Featured

Gratitude to God

Dear Friends,

The underlying theme of this September’s Genesis is gratitude - gratitude to God for bringing us all together … gratitude for the volunteers whose dedication to the common good adds so much vitality to this congregation … gratitude to the staff whose efforts support all that we do … gratitude for opportunities to do meaningful tasks by serving … gratitude for the beauty of this sacred space for which we are stewards … gratitude for challenges which arise from a greater vision … gratitude for prayers for our well-being that reflects God’s love for each of us.

September is a month for starting up or restarting activities, ministries, and programs after a summer pause. Starting is not instantaneous. Like an athlete or musician for whom warming up is necessary, we too are warming up as we regroup and make final plans for the fall. Please watch the weekly eGenesis especially in the coming weeks for additional information to welcome one and all to the startup for the year.

Of particular note is Sunday School, led by Melanie Hitchen and a dedicated group of teachers who continue what was begun last spring. The first classes are on September 15. The consensus of the teachers, who met to begin planning this year was that classes be held starting after Communion, at the end of the10:30 service and conclude at 12:15. Details will follow. The primary rationale for this timing was to allow families not to feel rushed to get to church by 9:15, to encourage everyone to participate in the primary activity of Sunday morning – the service of Holy Eucharist, and to take advantage of the coffee hour after the 10:30 service as a time for informal conversation. Coffee hours at Trinity Church work so well that I think this plan is well worth a try this fall. Trying new approaches and reviewing them as we go along is a benefit of an interim year. For now, please plan to bring your children and invite other children to participate.

We are also reviving the Adult Forums at 9:15, on most Sundays beginning on September 15. Vestry member Paul Coyer and I have been working on plans, and I have had numerous conversations with parishioners about possible topics. Watch eGenesis each week for details.

In the few months that remain of my Interim Ministry, I look forward to being with you for prayer, learning, and service.

We give thanks to God for the opportunity to be at Trinity Church in these exciting times.
Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Change of Pace

Dear Friends,

The months of July and August offer a distinct change of pace with the opportunity to be more relaxed.

At the same time, it is a season of considerable behind the scenes planning. So, the Discernment Committee might suggest that my reference to a more relaxed season might apply to others but not to them. In addition to keeping them in our prayers spoken at each Sunday service, I hope you with thank the committee members whenever you see them.

They are:
Matt Blunt, Chair, Jonathan Catherwood, Alix Coolidge, Ellen Hall, Ashley Hambrick, Margaret Moore and Laurie Volk .

One of my most important responsibilities during this interim is to do everything I can to work with the leaders of the parish to prepare for your next era with a new Rector. For my first six months with you, I have spent as much time learning about the parish, engaging in activities that are important to you, offering pastoral care, and leading worship. That will continue as we spend the next six months working to refine what we do and how we do it in ways that maximize the effectiveness of the ministries we share. We’ll be able to be more specific as time goes by.

In the meantime, I want to say again how much I enjoy being at Trinity and how much I appreciate getting to know as many of you as possible.

We give thanks to God for the opportunity to be at Trinity Church in these exciting times.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Welcome to Summer

Dear Friends,

After all the excitement of a wonderful Stable Tour weekend, we move to a new month. Although June often seems to mark the beginning of a slower pace for the summer, this month is also a time of important activity. Our primary goal for the year is to prepare you for the next era of ministry with a new Rector. The Discernment Committee is working deliberately and thoughtfully sustained by the prayer we all say together each Sunday. They will present an update on their process at a Forum on Sunday, June 23, between the 8:00 and 10:30 am services. I hope you will stay after the early service or come early for the later service to hear from the committee and to ask questions.

During the summer, the Vestry and I will be planning for the fall and exploring ways to refine our efforts to be as effective as possible in leading the lively collaboration of volunteers and staff. I notice enthusiasm and dedication every day, and we seek to translate that energy into opportunities for newcomers and long-standing members to be engaged more deeply in the congregation.

The Vestry voted at the May meeting to elect Melissa Neal as our Delegate to Diocesan Convention and our Region and Becky Hoecker as the Alternate Delegate. We are grateful to them for serving in these important roles.

The other day, I received Mission Vouchers for the young people who were Confirmed on May 12. These vouchers are to be used before their 19th birthday to support mission experiences. The vouchers represent the interest in the people of the entire Diocese in the activities of our youth.

I plan to be away on two Sundays in June for weddings. I’m grateful to Jim Hammond for leading worship in my absence, and I am thankful daily for his friendship and wise counsel. The two Sundays I expect to be here are important because they direct us to the foundation of so much that defines us.

