December 14, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

This is the third version of this blog that I’ve written. I couldn’t figure out why the first two versions left me feeling uneasy, until I realized that it wasn’t the content, but my underlying fear of publishing something that might come under attack. Social media, and more precisely, how we interact with social media, has trained me to avoid controversy, even if I’m raising legitimate points. The days of social media being a public forum for intelligent conversation are long gone.

The horror of war continues to unfold in the Middle East. The attack on Israel by Hamas was barbaric and shocking. Over 1,200 people were killed, and more than 200 people kidnapped, including toddlers and the elderly. They are a terrorist organization, committed to the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people. They have no interest in peace, nor are they committed to the well-being of the Palestinian people. Most of the world agreed with Israel’s declaration that Hamas must be eliminated.

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December 6, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

Here’s a generalization that I’ve observed to be accurate: we are a distracted people, and we don’t know what to do with ourselves if we don’t have a phone in our hands or a laptop on our knees. (In fact, depending on the age group, between 45 percent and 78 percent of us have our mobile phones in hand while watching TV. Yes, the percentage is the inverse of the age.)

To be fair, we do know what to do: we talk. Anything to avoid silence. Anything to avoid reflection. Anything to avoid self-examination. The cost: our minds never fully come to rest.

I remember when we used to enter the church in silence. If people spoke, they did so in hushed tones. Our attention was drawn to the Altar, and the time before the Eucharist began was used to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus in the forms of bread and wine.

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November 22, 2023 by Sandy Webb

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” might work for God, but congregational leaders need to give something new whenever they take away something old.

Church of the Holy Communion recently started receiving concerning reports about the health of the iconic tree in our memorial garden – the tree under which we have buried people’s ashes for decades. (Dealing with this tree was one of several things that I had hoped to make The Next Rector’s Problem, but that I have had to address more urgently!)

Recognizing its obligation to ensure the physical safety of our campus, the vestry knew that it had no choice but to begin planning for the tree’s removal. But, the vestry also knew that taking down this particular tree and grinding its stump would be a painful sight for the families with loved ones buried in that area. So, we asked ourselves: If the tree has to go, what can we put in its place? If we have to take, what can we give? If we have to know the grief of loss, how can we also know the joy of resurrection?

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October 26, 2023 by Greg Syler

I’m intentionally borrowing one of Peter Steinke’s titles, even though this is just a blog post and not Steinke’s really solid book. Actually, I’m only thinking about the cover image on his book, A Door Set Open. There’s this absolutely captivating picture, taken from inside a church, down near the floor level, looking out through the ‘west’ doors. The doors in this case are set wide open, and we can see outside from the perspective of the floor and the pews the blurred images of trees and a landscape.

This may be the most rudimentary blog post on hospitality ever written, as it’s so simple. Here’s the point: Open the doors of your church. Open them wide. Leave them open whenever you’re inside. Leave them open the entire time. And figure out the dynamics of heating and cooling and securing the space otherwise.

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October 19, 2023 by Lauren Grubaugh Thomas

What is it like to be in a multiethnic, multicultural marriage and raising multiethnic, multicultural children who may want to go to TEC.

The first time I visited an Episcopal parish, the sound of spirituals filled the nave, the sermon lifted up the healing ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the occasion of his birthday, and a Black woman celebrated Eucharist with fierce tenderness. I was delighted. Here was a community that cared about professing and embodying racial justice, a church in which I could be in mutually supportive relationship as together we sought to live into shared values of spiritual transformation and social change. I felt hopeful and at home.

A couple years later, I was in my second year of seminary and just beginning the discernment process at that parish, when I met my husband. Unlike me, he was raised in liturgical churches, (Mar Thoma and Methodist) and has attended Episcopal parishes since college. While he is the more seasoned Episcopalian, he has, much more frequently than I, been made to feel like an outsider in this church. He has often been dealt the stereotype of the forever foreigner in Episcopal contexts. Upon meeting him, the first question many ask is, “Where are you from?” with, “So, were you raised Christian?” commonly following close behind.

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September 7, 2023 by Sandy Webb

A few years into my priesthood, I began to realize how little I knew about the professional lives of my parishioners. Parishioners with flexible professional schedules often came to meet with me at the church building, but I hardly ever went to their offices or workplaces. I had a little more visibility on the work lives of parishioners who donated their professional services to the church, but even that didn’t feel complete or authentic.

So, I started asking people to invite me to visit them on the job, and “Take Your Priest to Work Day” was born. So far, I have visited a farm, a soap factory, a flight simulator, a grain elevator, a cotton gin, an Army Corps of Engineers construction project, and several other places. I have even petted a possum at our local nature center.

