An energetic, multi-generational and diverse Community of Faith committed to welcoming everyone, without distinction…

February 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Diversity Baptism

An energetic, multi-generational and diverse Community of Faith committed to welcoming everyone, without distinction…this affirmation comes from the opening paragraph on our Faith Community’s website!

Diversity Christmas

On Monday, 10 February, our Vestry, by a process of consensus, adopted a Marriage Policy for St. Luke’s.  This is a culmination of two years of conversation and formation that has taken place through our Sunday Forum process and also additional evening programs focused around Marriage and Marriage Equality and resources prepared by the Episcopal Church entitled, I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, for discussion and adoption at the General Convention in July of 2012.

You can follow these conversations and process through my blog posts below:

Conversations about Marriage and Marriage Equality

Process and Outline of Conversation on Marriage and Marriage Equality

I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing: Study and Discussion on Resources for Blessing Same Gender Relationships

Reflections on the General Convention 2012

Last May, Bishop Brian Prior sent a letter to all Clergy and Faith Communities detailing his expectations regarding Marriage for opposite gender and same gender couples in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, in light of legislation adopted legalizing same gender marriage in Minnesota.  You can find his letter here.  At our June Vestry Meeting, I shared his letter and suggested a process that we could use, Consensus Formation, in discerning how we as the elected leaders might address the question of adopting a Marriage Policy at St. Luke’s.  You can find the minutes of our Vestry meetings here.  The Consensus Formation process is here.

Rachel and Jake

The process of Consensus Formation that we used provided an opportunity for listening to each other.  In the Baptismal Covenant, we commit ourselves to respecting the dignity of every human being, with God’s help.  It has been my experience that too often, in the process of ordering our common life; people are left with a sense of winning or losing.  However, consensus is about listening and respecting each other…seeking to listen and come to a consensus for the sake of our common life.  The work of consensus that the elected members of our Faith Community engaged in was an inspiration to me and I consider my participation in facilitating this process one of the singular blessings of serving as Rector / Pastor at St. Luke’s over the last 10 years.

Randy and David

If you haven’t, I hope that you read the material adopted by General Convention below as well as the Marriage Policy we adopted.  I encourage you to share this resource, policy and blog post with your neighbors who may be on a Faith Journey and looking for a Faith Community committed to welcoming everyone, without distinction.

RESOURCES

I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing

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Ashes to Go…2nd Year in downtown Rochester…Turn from sin and be faithful to Christ!

February 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Ashes to Go 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Church takes Ash Wednesday to the Streets

On Ash Wednesday, March 5, ministers from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Peace United Church of Christ, Zumbro Lutheran and People of Hope will be offering “Ashes to Go,” a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition, from 6:45 – 8 a.m. near the bus stops on 2nd Street and 1st Avenue downtown.

Ashes To Go is part of a new nationwide movement that has clergy and lay people visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops, and college campuses to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes and invite them to repent of past wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and renewal.

In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter.  For centuries, Christians have received a cross of ashes on the face at the beginning of that season as a reminder of mortal failings and an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness.  Ashes to Go provides the opportunity to participate in that tradition for people who may have lost their connection to a Faith Community or have never participated before.

ashes2gopic1

“This is an opportunity to meet people where they are…for a moment of prayer in the midst of their busy lives,” says the Rev. Doug Sparks, Pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rochester.

“Ashes to Go is about bringing the important traditions of our faith out from behind church walls and into the places we need them every day,” says the Rev. Emily Mellott, who maintains the website AshesToGo.org with resources and stories about this ministry.  “As people get busier and busier, we need the church in new and non-traditional ways.  We especially need reminders of forgiveness in the tough places of our working lives.  The people who accept ashes on the street are often people longing to make a connection between their faith and the forces of daily life, and Ashes to Go helps them feel that connection.”

