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This week I’ve had two conversations with newcomers about membership at St. Paul’s. While the conversation may be wide ranging, the membership portion is focused on steps and expectations.

  1. Fill out the membership form
  2. Participate in worship regularly
  3. When you’re ready, find a ministry
  4. Contribute financially to support the mission of St. Paul’s
  5. <  more...

I seem to be thinking a lot these days about mortality. Perhaps this is because I'm in my mid-50s with two adult children who live away from home. This raises in me the awareness that the years ahead of me are fewer than the years behind me. However, I think my thoughts about mortality have less to do with my life and more to do with the lives of others. Recently, I officiated at the funeral of a man who is only one year older than me. I see friends my age who struggle with life-altering illnesses. A friend of mine from seminary who is my age has been on long-term disability for years because of early onset Parkinson's. And then there is Audrey Lupton, the 17-year old I mentioned in my sermon this past Sunday. Audrey died last week from a rare form of cancer. Don't worry; I'm not having a midlife crisis! Quite the opposite of a crisis I consider this acceptance of my own mortality, this letting go of the myth that life will simply continue, to be a good thing. The acknowledgement that our lives-on earth if not in heaven-are finite, that we have, quite literally, a deadline, can create a sense of purpose that drives us to live more meaningful lives. In his book The Hungering Dark, Frederick Buechner writes: "We must be careful with our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously. Everybody knows that. We need no one to tell it to us. Yet in another way perhaps we do always need to be told, because there is always the temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth is we do not. We have only a life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, not one that we let the world make for us." Perhaps this is all a bit too heavy. After all, who wants to focus on mortality in the middle of the summer? My thoughts feel out of season, as if they belong better to late fall, around All Souls' Day, or to late winter when it seems that spring will never arrive. But death comes when death comes and life must be lived today, whatever the season. While it can be tempting, in the face of this reality, to decide that life is futile and we might as well enjoy it in some hedonistic sense, I prefer to follow Buechner's advice that we be "careful with our lives, for Christ's sake." Our mortality reminds us that our opportunity to participate in God's transformation of the world is today and that whatever we do -- even the smallest act of kindness, even the simplest act of faith -- can make all the difference. As the words of Swiss moral philosopher Henri Frédéric Amiel remind us (words we hear occasionally at the blessing at the end of the liturgy at St. Paul's): "Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who journey the way with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind."   more...

In a speech delivered sometime before the Civil War (“The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”) Frederick Douglass first lauded the founders of our nation as “statesmen, patriots and heroes.” He then asked a series of questions. “Why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?” 

Reading this following our nation’s annual celebration of Independence Day I was struck by relevance of Douglass’ questions 160 years later. Yes, the context has changed. The enslavement of millions of black people is no longer legal. Yet, there are still millions of people in the United States for whom the July 4th holiday felt alienating. Too many people—immigrants, refugees and citizens—wonder if the inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” articulated in the Declaration of Independence  are applied to them as well as the rest of us.  more...

Today is the feast day of St. Alban. In the early 4th century Alban, a Roman soldier and pagan, gave shelter to a Christian priest. During the two days he sheltered the priest Alban converted to Christianity. When the authorities came he assumed the priest’s identity. Alban refused to renounce his faith and was executed, becoming the first Christian martyr in Britain.

The focus of Alban’s story is quite naturally on his martyrdom, yet I believe there is something to celebrate before Alban’s act of mercy and sacrifice. Alban’s first act—the act that made all martyrdom possible—was an act of hospitality. He welcomed the priest, a stranger of a different faith and possibly a different nationality, into his home.  more...

The Rev. Jeffrey Bower joins St. Paul’s as our Associate Rector for Stewardship & Community Engagement. This position will focus on how we steward our time, talent and treasure for mission. On a practical level, Jeff will facilitate our efforts to fund mission and ministry in a time of great change in charitable giving. On a deeper level, he will help us live more fully as good and holy stewards of God's creation. Through this ministry we hope to engage more purposefully with Jesus, with each other and with the neighborhood and world around us.

jeff.jpgA native Hoosier, Jeff earned a B.A. in English and Political Science from Wabash College, an M.A. in Church Music and Master of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminar, and a Certificate in Advanced Theological Studies from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He worked in retail management, training and development for many years before serving as the Coordinator of Pastoral Ministries at St. Vincent Hospice. Since his ordination to the priesthood in 2007 he has served as the Vicar of St. John's Episcopal Church in Speedway.  more...

This morning I was listening to an interview with a member of Congress on NPR who was speaking in the aftermath of the shooting in Virginia that seriously injured members of the Republican baseball team as they practiced prior to the annual congressional charity game. I wasn't listening too closely until he said this: our society has become toxic.

Toxic? Yes, definitely. But we could also use other words: self-destructive, divided, alienated, dysfunctional and paralyzed come to mind for me.  more...

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