the one by the Russion iconographer Rublev, pictures the three visitors as the Holy Trinity, gathered in community around a table. When you ponder this image, what does it say to you about the nature of God? What do you feel about God as you consider the icon? How does it mirror your own experience of God as relationship, as conversation, as concern?

If you click on the image, it will appear in a separate window, larger and easier to view. Spend some time in contemplation of this icon, and see what windows to God are opened to you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Summer Reading Groups

If you have some reading planned for summer, the adult ed committee has picked out some books you might want to read and talk about. The books are set out in the Abbot Road entrance on Sunday mornings with a sign-up sheet. The idea is that you sign up for the book (or books) you want to read, and someone on the list agrees to take responsibility to gather the signees for a discussion sometime this summer.

The discussion can be one or several times. It can be at church, in someone's home, in a coffee shop or in a restaurant. It is up to the group how they want to meet.

The books cover a wide range of Christianity and spirituality. Some are fun, some are informative, some are deep. Here's a quick look at them.

Lamb, by Christopher Moore, is an irreverent but well-researched novel that wonders what Jesus did during those years of his youth, prior to beginning his public ministry. It purports to be written by Biff, his childhood pal. ("Biff" is the Hebrew word for the sound made when someone gets slapped upside the head.) Very funny, but not for the easily offended.

Speaking of Faith, by Krista Tippett, lets the radio host share what she has learned about faith and her own spiritual journey by hosting the public radio show "Speaking of Faith" and conversing with spiritual leaders like Thich Naht Hahn, Elie Weisel, Karen Armstrong and others. She is wise and honest about herself and her own journey, and what she has gleaned along the way. This is also proving to be one of the most popular reads in our summer sessions.

A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian McLaren, is one of my very favorite books. In fact, I can't find any of my copies of it to put out on display, because I keep loaning it to people to read. Written by one of the leaders in the Emerging Church movement, it offers a readable, engaging theology of faith. He offers a way forward for Christians of many denominations and persuasions to focus on what they have in common -- a faith that moves beyond "us and them" to a focus on "we" who love Jesus and want to follow him in embodying his love. Also, a sticker on the book promises that if you don't LOVE this book, it's free!

The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs, is both hysterically funny and deeply informative. In it, Jacobs, a secular Jew, decides to read the Bible for himself and to try to follow every precept in it. The big ones, like "love your neighbor" and also the small ones, like "stone adulterers" (the stoning section is too, too funny!). He also does lots of research on these traditions, finds spiritual guidance from Jewish and Christian experts alike, and in the process of making us laugh, teaches us a whole lot about the Bible and the way different faith traditions read it. Yes, he visits snake handlers, too.

Jesus for the Non-Religious, by retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, is an excellent choice for people who struggle with some of the claims of Christianity, and who especially struggle with the conservative, fundamentalist interprestation of those claims. Bishop Spong has helped many people (including some All Saints' folks) come back to faith and to church with a sense of intellectual integrity that allows their reason and their faith to co-exist. If you have never read any works by Bp. Spong and wonder what the fuss is about him, this work is a good survey of all his thinking over the last several decades.

Abraham, by Bruce Feiler, is a search for the founder of three world faiths -- Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Feiler travels the Middle East, speaking to rabbis and imams, patriarchs and monks, Israelis and Palestinians, in his search for how these three faiths find their common heritage in this one shared ancestor. Feiler's writing is engaging and accessible, and his journey is enlightening. Also, he's giving me lots of insights for Sunday's sermon!

Happy reading, and happy discussing!

+ Kit

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Saint of the Week -- Boniface

Boniface was born in England around 675, with the given name of Winfred. It wasn't until he went to Rome to get approval from Pope Gregory to become a missionary that he got his new name. Gregory sent him to evangelize Germany and gave him the name Boniface. He worked the rest of his life in Germany, establishing Christianity, becoming a bishop, then archbishop of Mainz.

He retired his office in 753 and went back to his missionary work. On June 5, 754, he and his companions were murdered by a band of pagans as he waited for a group of converts to arrive for confirmation.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thomas Merton's Prayer

This has always been one of my favorite prayers. I love the idea of being led by the right road, although I may know nothing about it. That God is working the best for those who desire to serve and please God ... even though we may not see it at first, and that we'll be led by the right road, even if we don't see it.

+ Kit

My Lord God ... I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. AMEN.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 4

The Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you."

In this week's readings, we hear the call of Abraham (still known as Abram) to leave everything he had ever known in Haran and head out to seek "the land that [Yahweh} would show".

We don't learn of any reason that Abram would have to leave his homeland. He probably had many reasons to stay. He was incredibly old, for starters. Also, in a kinship-based society of the Middle East, leaving the intricate web of family relationships would be seen as foolhardy at best. He did take some family with him -- his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. But mostly then, they were on their own.

What is your own personal Haran -- the place where you are comfortable and secure, which girds you around with support and relationship? Has God ever called you to step away from that place? Why would God want you to go? Would you be willing to go from there, if God wanted you to? What would it cost you to leave that place of comfort? What would you gain by going?

+ Kit

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pasta With Pastor Kit (and Sheila)

In what is developing into an annual event, All Saints youth and Christian Formation teachers joined me and Sheila, our Coordinator for Youth and Children's Ministries, for an afternoon of hanging out, games and a pasta supper.

There was croquet, a really curious water fight with teeny tiny squirting animals, lots of pasta and then ...

sack races!

I'm already looking forward to next years' event!

+ Kit