June 9, is Pentecost with the celebration of the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is the custom here for you to wear red to match the red on the altar. It is also the custom of the church to view this day, one of the seven feast days of the church year, as a time to renew our commitment to the mission of the church.

June 16, is Trinity Sunday, the only one of the seven feast days devoted to a doctrine. It is our special privilege to focus on the meaning of the day in the context of the name of our congregation. It is a Sunday to renew our commitment to the mission of the church through this particular church.

I look forward to June with you.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Sermon Annual Meeting

I have received several requests to have my sermon before our Annual Meeting printed in the November Genesis. I hereby gladly honor that request:

Sermon Annual Meeting
October 21, 2018
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Again, Good Morning! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. And welcome to the Annual Meeting of this congregation.

I am not sure how many of you are fully aware of our men’s group that gathers here on the third Saturday of each month. There are usually anywhere between twelve to twenty of us, including friends from the larger community, who come together, not only for a delicious breakfast, but also for lively conversation relating our faith to what is going on in the world around us. Gray Coyner serves as the convener of the group and he always gets things started by sharing with us some reflections and observations. Yesterday, he reported on a recent visit to his ancestral home in Waynesboro, Virginia. He came away with the distinct sense that, as time goes on, members of his extended family are growing less and less interested about the relationships and the stories that make for the foundations of the family’s history. He asked our group a challenging question: How many of you know where your grandparents, and as a bonus, your great-grandparents are actually buried? A number of hands went up around the table. He then asked, how many of you have ever visited their graves? The hands going up were fewer in number.

Gray’s questions raise one of the very important matters we are called to consider on this day of our Annual Meeting. Lest we ever forget, the life and ministry of this congregation is not just about those of us who presently call this our church home. The mission of this congregation is rooted in a history that goes all the way back to the 1840s. Our mission here and now stands on the shoulders of the many saints who have gone before us. I know that we are often referred to as “the Mellon Church” and there is no question that we would not presently be who we are without their incredibly generous vision and support. But this congregation existed well before the Mellons moved into this community. God has been at work in this place for many years and that is something we are called to celebrate today. The mission of this congregation extends back well before the 1950s, 1979, 1991, 2005, 2007, and this present moment. We don’t own this place. We are merely stewards passing on our way to the resurrected life that is to come.

My point is this: Tradition matters. Knowing about whence we came informs and guides us as to where the Holy Spirit is leading us next. We are Episcopalians, not Congregationalists. We have been formed by the worship laid out in our Book of Common Prayer. We ascribe to a belief in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as defined in the Nicene and Apostles Creed. Our faith is not so much dogmatic as it is practical and expressed first and foremost in seeking to love God with all that we are and all that we have and embodying that in the ways we choose to love one another as Jesus loves each of us. The sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Marriage, Confirmation, Ordination, Reconciliation, and Unction are outward and visible signs of God’s love and presence in our lives. This history and these traditions matter. They remind us from whence we have come and whose we really are.

But, my friends, there is also a danger here. A Christian community that chooses to dwell only in the past is at risk of losing both its present and its future. These congregations turn in on themselves. They end up worshipping really only themselves. They become religious museums, spiritual social clubs where the veneration of their ancestors takes precedence.

And so, even as we celebrate and honor the past life of this congregation this morning, we must always, by the grace of God, be looking forward. We learn from those who have gone before us to prepare for what is ahead, recognizing that the world we are called to serve is radically different than it was the 1840s, 1950s, and even the early 2000s. To dwell in the past in this sense is both detrimental and destructive. We must focus with open hearts and minds on where God is leading us next.

This ministry of discernment is never easy. Please remember that, according to St. Mark’s Gospel account, the disciples of Jesus had a really hard time hearing and understanding his message, his Good News.

Consider this. Five weeks ago, we heard Jesus say to them: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their lives will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

Four weeks ago, when he had discerned that they had been arguing amongst themselves as to who was the greatest, Jesus told those disciples, “Whoever wants to be first amongst you must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Last week, when it was made clear to the disciples that those possessing great wealth would find it more difficult to enter the kingdom of God than it would be for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, Jesus concludes this divine insight with “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first”. (Mark 10:31)

Obviously, he had not yet broken through. For just moments ago, after hearing the request of James and John to occupy the places of honor when he comes into his kingdom, thereby sharing in his power, Jesus responds, and I am going to guess with some real weariness, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 42-45)

Please notice. Jesus in none of these passages disparages the desire for greatness. Indeed, he makes it very clear that greatness is indeed the

chief goal of all who are willing to follow him. It is just that “greatness” in the Kingdom of God is entirely and radically different than what our world calls “greatness”. Greatness, in God’s kingdom, has nothing to do with accumulated wealth, or titles on the door, or places of honor at the boardroom table, that big dinner party, or at the upcoming Gala. In God’s kingdom, greatness is about being servant to all and ultimately about a willingness to lay down our very lives for the sake of the Good News that Jesus came to share with those who are shunned and ignored and left unloved by our world.

