Monday, December 24, 2012

What is 'Candlemass'?

reposted from 
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In many cultures, including in some Latin countries today, Candlemas marks the end of the Christmas season. It is celebrated on February 2nd, the 40th day after Christmas, and is technically known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., wrote in 1871 that "We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year..."

The basis of the Feast of the Purification was the Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child and were not permitted to enter the Temple to worship. This was 40 days after the birth of a son and 60 days after the birth of a daughter. At the end of the 40 or 60 days, the mother was brought to the Temple or synagogue and ritually purified. Now she can go to religious services again, and generally go out in public. See Leviticus 12:2-8 (opens in a new page at Bible Gateway).

This feast is also celebrated as the Presentation of the Lord, when the infant Jesus was taken to the Temple by his parents according to Jewish custom. See Gospel of Luke 2: 22-39.

In many ways, Candlemas can be thought of a pivotal feast. It is forty days since Christmas and Lent is coming soon (Lent can begin as early as February 4 and as late as March 10 on the western Christian liturgical calendar; your mileage may vary). Likewise, the words of Simeon the Just at the Presentation reinforce the pivotal nature of this date. The section on Candlemas at Oremus notes:
… the prophetic words of Simeon, which speak of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce, lead on to the Passion and to Easter. The scriptures and the liturgy of the Christmas season have several pointers to the suffering of the Lord, but none more potent than the words of Simeon.
At Candlemas, there is also the traditional observance of blessing beeswax candles and distributing the candles to clergy and the laity. The candles recall the lights of Christmas, and also symbolize Simeon's words to Mary and Joseph that Jesus would be "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."

According to "Candlemas" article at the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), this was also the day that by tradition all candles that would be used for the next year were blessed. Christians were observing Candlemas in Jerusalem as early as the 4th century A.D. By the middle of the 5th century, candles were lit on this day to symbolize that Jesus Christ was the light, the truth and the way. The feast spread slowly and wasn’t well known even in the 7th century.

Like Christmas, Candlemas also has its secular side. In some prosperous manors of old England, this extension of Christmas-tide was marked by music, dancing, games and feasting: A "lord of misrule," or "abbot of unreason" was appointed, whose duty it was to play the part of a buffoon. In addition,
"The larder was filled with capons, hens, turkeys, geese, ducks, beef, mutton, pork, pies, puddings, nuts, plums, sugar and honey.... A glowing fire, made of great logs, the principal of which was termed the 'Yule log,' or Christmas block, which might be burnt till Candlemas eve, kept out the cold; and the abundance was shared by the lord's tenants amid music, conjuring, riddles, hot-cockles, fool-plough, snap-dragon, jokes, laughter, repartees, forfeits, and dances."
Many poems and carols celebrate Candlemas. By tradition, Candlemas eve was the date upon which all Christmas decorations were removed. The mid-17th century English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) wrote at least four poems concerning Candlemas. In his "Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve," [Down With The Rosemary, And So] he wrote
Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.
In his longer "Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve," [Down With The Rosemary and Bays] he wrote:
DOWN with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).

The holly hitherto did sway ;
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew ;
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside ;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.

Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold ;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.
This poem was adapted into a carol, Candlemas Eve Carol, set to a Basque melody by Edgar Pittman (1865-1943). Likewise, Candlemas day had its own traditions. In "Upon Candlemas Day," Herrick wrote:
END now the white loaf and the pie,
And let all sports with Christmas die.
Finally, in "The Ceremonies for Candlemas Day," [Kindle The Christmas Brand] he wrote:
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn ;
Which quench'd, then lay it up again
Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year,
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.
This latter poem celebrates the tradition that Christmas plants would be burned and the Yule log was to be allowed to burn down completely, but that a portion should be held back to start next year’s Yule log (and as a good luck charm against "mischief"). The ashes were to be spread over the gardens to ensure a good harvest. Also, the Yule log for the next year would be chosen then.
And there is this poem from colonial Williamsburg, first published in the 18th Century:
When New Year's Day is past and gone;
Christmas is with some people done;
But further some will it extend,
And at Twelfth Day their Christmas end.
Some people stretch it further yet,
At Candlemas they finish it.
The gentry carry it further still
And finish it just when they will;
They drink good wine and eat good cheer
And keep their Christmas all the year.
Candlemas was also believed to be a good day for weather forecasting (it falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox). If it were a sunny day, there would be forty more days of cold and snow. This belief has carried into folklore tradition in England, Scotland, Mexico, the United States (as Groundhog Day), in Germany (using a badger instead of a ground hog), and many other places. One English rhyme says:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.
In Western Europe, this was also the time for preparing the fields for the first planting.
Likewise, many carols of the period refer to Candlemas as the conclusion of the Christmas season.
In Christemas Hath Made An End, the singer laments the end of this Christmas-tide and the return to the fields:
Christemas hath made an end,
  Well-a-day! well-a-day!Which was my dearest friend,
  More is the pity!For with an heavy heart
Must I from thee depart,
To follow plow and cart
All the year after.
Keyte and Parrott, in The New Oxford Book of Carols, note that in the 17th century, there was little work to be done in the fields during winter, and that the Christmas-tide was, by nature, an extended holiday which could be lengthened to Candlemas (as in this carol), although rarely beyond Epiphany (January 6th).
The carol Farewell To Christmas begins:
Here have I dwelled with more & less
From Hallowtide till Candlemas,
And now must I from your hens pass;
Now have good day! [1]
The reference to Hallowtide comes from a tradition that the monarch would announce on All Hallows (November 1) where he or she would spend Christmas. There's a tradition I could live with! Celebrate the holidays from November 1 through February 2! See: Now Have Good Day, Now Have Good Day!
The carol Of The Purification concludes with:
Farewell, Christmas fair and free;
Farewell, New Years day with thee;
Farewell the holy Epiphany; [2]
Another carol, The fyrst day of yole have we in mynd, begins with:
Make we mirth
For Christ’s birth,
And sing we yule till Candlemas.
The last verse of this carol, which is an enumeration of the feasts of Christmas-tide, is:
On the xl [40] Day came Mary mild,
Unto the temple with her child,
To show her clean that never was defiled,
And therewith endeth Christmas. [3]
But this is not just an old tradition, now forgotten. In many Latin countries, the tradition of Candlemas is still celebrated.
In Mexico, la Rosca de Reyes, a sweet circular cake is served with a doll baked inside representing the baby Jesus (similar to Mardi Gras Kings Cake) and is served with hot chocolate on Epiphany (known locally as Three Kings Day or El Dia de los Reyes Magos). The person who finds the baby in their slice is to host the forthcoming celebration Candelaria or Candlemas on February 2nd (when a feast of tamalitos and hot chocolate is enjoyed by all). According to an article in the Oaxaca Times by Gayle Hanson, when 20 or thirty people are on hand sometimes several babies are baked into the cake, all the better to spread out the cost of the next party among friends.
The Rosca de Reyes was used by the friars to evangelize: a small doll, representing the Christ child, is baked right in the bread- "hidden", to symbolize the hiding of the infant from King Herod's troops on the day of Los Santos Inocentes, the Holy Innocents.
As was the case in old England, it is on this day that the nativity scene and all the Christmas decorations are put away.

1. Songs, Carols, and other Miscellaneous Poems, from the Balliol MS. 354, ed. R. Dyboski, E. E. T. S., Extra ser., CI [1907], 18. This carol may also be found in Richard Greene, ed., A Selection of English Carols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), Carol 38.Return
2. Of The Purification, found MS Eng. Poet. e I, (ed. Wright, as above, p. 57, "Of the Puryfycacion"). This carol may also be found in Richard Greene, ed., A Selection of English Carols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), Carol 37. Return
3. MS Eng. Poet, e. I, printed Percy Society (ed. T. Wright), XXIII (London, 1848), 24. This carol; with some variants, is also found in MS Sloane 2593, printed Warton Club (ed. Wright; London, 1856), p. 98. Cf. Another similar carol in MS Sloane, "Wolcum be thou, hevene kynge," on p. 93 of the Warton Club’s printing, or in E. E. L., p. 232. This carol may also be found in Richard Greene, ed., A Selection of English Carols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), Carol 3. Return


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Spiritual Practices toward a Peaceful Christmas

by The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton
Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett, Washington

"God rest ye, merry gentlemen - let nothing you dismay. Remember, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day!" 
          For many of us, the Advent and Christmas seasons can often mean the onset of a couple of unwelcome guests - Stress and Depression. In the midst of what is presented as a joyous time, we can often experience a burden of expectations (imposed by others or by the self) that can create a long list of demands upon us - parties, gatherings, watching a seemingly endless series of traditional movies, attending the theater or ballet, shopping, baking, Christmas pageant preparations, cleaning and entertaining, as well as decorating and driving around looking for "needed" items (just to name just a few stress triggers).

