Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday night Lenten sermon by Darcy Corbitt-Hall

In + the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Pray be seated.

IT is always an honor and a privilege to sit in this place of sacred worship, and it is a great responsibility, to me, to be given the task of addressing this community from this pulpit. Since Jamie asked me a month or two ago, I have been reflecting on what will most likely be my last message in this nave. Many of you may know that I have accepted an offer to return to my hometown and alma mater, Auburn, to continue my doctoral studies. I have spent a large portion of this semester thinking about the end of my days among you, and I think it very poignant that that largest part of that time has been during the season of Lent. Lent is a time set aside for us to think about the things we have done, the things we have left undone, and to prepare ourselves for the death and rebirth of baptism. In pursuit of these awesome labors we take upon ourselves a spiritual discipline to refine us into the holy vessels of our God.
Many of you know, because Jamie outed me on Ash Wednesday, that I have given up swearing for Lent. I received a lot of mixed reactions from that one. Some people asked me what possessed me to limit my vocabulary so during a Trump presidency. Others applauded my decision to “clean up my speech.” Well, we are 29 days into Lent, and I am here to tell you it has been hard. I gave up hot water in 2011, and let me tell you 40 days of cold showers is a cake walk. Episcopal Relief and Development will be a hefty sum wealthier come Easter Sunday. All joking aside, this process of refining has been both enlightening and difficult. Meaningful things always are, and Lent is not supposed to be easy. The act of becoming sacred is supposed to hurt, is supposed to be a sacrifice.

The reason I elected to eschew swearing for the 40 days of Lent had nothing to do with the words themselves. I personally do not believe that swearing is wrong or indicative of poor moral character. While I could take my time tonight to launch into a half-hour diatribe on the classist and racist undertones of labeling words as “swear-words” and how doing so is a power-play to control the teeming masses, I will abstain. You aren’t here for Feminism 102. Simply put, I gave up swearing because I know that it makes people uncomfortable. I wanted my refinement this season to be one of consideration for the sensibilities of others.

As a social activist I am not often in the business of making other people comfortable. Indeed, my entire life is dedicated to shaking up things and not-so-subtly telling people that their beliefs cannot be used to police other people. I swear like a sailor, and I love it. It is liberating, and it is freeing. Ask any of my students what my favorite word is, and they will tell you it begins with an f and ends with a k. To me it is a noun, a verb, an adverb, an adjective, and a pronoun. It is so effective at grabbing people’s attention, so satisfying to scream in a moment of anger, and so delicious when muttered under my breath. Yes, it has been a long and frustrating 29 days.

Tonight we are observing the feast of John Donne, one of my favorite English poets. While I can’t speak to Donne’s opinion on swearing, I think that he would approve of my motivation. In what is probably his most well-known works Donne declares:

No [person] is an island,
Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each [person’s] death diminishes me,
For I am involved in [humankind].
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

In the time of Donne, and still observed by some churches today, a bell was rung at the time of the death of a member of the parish. The death knell, or tolling of the bell, signified to the community the loss of one of its own. A reduction in the companions travelling toward that great place of hope and redemption. Donne implores us to consider their loss, and to consider it a personal loss. A diminishment of oneself. As a community we are inextricably bound to one another. The joys of one are the joys of all. The sorrow of one is the sorrow of all. I am certain most of you can think of someone who once sat in this sacred space who is no longer here. Someone faithful saint called to glory, or some friend called away to another place to continue their calling. Their absence is felt just as the absence of the organ would be felt. Or the altar. Or our new stained glass windows. Or even this entire building.

Just as their absence is felt, so is their presence. Our Gospel reading for this evening reminds us, as Donne’s verse does, that we are bound to one another through the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. The passage tells us that the Father and the Son are one, and what the Father does, so does the Son. Elsewhere in the scriptures we are told that in taking upon the sin of the world, Jesus made it possible that we become one with Him through the death and resurrection of Holy Baptism. We become in a very real since the living embodiment of Christ, and consequently, of God. As the Father does so Christ does, as Christ does, so do we. And as a community of pilgrims to that blessed country, what I do, so do you, and what you do, so do I. In these dark and troubling times of “me first” and “making ourselves great” at the expense of others, it is easy for us to lose sight of the very real fact that no person is an island entire of itself, no nation is a nation entire to itself. We live in a time of “I shall say what I want and do what I please because I am free and my beliefs are my beliefs and to hell with everyone else.” And while all of these things are true, we do have the right to express ourselves as we want, right does not always equal right. I am not saying that people should stop being themselves because it makes other people uncomfortable. Absolutely not, and I plan on using the women’s room no matter how uncomfortable it makes other people or how many laws are passed. What I am saying is sometimes we forget to consider the perspective of others in our pursuit of “me first.” When we forget that, then we lose sight of their personhood. When we lose that, then we are no better than the ones who seek to destroy and consume in the name of greatness and firstness.

