Poetry and Prayer

by Jeremiah Sierra on July 28, 2014

Every Sunday at St. Lydia’s we read a poem after prayers. I know, reading poetry at dinner church in Brooklyn sounds a little like your stereotypical hipster church, but I find that it is an authentic expression of our community.

For example, this past Sunday I read Mary Karr’s poem, Disgraceland, which is lovely and funny and bracing. It spoke to me, because of the beauty of the words, the way they surprised me and told a story that was bigger than itself. I don’t pretend to understand every line, but understanding isn’t everything.

Now, I’m not all that qualified to talk about poetry. I wrote a poem once in the fifth grade and I think that’s the last time I tried. But I love how poetry feels to me like prayer, something somewhat mysterious that does not speak to me explicitly, but nonetheless reveals something sacred.

My friend Joel Avery recently wrote this blog entry about science and religion, which I think touches on this same idea. He studied physics and now is in divinity school. People ask him about the conflict between science and religion, and his answer is art. “Art doesn’t trump science or religion,” he writes, “art stands as a reminder that there is no trump.”

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Discernment, Worship

The Art of the House Call or...

by Anna Olson on July 23, 2014

Everything I needed to know for ministry I learned as a union organizer.

As a 22-year-old union organizer -- my first job out of college -- I discovered that my main job was to knock on strangers' doors and engage them in conversation about their work. To the extroverts in my training group, this sounded like "fun." To me, it sounded like a nightmare. I'm not sure what I thought union organizing would entail, but endless use of my non-existent small-talk skills wasn't it. Nonetheless, a history degree, passion for social justice, and budding interest in Jesus didn't add up to a lot of other job options, so I stuck it out.

It turned out that talking to people about their jobs was not small talk. Work is where people spend a good share of their waking hours, form some of their most significant relationships, and experience many of their stresses and conflicts. And rarely does anyone ask more than the most perfunctory questions about what someone actually does during all those hours at work. It was shockingly easy to engage people by asking questions and being genuinely interested in the answers.

I learned that people -- all people -- are deeply interested in their own lives. It's what we all spend most of our time thinking about. With few exceptions, people are eager to talk about this burning interest if they believe the other person is actually interested as well.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Christian Formation, Outreach

Wheat and Weeds

by Richelle Thompson on July 21, 2014

I hate to garden. But I really like the results.

A house seems so much warmer with an entry flanked by vibrant flowers. A backyard feels lived in with the turn of a red tomato or the wandering vine of a pumpkin.

Not only is gardening a chore for me, but also I’m not very good at it either. Nearly every plant we receive meets a lonely, thirsty end (or in some cases, death by drowning). Our best intentions are thwarted by lack of skill and attention.

That’s why I appreciate the parable of the wheat and the weeds from Sunday’s gospel reading (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). I thank God that I don’t have to know the difference, to separate the good from the bad. I’d be forever plucking off flower buds while the dandelions take over.

In the corner of our yard are a small flowerbed and a lamppost. Some ivy has been working hard to overcome our green-thumb deficits but there’s still a lot of uncovered clay and soil. Last year the spot played host to our fall spray of gourds and pumpkins. Our son and his friends enjoyed the end of the season with a gourd fight, smashing them on driveway and ground. 

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Clergy Transition, Evangelism

Rituals: A Shared Experience

by Jeremiah Sierra on July 21, 2014

I’m writing this in Uberlandia, which is a place I may never have visited if I hadn’t married Denise, who is Brazilian. It’s a city of about 600,000 located in south central Brazil. Although Denise and I were married in March, we gathered here with her large extended family so that some of those who couldn’t come to New York could bless our marriage.

Now, I do not speak any Portuguese. Some of Denise’s family members speak English while the majority know just a few phrases. I spent a lot of the weekend smiling and saying the two or three phrases I know in Portuguese.

Communication, I was reminded, is more than vocabulary and grammar. Soon, I will need to learn Portuguese, but it was enough, for now, that I show up and we make an effort to show gratitude and love to each other.

Often, when speaking with people I don’t know extremely well, I worry about getting the words just right. Occasionally, I don’t say anything at all for fear of saying the wrong thing. Sometimes this is a good strategy, but often a large part of good communication involves showing up and making an effort. Saying something is often better than saying nothing.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Prayer & Reflection

Using Your Fundraising Time Effectively

by Erin Weber-Johnson on July 18, 2014

In my July 11, 2014 blog I asked the question “How much time can a Church leader anticipate spending on the day to day activities of a successful campaign?” If you missed it, you can access it here

If we consider fundraising as not just a means to an end, but a ministry with the power to transform communities then the question of time raises questions about not just the amount of time---but how do you effectively use it. 

ECF Capital Campaign consultant Jerry Campbell writes:

“First, the good news…

“A capital campaign has a very good chance of being successful if the priest, bishop, or executive director happily and effectively devotes at least 1/3 of his/her time to the campaign. Let me say a little bit about those key words. 


“If the priest, bishop, or executive director can’t develop some genuine affection for the process of cultivation, relationship building and solicitation, it will be obvious to one and all and a serious impediment to a successful campaign. If this means getting some training with regard to major donor fundraising, and/or shadowing an Episcopal colleague in the course of his/her fundraising efforts, then that should be a priority before the campaign is launched. You have to find the fun factor in the work…or leave the campaign to the next person serving in that role. 


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Permalink  |  0 Comments Leadership, Stewardship

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