And I want to be very clear about this in my final Annual Meeting with you, the people of Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Virginia: I believe, as I have always believed, that this congregation is called by God to greatness as understood in God’s kingdom. It always has been. It is now. And it always will be.

When you have had the opportunity to read my contribution to the Annual Report, you will know that, as we look to the upcoming season of transition in the life of this congregation, we concentrate on three priorities first articulated by one of my favorite saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he awaited his trial and ultimate execution by the Nazi government. In the coming months, I would recommend that we focus particularly on these three focal points of Christian life and ministry. They are 1) Prayer, 2) Outreach, and 3) an unwavering hope in God’s love for the whole world made incarnate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, at risk of sounding bold to the point of arrogance, I truly believe that if we dedicate ourselves to these three spiritual disciplines, the ongoing life of this congregation will be blessed beyond measure.

My friends, it begins and ends in the practice of prayer. Prayer is not about the recitation of words. Prayer is, as Jim Hammond reminded us several weeks ago, about opening ourselves to an ongoing conversation with God. It is about the alteration between the purifying of our hearts, minds, and souls and the illumination of the same. Prayer is to enter into the presence of the living God just as we are. Without prayer, we will not know how to properly build this congregation in the years ahead.

I love the way we pray here at Trinity: our liturgies on Sunday mornings, the opportunities to celebrate baptisms, marriages, and burials. I love our keeping of the Church calendar and our celebrations of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. The Wednesday noontime Eucharist is one of my favorite moments each and every week. Lest we ever forget, our commitment to music worthy of our worship of God is, in fact, prayer. And our intercessors gather here on Monday afternoons and on Sunday mornings to offer prayers of healing and the praise of God. Still, we cannot pray enough. Going forward, I would recommend regular gatherings for prayer in the upcoming time of discernment. I would also strongly suggest making much more use of our trails and our outdoor chapel in encouraging the practice of prayer in the life of our church.

I also love the outreach ministries of our church. I love the fact that we generously support all kinds of ministries in our communities and in our world. I love the hands-on outreach that so many of you are already committed to, whether it be SOME or Seven Loaves, The Food Pantry, the Thrift Shop, Windy Hill, the Upperville Council of Churches, and elsewhere. Outreach is an absolutely necessary and vital expression of our faith. It is the path to truly understanding greatness in the kingdom of God. Again, without it we tend to forget about the world and begin to turn inwards only on ourselves. I would that we are very much at the point we must once again turn our attention to reaching out the children and young people of our communities. We must take to heart, that if we do not provide these sisters and brothers of ours with the opportunities to learn the traditions and great stories of our faith and life here and now, the future of Trinity Church will be very much in doubt. I ask you to continually pray about our outreach here at Trinity as you prepare to welcome my successor.

Finally, we need the enduring HOPE that is our faith in Jesus Christ. God knows our world is in desperate need of hope at this time. What we need to realize and understand is that Jesus has called us to be messengers of that hope. We need to let the world know that, even when our world’s structures are under great duress, the cornerstone that is the Gospel remains. Our hope here at Trinity is in Jesus Christ, our strength and our redeemer. Our hope is not in ourselves. Our own strength and skills are not enough to heal a broken world.

Now, it is certainly true that our work in proclaiming that hope requires the investment of each one of us. It requires our supporting the mission of this congregation in the ways we commit our time, our talent, and our material wealth in carrying this message out into the world. Please know that our faith calls us to this commitment just as much in these seasons of transition, perhaps even more so. I promise you that you will be hearing more about this facet of our baptismal vows in the coming weeks. Hope in the midst of change is one of the greatest messages we are called to witness to in our present age.

You see, even in the midst of all manner of uncertainty present in our world today, our hope is, and will always be, in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He is our rock and he is our salvation. It is this hope that brings us together today. It is this hope that is the foundation of our church and ultimately defines us as the people of God. It is the hope that our predecessors proclaimed in this place. And it is the hope that we are called to proclaim here and now. Let us lift that hope up in the coming year. Let us share that hope with each other and with the world around us. Together, let us celebrate that hope today and everyday of our lives. Amen.