In Rochester, this is the second year several ministers from the Ecumenical Community are offering Ashes to Go.  We will gather just before 7 a.m. on Ash Wednesday and find a corner near several bus stops in hopes of meeting people for a moment of prayer as they make their way to work!

Contact the Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, rector@deskmedia.com or 507-272-1777 for more information.  More information about the Ashes to Go movement can be found at http://www.AshesToGo.org.

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Staffing Changes in our Faith Community…

January 17, 2014 2 comments

lucas-klaehn

I would like to share some staffing changes that have occurred at St. Luke’s.  Luke Klaehn, our Youth Minister, resigned as of 31 December 2013.  Luke has been a wonderful member of our staff and assumed an important position in ministry just when we needed someone.  I call that grace!  Luke served as the continuing presence on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings so that our young children and youth would have a consistent person serving as their catechist!  He was supported by so many wonderful folks as well!  Because of promotions in his full time work, we made an adjustment almost a year ago and Sarah Martinak assumed responsibility for Sunday morning Faith Formation while Luke continued serving as our Youth Minister.

Sarah and family

Having a person to serve as a continuing presence for our young children and youth continues to be a commitment of mine and by way of another grace moment, I am pleased to announce that Sarah Martinak will assume responsibilities for ministering to our young children and youth with the title Director of Faith Formation.  Sarah has done well in coordinating our ministry to young children and with the support of our Faith Formation Working Group and particularly Mike Harris, she will focus additional time each week on our Middle School and High School Students and their ongoing formation.

In addition to Vacation Bible School, she and I will work together on planning our Annual Mission Trip, explore possibilities of participating in initiatives in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota like TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) and Middle School retreat programs and our Confirmation Process called I Will, with God’s Help!

Please welcome and support Sarah in this new role among us!

I’m hopeful for this important ministry in our Faith Community!

Every blessing,

Doug

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It’s time to REIMAGINE The Episcopal Church…

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

TREC Wordal

It’s time to reimagine the Episcopal Church…

As you reflect over your experiences with The Episcopal Church, what is your best memory?

What is the one thing The Episcopal Church should hold on to and the one thing it could let go of?

Imagine it’s 10 years in the future and you are talking to a good friend about The Episcopal Church.  You say, “The thing that gives me most joy about The Episcopal Church these days is…

What one thing could you do to help The Episcopal Church through this change?

These four questions are the questions each of us at St. Luke’s are encouraged to ask as we participate in the work of REIMAGINING the Episcopal Church.

In 2012, the General Convention created a taskforce to reimagine The Episcopal Church for the future. Members of the taskforce want to hear the memories, hopes and dreams that people have for the Church. The taskforce is meeting with as many people as they can over the next few months. They will use what we hear to help us shape recommendations for the Church’s structure, administration and governance.

So, I invite you to join with others in our Faith Community on Sunday, 12 January and Sunday, 19 January during the Sunday Forum time (9:10 – 9:50) in Fellowship Hall to engage in an imaginative conversation about The Episcopal Church!  Our responses to these questions will be shared with the taskforce.

If you would like more information about this process, you can click on the URL address below.

http://reimaginetec.org/

If you would like to read a letter to the church from the members of the taskforce, you can click on the URL address below.

http://reimaginetec.org/trec-letter-to-the-church-december-10-2013/

I look forward to our imagining together!

Doug

TREC logo

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Christmas Letter 2013

December 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Advent / Christmas, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

May the grace and peace of God’s Word, made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, be with you!

ChristmasIII_Day01_ABC

I am always amazed at how the season of Christmas, more than any other liturgical season in the Church year, has produced such memorable hymnody and carols, from the ancient and medieval texts to modern and contemporary texts.  Each carol speaks of the mystery we celebrate.  God loves the world so much and desires to redeem us that he sent his own Son, Jesus, born of our sister, Mary and parented as well by our brother, Joseph.