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July 26, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

On my birthday, I took our Boxer, Dustin, to the vet because he had a bad cough that had persisted for a day. He hadn’t slept the night before, wandering the house rather aimlessly. This was not in any way keeping with his usual sleep habits that we had grown accustomed to over the past 10 years.

We live in the desert, and our first thought was Valley Fever, a common illness among dogs. I left Dustin at the vet for his exam, and when I went back to pick him up, the look on the vet’s face said it all: something was terribly wrong.

His chest cavity was filled with 400 milliliters of fluid. Worse still, there were spots on his lungs that were indicative of cancer. The doctor said that it would not be inappropriate to ask him to put Dustin to sleep.

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July 3, 2023 by Alan Bentrup

If you're like me, you feel like you're running around all day, every day. I wake up at 4:15am nearly every day, and then it's work and school and sports practices and cooking and housework and everything else that comes with life.

So this past week on vacation I've been learning to waste time. And if I'm right that your busyness often resembles mine, you might need some help in that area, too. Wasting time this week has helped me reorient my sense of self, build and deepen connection with loved ones, and renew my relationship with God.

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June 28, 2023 by Westley Art Hodges

My name is Westley Art Hodges, my pronouns are he/they, and I am the Director of Music Ministries at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. I am honored to be asked to share my experience as a queer person in our church.

I found the Episcopal Church when I was 22. I found the Episcopal Church out of desperation, which with queer folx, seems to be a common theme. My 22nd year of life was a big year for me and my identity, or should I say—owning my identity. In June of 2007, I had just been fired from my third position as Director of Music in a Baptist Church in South Mississippi. Now I have your attention!

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June 22, 2023 by Jenn Pilat

Anyone involved in ministry, either as clergy or as a dedicated lay volunteer, knows that work in the church can inexplicably be joy-filled and spiritual yet exhausting and overwhelming - all in the same breath. We often experience work like Jesus’s parable of the Sower (Luke 8, Matthew 13). Some of our work is fruitful right away but dies quickly. Other work gets trampled on or eaten by birds…proverbially. Other work still falls on deaf ears or dies in committee. But, real growth happens in the darkness and stillness of night, when the good seed, planted in ripe soil, has a chance to take root and grow, to absorb water and nutrients and, when the time is right, break out into the sunlight.

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June 21, 2023 by Donald Romanik

I had the privilege of participating in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land sponsored by St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City – May 17 – 27, 2023. I also had the pleasure of sharing this powerful experience with my son David who is the rector of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, TX. There were 24 of us on this trip led by Bishop Dean Wolfe, Rector of St. Bart’s and our local tour guides, Canon Iyad Qumri and Rami Qumri. Iyad and Rami are Palestinian Christians with an extensive background and knowledge about the history, culture, geography, architecture, and politics of one of the most sacred and volatile places on earth. In addition to their knowledge and experience, Iyad and Rami also shared their personal stories and struggles of what it means to be Palestinian living in the modern state of Israel. We learned that the number of Christians in the Holy Land has declined precipitously over the last several years representing only about 2 percent of the total population. Many Palestinian Christians have left the area because of the political turmoil and the unrelenting restrictions on their personal liberties.

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June 13, 2023 by Michael Carney

We all know how hard it can be to say goodbye. I remember a time when our three grandkids and their families were all together. It was a pretty big deal, since we live in different states. When the time came to leave, the youngest one had disappeared. We found him hiding in the back yard—he just couldn’t bear to say goodbye to his cousins.

Jesus had a hard time saying goodbye on the last evening he spent with his dearest friends. He surprised them by washing their feet, and then they shared a leisurely meal. Afterwards, Jesus told them the sad truth: “Little children, I am with you only a little longer.” (John 13:33) As a parting gift, he gave them a New Commandment: to love each other. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

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May 25, 2023 by Michael Carney

All sorts of people appreciate Jesus as a healer, or for his remarkable teachings, or as the founder of a movement which swept the world. The story of the baby King born in a stable is widely loved and celebrated. But putting Jesus alongside the Creator and the Spirit can sometimes seem like a stretch. How can we express what we know to be true, that Jesus really is our Savior?

The simple answer comes from a children’s song: “Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.” Many folks won’t be satisfied with that, but I’m most concerned about the people whose lives are a struggle, with darkness and demons dragging them down. I’m searching for something stronger than comforting words, a visible witness to our faith, a message that makes a difference in their lives.