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.

He Is Risen

Dear Friends,

Alleluia! He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Easter is “an annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, held on the first Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21.”

The Catechism of our Book of Common Prayer asks the question, “What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection?” The answer given is “By his resurrection, Jesus overcame death and opened for us the way of eternal life.”

On the day itself, we pray, “O God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our

Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

All of this is well and good, theologically and liturgically correct. But, of course, the above does not come even close to expressing the ineffable joy offered to us by God in this holy season. From the kindling of the paschal fire in the predawn hours to the final shouts of “Alleluia”, we are embraced by the realization given through faith that the stone has been rolled away and the tomb stands empty. No longer is death our final destination. Yes, we are mortal. But by Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ, we too will experience death, not as the end, but as a gate that opens into larger life.

In the meantime, we live as an Easter people. Even in the midst of all that is diminished and corrupted in this present age, we live according to God’s great promise revealed in His Son. Even as the world obsesses over all the bad news, we proclaim the Gospel: In the darkness, there is light. In the despair, there is hope. In the anger, discrimination, and hatred, there is love and that love will never fail or be overcome. Why? Jesus Christ lives. Christ lives here in our world. Christ lives within each one of us. Christ is now the way, the truth, and life. And when the moment is right, Christ will come again.

Eternal life burst out of the tomb in the resurrected life of Jesus Christ on that first Easter day. Every day now holds the Gospel’s promise. That is a promise well worth celebrating, my sisters and brothers. I look forward to celebrating this new reality with you in the weeks ahead. Welcome, Easter!

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

St. Francis in October

Dear Friends, 

We celebrate the life of St. Francis on October 4th. His was a story of “from riches to rags”, not a career path much appreciated in our present day and age. Instead of following his father into the lucrative textile business, Francis’ encounters with the poor and the marginalized of his society led him to embrace “Lady Poverty”. He gave up all personal ambition and instead devoted his life entirely to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He also wanted to rid himself of all distractions when it came to his relationship with God, so he literally gave all his material possessions away. 

One of the aspects of his life that inspires us was his appreciation for the glory of God revealed in creation. Legend has it that he had the ability to speak to animals and was known to apologize to an ant when he realized that he was about to step on it. Many people keep a statue of Francis in their gardens as a reminder of his love of nature and it is for this reason we choose to hold our annual Blessing of the Animals on a Sunday closest to the 4th. 

Many of us also resonate with the prayer attributed to Francis: “Lord, make us instruments of your peace” (Book of Common Prayer, page 833). I think that one of the deepest desires in our lives is for peace. We seek this peace in all manner of ways. Yet, the horror of Monday’s violence aimed at innocent people in Las Vegas, people gathered together seeking peace in their love of music, reminds us how elusive peace can be. That is why the prayer continues. In order to end hatred, that great obstacle to peace, those who long for peace must sow love. Those who understand that conflict destroys peace must proactively work for forgiveness and union. Those living in hopelessness and despair need faith and light in their lives. We must seek to restore these essential elements if a peaceful existence is to be theirs. Finally, and with the greatest humility, we must embrace the fact that, if we are to be instruments of God’s peace, we must honor and cherish others before we honor ourselves, even if we give our lives for the sake of others in the process. 

The Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts reminds us that, “Of all the saints, Francis is the most popular and admired, but the least imitated.” There is a good reason for that. Bringing peace into the world does require the utmost humility, and again, that kind of humility is not greatly encouraged in our world today. As we here at Trinity continue to pray about how we might best act as “instruments of God’s peace” in our world, we would do well to embrace the example of Francis. The world needs more of his gentle spirit, now more than ever. 

Faithfully in Christ, 
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr. 

Goodbye from Rachel

 

Dear People of Trinity Church, 

It has been such a blessing to be with you for the time that I’ve had here at Trinity. It is always difficult to leave something behind, especially when good relationships have been built. I am grateful for you as a church, for loving, supporting, and encouraging me in the faith. 

Many of you have asked where I will be going. I am going to serve as the assistant rector at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, Virginia. It is a parish that sprung from the seminary, and I served there for two years as a seminarian. If you are ever in the Alexandria area, I would love to see you. 

I will miss Trinity Church immensely, especially the community. I have said before that the church is neither a building nor an individual, but a community of those committed to following Jesus together. The Holy Spirit is certainly at work within this community, and I look forward to hearing of the many ways you all continue to learn and grow together in love of God and of neighbor. God has great things in store. In all things, never lose sight of the hope that is found in Jesus. I ask that you hold me in your prayers during this transition, and I will keep you in mine. 