In our tradition, bells signal not only the end, but the beginning. In a few moments, as Fr. Jamie blesses the sacraments, a bell will ring to signify the presence of our resurrected Christ in this place. In the same manner, the bell which signals the death of a saint announces their presence in glory. “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” As we approach the end of our time of penitent contemplation, let us remember that which we have cast off in the name of our preparation for glory, let us remember those who we have lost and those who walk among us, and let us remember that true greatness comes with great humility, and being first requires that we be last.


"Integrity" Window installed

The third stained glass window in a series of windows being placed in our nave was installed this morning. The “Integrity” Window (a.k.a. the St. Aelred Window) commemorates St. Stephen’s long and proud ministry with the GLBTQ community. We are so proud to have this addition to our church. Our very own Gin Templeton designed the window and Michael Orchard Studio of Fargo built and installed it. 

Commemorating St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167), the patron saint of Integrity (the GLBTQ organization in the Episcopal Church), the window will also feature an overarching rainbow, the Pride flag, and the St. Stephen’s Noah’s Ark float used each year in the Pride Parade. The message of the window of “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect with the dignity of every human being?’ comes from the Baptismal Covenant of the Book of Common Prayer. A verse of scripture from the book of Galatians is also included in the window. 

Dedication and blessing of the new window will be this Sunday, April 2 during our 11:00 a.m. celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

The St. Stephen's float for the Annual Pride Parade (designed and built by William Weightman) is memorialized in the window

 Thank you to Michael Orchard, Gin Templeton and Nick Walberg for their commitment and vision for these windows. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The week of March 27

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday March 29
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/Darcy Corbitt, preacher
James Mackay, music
Soup supper following

Friday March 30 
6:00 p.m. – Stations of the Cross

 Sunday April 2  – 5 Lent
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Dedication of St. Aelred/”Integrity” Window
Children’s Chapel

Coffee Hour following

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

Way of the Cross

We're using a more contemporary, more contemplative liturgy for the weekly Way of the Cross during Lent.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Congratulations to Michelle Gelinske!!!

Heartfelt congratulations to very own Michelle Gelinske for being nominated for 2017 YMCA Woman of the Year. We are all so proud of her! 

Prayers for the soul of Robert Zacher

Prayers for the repose of the soul of Robert Zacher (+March 12, 2017), a former brother of the Episcopal Order of the Holy Cross, who was buried today. I knew Robert on and off for about 16 years (not always under pleasant circumstances, sadly) and he very graciously donated several boxes of liturgical books to St. Stephen's a few years back. Fr. Mark Strobel and I were the only "mourners," along with the funeral director and the cemetery staff. Rest eternal grant to him, I Lord; and light perpetual shine upon him

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jessica Zdenek's poem from her sermon tonight

Jessica Zdenek preached tonight at the Wednesday night Mass. Since it was an extemporaneous sermon, we can’t post all that she said, but she did close with this poem she wrote:

