Monthly Archive for November, 2010

Advent 1 November 28, 2010

Darkness and Light:

A Response to the Readings for Advent 1

 (This was one of our periodic intergenerational “Come With Joy” Sundays, which feature the use of drama and art, and participation by the congregation in the response to the Scripture readings.)

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:36-44


Imagine the unimaginable. Perhaps it will be helpful if you close your eyes for a few moments. Be with the silence, the darkness. Now imagine the unimaginable. Imagine that in these next four weeks, these weeks of Advent, you do not put up a Christmas tree or decorations; you do not make lists or shop for Christmas presents; you do not give or go to Christmas parties; you do not listen to Christmas songs; you do not busy yourself with errands and organizing; especially, imagine that you do not feel you have to be “jolly” or “in the mood” or “get with the holiday spirit.” Imagine that for these four weeks, you only watch and wait, hope and pray. In other words, imagine that you keep the holy season of Advent as it’s meant to be kept, free from the pre-Christmas pressures of the world around us.

In the darkness as you sit there, you begin to hear things:

 (Roll of drums)

(Readers come forth one by one and stand before the Altar. After they read their headline, they cover their faces with a newspaper and remain standing as others join them.)

First News Headline

Irish Debt Crisis Forces Collapse of Government: New Fears of Political Instability for Allies in Europe

(Roll of drums)

Second News Headline

Iraq’s Troubles Drive Out Refugees Who Came Back: Iraqis who fled the height of the war and then returned are leaving in a second exodus, fueled by violence and unemployment that show how far Iraq remains from stability and security

(Roll of drums)

Third News Headline

North Koreans Unveil New Plant for Nuclear Use: South Korea Strengthens Military Defenses

(Roll of drums)

Fourth News Headline

Front-Line City Starts Tackling Rise in the Sea: Global Warming Means Tough Decisions Ahead for Norfolk, Virginia

(Roll of drums)

Fifth News Headline

South Korea at Forefront of Worldwide Dementia Epidemic: Estimated 100 Million Cases by 2050 

(Roll of drums)

Sixth News Headline

South Africa Fears Millions More AIDS Infections: Health Crisis Threatens to Overwhelm Country’s Future

(Roll of drums)

Seventh News Headline

Consumer Risks Feared as Health Law Spurs Mergers: Consolidation May Drive Up Costs, Impair Care

(Roll of drums)

Eighth News Headline

NATO Sees Long-Term Role After Afghan Combat: Tens of Thousands of Troops to Remain After 2014

(The readers return to their seats.)


And on and on it goes. You’d like to distract yourself. Go shopping. Get something to eat, maybe have a drink. Listen to “Jingle Bells” or “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus.” Watch something light on television. Maybe browse the Internet. Why not? What would be the hurt? But you discipline yourself. This is Advent. You watch and wait, hope and pray. And now through the darkness comes another sort of sound:

(Sound of chimes)

This time, as the readers come forward they each bring a candle which they light and hold before them.

First Prophecy

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

(Sound of chimes)

Second Prophecy

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; Authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Sound of chimes)

Third Prophecy

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

(Sound of chimes)

Fourth Prophecy

But you, O Bethlehem, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days.

(Sound of chimes)

Fifth Prophecy

A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.

(Sound of chimes)

Sixth Prophecy

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

(Sound of chimes)

Seventh Prophecy

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

(Sound of chimes)

Eighth Prophecy

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

(The readers extinguish their candles and return to their seats.)


We live in a world where imagining Advent is difficult. The darkness part, the news headlines and the crises and struggles in our own lives, is easy enough. What’s hard is imagining that the prophetic voices have any power against the darkness. We’re used to trying to combat the darkness all through our own efforts. Things are going badly in Iraq or Afghanistan, for instance, and we throw more troops or more money at the problem. Banks collapse in Ireland or on Wall Street and we bail them out. And of course we do live in a different world from biblical times. We have more power over darkness than people did 2000 years ago – or at least we think we do.

We think we do, but there’s a limit to our power. So often the law of unintended consequences operates so that what we try to do only makes the darkness worse.  We take out a mortgage to buy a beautiful new home and we lose our job or the interest rate jumps; now the house is a problem, not a solution. We overthrow a dictator and end up plunging a nation into chaos and provoking terrorist reprisals on our own shores. The Advent prophets would have pointed out that we act without consulting God. We act with insufficient imagination about what could be possible in God’s coming Kingdom.