In Christ, 
Rachel Rickenbaker

Rector's Pen

Dear Friends, 

I received a copy of an email several weeks ago. It was from a member of our congregation expressing her appreciation for the people, buildings, and grounds that comprise Trinity Church. She was particularly glad that her teenage children found peace, strength, love, and comfort in the midst of life’s anxieties whenever they were on the campus. 

I have been thinking a lot about that note as we prepare to enter into another program year here. While I know that the cares of the world are always with us, we are presently living in a moment of great anxiety. It seems to me that this anxiety is rooted in fear of our neighbors both near and far, a fear expressed in suspicion, doubt, anger, hatred, false pride, and poisonous partisanship. 

I therefore have a simple recommendation to make. In the coming year, let’s make Trinity an anxiety-free zone with God’s help. You may remember that in a sermon some months ago I shared that, as disciples of Jesus, we are called always to hope and never to fear. That hope is grounded in God’s perfect love, not just for some of us, but for each and every one of us. Furthermore, that love gives us the courage to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world while we incorporate this Good News in our community. Finally, in allowing Christ’s love to cast out all fear within us, we are set free to really enjoy life as God intends and have fun while we’re at it! 

Yes, I know that we are human. I know that our natural inclination to self-absorption means that you and I will never be able to love perfectly. Nonetheless my friends, that is no excuse not to try to love one another as Christ loves us each and every day, not some of the time, but all of the time. To borrow from the lyrics of Hal David, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” That is no mere sentiment. That is sublime and profound theology. That is the foundation on which our community, buildings, and grounds are built. It is the reason for the incarnation and the resurrection. It is our reason for being as well. 

See you on Sunday. 
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr. 

Assistant Rector's Pen

Dear People of Trinity Church,

The weather is warming up, and the days are getting longer. While things slow down a bit for the summer here at Trinity, the Church is still active!

The Church is made up of people who take upon themselves a life of discipleship, of following Christ. Even amidst vacations and periods of rest (which we all need!), Christians are meant to exemplify their faith with their lives. It is in fact our very identity!

This summer provides some great opportunities for living into our Christian faith. One is that the relaxed pace of the summer provides opportunities to invite a friend or neighbor to church. Plan a Sunday morning around the worship service, followed by coffee hour, a walk around the grounds, and lunch with a friend. If you have not attended the more contemplative Wednesday noontime Eucharist, come check it out, and join the group for lunch afterward.

Another great opportunity is our summer picnics. We had our first one in June, and our second is on July 26. Bring a friend or neighbor to enjoy an evening of great food, wonderful conversation, and a beautiful setting, followed with a brief Evening Prayer service. It is a casual and relaxed event that provides a great opportunity for fellowship. Even if you don’t bring a friend, come and get to know your fellow parishioners!

I extend the challenge from one of my recent sermons to all of you. Make it a goal to say hello to someone you don’t recognize every Sunday. We have so many people who come to the church and slip out unnoticed, and perhaps some people wish to go unnoticed; however, we will never know if there are those who slip by because no one took the time to speak to them. Even if you are travelling this summer, God provides countless opportunities to share His love with those you meet along the way. Live into those opportunities, and if you wish, share them with me. I love to hear about the ways the Church is living into the work of God in the world.

Finally, you will notice in this issue of the Genesis there are brief biographies of those running for Vestry in the fall. Please read and pray over these candidates this summer, as we look towards electing a new Vestry class made up of those passionate about the life and ministry of Trinity Church. Keep your Vestry members in prayer in their envisioning and decision-making, and ALWAYS feel free to talk with them about ideas and passions that are stirred within your hearts and minds. They are your representative body here at Trinity and are eager to hear your thoughts and ideas around the life of this church.

I hope your summer is restful and enjoyable, and remember that even in the summer, we all continue to be the Church!

God’s peace,
The Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

The Assistant Rector's Pen

Dear People of Trinity Church,

Summer is nearly here! I remember writing my first Genesis newsletter last summer, and I am now coming up on my one-year anniversary at Trinity. How time flies when you’re having fun in the presence of Christian community!

As most of you know, Father Rob will be on Sabbatical this summer, a time for him of both recharging and continued study and learning. This will be an opportunity for me to step into a different leadership role for a time, though certainly not without the help of other clergy (thank you to Jim in advance!), wonderful staff, and all of you. Yes, while this summer may certainly show things slowing down a bit, the Church will be open and active!

