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Perceiving and cooperating with the good things God "is getting up to" in and around our parish.


Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19


Missed the All-Parish Gathering? This is for You!


On June 23rd, many members of St. John's gathered for lunch to discover and celebrate the musical and artistic gifts of all who attended. Knowing that not everyone could make it, I wanted to share some of the highlights from that day with you. 


Spoiler Alert: We did an exercise at the luncheon to help each of us identify the gifts we have to share in worship. We captured this information in photographs by inviting each person to stand with others who share similar gifts and the same desire to share them.

When you arrive at church tomorrow, you will see these photos on the walls of the Narthex. After you've had a chance to take them in, a familiar face will ask if you would like to have your photo taken and added to the display. Equipped with an iPhone and a tiny printer, you'll be handed your every own headshot to tape next the faces of those who share your particular gift or skill. 


A Summary of the Gathering:


Our gathering began with a delicious barbecue/hot dog lunch from Joe Kattenhorn and some light conversation. Following lunch, I presented a model for change and transition that Paula Copley, Jim Besaw, and I learned during our week-long intensive training at the College for Congregational Development. The Bridges Model (named after William Bridges) offers a way of thinking about and understanding the challenges we have faced trying to regain our footing during these past two "post-COVID" years — particularly in the area of music in worship.


Next, Michael Monnikendam shared his thoughts about the roles that music and artistic expression have played throughout our development as human beings and in our culture — and how these same forms of creative expression, when used artfully in worship, can intensify and enrich our Sunday liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. In fact, music, art, and worship are foundational for how God forms us as individual Christians and as a Christian community.


All of this was to prime the pump for a group exercise aimed at helping everyone consider the inherent nature of their musical and creative gifts — and to bring those gifts into the worship of God, thereby enhancing and helping shape our Sunday celebration of Holy Eucharist. The exercise was simple and straightforward: it required us to move our bodies to quite literally stand (or position ourselves) where our particular gifts were being invited.


Michael Monnikendam and I held up signs with a word or two that indicated a particular form of creative expression, and asked anyone who had these gifts (and might be willing to share them) to stand next to the sign — and we snapped photos.


Here are a few:  

Singing in a choir


Liturgical Dance or Movement in Worship


Poetry in Worship



(There are several more photos you can view here.)

  

Here are some of the things we took away:


From the presentations, we gained 


  • An appreciation that the years immediately following a major catastrophe like the pandemic can actually be as hard as, if not harder than, the catastrophic event.


  • An understanding that there is a period following major disruption, perfectly illustrated in the 40 years that Moses and the people wandered in the wilderness after fleeing from slavery. Namely, that we become so uncomfortable waiting to see what emerges after a major change that we do one or some combination of the following three things:

a) we so long for what was that we cling to the idea that things can simply return to normal,

b) we frantically engage in futile efforts to force a new beginning, or

c) we give up or check out.


  • A sense that St. John's is remarkably resilient. Michael Monnikendam shared his initial astonishment at St. John's Sunday attendance, compared to many of the downtown Seattle parishes whose Sunday attendance has not rebounded from the pandemic.


  • A sense that Michael Monnikendam answering call for him to serve as our Music Director and Organist signaled the start of a new beginning.


From the group exercise, we learned that


  • Inviting members of the parish to reveal the expressive and musical gifts they desire to share creates possibilities that are not realized when we focus on what we perceive to be lacking in the parish or our ministries.


  • Energy is generated and new possibilities emerge when we invite people to stand with others around shared gifts. 


  • There is an abundance of creativity and energy in our parish, and that we need to find creative ways to gather and incorporate you and your gifts into those who were able to attend the gathering.  


 

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow and building upon the work begun on the 23rd. 


And if, for whatever reason, you are away tomorrow, we'll keep the photos up and at another time invite you to add your lovely face to the photo of those whose gifts align with your own.


Blessings and peace always,







 

Postscript. When I return from vacation on Wednesday, July 17, Michael, Trish and I are taking the morning to map out the rest of this liturgical year and beginning planning for the next. Central to our planning will be to identify where your gifts can be used to enhance our observances of the many feasts, fasts, occasions and seasons of the liturgical year. M+


Perceiving and cooperating with the good things God "is getting up to" in and around our parish.


Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19


Discovering and Celebrating Our Musical and Artistic Gifts


Get ready to celebrate! 


Tomorrow's all-parish gathering is a time to celebrate your resilience, perseverance, and creativity in keeping music alive in our worship, even through the challenges of these post-pandemic years. 


Calling Michael Monnikendam as our new Music Director marked a new beginning that opens to us incredible possibilities.  We are not merely bouncing back from a few tough years, we're on the brink of a musical renaissance at Saint John’s that will enrich our worship and lives for years to come!