The Advent prophecies invite us to entertain a deeper level of faith and hope. The prophets who voiced them so long ago knew something that we forget: that the Lord is always there, working in history and in our own lives, even in the darkest moments. That we often cannot set things right by ourselves, but God is always there, offering a flame of hope, new light, an alternative  way forward, comfort and courage in the struggle. This God is not Santa Claus. He does not always give us what we want.  His word is not always a jolly “ho, ho, ho.” He was born in poverty and neglect in a stable. He died an apparent failure on a Cross. But that was not the end, for God is a greater God than we can imagine. The old dies, but the new is born. The chaos that we read as darkness may be the birth pangs of the Babe who is Messiah.

Advent is about watching, waiting, hoping, praying for the coming of this God, our Lord Jesus the Christ.

Advent Spiritual Life Suggestions: Week One

The theme of Advent is strongly counter to the pre-Christmas mood in the world around us. It centers on the coming of Christ at the End of Time, summoning us to take inventory of our lives and the world we live in, looking at them through the eyes of Christ our Savior. It’s important to set aside a time, even just a few minutes, for quiet and freedom from distractions. Choose a comfortable spot, light a candle (the votive from church if you’ve picked one up),and just be still — no background music or television.


You may want this first week of Advent to meditate on the word from the first of our Advent banners. Watchfulness, wakefulness, anticipation, being prepared for Christ’s coming — these themes appear in the Advent readings for Scripture. You might want to choose one of these, reading it very slowly (preferably out loud), putting yourself in the scene, noting what calls out to you and where the reading leads you: The Necessity for Watchfulness (Matthew 24:36-44); The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13); The Coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:29-31).

The Buddhist tradition uses the term “mindfulness,” which may be a useful variation on watchfulness. Mindfulness means clearing our mind of the clutter of anxieties and arguments that runs pointlessly through it, and seeking a higher or deeper awareness: 1) of ourselves, how we really feel, what our situation really is, what choices we have; 2) of the world around us, what is going on in it, for good and for ill, how it affects it — and more importantly how we let it preoccupy and burden us to no avail (think of all the time we spend exposed to advertisements or the emotional manipulation of talk radio/television/blogs); of Jesus and how he stands as judge over against us and the world. Don’t try to fit all this into one meditation session! Take a bit at a time, those that are helpful to you. Maybe you have other suggestions. Share them by way of comment on this post.

Another source for reflection would be the prophecies that the Holy Cross children work with in their atriums. These can be found in the response to the readings that we gave during the Eucharist on Sunday, November 28.


Parish Enjoys Pledge Celebration Party

When people make their pledge of financial support for the coming year at Holy Cross, they receive a handwritten note of thanks and a raffle ticket. (If they increase their pledge or it’s a new pledge, they get two tickets.) Tickets are drawn at a party held to celebrate the conclusion of the pledge campaign. Prizes are donated goods and services, and there’s always a great selection. The fun is watching what people choose, whose donation matches with what winner — and of course the food and fellowship that go along with any celebration at Holy Cross. Here’s an album of candid shots from the November 20, 2010 party.

Chuck Houghton, Tina Compagna and Monica Houghton share the fun.

Chuck Houghton, Tina Compagna and Monica Houghton share the fun.

Must be serious business! Heidi Clow, Donald Burke, Tom Clow.

Must be serious business! Heidi Clow, Donald Burke, Tom Clow.

Serious business here too, as Jorja Douzanis reads to her brother Joel.

Serious business here too, as Jorja Douzanis reads to her brother Joel.

Meanwhile, at the bar: Doug and Shirley James visit with Betty Dishong.

Meanwhile, at the bar: Doug and Shirley James visit with Betty Dishong.

Mabby the service dog lies low.

Mabby the service dog lies low.

Pillars of the church relax: Susan Ruggle, Fr. John McCausland, Bishop Arthur Walmsley.

Pillars of the church relax: Susan Ruggle, Fr. John McCausland, Bishop Arthur Walmsley.

The Charette family with their prize.

The Charette family with their prize.

Alice St. Hilaire drew the first raffle prize.

Alice St. Hilaire drew the first raffle prize.

Bob Arredondo, John Heckman, Nancy Stehno and Laura Arvin await dinner.

Bob Arredondo, John Heckman, Nancy Stehno and Laura Arvin await dinner.

Christ the King November 21, 2010

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 23:33-43

One of the most valuable spiritual gifts, it seems to me, is a sense of irony. Irony is defined as “a state of affairs or events that is the reverse of what was to be expected”; it’s when someone says one thing but then does something that contradicts their words. You won’t find irony among the classic lists of virtues. It’s kind of an outlier, a bastard virtue, if you will. Having a sense of irony protects us from taking others – or ourselves – too seriously. It punctures our tendency to create idols. It brings us back to earth, where we belong. And yet, even as it does so, it can raise up for us new and more genuine hope.