In just a few weeks time, Trinity will welcome 30+ kids onto our church campus for a week of fun, upbeat, and creative activities. From June 12th-16th (9am-12pm each day), volunteers of all ages will help put on Vacation Bible School, an opportunity for kids to experience the love of Christ through words and actions, games, interactive Bible storytelling, crafts, snacks, and music! If you have not yet had a chance to volunteer and can make some time that week, please let me know. We can use many hands and hearts on board, and thank you to those who have already volunteered! The volunteers have been planning and working months in advance. That week, you will see the church transformed into the Maker Fun Factory, a creative workshop where God creates each of us for a purpose and inspires us to be creative. If you are free anytime during the week, please stop by and see the incredible work that God is doing at Trinity during VBS.

I am looking forward to these coming months, and I hope you will not hesitate to reach out to me with questions, concerns, and prayers. Please keep Father Rob in prayer during his Sabbatical, and please keep me in prayer, as well. We always benefit from your prayers. (As a side note, my husband James’ rector will also be on Sabbatical this summer, so it will be a busy summer in the Rickenbaker household). I am anticipating the ways that God will work through each of us at Trinity in these next few months and beyond. How might you be open to the possibilities God has in store?

In Christ,
Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

From the Assistant Rector

Dear People of Trinity Church,

Alleluia! He is Risen! Let us keep spreading the good news during these 50 days and after!

This month, on May 7, we look forward to Bishop Ted’s visit, at both the 8:00 and 10:30 AM services. We will have Confirmations taking place at the 10:30 AM service that morning and ask you to be there to support your fellow members in the Body of Christ, as they make their public affirmations of faith.

For the past three months, Father Banse and I have been rotating teaching our Confirmation class. “What is Confirmation?” some may ask. Confirmation, according to our prayer book, is “the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop” (p. 860). In other words, because we practice infant baptism in the Episcopal Church, it is expected that when one reaches an age of maturity, he or she should make their own public commitment of faith in the presence of the bishop. When the bishop lays hands on the Confirmand, we believe that the Holy Spirit gives guidance and strength to the individual to continue forth as a disciple of Jesus and a minister in the church (indeed as baptized Christians, we are all ministers).

During the preparation and class time these past months, we spent time focusing on our Christian narrative, reflected in both the Old and New Testaments. We explored Jesus’ earthly ministry and Paul’s letters. On a morning-long retreat during Lent, we began exploring discipleship by discussing what it means to follow Jesus, experiencing a sensory Stations of the Cross, watching portions of the movie Jesus of Nazareth, and beginning a conversation on spiritual gifts. The Confirmands each took a spiritual gifts inventory and explored ways they can put their gifts to practice as members of the Body of Christ.

Each experience I have had with a Confirmation class, this one certainly included, has helped me to further understand where we are as a Church and how we teach the faith to our young people. Father Banse and I will pray about ways to continue improving the process of equipping disciples of Jesus through Confirmation preparation, and I hope that is a discussion that we take on as a congregation.

You are never too old to be baptized or confirmed. If you are interested in the process for either Baptism or Confirmation, please talk with either Father Banse or me.

Let us welcome Bishop Ted on May 7, and be present to support our Confirmands. Most importantly, during this Easter season, we are called to worship our Risen Lord, who seeks us constantly and daily. May we choose to seek and grow in relationship with Him, always and everywhere.

In Christ,
Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

10th Anniversary

Dear Friends,

I am rapidly approaching my tenth anniversary as Rector of Trinity Church. Time does indeed fly when you are having fun! My letter of Agreement with the congregation calls for a three month sabbatical every five years. Thus, this is the summer to exercise that part of our agreement.

While sabbatical time includes opportunity for rest and renewal, it is not an extended vacation. Sabbaticals, as I understand them, are primarily about study, discernment, and developing expertise in areas that will be of benefit to the community once the person returns to the usual full-time role and responsibilities. It is just as much about “sharpening the axe” as it is about “recharging the battery”. That is my plan.

I have shared with you my belief that congregations today need to see themselves as communities rather than institutions. The life of that community is focused on the process of bringing people into closer relationship with Jesus Christ rather than churning out programs intended to satisfy the needs of the communities that that congregation is called to serve. This process will be the focus of my sabbatical.

In the first month, I plan on reading deeply and praying carefully about the true nature and process of discipleship. In particular, I want to re-examine what we in seminary somewhat irreverently referred to as “Hatch, Match, and Dispatch”. How do we go about in the present age of genuinely preparing people for Baptism and Confirmation, Marriage, and the great transition that the Burial Office represents? These moments are not “products” that we come to purchase from the church. They are milestones to be celebrated on our journey toward God. How do we renew that understanding here at Trinity?