          It's so important to remind ourselves and our families that the Spirit of Christmas is not some kind of divine bullwhip driving us into a manic frenzy of over-commitment and consumerism. Rather, the Spirit of Christmas is a gently-whispered invitation to enter the quiet contemplation of the Holy Nativity scene - the hidden Crèche within each of our hearts, wherein lies the sleeping Christ Child.
          Through some practical spiritual practices, we can help ourselves to minimize the stress that accompanies the Season and ensure that the King of Peace really is born into our world (into and through each one of us) this Christmas. To this end, here are 10 spiritual practices I have put together for your consideration this month. 
1) Acknowledge your feelings. Whatever your feelings about this time of year or Christmas, acknowledge them. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with those you love, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and even grief at significant holidays and anniversary dates. It's alright to take time to mourn or express your feelings. Try not to "force yourself" or permit others to force you to be artificially cheerful just because it's the holiday season. Choose how you will manage your feelings and care for yourself, so that you can be authentically present to others (and to God), honoring your own needs as well as those of others.
2) Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community; come to our various church services or other social events around you - even if it's just for a little while. These resources and gatherings can offer support and companionship, even if all you talk about is the sale at Macy's, contemplate the weather, or just rest and take in what's happening around you. Volunteering your time to help others is a great way to change your focus as well as broaden your friendships. Practice community - by bringing your whole and sacred self into the presence of the Season.
3) Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like years gone by. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals can change as well. Feeling nostalgic is natural, but we also follow a God who promises to renew all things. So, choose a few traditions to hold on to, but be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, videos or Skype!
4) Set aside differences. (This is not asking the same as asking for reconciliation, which can be a life-long spiritual work). As a spiritual practice for the Season, try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. If you really cannot tolerate someone's unhealthy behavior, limit your exposure to them through clear boundary setting of your time and participation - plan for a low-key, healthy exit strategy for the times when you may need one. You may even want to create a rescue code word or phrase (like "fruitcake!" or "the penguins must be hungry!") in order to alert a close friend to quietly support you as you remove yourself from a given situation. However, be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry with planned events. Chances are good that they're experiencing the effects of holiday stress and depression, too, but they haven't identified those feelings.
5) Budget. Be a Good Steward of the resources God has provided to you, and stick to a budget you can afford. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then, stick to your budget! Don't try to buy happiness or gratitude with gifts - guilt is always bad credit. Instead, remember the Pearl of Great Price - the genuine article of Love that can only ever be truly given when it is given with no expectation of return. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts, or write a handwritten letter - a personal letter is a precious and rare thing these days!
6) Plan ahead. Scripture consistently reminds us to be prepared - this spiritual practice applies to daily living as well as waiting for Christ (which very much characterizes Advent). Set aside specific days and times for preparations such as shopping, baking, visiting friends, Advent prayers/reading at home and other activities. If you've committed to assisting at church services, be sure to arrive a little early for personal prayer and centering - church isn't just one more "task" to check off at this time of year. Rather, church services and service to others can help keep us grounded and fed by the Season instead of exhausted and depleted by it.
7) Learn to say a holy, healthy "no." Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed later. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no to something, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the given time - set your priorities and stay with them. The spiritual practice of a holy, healthy "no" helps preserve and sustain our best health during a time when God asks us for the gift of our attention - inviting us to be fully present to the in-breaking of the Divine on Earth and within our own hearts.
8) Don't abandon healthy habits. Christmas is a time for celebration but not for reckless abandon - try not to let the Season become an excuse for losing your spiritual mindfulness. Overindulgence only adds to stress and guilt later. So, have a healthy snack before attending holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Use small plates for buffets and servings. Also, continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity, offsetting any extra calories you may choose to take in.
9) Relax. Remember: the song is "God REST Ye, Merry Gentlemen!" Be intentional about scheduling some time for yourself. Spend at least 15 minutes alone every day of Advent as a Mini Sabbath - a sacred time without distractions or agenda; this can refresh you enough to handle what you need to accomplish. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find an image of the Sacred within your inward vision that reduces stress for you - then, clear your mind, slow your breathing, and restore your inner calm.
10) Don't hesitate to seek professional help. Despite your best efforts and best spiritual practices, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical discomfort, unable to sleep, feeling irritable or hopeless - the season may disjoint you completely, causing you to feel unable to face even routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, please talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You may feel more comfortable initially speaking with a clergy person, such as [*gasp!*] your Pastor. If you would like to speak with me, please be assured that I will help find a referral resource for you for ongoing professional support while maintaining your confidentiality and respecting your privacy.
Ultimately, the most valuable gift we can bring to Christ at Christmastide is ourselves - complete and whole, just as we are - with all our feelings, all our messiness, all our hopes and fears, all our talents and insecurities. We are asked to leave it all at the Manger, in the sure and certain confidence that to God it is all priceless treasure. Even as much as Advent is a time of preparation, it is also a journey of remembrance - timelessly reminding us that we are unconditionally loved by the Christ who is Emanuel, "God with Us." Now, always...and forever.

May you have a truly Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas, 

Experiencing a truly sacred Season of the Spirit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prepare Ye the Way

Advent is upon us. That seems to mean little to much of society around us. In the shopping malls and stores it is Christmastide, the time to vie for consumers' time and money, tempting us all with the alluring promise of happiness in getting the ''irresistible bargain.' And I confess, I fall prey. Every year I do. And yet, every year I also grow a little into Advent.

The commercial emphasis on preparing for Christmas isn't wrong. In fact, it's dead on. It's just that commerce and God's People perceive what Christmas is and how we prepare for it very differently.

