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Holy Cross Observes Fasting and Prayer for Holy Week

At the suggestion of parishioner Arthur Walmsley, retired Bishop of Connecticut, we are inviting all our members to observe Holy Week this year with special disciplines of fasting and prayer in solidarity with the suffering around the world and here at home. In the news are the continued devastation and nuclear peril in the wake of the earthquake in Japan, violence and oppression in the Arab world as people struggle to achieve democracy and equality, and budget cut-backs at the federal and state levels that threaten the safety net for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers. In this week when the Church focuses on the suffering of Jesus, it is appropriate for Christians to take on special disciplines of fasting and prayer in solidarity with them, as Jesus sacrificed himself for us.

Part of our observance of fasting and prayer will be at church, each evening beginning at 6:00 p.m. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we will have two-hour services of silent prayer, readings, intercession for particular people or groups who are suffering, and a short, simple Eucharist. On Maundy (Holy) Thursday, the regular 7:00 p.m. liturgy commemorating the Last Supper will be preceded at 6:00 p.m. by a silent, agape soup and bread supper, during which there will be a reading. On Good Friday, the 7:00 p.m. liturgy will be preceded at 6:00 p.m. by Stations of the Cross.

The following are some suggestions for fasting at home during the week:

  • Make one meal each day a light one.
  • Give up snacks between meals.
  • Give up some food: meat, desserts, alcohol . . .
  • Give up prepared foods or gourmet foods.
  • Pray each day for some person or group of persons in suffering or need: Japanese victims of the earthquake; victims of violence or unrest in the Arab world; those affected by government cut-backs in services; the unemployed; those affected by rises in fuel, gas or food prices.
  •  Contribute money you save from fasting to the offering on Easter Day, which will be divided with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Pressured between Zionist Jews and Muslims, the Diocese operates many schools, hospitals and other charitable institutions in countries throughout the Middle East.

Builders of Holy Lives drama

We had a lot of fun with the little dramatic presentation on Sunday, February 20, of the readings for the day: God’s commandment that his people should be “holy” and Jesus’s teaching that we should be “perfect [complete] as God is perfect.” How do ordinary people struggle to fulfill these goals? What is holiness? The cast did a great job of suggesting the answers to these questions: God played by David Holmes, the teacher by Pat Karpen, the politician by Todd Charette, the parent by Tina Compagna and her daughter by Tammi Compagna, the businessman by John Heckman, Recession by David Roy, Time and Chance by Derek Larkin and Bobbi-Jo Plamondon, and the Vicar by himself. Here’s an album of photos:

Fr. John poses with the Lord God.

Fr. John poses with the Lord God.

The politician knocks down the "building" the teacher has been laboring over.

The politician knocks down the "building" the teacher has been laboring over.

The rebellious child knocks over her mother's patient building.

The rebellious child knocks over her mother's patient building.

"Recession" arrogantly attacks the businessman's block tower.

"Recession" arrogantly attacks the businessman's block tower.

Chance (left with scythe) and Time (with clock) cut short the Vicar's life labor.

Chance (left with scythe) and Time (with clock) cut short the Vicar's life labor.

But all’s well that ends well — as you can find out by reading the script!

Christmas Pageant Photo Album

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As the pageant begins, the Vicar has a sleepless night, worrying about how he’ll pull off yet another Christmas pageant. His wife reassures him: it will happen, trust God.

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The “ghosts of Christmas pageants past,” parish teens, appear. They remind Fr. John of the pageants they enjoyed when they were little kids.

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The Holy Family arrive at the stable, as a “ghost” prepares to pass her veil to this new generation Mary.

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Angels and shepherds make their appearance.

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O, come let us adore Him!

Photo Album: Decorating and Cookie Swap

Laura Starr-Houghton, Bobbi-Jo Plamondon and Monica Houghton tie bows and swags.

Laura Starr-Houghton, Bobbi-Jo Plamondon and Monica Houghton tie bows and swags.

Connor Houghton "helping."

Connor Houghton "helping."

Connor Houghton really helping.

Connor Houghton really helping.