Our celebration of Christ the King on this last Sunday of the Church Year is a perfect example of irony. Continue reading ‘Christ the King November 21, 2010’

2010 Ministry Minute #6: Anne and John McCausland

IMG_2347Anne: The first Sunday we were at Holy Cross Douglas Clegg was the “organist,” He played “Tis a Gift to Be Simple” on the fiddle. As we sang the words, “when we find ourselves in the place just right” I remember thinking to myself, yes, I feel as if I have come home, and I stood up and said so to the small congregation gathered there. I who do not like to stand up in public! But Holy Cross has been for me a place where I can sit down if I need to, where I feel people take me as I am, anxieties and all.

John: The thing I have valued most about Holy Cross is your readiness to try new things, to reach out boldly. So many congregations are locked in the past, resistant to change, fearful of failure. I’ve served churches where everything had a bronze plaque on it; someone gave it as a memorial and no one better mess with it! I’ve served churches where individuals and cliques had their turf – the altar guild, the music program, the Sunday School, the liturgy – so that there was no common ground, no way for new people or new ideas to be welcomed in. Holy Cross has been just the opposite. We’ve built a new building, instituted the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, pioneered Come With Joy liturgies and Come and See evangelism programs.

Anne and I are energized by creativity, challenge and change, so this has been personally important to us. But we also believe it’s essential as churches like this one try to respond to the needs of today’s world, to younger generations with different cultural contexts, to people turned off by traditional church. The Bible is a record of change. God is always moving ahead of God’s people. We’ve had a lot of joy here with you trying to keep up with God.

Anne: One of the things I love about Holy Cross is that this is a place where I have been able to develop the ministry of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I have met others who love and support that ministry. I have been formed at least as much as I have formed any of the children. This work has been a huge gift to me as well as my gift to Holy Cross.

IMG_2348John: Liturgy is the heart of a church, and something very important to Anne and me. I’ve tried here to develop our worship drawing on the richness of the Anglo-Catholic tradition, but without stiffness, without preciousness, making it the work of the whole people of God, not just the priest and the ministers up front in costume. Just as Jesus is both human and divine, liturgy must be both warm and personal and also open to the transcendent, to mystery, to the breaking through of God in the beauty of music, liturgical environment, word and movement. It’s been a delight that you’ve allowed me to develop with you a liturgy that builds on the rich tradition of the Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal but incorporates elements from other resources. Anne and I really pray here on Sundays; I don’t just lead prayer. There is much more to be done, of course, but I can’t think of another congregation that has come so far liturgically.

Anne: There is so much richness here and people are so willing to share their gifts. We have all been the recipient of loving community, friendships, spiritual growth, support in times of trouble. I am comfortable offering tai chi, singing Gilbert and Sullivan, gathering to make rosaries, attend other people’s quiet days, and lots of GOOD FOOD. In short I can bring all of myself and find it redeemed, and I am filled with overwhelming gratitude

John: I’ve left for last what has been most important to both of us: you, the people of Holy Cross. The Episcopal Church these days flourishes best in suburban settings, in college towns, in settings where historic endowed churches carry on an array of sophisticated programs. Weare is none of these. If you were looking to plant an Episcopal Church, you wouldn’t put it here. But that has been our gift. We have such a mix of people economically, in terms of age, education, occupation, background, politics, people in suits and ties, people in jeans and T-shirts. We’re small enough so that I know every one of you personally, something of your joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs. And you know each other. No one has a basis for feeling left out here. You’ve taught me much about how to love, and I love you. As I listen to you talking about the transition, I hear people saying that they’ll miss Anne and me, that they value what we’ve brought here, our gifts. But I don’t hear anyone saying that Holy Cross will not go on without us – and go on just fine. And you will. You’ve been a great gift to us, but you are a greater gift to each other.

Pentecost 25 November 14, 2010

Malachi 4:1-2a                                                                   

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13                                                    

Luke 21:5-19

In the news this week: gold hit an all-time high of fourteen hundred and something dollars an ounce. Actually, adjusted for inflation, it wasn’t an all-time high, but the fact remains that lots of people are apparently buying gold. People do that as a hedge against uncertainty, out of fear about what the future may bring: inflation, deflation, the fall of the dollar, the rise of China . . . whatever. Lots of uncertainty around us in the world today.