In the Church we use the word 'advent' to describe our period of preparation. The word is Latin from adventus meaning 'coming' or 'arrival'. This is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia, which is used in the Bible to refer to the Second Coming of Christ Jesus and a word Christian scholars still use in theological discourse. The season conjoins our expectation of Christ's Second Coming with our anticipation of celebrating Christ's first coming. In both cases, Christians are called upon to prepare their hearts, minds, and lives for Christ's arrival.

That begs the question whether our preparations for Christmas really look like we're preparing for Christ to come. Personally, I find the busyness of our festivities make it harder for me to make time for Jesus. Prayer time, Bible reading, contemplative mediation, true service to others easily take a back seat to party planning and gift shopping. If I'm not careful, I can easily miss the Advent of Christ when he and his family knock on my life's door and ask if there is any room here for them.

I'm pleased to tell you, though, that as powerful as temptation can be, God's grace is more powerful - more enticing even, when given our attention! In our home, in the living room, sits a small pewter wreath with three blue and one pink candles. While holiday commercials bombard me by the powerful flickering of my television and the world outside fills up with glamorous light displays, I find the simple lighting of a few candles on our family's my Advent wreath pulls me back to the parousia of my Savior.

It's a mysterious grace and a powerful promise I encounter in that flame. It is a sacramental experience of God's gentle, humble, and overwhelming presence in the midst of a blaring sensory overload. That small act calls me into a different place. The glitz passes as the tender eyes of God meet mine and my soul sees its Maker.

Deep in the flame of those eyes I feel the invitation, "I long to be with you. I'm coming. Be ready."

Prepare the way.
    Clear your schedule.
        Make room.

Your Savior is coming.
      Your God longs to be with you.  


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Announcing "A Year of Anglican Identity"

Dear Parish Family,

          I am excited to announce that this coming year at St. Peter's (beginning September 9th) we will be launching "A Year of Anglican Identity". Each week our parish will commence studying a basic, essential aspect of Anglican & Episcopal Christianity such as history, sacraments, incarnation, mission, etc.

Background. In his book, A People Called Episcopalians, the Rev. Dr. John H. Westerhoff explains how Christian denominations have, in the last hundred years, minimized their diversity for the sake of unity, advertising instead their various programs and services to attract members. As a result, churches have ended up competing with one another (“We at Frist Methodist have the best preaching.” “We at St. Swithan’s Episcopal have the best children’s programs.”), denying their roots (“We all worship the same God so there’s no difference between Presbyterians and Baptists.”), and confusing their adherents about why some things are accepted and others rejected (“How come we don’t sing the way my last church, the Pentecostal Temple of Holiness, does?”).       

You may have noticed, that a number of your staff (past and present) are also converts to the Episcopal Church. One was a Roman Catholic Jesuit and a couple were Evangelicals. This is not unusual for the Episcopal Church. Why? Because there is something that is very attractive about Anglican Christianity! And many, including myself, think one of The Episcopal Church’s challenges is being clear on what it is and why it is unique and wonderful.

And that is precisely what we’re aiming for this year. Exploring not only Christianity, but the Anglican approach to Christianity – why it’s unique and why it’s wonderful! We’re going to learn to be a bit more of who we truly are!  

What this "Year of Anglican Identity" means:  From September 2012 to June 2013, we will be examining core concepts of Anglican Christianity. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) will NOT be the emphasis in our ministries. (We will still follow the general seasons of Advent, Christmas, and following). Instead, a list of foundational topics has been selected for each week. These topics are very similar to what would be found in a baptismal catechesis, confirmation classes, and new member courses. Scriptures will be selected to illuminate these topics. 

About Sunday Worship: 
A truncated form of the Eucharist will be used to allow us to spend more time on catechetical style preaching, teaching, and activities. Full RCL (Revised Common Lectionary) readings, though not read aloud, will be included in the Sunday bulletins. The length of the service will remain the same. High Holy Days, such as Christmas and Easter, have been excluded from the topical approach and will proceed as usual.

The Rest of the Week:
Throughout the rest of each week, formation, education, and discussion topics will correspond to the topic of each week. Thus, as an example, on the week that we begin talking about the Eucharist, Bible Study on Wednesday might look at the Biblical roots of the Eucharist, Theology Pub on Thursday might discuss who should and shouldn’t come to the Eucharist, and Coffee Connections on Sunday might talk about how the Eucharist changes our daily lives. Every week we will have the opportunity to delve further in one aspect of our faith.

I invite you to take time out to participate in the many offerings we have available. Invite friends and others who might be curious. Most of all, I hope you will find a new or refreshed connection with God and with your sisters and brothers in Christ.     