Connor Houghton resting from helping.

Connor Houghton resting from helping.

The cookie swap.

The cookie swap.

Advent Spiritual Life Suggestions: Week Four

The following thoughts on Prayer come from the monks of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.

PRAYER

Time: Set time aside, every day, to spend with God. If time is tight, pray while doiing things that don’t demand your full attention (exercising, cooking, gardening, riding the subway, etc.).

Space: While prayer is portable, returning to a place set aside for prayer can help prepare us for prayer. Choose a corner of a room where God can be remembered and met, every day.

Focus: Use an icon or a candle to focus your time with God. Allow scripture or poetry to direct your thoughts. If you get distracted, simply set the thought aside and turn back to God.

Body: We’re embodied creatures, so it helps to let the body share in prayer. Give a stretch, kneel down, hold a ring of prayer beads, or simply focus on our breath, giving thanks for the gift of life it represents.

Repetition: Prayer is a relationship, our response to God’s continuous invitation. Like relationships, prayer deepens over time. Be real, and listen for the voice of God, who brought you there.

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Advent Spiritual Life Suggestions: Week Three

IMG_2401“Hope” is our focus for this third week on Advent. Faith (or trust), hope and love are known as the three theological virtues. That title can scare one off; it simply means that they aren’t “natural” virtues like patience or wisdom, but instead relate specifically to living in relation with God.

Hope is the virtue that characterizes the Christian’s stance towards the future. We watch or listen to the news and everything seems very bleak. Perhaps our own personal lives are also shadowed by darkness of one sort or another. It’s easy to give in to despair, which is the opposite of hope. But the story of God’s people as it unfolds in the Bible is one founded always on hope. Abraham leaves his home and journeys to a land of promise based on hope. Israel awaits its Messiah, living in hope. And we can think of the millions who lived in hope through the dark decades of repression behind the Iron Curtain, never letting go of the hope that their day of freedom would come.

What do you hope for? For the future of the world; for your own future and that of your family? This is a time, in your prayer and reflection, to focus on what you hope for. Where do you need to rekindle hope? One of the best ways to become a more hopeful person is to begin to celebrate small occasions of joy: the beauty of the world dusted with our first snow, a meal shared with a friend, a word of thanks or praise, that rare bit of news that actually shows people working together for good or something wonderful happening where the future seemed dark. Some of us fall into a habit of complaint and depression. Countering it with deliberate celebrations of little joys can be a step towards a greater sense of hope.

Advent Spiritual Life Suggestions: Week Two

Waiting is one of the most difficult spiritual tasks most of us face. We want what we want when we want it. The earliest Christians faced a similar situation. They had expected Jesus to return in glory during their own lifetimes. When he didn’t, the Church had to consider what it meant to “wait on the Lord.”

IMG_2400Out of that experience came several learnings. First, while we wait it is important to tend to daily business in an orderly fashion: clean the house, earn our living, bring up our children, exercise civic responsibility. No lying around, waiting for Jesus as an excuse. Common sense! So Advent might be a time to consider our daily routines, tighten things up a bit, readjust and reorder. Second, the early Church stressed the value of mutual support and encouragement: people were urged to reach out to their sisters and brothers who might be discouraged or feel defeated. Again, this is something we can put into practice in our own daily lives. The secular “pre-Christmas” season tends to get focused on self, or on a generalized busyness. Maybe instead of a party for 50 of your best friends, you might have supper or just a cup of coffee with one person whom you sense could use your support and encouragement. (Support and encouragement don’t necessarily mean “advice”; just your loving presence is what’s needed, unless someone asks for more.)

But beyond these practical spiritual disciplines, this is a season to cultivate the deeper discipline of simply waiting — letting go of all our wantings and impatience. God has God’s own time; our contentment comes from slowing down and adjusting our pace to God’s. If you’ve ever spent retreat time in a monastic community, you will have experienced how time slows down and life simplifies. The result is not boredom (once you get used to it), but peace. Advent is a time to reach for that sense of peace that comes from simply learning to wait.

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.

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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.

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.