“Telling the Story” will be the topic of the second month. We can no longer assume that most people know even the most important stories of the Bible. And yet, these stories comprise the foundation on which the Christian faith and life is built! What can we do to ensure that every member of our congregation, from youngest to most senior, has the opportunity to read, study, discuss, and thus learn from these Holy Scriptures in order to build our lives accordingly?

Finally, in the third month, I want to explore a topic that I believe is of critical importance presently: the stewardship of God’s creation. The planet that God has entrusted to our care is now threatened in any number of ways and the wellbeing of future generations is at great risk. What can do, here at Trinity, to become more faithful caretakers of this world that, for the moment, is our responsibility?

The sabbatical will also include some travel and time with family and friends. Please keep me in your daily prayers and know that I will be praying for each of you while away. In the meantime, Rachel, Jim Hammond, and our excellent staff will take great care of our congregation’s daily life! I rejoice in knowing that you are in great hands.

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

From the Assistant Rector

This Lenten season has provided some great time for prayer and reflection for me, and I hope has been fruitful and refreshing in many ways for you, too.

Priorities. This word has been on my mind recently.

There are certain times of the year when people generally seem busier than others, and I believe Lent, like Advent, is often one of those seasons. Perhaps it is because Spring Break takes place during this season for many , and often that break includes some sort of vacation or travel time. For others, it’s the start of sports and games for the spring season. If we’re not involved in any of those, we manage to get caught up in the nice weather and somehow always find plenty to keep us busy!

As I talked with a good friend on the phone the other day, she said that it seemed like my schedule was busier than normal this Lenten season. I realized that I had listed off all the things on my plate to her, as if none of them were things I had decided to add to the plate. I made it seem like they were things that were happening to me, not things that I had chosen to prioritize.

For us as human beings, we always find plenty of things to do, though we don’t always want to take credit for accumulating our To-Do list. Certainly, there are times when we cannot help certain circumstances in our lives, and we must rely on God and our loved ones to support us and help us through those times. But for other times, when life is going on as usual, we (myself included!) often make excuses for why we don’t have time to do certain things. As Christians, the most important thing on our daily list is to spend time on our relationship with God; yet, how hard it is for us to make the time!

Priorities. Being a Christian is about prioritizing our relationship with God, placing worship of God and living out the Gospel above all else. Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,” telling us to put our relationship with God first and foremost.

When Christians live this way, with God at the front and center of our lives, people will take notice. In our families, kids will observe how faith is being modeled and prayerfully will follow suit. One of the best ways to share the good news of Jesus with others is by modeling, which includes prioritizing. This may mean making small schedule adjustments, and it may mean making life changes (sometimes both!). These are often not comfortable or easy decisions.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ words are clear, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” When we put God first, He will work through and in us in incredible ways we cannot begin to imagine!

As we continue on this Lenten journey, soon entering into Holy Week and into the season of Easter, I ask you to reflect on and pray about your priorities. This season is one of the best to rethink the ways our lives are headed and to redirect our focus and priority on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who did indeed make His way to the cross on our behalf, out of His great love for us all.

In Christ,

Rev Rachel Rickenbaker

Alleluia! He is risen!

Dear Friends,

Alleluia! He is risen!

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Easter is “an annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, held on the first Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21.”

The Catechism of our Book of Common Prayer asks the question, “What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection?” The answer given is “By his resurrection, Jesus overcame death and opened for us the way of eternal life.”

On the day itself, we pray, “O God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

All of this is well and good, theologically and liturgically correct. But, of course, the above does not come even close to expressing the ineffable joy offered to us by God in this holy season. From the kindling of the paschal fire in the predawn hours to the first blast of the Easter brass and initial shouts of “Alleluia!”, we are embraced by the realization, given through faith, that the door has been opened, the stone has been rolled away. No longer is death our final destiny. Yes, we are mortal. But by Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ, we too will experience death, not as the end, but as the gate that opens into larger life.

In the meantime, we live as an Easter people. Even in the midst of all that is warped and wrong in this present age, we live according to God’s promises revealed on that first Easter Day. Even as the world obsesses over all the bad news, we proclaim the Gospel: In the darkness, there is light. In the despair, there is hope. In the anger, discrimination, and hatred, there is love. Why? Christ lives. Christ lives here in our world. Christ lives within each one of us. His kingdom has already come.

Eternal life bursts out of the tomb in the resurrected life of Jesus Christ on Easter day. Every day now holds the Gospel’s resurrection promise while we await eternal life. That, my friends, is a hope and a promise well worth celebrating.