In Christ,

Father James+

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

General Convention 2012: A View from Asiamerica

By The Rev. Canon  Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries
[This article was published under the title "General Convention, Indianapolis July 5-12, 2012: A View from Asiamerica"]

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church [held July 5-12, 2012 in Indianapolis] was by far, the most significant convention to me. For the first time, the Hmong language was included in one of the morning liturgies and six Asian American young adults participated in the Convention. There was a Hmong delegation from Holy Apostles in St. Paul, Minnesota. Our note on why we chose Hmong as language in the liturgy was written in the Worship Bulletin. It was a proactive advocacy of one of the most marginalized communities in the United States as well as the ethnic church that stands at the edge of mission in the 21st century. 

On the eve of our Convention, we were shocked by the news that our first Asiamerica Missioner, the Rev. Dr. Winston Wyman Ching died in Guam while en route from Hong Kong to Honolulu. We were interviewed by the Episcopal News Service and took part in the planning of memorial services. A resolution recognizing his role as pioneer of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry was adopted by the House of Bishops.

Our Asiamerican deputies, particularly Warren Wong and David Ota showed great leadership, as chairs of Nominations Committee and Program Budget and Finance, respectively.  Bayani Rico, Mimi Wu and Irene Tanabe of the EAM Executive Council were also present along with other EAM volunteers in the DSE (Diversity Social & Environmental Ministries) Booth. Lelanda Lee, Hisako Beasley, Keith Yamamoto, Sunil Chandy. Winnie Vargehese and Ryan Kosumoto, among others, were also notable as deputies from their dioceses.

I was particularly amazed at the conduct of the Convention. As Mission staff, I was assigned as liaison that week to the Standing Committee on “Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music.” Some resolutions it tackled were the hot button issues such as the rite of blessing of same sex marriage. I followed the legislative process from committee meetings, public hearings and presentations at the Houses and was impressed by the high level of discourse. There were disagreements but the debates were civil and respectful of each other’s dignity, which made me proud of “Being Episcopalian,” as the title of my booklet suggests.

The hallmarks of democracy include “the majority decides but the minority have rights.” The final decision on same sex liturgy provided a “conscience clause,” to respect the feelings of others. The Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, explained that the use of this rite (PB Letter of Aug. 3, 2012), which will start on Advent 2012, is not compulsory but optional. “Like private confession…the principle is: ‘all may, some should, none must,’” the PB wrote.

The “Asiamerica Lunchtime Conversation” sponsored by the Asiamerica Office, Partnership for Asia and the Pacific, and EAM Council brought together Asian deputies, primates and guests from Asia and a number of Episcopal bishops. We shared with them about the proposed Asia-America Theological Exchange in Manila on February 2013 and the EAM National Consultation on June 20-24, 2013 in San Francisco, California. We invited the primates and the bishops to be part of the EAM 40th Anniversary Thanksgiving  Eucharist on June 23, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. at Grace Cathedral. We shared with them about the diverse programs of Asiamerica Ministries and particularly the partnership with Episcopal Divinity School in the Doctor of Ministry Program on Asian American Studies and the partnership with the Anglican Church of Korea in missionary church planting.

We shared also our continuing collaboration with other ethnic offices and ministries. The Indigenous Ministry and the Black Ministry are proactive in the socio-economic issues and people’s advocacies while the Latino/Hispanic Ministry continues to be evangelistic. The Jubilee and Environmental Ministries make inroads in domestic poverty and stewardship of the earth. I am glad to be part of the team.
The budget approved for the next triennium (2012-2015) was based on the five marks of mission, namely:

~ To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
~ To teach, baptize and nurture new believers 
~ To respond to human need by loving service 
~ To seek to transform unjust structures of society 
~ To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

These 5 Marks of Mission, developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990, have won wide acceptance among Anglicans. It should provide us all with an easy to remember "checklist" for how we should design our program and mission activities. I will be willing to serve as Resource when your parishes re-envision your ministries.

The call for structural change also dominated the debates in the GC 2012. The need for change in church structure is imperative. As we experience revolutionary changes in the world, Christianity must either “change or die,” as the title of a book from retired bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong suggests. A special committee will be formed to study and propose change in Structure.

The triennial budget (2013-2015) of the Church is affected by the drop of revenues, loss of membership and the continuing economic decline. In the Church Center, we saw some staff lay-offs, though  not as dramatic as the day following the 2009 General Convention.

A slightly reduced budget will affect but not alter our scheduled plans for 2013. We will have our EAM Consultation in San Francisco but we call upon everyone to be creative and resourceful and aspire to become better stewards of God’s generosity. After my lecture on “Ethnic Stewardship” at the New Community Gathering in San Diego last March 2012, I received numerous requests for similar seminars from our EAM constituencies and dioceses. The Stewardship Officer, Laurel Johnson, maintains a website in the Episcopal Church Center which provides resources for study. The Episcopal Network on Stewardship (TENS) awarded the Rev. Charles Chen from the Diocese of Taiwan, as an “Apostle of Transformation” for inspiring his parish to become good stewards and to build twelve mission churches in the Philippines.