There’s biblical precedent for this flight to gold. In the Book of Exodus we learn that when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to talk with God and get the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel became anxious because he was gone so long. He’d led them out into the wilderness on this faith journey to some sort of promised land, but what if it didn’t work out? What if Moses abandoned them? What if this whole God of promise thing was an illusion? So they took all their jewelry and melted it down and made a golden calf to worship. A god they could get their hands around. A god who wouldn’t go away or ask them to journey on faith. Gold: the god of certainty. The Bible has another word for it: idolatry. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 25 November 14, 2010’

Things We Want to Share about Holy Cross

We’re preparing for a second Come and See invitational evangelism campaign next February and March. Part of this will be a series of little flyers we can hand to friends we want to invite to come with us to Holy Cross. These will contain lots of pictures of Holy Cross people and activities, and short statements describing what we like about our church, what drew us there, what keeps us coming back.

Here are a series of statements from people jotted down as we talked about the project over breakfast November 7. We invite you to add your own words –just a sentence or two. We’d like to have something from everyone in the congregation to share. Use the comment feature on this post.

Holy Cross is a true family – you feel welcome even if you’re not married or don’t have kids. A great mix of young and old.

The Episcopal Church has both the Word and the Sacraments: the best of both worlds.

Our church doesn’t claim to be perfect, and it understands that people aren’t perfect.

Holy Cross is a place where you find love and acceptance just as you are – warts and all.

Holy Cross is a church that is accepting and non-judgmental.

The Episcopal Church is open and transparent. You know where the money comes from and where it goes. You know who makes the decisions (you have a voice!). The Church has rigorous “safe church” practices to protect our children.

This is a place where our children make lifelong friendships.

In a commuter society, it’s hard to make connections where we live. Church is a good base for that.

People helped me feel my way in at Holy Cross – friendly, but never pressuring.

At Holy Cross, you’re free to practice the piety that suits you – kneel, sit or stand, cross yourself or not.

The service is laid out so clearly in the bulletins, it’s easy to follow along and join in.

Beauty is important to me and I find it at Holy Cross. Our lovely new church blends in perfectly with the historic old building.

We’ve found Holy Cross a warm, welcoming, diverse congregation – informal in atmosphere but with a Catholic liturgy celebrated with great reverence.

Our kids today are exposed to drugs, sex, violence, stress, family problems. Why not fill out the play card with peace, love, faith and belonging?

Busy work schedule? Busy kids schedule? Busy social schedule? One hour of peace Sunday at Holy Cross is priceless!

Do you have little church experience? Do your children have no church experience? Give Holy Cross a chance to be your family’s link to spirituality.

At Holy Cross there’s no guilt, only understanding. We come because we want to. In the Episcopal Church you are loved for what you are. Yet we share the traditions that are beautiful in the Roman Catholic Church.

At Holy Cross, you’re a participating member. You can share your talents and really be part of the whole experience.

It’s like your favorite bar – where everyone knows your name!

At Holy Cross the Bible is revered, not worshiped.

Diversity at Holy Cross means you can knell to pray while I stand to pray and our neighbor sits – and we all respect each other.

Our church includes a few “cradle Episcopalians, many former Roman Catholics, many former Protestants, and many people with no former church experience.

Holy Cross is where we make friends. Holy Cross is where people make us their friends.

We moved to New England without any family or relatives, and Holy Cross accepted me as a member of their family. I consider them my extended family.

I wanted to be part of a church where my being divorced wouldn’t inhibit my being my nephew’s godmother.

My 90 or so minutes at Holy Cross are my time, not my work’s, not my family’s, but mine and God’s It’s a meditation for me. Here I find shelter from life’s everyday noises.

I found Holy Cross to be very open and caring, without the hypocrisy I had encountered elsewhere. Here it’s okay to make mistakes and learn to grow as a Christian.

I brought my teenager daughter to Holy Cross when she asked about God. It’s a great place to learn about Christianity and God’s place in our lives.

I have such a diverse set of friends from Holy Cross. I would never have met these people anywhere else.

All Saints’ Sunday November 7, 2010

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18                                                            

Ephesians 1:11-23                                                             

Luke 6:20-31

For the last three weeks or so, I’ve been dragging around with a cold. Nothing serious enough to ground me, but enough to make me feel tired and subpar. I was almost back to health last weekend, but then the runny nose and achy muscles and exhausted feeling returned with a vengeance. The reason: standing out in the cold and wind at the Weare polling place all day Tuesday on behalf of a couple of candidates I cared about.

Why does anyone do this? Well, maybe because the “other side” does it and you don’t want them to be the only ones out there – and, of course, they do it because you do it. There was some talk on “the line” as the day wore on and we got colder and colder that we make a pact and next year no one would stand out there! But we stand because we believe in what we stand for. We’re witnesses to something we believe in – passionately enough to risk our health. Moreover, as I discover anew every time I do this, it’s also fun to see and greet all the people in town you know. You end up feeling a sense of solidarity and community: despite differences of opinion, we’re all out there exercising our responsibility as citizens and when it’s all over and the votes counted, we come together as one country, one people.