Each year, at this time, I try to focus my prayer and reflection on one carol or hymn.  I’d like to share these words of the carol I’m centering on this Advent and Christmas.  The words were written by Shirley Erena Murray, the tune was written by Colin Gibson and Carlton R Young, entitled Star-Child, Earth-Child.

Star-Child, earth child, go-between of God,

Love- Child, Christ Child, heaven’s lightning rod,

This year, this year, let the day arrive,

When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

Street child, beat child, no place left to go,

Hurt child, used child, no one wants to know,

This year, this year, let the day arrive,

When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

Grown child, old child, mem’ry full of years,

Sad child, lost child, story told in tears,

This year, this year, let the day arrive,

When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

Spared child, spoiled child, having, wanting more,

Wise child, faith child, knowing joy in store,

This year, this year, let the day arrive,

When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

Hope for peace Child, God’s stupendous sign,

Down to earth Child, star of stars that shine,

This year, this year, let the day arrive,

When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

The text of this carol focuses our attention on children in every kind of condition and circumstance.  Into each of these conditions, our faith and hope is that this year, the day will arrive when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!  I encourage you to choose a hymn to focus on during these last days of Advent as we prepare for Christmas.  Begin and end your day by singing or praying it.  I have found that it helps me to center in on some key images and ideas in preparing for Christmas.

Our Christmas Season Service schedule is:

Christmas Eve      

5 p.m.            Children’s Pageant with Holy Eucharist

10 p.m.          Service of Carols

10:30 p.m.    Christmas Choral Eucharist

Christmas Day     

9 a.m.             Christmas Eucharist

You will find envelopes for Memorial Flowers or Music on the table in the Church entryway.  If you would like to give an offering in memory or thanksgiving, please fill out the envelope and place in the Offering Basin or mail it back to the Parish Office no later than 22 December.

Be assured of my continuing prayer and gratitude for the privilege of ministering among you.  May Christ, whose coming we await, find a place of welcome in you this Christmas!  I have uploaded a Children’s Choir singing Star-Child, Earth-Child below.  I hope you enjoy it!

Faithfully,

Doug

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As we wait in joyful hope…Advent 2013

November 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Advent Conspiracy logo

Advent marks the beginning of the Church year.  It is a season within which we contemplate the Commonwealth of Christ as we await his return at the end of time.  It is also a season in which we remember God “taking on human flesh” and dwelling among us which Christians call the Nativity or Birth of Jesus.  There are four Sundays, which mark the Advent Season.  Each Sunday, the scriptures call us to focus on important themes and people.  The church also calls us to wait, in joyful hope!  In contrast to the hurriedness and commercialism of the “X-mas” Season, which begins in November and culminates on Christmas Day, as Christians, we are called to hallow time in a different rhythm.  For Episcopal Christians, Advent ends on Christmas.  Christmas is a season of 12 days which ends on the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Three Magi.

Advent is a preparatory season.  It is an opportunity for us to contemplate and remember.  It is a time to ready ourselves as we celebrate the Birth of Jesus, the Christ, which we call the Feast and Season of Christmas.  For some years, the church gave a rather penitential focus to Advent.  However, with the revision of the Liturgy, Advent has become more a season of hope and expectation rather than just penitence.

The color for the season is deep blue, for hope, expectation and repentance.  The Advent Wreath has become an important symbol used throughout the Season.

During the Season of Advent, we will focus on THE ADVENT CONSPIRACY:  WORSHIP FULLY…SPEND LESS…GIVE MORE…LOVE ALL!

Advent wreath four candles lighted

The Advent Wreath

The origins of the Advent wreath are to be found in the customs of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples who during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe gathered wreaths of evergreen and lit fires as signs of hope in a coming spring and renewed light.

Early Christians continued these customs, and by the 16th century Catholics and Protestants alike used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. The custom gradually spread to other parts of the Christian world.