In times like these that we need to lift up some heroes of our past and learn from them. I just returned from North Platte, Nebraska where the Presiding Bishop led in the celebration of the legacy of Hiram Hisanori Kano. Kano distinguished himself as an immigrant rights advocate, Japanese American internee and Episcopal priest. In the context of economic depression in the 1930’s, he was an agriculturist; in the unjust internment camps in World War II, he was a prisoner-teacher-evangelist; as an Episcopalian, he was a lover of God’s Word and disciple of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.

We will also remember the life and work of Winston Ching, the pioneer and first missioner for Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries. Like Kano, he was also a bridge builder, establishing networks of relationship and persistently working for the Kingdom of God.  His life, just like Kano’s will serve as one of our sources of inspiration and strength as we go about doing God’s work in our own generation. May God, who continually works wonders, inspire you to do His mission.

(Note: This report will also appear in the Chinese Convocation E-Newsletter. Fred Vergara, 8/7/12)

The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara  MISSIONER, ASIAMERICA MINISTRIES  Mission | The Episcopal Church |

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summary of the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church

[An email from our Bishop, The Right Reverend Greg Rickel, addressed to the Diocese of Olympia:] 
Highlights and overview of the actions and activities of the 77th   General Convention of the  Episcopal Church, July 5- 12, 2012, Indianapolis, IN. 
Several of you have asked for a summary, or have even asked specific questions about the actions, of General Convention recently held in Indianapolis.  Below you will find the summary.  Of course, each deputy and bishop may have their own nuance on these but I do believe it to be a good, factual summary of what was finally passed.



*    We welcomed guests, visitors and ecumenical partners from throughout the Anglican Communion and the world.  The 10-day program in Indianapolis was attended by almost 850 deputies (lay and clergy) and 165 bishops, and viewed or read about online by more than 60,000 unique visitors, including videos played more than 44,000 times, via the Media Hub, Episcopal Church social media sites, Public Affairs page, and Episcopal News Service throughout the course of the convention.

*    General Convention addressed more than 450 resolutions on topics ranging from church structure and governance, to liturgies, social issues and approval of the Church budget for the next triennium, cast against the Five Marks of Mission (listed at the end). New leadership for the House of Deputies also was elected. 

*    Stories and video about General Convention can be found at and 

*    Highlights are summarized below and further information about specific resolutions can be found 

Church Structure

*    Church structure: a special task force of up to 24 representatives from all parts of the church will meet in the next two years to review reforms to structure, governance and administration. (C095) Overall, nearly 100 resolutions were presented to the Committee on Structure and, although most were similar, the Committee on Structure considered the many options offered in making the final recommendation. At this time, no decisions on changes have been made. There will be a special gathering from every diocese to hear what recommendations the task force plans to make to the 78th General Convention. The final report is due by November 2014.   

*    The numerous resolutions including asking the Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church to study the current budgeting process and matters of financial oversight (A122), and proposing an amendment to the constitution that would help dioceses that want to merge with another diocese or divide itself into two dioceses to do so without requiring sitting bishops in all dioceses involved (A102).  The House of Bishops approved a move away from, but did not authorize the sale of, the Episcopal Church Center headquarters (D016).

 Liturgy and Blessings

*    Much discussion was held, and significant national discussion ensued, on our denominational response to same-sex blessings (A049). The approved liturgy is for provisional use, meaning that the diocesan bishop has to grant approval for use in his/her diocese even in those states where same-sex marriage is legal.  The resolution is effective the first Sunday in Advent 2012 (December 2).

*    Baptism as the normative entrance into Holy Communion (C029).

*    With the bishop's permission, congregations may use the lectionary in the BCP rather than the Revised Common Lectionary (B009).

*    Other resolutions included authorizing a task force to study marriage (A050) and  new rites and prayers for pastoral responses to people caring for animals, including the death of a pet (A054). 

Budget, Pension and Development 

*    General Convention approved the $111,516,032 budget for 2013-2015. The budget is based on the Five Marks of Mission (see attached).and calls for a 19 percent asking each year of the Triennia. 

*    Bishops rejected several resolutions attempting to postpone implementation of the Episcopal Church Medical Trust. 

*    Dioceses and parishes will have an additional three years to provide parity in health insurance cost-sharing between lay and clergy employees. That deadline is extended until Dec. 31, 2015. (B026) 

*    Resolutions also passed to establish a Development Office to solicit major gifts and other resources (D025) and to create a pilot student loan fund for seminarians who agree to three years in under-served areas of the Episcopal Church (D049). 

Ecumenical Relations and Pastoral Topics 

*    Anglican Covenant: General Convention affirmed the commitment to building relationships across the Anglican Communion, especially through the Continuing Indaba program, but declined to take a position on the Anglican Covenant. 