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April 9, 2023 by Donald Romanik

Like most people, I have some bad habits. Some of them are lifestyle related, but many of them are more behavioral in nature – how I react to stress, anger, conflict, hurt, and even disagreement. In these situations, my tendency is to either lash out aggressively or totally withdraw within, even with those I love the most. As I get older, I have been better able to control these impulses, or at least realize when they’re happening, but they are still there under the surface. I have also come to appreciate that these tendencies not only interfere with my interpersonal relationships, but, more importantly, impede my ability to be my true self as God intends me to be. In other words, I often pursue death-like approaches instead of seeking life-giving alternatives.

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March 22, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

“I can’t watch this.” That was my friend’s comment when she started watching a news special on the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

We talked about why it was so difficult to watch, and she recounted having heard about the atrocities committed, but what was so challenging to comprehend was what she called the sheer insanity of it.

One man decided to try to recreate a bygone empire and started firing missiles into another country so he could add it to his “kingdom.” In an instant, hundreds of people lost their lives. Thousands were wounded. Millions of others were displaced from their homes. Families were separated. Global food shortages and political instability followed.

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March 16, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

On Shrove Tuesday evening, I carefully laid out my plans for Lent. Additional devotions, readings, and journaling each day, Sunday Mass and Rosary, increased giving to our local food bank. It was going to be a “perfect” Lent, beginning with a 7 AM Eucharist on Ash Wednesday.

My dog awakened me at 4 AM the next morning. He was unsettled because of a thunderstorm, and I couldn’t figure out why. He’d slept through plenty of them before without stirring. I finally gave up on the idea of going back to sleep and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee when I discovered why the pup was trying to pry me from my warm bed: I felt water dripping on my head. The roof was leaking.

My first thought: my plans for a “perfect” Lent are ruined!

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March 2, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

Depending on when you’re reading this, Lent has either begun or is a few days away. Perhaps it’s the readings, but at this time of year, I always reflect on my life and on the state of the world. I’m writing this blog on Sexagesima Sunday – a term that is a throwback to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer – denoting the second Sunday before Lent.

I rather like the old terms for these three Sundays (Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima) because they give me time to transition from my Christmas and Epiphany mindset and prepare for Lent.

In some ways, they feel like the onramp to Lent, and, just like driving on a freeway, it’s best to come up to speed before you merge. I feel like I have a richer experience of Lent by observing these pre-Lenten Sundays.

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March 1, 2023 by Michael Carney

After his baptism and his vision quest in the desert, Jesus encountered crowds wherever he went. Dozens or hundreds of people turned up in every little town, desperate for healing for themselves or their loved ones. He saw families struggling to survive, kids who went to bed hungry, adults worn out trying to care for others. There were broken-hearted people, grieving painful losses, and many struggling to find or keep their faith, wondering where God was in the midst of their troubles.

Jesus was filled with compassion for all those people; his heart must have been breaking for them. How did he manage to stay open and present in the midst of all their suffering? We know that whenever he could, Jesus slipped away to spend time in prayer. He looked for quiet places where he could sit with the Creator and replenish his spirit.

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January 6, 2023 by Donald Romanik

I’m not a big fan of January. Ever since I was a child, January has been my least favorite month of the year. I’m not quite sure why. I guess it has something to do with the weather and the general let-down that comes after the Christmas holidays. My father always insisted on taking down the Christmas tree on New Year’s Day which I found rather depressing. As an adult married couple, my wife and I much prefer to wait until January 6th or beyond to perform this least favorite task of the year. I am even intrigued by those cultures and traditions that keep the tree up until February 2, Candlemas Day but imagine the pine needles that would have to be cleaned up. Maybe my problem with January is also the frustration about New Year’s resolutions that go unfulfilled, although I have been sticking to my diet so far. It’s not that interesting and even enjoyable things don’t occur in January. Also, in January, the days start to become longer by one or two minutes each day which will be rather noticeable by the end of the month. Nonetheless, I know that when February 1st comes around, I will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

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December 1, 2022 by Michael Carney

I remember, before we had digital clocks, when our kids had to learn how to tell time. It was challenging at first, but soon they began to catch on. Then we could give them a watch and say, “Come home for dinner when the big hand is at the 12 and the little hand is at the 6.”

Those days are gone for good. Now we all have phones which display the time whenever we touch the screen. Wrist watches talk to us and preview our text messages and display video clips. But even with all this technology, do we really know what time it is?

I don’t mean confirming the exact hour and minute, but recognizing a turning point that really matters, in God’s time. When the Apostle Paul told us, “It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep,” he wasn’t foretelling what alarm clocks would do someday. “The night is far gone,” he wrote, “the day is near.” He meant that a new era is dawning, and we need to meet it with our eyes open. (Romans 13:11)

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