Welcome, Easter!

Faithfully in Christ,

Rev Rob Banse

 

 

From the Assistant Rector

Dear People of Trinity Church,

Grace and peace to you at the start of this Lenten season. This is one of my favorite seasons of the church year because it’s a time set apart specifically for penitence and reflection, and the readings, the music, and the liturgy help with that penitence. I have always found, ever since I was a little girl, that living into this season, specifically through spiritual disciplines, draws me closer to God and to my fellow members of the Body of Christ, the Church. Being reminded of my mortality helps me, in turn, feel more connected to God and all of God’s creation.

This Lenten season, there is an opportunity for you, on Sunday mornings at 9:30am, to learn more about spiritual disciplines, those actions that Jesus practiced in his own earthly life. I’ve titled the Adult study, “Becoming Like Jesus: Practicing the Christian Disciplines,” because my hope is that in learning more about those things Jesus practiced, including fasting, prayer, and solitude, we can in turn practice and be enriched by them in our own lives. I have come to believe that going to church on Sundays and feeling “good to go” for the week is not enough for this life of following Jesus. Our own practices of faith, whether in the solitude of our homes or amongst a community of believers, must be deepened, as well.

We heard in the Gospel of Matthew a few Sundays back that we are to “Be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” Spiritual disciplines will not make us perfect Christians. Indeed, I believe none of us will be perfect in this lifetime. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); however, we can and should seek to grow into a deeper understanding of and a closer relationship with our Lord. The hope is that the closer we are to God, the more we will be drawn into His love for us and for all creation. The more we are enveloped in His love, the more we will live it out in our very lives.

As Quaker theologian and author David Elton Trueblood wrote, “The great problems of our time are not technological, for these we handle fairly well. They are not even political or economic because the difficulties in these areas, glaring as they may be, are largely derivative. The greatest problems are moral and spiritual, and unless we can make some progress in these realms, we may not even survive.”

Come join us, during this Lenten season, to learn, to study, to practice, and to grow into the Christian disciplines. I pray that this season for you is one of meaningful worship and strengthening discipline, as we all seek to grow more fully into our relationship with God and with one another.

In Christ,

The Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

 

Holy Season of Lent

Dear Friends,

We will gather here at Trinity on March 1st to offer the Ash Wednesday liturgy and thus enter into the holy season of Lent. Whereas Christmas and Epiphany are about outwardly and joyfully celebrating the infinite love of God born in Bethlehem and made manifest through the course of Jesus’ earthly life, Lent is about introspection. It is about looking deep within. It is about acknowledging that, even as we celebrate the light of Christ always with us, there continues to be a blindness within ourselves that prevents that light from fully entering in. Lent is the season that best represents what St. John of the Cross described as “the dark night of the soul”. Even as we seek to follow Jesus, there is still so much that gets in the way. And as long as those obstacles are there, we will never fully know the depth and breadth of God’s love for us.

This is why the observance of Lent includes both penance and sacrifice. These are not acts of self-punishment. Rather, we give things up in order to experience the reality that so much we think is important really is not. In fact, the things that we have come to desire and covet actually blind us to the simple beauty of living our lives trusting entirely in the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Lent is a season in which we are called to pray more and study more in order to be filled with the real riches that God seeks to share with us in this lifetime. Frankly, the spiritual poverty we know all too well is not God’s fault. The hunger we experience exists because we are too busy stuffing ourselves with all the world tells us is important. The junk food that our world offers will never be an adequate substitute for the bread of life.

Joan Chittister writes “Ash Wednesday is a continuing cry across the centuries that life is transient, that change is urgent. We don’t have time to waste on nothingness. We need to repent of our dillydallying on the road to God. We need to regret the time we’ve spent playing with dangerous distractions and emptying diversions along the way. We need to repent of our senseless excursions into sin, our breaches of justice, our failures of honesty, our estrangement from God. We need to get back in touch with our souls.”

To that end, there will be additional opportunities for study and prayer here at Trinity over the course of the season. Please read carefully the rest of this Genesis in order to learn about them. I will be leading a discussion on Wednesday evenings throughout Lent focusing on “The 5 Marks of Love”. In baptism, each of us has been sealed by the Holy Spirit and “marked as Christ’s own forever.” How do you and I live accordingly? How do we go about incarnating the love of Jesus for the rest of the world to see?  We will begin with a simple supper at 6:30pm. The conversation will last an hour. We will conclude with the prayers we know as Compline. I look forward to our conversation.

I pray that this Lent will be a life-changing season for all of us.