A Holy Lent

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 ARE YOU SEARCHING FOR LENTEN PRACTICES?  HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS.

A Proper Preface for Lent says, “You bid your faithful people to cleanse their hearts and prepare with joy for the Pascal Feast; that fervent in prayer and works of Mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments they may come to the fullness of grace …”

Works of Mercy   Let us be especially diligent in Lent to:
- Bring food every Sunday for homeless clients at Loaves and Fishes
- Fill the collection basket in the front hallway with the item requested by Daybreak
- Volunteer help for someone needing assistance
– Invite someone to church
- Call or send cards to people on the Intersessions Prayer List
- Serve at Weekend Lunch

Fervent in Prayer   We can open ourselves to the presence of God by:
- Setting aside a time of day for silent contemplation, or some new prayer practice
- Coming to Morning  Prayer at 9:15
- Coming to Wednesday Healing Eucharist at 12:10
- Walking the labyrinth
- Pray the Jesus Prayer throughout the day
- Reading Compline in the Book of Common Prayer before going to sleep
– Praying for people and situations you hear about in the media
– Fasting

Renewed by your Word and Sacraments    There is an abundance of spiritual books to study:
- Read any of the Gospels.
- Follow an online meditation – maybe Richard Rohr’s
- Attend the Wednesday night Lenten study and Compline service
– Pick up your free copy of “Lenten Meditations” from ERD – Episcopal Relief & Development
- Make an appointment with Fr. Ben for Confession and Absolution (Reconciliation of a Penitent p. 447 BCP).
– Attend a Sunday school class

Prepare with Joy    All these practices lead to one point:  the celebration of new life in Jesus.  Easter is little more than a Rite of Spring unless we prepare our hearts for joy with mercy, prayer, Word and Sacraments.

2017 Annual Report

I fully recognize that I must be crazy. First, by accepting Fr. Ben’s request to serve as Senior Warden in 2017; and then compounded by agreeing to do so again in 2018. However, in our studies of Franciscan theology, it seems to me that “crazy” may very well fit right into Francis-can ideology: crazy for worship, crazy for service, crazy for spiritual growth and above all, crazy for loving like Jesus. Fr. Ben points us in this direction. He does so with a deep down compassion, with creativity and in conviction for living the Good News – all with an infectious relish for life! We know he has a wonderful sense of humor, and an irrepressible urge to help anyone, even at personal sacrifice of himself. His support has given me the courage to forge ahead in the crazy work of Christ’s Kingdom. I have opened to love and the desire to serve this parish family from the depths of my being. Many of us come to follow Jesus through someone else who serves as our model and companion in Christ. It is important that we be that someone for others, both within and outside of this church.

The Diocesan mission statement is: “We Challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus, as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately and grow spiritually.” That should be our foundational starting point for all we do here at St. Francis. It is comprehensive and uncomplicated. We have so many opportunities to worship joyfully. I love the big High Holy services, especially The Great Easter Vigil with fire and bells and incense, but also the quiet contemplative darkness of Compline, Lenten and Holy Week services. In Advent we experienced a new and lovely service of “The Longest Night” on the eve of the winter solstice. Beyond Sunday services, is the routine of Morning Prayer at 9:15 which sets the course of each new day. And the Wednesday Healing Eucharist is a real balm in Gilead from the hither and thither of our daily lives. These weekday services are lightly attended, yet vital in offering prayers for individuals, our church and the world.

I was senior warden in 2003 when ground was broken for a new wing of the church. This was begun without pledges to cover the total cost of construction. We paid off the bank loan in a few years. Now we eagerly anticipate the breaking of ground for a new worship space, but this time the Diocese says we must have all the money already pledged to equal the cost of construction. Let us hope and pray this stipulation can be renegotiated and that there will be a ground breaking and construction begun for a new church building in 2018. I am passionate about that happening on my watch as senior warden. Can you imagine how joyful worship will be when we can gather altogether with space to breathe and to welcome newcomers?

To learn how we serve compassionately, please read the ministry reports written for this annual meeting. You can do so on our website or in hard copy. The ministry team leaders who submitted these reports, detailing all that transpired in 2017 and some visions for 2018, gave of their valuable time and effort to do so. They should be read and digested if you really want to know all about the life and work of your St. Francis community. I will not reiterate all they said because that is far more eloquently and thoroughly covered in their reports. That being said, I can’t help sharing the joy experienced in filling a backpack for a child at Christmas, and serving at Weekend lunch for the homeless. Above all else, my on-going high delight is working on the Altar Guild to set for beautiful worship services throughout the year. Everyone can be part of a ministry in community here at St. Francis. There are many to choose from. I hope you will explore and find where you belong, for in doing so your life will be fulfilled and enriched.

To grow spiritually is often equated with times of solitude and retreat from the world. I used to think that sitting on a rock in the desert was the way to achieve spiritual maturity. I still believe that a contemplative life in study of Scriptures and listening for the still small voice is a way into deeper relationship with God. Nevertheless, I came to recognize that just seeking God in quiet and solitude was escapism from working in the ditches where Jesus himself served. That realization is life changing, for joyful worship and compassionate service and spiritual growth are inseparable. They are all to be found and nurtured in community right here at St. Francis Church. Come and see … and be sure to invite others!

The 2017 vestry began the year in retreat at Camp Mikell where we listened to each other, wrote a vestry covenant, and worked on being an authentic community in preparation for responsibilities ahead; not without disagreements, but respecting differing points of view and striving to come to consensus. The cannon says that, “The Vestry shall assist the rector in the nurture and extension of Christ’s Church. The Vestry shall have legislative authority for the parish and shall transact all of its temporal business.” These are big responsibilities. Your vestry will work hard to serve this parish in the year ahead, to be visionary, fiscally responsible, to plan strategically, to listen closely to your concerns, to be a spiritual presence, and to provide strong support for Fr. Ben. I am honored and humbled to serve as your Crazy Senior Warden.

Thank you, Susan Locke