Here’s what we have planned for tomorrow.  


  1. Coffee Hour presentation in Marsh Hall: I will present a model for change and transition that your Senior Warden, Paula Miller, Jim Besaw, and I learned and practiced during our recent week away at the College for Congregational Development.  This model has been instrumental in guiding my own understanding of the transition that we’ve recently undergone in our music program. Paula, Jim, and I are confident that it will benefit all of us as we revitalize existing ministries and establish new ones.

  2. Michael Monnikendam will give a brief presentation on the impact that music and the arts have had on humanity and its role in our development as human beings and Christians.

  3. Next, we’ll engage in an enlivening, nonverbal (low-risk), and fun exercise for everyone of every age to discover the gifts we have—as individuals and as a community—to enrich our worship. The goal is to have some fun and expand our imaginations about how everyone has gifts to share that can be used in the worship of God in surprising and edifying ways.  

  4. We’ll conclude with a special hymn that looks forward to our future as a thriving faith community.  


And then we’ll enjoy a relaxing and tasty hotdog barbecue. 


I hope you can join in for tomorrow’s gathering. 


Blessings and peace always,  







 

Postscript:  This will be the "good-enough" post. There will be times when I won't have the benefit of a good copy editor, and I am slightly dyslexic, so I won't likely catch many mistakes. You may find this off-putting. I find it mildly embarrassing. We'll get through it together. M+


Perceiving and cooperating with the good things God "is getting up to" in and around our parish.


Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19


A Recipe for Community Flourishing

1. Take one plucky Girl Scout Troop

2. Add an abundant measure of Christ's generosity (Saint John's brand works best!)

3. Add a healthy measure of gratitude and friendship

4. Stir in the astonishing, creative power of the Holy Spirit

5. Add a Community Garden

6. Introduce a large helping of neighbors

7. Cooperate with and witness to the kingdom and kinship of God come near


Some of our best friendships develop as the cumulative result of seemingly insignificant acts of generosity and kindness. This is how our relationship with the Girl Scouts and their adult leaders of Troop 45431 has developed.


It began during the pandemic as a one-off request to use Marsh Hall for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and continued with other weekend events. Last year, it progressed when the Scouts asked if they could supply pet food to the neighborhood food pantry. It's been over a year since we made Marsh Hall available to them twice a month, a home base where they meet, learn, and work on projects together. They are a part of our parish community.


What made this relationship develop so easily is their extraordinary gratitude for our parish. Every month, the Vestry meeting coincides with one of their regular meetings. We end before them, giving us the pleasure of watching these girls have fun as they learn about teamwork, how to treat others and practice virtues like honesty and courage. It's a mutual fan club. The Troop's energetic presence and joyful use of the space on their meeting nights, and special Saturday events infuse the church building with a renewed sense of life and community spirit. The girls, in turn, thrive in this supportive environment, finding a place where their creativity and enthusiasm can take root and flourish.


We have created a place of belonging for them, and the proof of this was shown when two of the scouts approached us to ask if we would partner with them to create and encourage our neighbors to participate in a community garden. One that would grow vegetables to help decrease food insecurity and foster closer relationships among our neighbors and ourselves.


After some preliminary meetings with the two Scouts, Jojo Saint-Jean and Reina Chan, and their parents and troop leaders, Senior Warden Paula Copley invited them to make a presentation to the Vestry. The Vestry conceptually approved the plan and authorized Junior Warden Bruce Pitts to form a working group to find ideal locations for a handful of raised beds.


This Thursday, June 6th, the Troop will do some weeding and garden site preparation as a service project. Next Sunday, June 9th, we've invited them to make a presentation to the parish at coffee hour. I have been so impressed with the comprehensive community engagement strategy they put together.  It includes making presentations and inviting participation at meetings of neighboring HOAs, places of worship, and community groups. For our part, we have connected them to our friends at the IMAN Center to get them involved in the Community Garden. Serendipitously, JoJo and Reina will be working with Mohammad Kazmi (Abba Kazmi's teenage son), a regular member of the Community Dinner Team, to build a neighborhood food pantry at the Center.


Seeing these Girl Scouts so engaged and enjoying themselves—lost in the flow of their activities—a quote from an early church father sprang to mind: The glory of God is man fully alive!


Perhaps we can dare to say:


The glory of God is the flourishing of the community by the working of the Holy Spirit through a plucky Girl Scout troop, a neighborhood longing for connection, and a generous, growing parish!


Is nothing too good for God's children? Apparently not!


Blessings and peace always,







 

Postscript:  This will be the "good-enough" post. There will be times when I won't have the benefit of a good copy editor, and I am slightly dyslexic, so I won't likely catch many mistakes. You may find this off-putting. I find it mildly embarrassing. We'll get through it together. M+

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