"I am She.
I am Sophia.
I am She who has fallen from the heights of heaven into the depths of the abyss and put under the rule of the tyrants of this world for an age that an even greater glory may come.
I am She.
I am She who has seen, She who knows, She of the night owls and She of the wolves.
I am She.
I am She who entered into the deepest bowels of the beast. I am She who has the keys to unlock the light from the deepest deep. I am She who is the inmost interior of all holy and sacred things.
I am She.
I am She who agrees to leave the splendor of the light of all mysteries, She who removed my crown and my royal robes to descend into the deep. I am She who beholds all suffering.
I am She.
I am She who agreed to break into ten thousand pieces that my seeds of light would one day spring.
I am She.
I am She who proclaims from inside the groaning earth: Sing! I am She who makes the rocks sing.
I am She who pleads to Jesus, She who sings when he sends his light to me from the heights of heaven into the deepest deep.
I am She who sees behind all masks into the true nature of things. I am She who brings life through your lips, She who parses all double tongues.
I am She who is Terror. She whom women scorn for their men look to me for salvation. I am She the destroyer of all illusions. She who is Whore, She who loves all of creation, She the sacred woman.
I am She the keeper of women's blood and birth mysteries, She who has known the betrayal of women as they fell under patriarchal rule. She the chalice, She who bore the teachings that nursed King Jesus.
I am She who is Eve, the Mother of all Creation. She who says: take and eat. She who frees from the shame that consciousness brings. She of the very beginning. She of the deep now, She of eternity and life beyond the grave. I am She the ever-changing one, She who is Life herself.
I am She who is Shelter, She your most tender lover.
Come now shake off your grave clothes and rise with the Spring, for I am She, the one who was lost but is found again.
I am Sophia, Queen of Heaven, She the consort of God, She who unlocks true love from the stoniest hearts. She the light that breaks through the darkest seed, She who cries out from the deep, She who sings, until all creation is redeemed."
May Her songs rise in us. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Integrity Window dedication April 2nd

During our 11:00 a.m. celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Sunday, April 2, we will dedicate and bless our third stained glass window. The so-called “Integrity” window commemorates St. Stephen’s pioneering ministry as a welcome congregation and church home for GLBTQ people.

St. Stephen's has a long and proud history of advocacy for and ministry with the LGBTQ community in Fargo-Moorhead and is a member of Integrity, a national association for LGBTQ Episcopal ministry. We are currently the only Episcopal congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota authorized to offer the marriage liturgy for GLBTQ people.

Commemorating St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167), the patron saint of Integrity, the window will also feature an overarching rainbow, the Pride flag, and the St. Stephen’s Noah’s Ark float used each year in the Pride Parade. The message of the window of “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect with the dignity of every human being?’ comes from the Baptismal Covenant of the Book of Common Prayer. A verse of scripture from the book of Galatians is also included in the window.

The window is designed by our own Gin Templeton and is being built and installed by the Michael Orchard Studio in Fargo.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The week of March 20

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday March 22
4:00 pm - Vestry

6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/Jessica Zdenek, preacher
James Mackay, music
Soup supper following

Friday March 24   
3:00 p.m. – Stations of the Cross (NOTE time change)

Sunday March 26  – 4 Lent/Laetare  
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Children’s Chapel
Coffee Hour following

12:45 – Lent with the Prophets (Ezekiel) 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday of 2 Lent sermon by John Anderson

Wednesday of 2 Lent 

A sermon by John Anderson

Matthew 20:20-28
I believe that our gospel reading tonight contains good news, as it should, but also some bad news.  Let’s get the bad news out of the way.  As a species it seems we have not matured very much over the centuries.

In the story we see the disciples jockeying for positions of power and notoriety in the kingdom.  This story has a parallel in Mark’s gospel (chapter 10).  But in Matthew’s telling of the story even the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, petitions Jesus on behalf of her sons.  She asks that they may sit in glory at the right and left side of Jesus when he comes into his glory.  It is good that the disciples are ambitious. But judging by Jesus’ response it seems they don’t quite understand what they are asking.

They seem to want power and glory and recognition, which was (and still is) a downfall of those seeking power. And when the other disciples hear that Jesus is even talking to the sons of Zebedee about it they get angry and jealous. Arguing and competition breaks out. 

It seems we have not grown too much since then. One would have to be living under a rock to not see that the lust for power, recognition, attention, and glory is still very much alive among many people in positions of power.  Often times, sadly, the lust for power is present among those who claim to speak for Christ himself. To me, that is not good news.

Fear not! The gospel always contains good news, words of hope, and a way out of our predicament.  In the midst of their quarreling, Jesus gathers his disciples together and teaches them about real greatness, real leadership.

Some of you may know that my full time job is as an Activity Director in a care center.  On any given day I am called upon to be many things: organizer, planner, bingo caller, game player, chaplain, friend, bus driver, administrator…leader.  For my job I am taking some college courses to earn my official certificate as an Activity Director (I will be done with the class in May, thank God!). 

In a recent unit of the course we studied many kinds of leaders in the world: Autocratic leaders say how it is, with no input from others.  Period.  Democratic leaders accept input from the people. This can be good, but sometimes the “Majority rules” concept marginalizes the minority voice. The most vulnerable can be left behind.  Laissez-faire leadership is often seen as a lack of leadership. The leader is too removed and “hands off.” 