Finally, and to me most rewarding, it’s a time to talk with people you disagree with – discover what is motivating them, what their vision is, and at a deeper level who they are. Early in the day at the polls, the Republicans were at one end of the line by the door, the Democrats at the other. The Republicans were talking with one another about their beliefs: there were people who believed that roads and highways should be privatized, that churches should take care of all the welfare needs of society, that Obama was born in Nigeria and was bent on making America socialist.

The Democrats listening to this were rolling their eyes. But of course the Democrats were sharing their vision – an income tax, more aid to education and social services – and talking about how awful Andy Sanborn and John Stephen were, while the Republicans rolled their eyes. But late in the day, when the sun was going down and the cold getting more intense, when most of the line-standers had gone home, those of us who remained began to talk with each other, across party lines. What we discovered, of course, was that we shared many of the same concerns. Moreover, there was much we could agree on about how to approach problems, how to work together. And we learned that the “other side” were really decent human beings, with good hearts and minds, who cared just as intensely as we did about our country, our state and our community. So when the day was finally over, we went home – winners and losers – feeling somehow more deeply connected to one another.

I share all this because today we celebrate the feast of All Saints’, and this annual ritual of “working the polls” is very much a celebration of what it means when we say each week in the Creed that we believe in the communion of saints. Continue reading ‘All Saints’ Sunday November 7, 2010′

2010 Ministry Minute #5: Pat Karpen

New parishioner Pat Karpen uses the metaphor of a new car to talk about her experience of becoming part of Holy Cross.

New parishioner Pat Karpen uses the metaphor of a new car to talk about her experience of becoming part of Holy Cross.

Pat Karpen came to Holy Cross through our Come and See invitational evangelism campaign last spring. She came, saw, stayed and became an active member of the congregation. Among her gifts, Pat brings a career as a professional actor in New York City and as a teacher at John Stark High School and, now, at St. John’s School in Concord. Her Ministry Minute reflects Pat’s gifts of imagination and expression.



I wasn’t looking for fellowship.  I wasn’t looking for warmth.  I wasn’t looking for inclusion or welcome.  I wasn’t looking for friendship.  I wasn’t looking for a new path or a new destination.    I was looking for a new car.

I had pretty much been driving my car all my life.  It had always given me some problems.  Quite frankly, there were a few occasions when I parked the car and just walked the path.  Lately, though, it was starting to break down for me an awful lot.  I was having some real difficulty reconciling some of the discrepancies I was finding in the manuals.  I really wasn’t crazy about the mechanics.  It especially bothered me when they would all gather together and tell me that most of my problems with my car were probably due to the fact that I was, well, after all, just a woman driver.

I had become so frustrated that annoyance had started to spill over into anger and downright rage.  So much so, that most of the time I wasn’t focused on the path or the destination at all.  All I could do was scream at my vehicle and weep and rage and mourn.  I had stopped marveling at the scenery along the path.  I could hardly even see the path.

Then Heidi asked me to come and see.  I did.  It was not an easy decision for me.  I’d been in that same car for an awful long time.  But I kept coming back.  I like the feel of this  car.  I like how it takes the corners.  I’m reading some manuals.  I’m kicking the tires.  I like the mechanic.  I like his intelligence and his kindness.  But there’s more.

To end as I began:  I wasn’t looking for fellowship.  I wasn’t looking for warmth.  I wasn’t looking for inclusion or welcome.  I wasn’t looking for friendship.  Then I met you all. For whatever reason the particular tap dance that my DNA has always done has always kept me on the periphery of people.  Most days I’m ok with that.  Most days it doesn’t bother me.  Most days.  Then I met you all.

Your welcome has been palpable.  Some of you have invited me into your homes.  Some of you have even invited me back again.  It’s always extremely difficult for me to show up; to come in from out of the rain, but your warmth has been enticing. Since I met you all, I’ve had the strangest feeling that if ever I were to be faced with an emergency…say Weare has lost power in an ice storm and because my sump pump is inoperative my basement is filling with water…that if I called any of you up in the middle of the night that you would leave your homes and come and try to help me.  I don’t have the words to explain how that feeling has affected me.  It is a strange and overwhelming moment in my life as a periphery person.

I am in awe of this small, beautiful holy place that houses your huge hearts and minds. Since I met you I am so…something…eased, happy, inspired…I don’t know…to be here and I must say thank you.