*    The 11-year relationship of full communion with the ELCA was commended and asks the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee to address areas where Episcopal and Lutheran practices differ, especially who can preside at Holy Communion and the role of deacons (A036).  The status in the Episcopal Church of pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who had been ordained by other pastors and not by bishops also was clarified (A158).

*    The Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations was directed to initiate dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Mormon Church in anticipation of General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City (D081).

*    Resolution A030 establishes how clergy who want to leave the Episcopal Church for another part of the Anglican Communion can do so without renouncing their Holy Orders.  Separately, canons were amended to provide a mechanism for addressing disagreements in the pastoral relationship between a diocese and its bishop (B021).

*    Several resolutions enact a series of revisions to Title IV, the clergy discipline canons, to fix some errors while maintaining the underlying principles of the canons (A033/C049).

*    A resolution was passed to develop a network of retired Episcopal executives to assist dioceses and parishes, modeled on SCORE (D066).

Government Legislation  

*    Israel-Palestine: General Convention supported a resolution on positive investment in the Palestinian territories. Bishops agreed to postpone indefinitely the conversation on corporate engagement. In addition, positive investment in the Palestinian Territories was affirmed and the church was called upon to support "the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian study on peace with justice in the Middle East (B019)." 

*    The Convention urged Congress to modernize the nation's refugee resettlement program (B028). In addition, Congress was urged to halt to the Immigration and Custom Enforcement's practice of detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally without filing any charges against them (D059).  Also, Congress was urged to pass the DREAM Act (D067).

*    Congress also was called upon to repeal federal laws, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, that discriminate against same-gender couples who are legally married in the states where that is permitted (D018).

*    The U.S. government was asked to enact stricter controls on the use of carbon-based fuels (D055).

Evangelism and Mission

*    All Episcopalians are being called to be evangelists to help grow the church (D023) and a "social media challenge" calling upon every congregation to use social media in its current and future forms (D069).

*    An "HIV Welcoming Parish Initiative" effort was created to help congregations to become more engaged with people living with HIV/AIDS (A167).

*    A resolution confirmed solidarity with the poor and indigenous people who bear great burdens because of climate change, with special mention to the Inupiaqs of Kivalina, Alaska (B023). For more information on the Inupiaqs and Kivalina, visit

*    A churchwide response to bullying was passed (D022).
*    Support for the transgender community by adding gender expression and identity to two canons that prevent discrimination: the ordination discernment process is open; and guarantees equal place in the life, worship and governance of the church.

Additional details available at Episcopal News Service: 


*    The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of Ohio was elected President of the House of Deputies. Byron Rushing of Massachusetts was elected Vice President of the House of Deputies. 

*    Executive Council elections: The House of Deputies elected seven lay and two clergy members: Lay members elected for six-year terms are: Joseph S. Ferrell of North Carolina, Anita P. George of Mississippi, Fredrica Harris Thompsett of Massachusetts, Karen Ann Longenecker of the Rio Grande, Nancy Wonderlich Koonce of Idaho, and John Johnson of Washington (DC). Lay person Elizabeth L. Anderson of Connecticut was elected for three years. Clergy members elected for six-year terms were the Rev. Susan B. Snook of Arizona and the Rev. James B. Simons of Pittsburgh.

*    Eight bishops received approvals to their consent process: Atlanta, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, Texas (Suffragan), Virginia (Suffragan), Western Louisiana, and Western Massachusetts. Related, General Convention approved a change in rules so elections held close to General Convention no longer need to go to General Convention for the consent process.

Anglican Five Marks of Mission
*    To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
*    To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
*    To respond to human need by loving service
*    To seek to transform unjust structures of society
*    To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Always There for Seafarers in 250 Ports Worldwide

Piracy, shipwreck, abandonment and separation from loved ones are just a few of the problems merchant seafarers face. Here in the Port of Seattle, The Mission to Seafarers (MtS) provides help and support for many of the 50,000 men and women from seventy or more nations whose efforts secure billions of dollars of products from logs and agricultural goods, to electronics and aircraft parts. Our port is vital to our local economy, providing up to two hundred thousand jobs in this state alone.

St. Peter's volunteering at the Port of Seattle MtS in 2011
For cruise ship employees, often away from their families for up to ten months a year, we provide transportation to the City Center where they can spend their time shopping, get needed medical care and pharmacy services, and a meal away from the ship. Our shuttle service between Pier 91 and Downtown Seattle is a vital link for hundreds of cruise ship employees who have only a few short hours away from the ship.

As a Christian agency, we work in 250 ports worldwide caring for seafarers of all ranks, nationalities and beliefs. Through our global network of chaplains, staff and volunteers we offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers through ship visits, drop-in centers and a range of welfare and emergency support services.