Because I am in the midst of Deacon discernment, the section on Servant Leadership captured my interest the most.  The descriptions of a servant leader could have come right out of a handbook on Christian leadership. 

Leadership scholar, Robert Greenleaf, offers this description of a servant leader: “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to spire to lead. The best test is: Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?” 

This could be a modern paraphrase of Jesus’ teaching on leadership.  Jesus loves to teach by comparison.  He reminds his disciples of the types of leaders they were accustomed to seeing. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.”

If that is the idea the disciples have in their minds about being great in the kingdom, Jesus intends to correct that. As portrayed in the Bible, the disciples aren’t always the brightest.  Jesus reminds them how the gentile rulers “Lord over” their people. They were not open to discussion; they did not care if their people grew healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous. They did not care if the least privileged benefited.  Those were the leaders the disciples knew.  Then Jesus turns it around: “ Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  

Saint Louise de Marillac was born in France on August 12, 1591. After a brief marriage in which her beloved husband died young, she spent the rest of her life leading others in servant ministry.  She traveled all over France organizing and creating shelter homes for neglected children, the sick, and the poor.  She was intelligent, humble, and physically strong for the hard work.  

Despite her own failing health over the years, she continued to lead from within the trenches of her growing group of followers. She worked with the great priest Monsieur Vincent, better known later as Saint Vincent de Paul. She created a “rule of life,” communal guidelines for her growing faith community called Daughters of Charity of Vincent de Paul.  She spent her life as a servant leader. She cared that her people grew as persons, became healthier, freer, wiser. She cared that the least privileged would benefit from her leadership.

When she died on this date, March 15th 1660, there were more than 40 shelter houses all over France.  Today, Louise de Marillac is the patron saint of social workers. 
The good news for us tonight is that the world can be healed and transformed by servant leadership.  As Jesus said, some leaders “lord their power” over others. Not so with us.  Not so with us.  There is a better way.

Sometimes we are a bit like those first disciples and we need some reminders about what works, and what doesn’t. That’s ok. That’s why we’re here; we are here to share Word and Sacrament.  And we are here to remind each other, work with each other, help each other, serve each other…and the world.  Amen. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Gin Templeton is working hard on our third stained glass window, the Integrity window, which is tentatively set for dedication on April 2. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The week of March 13

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday March 15
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/John Anderson, preacher
James Mackay, music
Soup and sandwich supper following

Friday March 17   
3:00 p.m. – Stations of the Cross (NOTE time change)

Sunday March 19  – 3 Lent
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Children’s Chapel
Coffee Hour following

12:45 – Lent with the Prophets (Jeremiah) 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Wedding of Jeremy and Michelle Broten

A wonderful Wedding Mass for Michelle Graham and Jeremy Broten at St. Stephen's, along with Deacon Charlotte Robbins (on the left) and Deacon Terry Overbo.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Wednesday of 1 Lent sermon by Sandy Holbrook -- Perpetua and her companions

Lent 1 - Midweek

A sermon by Sandy Holbrook

March 8, 2017

Perpetua and her Companions

(Daniel 6:10-16, Matthew 24:9-14; Psalm 124)

When Jamie asked several of us to preach for these Lenten Wednesday services, he offered each of us some options for texts to use. I chose Perpetua and her Companions whose feast we commemorated yesterday. Hearing about Perpetua may lead you to wonder why I would choose her. Let me tell you a bit about her first before I explain my choice.

Perpetua lived in the third century in Carthage (a city destroyed earlier by the Romans and redeveloped to become one of the major cities of the Roman Empire in what is now Tunisia – northern Africa). She was a young widow who had an infant child; she was also the owner of several slaves. She and her four slaves were catechumens preparing for baptism. But early in the third century, the Roman Emperor decreed that all people should sacrifice to the divinity of the emperor. Since there was no way a faithful Christian could do this, Perpetua and her companions were arrested and held in prison under miserable conditions. She had a number of visions during her imprisonment, and through one of them she came to see herself as a warrior battling the Devil and defeating him in order to win entrance to the gate of life. So, at her public hearing, she refused even the pleas of her aged father to renounce her faith, saying, “I am a Christian.” On March 7, Perpetua and her companions were sent to the arena to be mangled by a leopard, a boar, a bear, and a savage cow. Perpetua and Felicitas, tossed by the cow, were bruised and disheveled, but Perpetua cried to her companions, “Stand fast in the faith and love one another. And do not let what we suffer be a stumbling block to you.”