The liturgical color of deep blue symbolizes hope, expectation and repentance, and so the candles of the Advent wreath are blue.  The Third Sunday in Advent is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete Sunday, or “Rejoicing Sunday” is the Advent equivalent of the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare Sunday, when the introit is based on Isaiah 66:10, “Rejoice with Jerusalem”.

The white candle in the center of the wreath is the Christ candle, and is lit on Christmas.

The circle of greenery in the Advent wreath is also highly symbolic: the circle representing eternity (as in wedding rings), and the greenery symbolizing new life and our ever-growing and ever living faith.

We will begin the Service each Sunday with an Opening Acclamation taken from the Hebrew Scriptures focused on the “O” Antiphons which includes the lighting of the candle or candles on the Advent Wreath.  The service continues then with saying or singing the Trisagion, an ancient text which affirms the divinity of God.  As a way of focusing on the Scripture of the Day, the presider will offer a Scripture Sentence of the Day which is followed by the Collect of the Day.  We are then seated for the Readings from Scripture.  During Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we will use an Affirmation of Faith based on the Athanasian Creed.

During the Liturgy of the Table, we will use Eucharistic Prayer B from the Book of Common Prayer 1979 and the Post Communion Prayer is found on Page 365 in the Book of Common Prayer…reminding us that we are living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ!

The Gospel texts for this year of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year A) are taken from the Gospel of Matthew.  Advent 1 is from Matthew 24:36-44 – encouraging us to STAY ALERT because you don’t know what day the Lord is coming; Advent 2 is from Matthew 3:1-12– which describes the context of the Prophetic Ministry of John, proclaiming a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; Advent 3  is from Matthew 11:2-11 – verses where Jesus affirms the ministry of John the Baptist in his ministry of preparing the way for the Messiah; Advent 4 is from Matthew 1: 18-25 – Matthew’s story of how the birth of Jesus Christ took place!

The sources for the words used this season are many. Most come from the Book of Common Prayer 1979 and one of its supplements, Enriching Our Worship 1 (1997) and the Church of England’s book Common Worship  (2000).

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Last Things: A Resource for Planning for the Time of Death

November 15, 2013 3 comments

St Matthias Window Pascal Candle

One of the privileges and responsibilities that come with serving as Rector / Pastor of a Faith community is to walk with persons in the midst of preparing for death.  It is a singular blessing to be present with persons facing death and to their loved ones, who walk with them, care for them, during this very difficult time.  30 years of ordained ministry have seasoned me as a pastor especially in the pastoral care that is needed and welcomed in death and grief.

I developed Last Things while serving at St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin in the late 1990’s.  It grew out of my experience of the necessity of encouraging people to work on Advanced Directives for Health Care as well as the Living Will process.  In the midst of all that happens when someone we love dies…it is a great help to have information regarding their wishes and expectations for their funeral or memorial service; what arrangements have been made regarding Body Burial or Cremation; would they like a military service incorporated into their burial service.  These are just a few of the many things that we who remain often have to make decisions about.

So, over the next few weeks, during the Sunday Forum, I invite you to participate in working through this resource.  Hard copies will be available each Sunday.  I have posted PDF’s of each chapter of the resource for you to download if you wish at the bottom of this blogpost.

November in the Northern Hemisphere is a time when we move from autumn into winter.  In the Liturgical cycle, it is a time when we consider…Last Things…the coming of the Risen Christ at the end of time and the invitation for us to be ready and watchful and prepared!

I look forward to our work together on Last Things:  A Resource for Planning for the Time of Death!

See you Sunday!

Doug

Last Things: Chapter 2 Table of Contents, Forward, Introduction

Last Things: Chapter 3 Grief

Last Things: Chapter 4 perspective and planning

Last Things: Chapter 5 burial practices

Last Things: Chapter 6 rites of burial

Last Things: Chapter 7 stewardship

Last Things: Chapter 8 conclusion

Last Things: Chapter 9 burial form

Last Things: Chapter 10 prolonging life

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