In over 100 ports our Flying Angel centers provide a ‘home away from home’ for seafarers who may have been at sea for up to two years. Here they can enjoy time away from their ship and use internet and phone facilities to get in touch with loved ones after months away.

In an emergency, the MtS is often the only help on offer. No matter what problem a seafarer is facing, be it injury, abandonment, non-payment of wages or personal difficulties, they know they can turn to the local Mission for help, advice and support. Our chaplains and volunteers offer practical and financial support, advocacy services, family liaison or simply a space to talk in a time of crisis.

The Mission to Seafarers was founded in 1856 and is entirely funded by voluntary donations.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holy Week: Why We Do What We Do

                Holy week is the most important time of the Christian year when we commemorate and re-experience the events that led to our salvation.
Palm Sunday                The week begins with Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The people thought (rightly) that Jesus had come to save them but they were mistaken about the means: They expected the definitive overthrow of the Roman oppression. But that was not to happen. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling prophecies of his humility and the people through down palm branches to cover his way. We will commemorate this by meeting in the gymnasium and blessing palms while we listen to the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. After this we will process into the church singing hymns of praise. Then the mood of the liturgy shifts suddenly and becomes somber. This is the only Sunday of the year that we read the story of Jesus death in church. During the rest of the Mass we remain focused on Jesus death on the cross for us.
                On Tuesday the Bishop celebrates the Chrism Mass. We now do this by sharing with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). This mass commemorates the “ordination” of the apostles and consequently all of the orders of ministry in the Church (bishops, priests and deacons). At the Mass, the clergy renew their ordination vows. Also at this Mass the Bishop blesses the sweet scented holy oil (Chrism) that is used in the sacrament of baptism. Each parish takes a share of the oil to use during that year. Traditionally, this event was celebrated on the morning of Maundy Thursday, but that is not practical because of the geographical size of the diocese.
                On Wednesday evening we will celebrate a ritual known as Tenebrae; the word literally means darkness in Latin. There will be a series of readings and after each reading one of the candles in the chapel will be snuffed out until we end seated in darkness. Then there is a loud noise like a clap of thunder or an earthquake that commemorates the earthquake that occurred at the time of Jesus’ death on the Cross.

                The next three days form what is called the Triduum or the Great Three Days of Easter. This includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The three services are really on long service with breaks between the parts. One can tell this because there is no dismissal at the end of these services.

Image Maundy Thursday - Last Supper                Thursday is called “Maundy” Thursday because at the Last Supper Christ gave a new commandment (mandatum in Latin): “Love one another as I have loved you.” We will begin with a potluck dinner at 6:00 PM. After that we will celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper. There the Gospel tells the story of how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. In Jewish hospitality of Jesus’ time a host provided water and towels for his guests to wash their feet. Even a Jewish slave could not be compelled to do this utterly humble service. But this is what Jesus did for his disciples and then he said, “as I have done for you, you must do for each other. At Mass Father James and Deacon Richard will wash each other’s feet. Any one else may participate in the washing of feet if they wish but it is not a requirement. It is enough to watch the reenactment of Jesus’ humility. After this Holy Communion continues but at the end the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Church and taken to the Hikari Chapel where people spend some time remembering the Agony in the Garden. After this the altar is stripped and washed and every thing is removed from the sanctuary while Psalm 22 is said or sung. Then all depart in silence. The presence light in the church is extinguished.

                On Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ death, we will celebrate two services: At noon we will celebrate the Office for Good Friday from the Book of Common Prayer. This includes scripture readings; the Gospel is the story of the passion of Christ from the Gospel of John. Then solemn intercessions, the veneration of the cross and Holy Communion. After communion all depart in silence. At 7:00 PM we will celebrate the Stations of the Cross in the sanctuary; this will be a family friendly conversational remembrance of Jesus journey to crucifixion.

                The major service of the day on Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil traditionally celebrated after dark and before dawn on Easter Sunday because it was sometime during the watches of the night that Jesus rose from the dead. This liturgy is a long service that begins with the blessing of new fire and then the blessing of a Paschal Candle. This is followed by nine readings that recall the whole story of salvation history from the Creation through the Flood through the covenant with Abraham, the deliverance at the Red Sea and the prophecies of redemption. The first part of the service is celebrated in darkness. The blessing of water follows with Baptisms. Then the resurrection is proclaimed, the church lights come on, the Alleluia is sung for the first time since Ash Wednesday. Holy Communion follows and the Mass ends with a dismissal by the deacon with a double Alleluia.  We do not celebrate the Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s. Other options would include St. Mark’s Cathedral (1245 Tenth Avenue East) at 8:30 PM, St. Clement’s (1501 32nd Avenue South) at 9 PM or Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church (7500 Greenwood Ave N) at 6:30 PM

            Easter Sunday services here at St. Peters begins at 10:00 AM as usual and will include the renewal of baptismal vows.