Eventually, all five were put to death by a stroke of a sword through the throat. However, the soldier who struck Perpetua was inept. His first blow merely pierced her throat between the bones. She shrieked with pain, then aided the man to guide the sword properly.

Several of us saw the movie, Silence, as few weeks ago. Since then I have been thinking a lot about martyrdom and what it means to have faith and to live faithfully. Silence is most certainly about martyrdom and faith but with some interesting and challenging twists in our understanding of what it means to be faithful – at least for me.

There’s no escaping the gruesomeness of Perpetua’s story or the story recounted in Silence or of any stories of martyrs. At least for me - and I suspect for all of us – the stories about martyrs make us enormously thankful that our faith is NOT likely to be tested in such ways.

Since that’s the case, you may be wondering if I have simply developed a morbid fascination with martyrdom and why I chose martyrs for our focus tonight. Well, remember it’s Lent. Jamie reminded us last week on Ash Wednesday that Lent is often viewed as a season in the  church year we’d just as soon skip right on by – get to those Easter bunnies and chicks, the chocolates and the celebration. After all remembering that we are dust and to dust we shall return is a reality check most of us are glad to bypass when possible.

But here we are in Lent – at just the beginning of a season which will lead us to Jesus’ martyrdom on Good Friday before we reach the celebration of Easter. In Lent we have a particular opportunity to explore and deepen our faith – even though we don’t expect to be martyrs like those we commemorate throughout the church year.

The Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, an Episcopal priest, reminds us that “Martyrs are not merely people who want to die; those are just suicides. Martyrs love the lives they lay down in the service of something with an even stronger claim on them.” This evening we are reminded by Daniel’s experience and in the gospel from Matthew that threats of torture and martyrdom have a long history. I decided to focus on Perpetua and martyrdom here in the early stages of Lent because they offer us an opportunity to consider what does, in fact, have a claim on our lives, a claim stronger than the life we love, as Crafton puts it? In other words, to what are we deeply faithful? So deeply committed that we would give up our life? Since our life may not require us to be martyrs (I am hopeful on this count), how do we then demonstrate our faith? How do we “prove” it – even in modest ways? Certainly in less dramatic ways that martyrdom?

Tough questions – if we take them seriously. And they are the context in which I think we each consider committing to a specific discipline or disciplines during Lent – some practice or practices that may more sharply focus our faith. Compared to martyrdom, undertaking a Lenten discipline of some kind seems pretty tame.

How many of you are playing Lent Madness this year? While it might appear to trivialize Lent, participation that goes beyond casually voting each day for one of the two competing saints, can itself be a spiritually enriching experience– despite its light hearted approach. The creators of Lent Madness are themselves serious about Lent despite their playfulness. Their hope, expressed online, is that “Lent Madness . . . helps you in the journey, as you see that God has worked in women and men of all kinds, in all places, in all centuries. If God can work in them, God can work in us.” They go on to say, “The heart of Lent is recommitting
to our Christian journey. We do this not to earn God’s favor, but in thankful response for God’s grace.”

The martyrs remind us of the depth of faith that has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout the ages. By comparison our Lenten observances may seem lightweight; martyrs have set the bar high, but in his poem, Lent: Ash Wednesday George Herbert, the 17th Century poet, reminds us that we may not reach the high standard of martyrdom but making an effort is an important dimension of faith :

It‘s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior’s purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he.
In both let‘s do our best.


Monday, March 6, 2017

The week of March 6

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday March 8
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/Sandy Holbrook, preacher
James Mackay, music
Soup and sandwich supper following

Friday March 10  
6:00 p.m. – Stations of the Cross

Saturday March 11   
4:00 p.m. - Wedding Mass for Michelle Graham & Jeremy Broten
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Jams Mackay, music

Sunday March 12  – 2 Lent
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Children’s Chapel

Coffee Hour following

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bishop Carol's visit to St. Stephen's

We had a great visit from Bishop Carol Gallagher on her first official visit to St. Stephen's this morning. We celebrated the largest Confirmation/Reception class at St. Stephen's since December 17, 1961, plus we welcomed two new members to the congregation. The potluck afterward was especially good! Thank you, Bishop Carol, for a wonderful day!