From Deacon George …

April 2, 2020

I’ve been talking with some of the folks in my neighborhood this past week, while we stand on our respective sidewalks across the street from each other. The inevitable question is, “So how are you filling the time.” The familiar answer is, “Reading.” 

Ah, but reading what? My neighbor’s front-yard Little Library has been going from empty to full to empty again with increased frequency. We are grateful for e-books, tablets and Kindles. And, yes, some of us have more than a few unread books shelved at home. 

But here’s what I am missing now – the Good Book Club. I miss gathering before worship to discuss the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John, and the Book of Acts. So, I was delighted this week to see in my email in-box a message proclaiming that…

The Good Book Club Is Back!

Yes, the Good Book Club returns, featuring the Gospel of Matthew, beginning on Easter Sunday, April 12 and continuing through the Day of Pentecost, May 30.

St. John’s participants will be gathering online via Zoom meetings, and we will again use a study guide from Forward Movement, this time titled A Journey with Matthew

If you receive our weekly St. John’s eNews, you will also be receiving an email from our office with details on participating in the Good Book Club during the season of Easter. Look for it. I hope you will join us! 

But, until then, and throughout Holy Week, how about…  

Palms and Psalms: A “Pop-Up” Study Group for Holy Week

As we strive for normalcy in our temporary self-containment it occurs to me that the Scripture that might be most relevant to us right now is that which touches us in every week’s Lectionary readings, but with which we haven’t truly become acquainted: the Book of Psalms

After all, when have you heard a sermon preached exclusively about the psalm for the day? Never? How do a hundred and fifty Hebrew prayers – poems and songs, really – speak to us and make us want to invoke those same feelings to God today? Here’s how this will work –

You may have heard about pop-up experiences. Without notice, a vacant storefront will become a fancy boutique, or a park will become a fairground, for a very brief time when our routine is disrupted with an opportunity to explore a new offering or experience.

We’ll combine the pop-up experience with a study group starting this Sunday, Palm Sunday, with “Embracing the Psalms During Holy Week.” We will gather in the Zoom online meeting space and meet there daily throughout Holy Week, concluding on Good Friday. We are using C.S. Lewis’s book, Reflections on the Psalms, a literary gem which I suggest you obtain as an e-book or Kindle book (amazon.com $8.49) due to the immediacy of our pop-up format.

Details will be provided in the next day or so via the Good Book Club email mentioned above. 

This is a time commitment for those who want to share a daily hour during Holy Week gathering and exploring the Psalms and their relevance to our immediate context, maybe for the first time, and probably in a new way. Will you make this commitment with me?

Have a Blessed Week!
Deacon George

From Deacon Tom …

April 2, 2020 

What a pleasure and an honor it has been talking with many of you this past week.

A reoccurring theme with some of our flock has been the change in the e-news as well as those who are not technically savvy trying to navigate and communicate in a world that has become, in some cases, painfully out of reach. 

The “Zoom” platform allows us to communicate in ways that allow us to all be digitally present in the same virtual room. Some of the comments I have received have been that:

I have a computer but no camera?

To use zoom you don’t have to have a camera. It just means that if you don’t have one, people can’t see you. If you are using zoom you can still (as long as you have a free account) see others who do have a camera, and have it turned on.

To get zoom go here:  https://www.zoom.us/signup

Another question has been How can we watch the National Cathedral service or St. Mark’s service .

Both services are Live Streamed  Here are links:

Live Streaming The National Cathedral is available by clicking the link: They are also on Facebook on Sunday Morning at 10:00 am CDT search for “Washington National Cathedral” and a link will appear for the Live Broadcast.

https://ourcathedral.org/live-video/ St. Mark’s can be reached by clicking on this link their service is at 10:30 am Sunday Morning CDT. They also broadcast on Facebook and can be found just like the National Cathedral.

If I can assist any of you with the technology know that I am a phone call away and would be happy to help.

While none of us can accurately estimate when this will end or for how long this crisis will go on know that you are all in each other’s prayers and everyone misses everyone. We are all a member of Jesus’ flock and he has not forgotten us and we are all important and precious to him (John 10).

We all look forward to the day when we can “safely” be in the same room sharing in the Eucharist. 

May the peace of the Lord, which surpasses all understanding surround us all in this time of pandemic.

Deacon Tom

From Deacon George …

How We Carry On
3/26/2020

Those of us – that is, most of us – who are staying very close to home these days, are compensating in their own ways. Yesterday, while walking our dog Beasley, I noticed that the Little Library in my neighbor’s front yard was running precariously low on inventory. Makes sense, I thought, as my neighborhood of predominantly retired folks relies on it for reading material, and now more than ever. So, I took an armload of books over and re-stocked it. The books I took were mostly ones I had begun to read some time ago, but never finished. Until now. My immediate plan is to finish the books worth finishing, before engaging in new ones. 

That may be a good plan for many of us. How many things are there around the house that we have left undone (around the house and in our lives, as we confess our sins)? My study is starting to look like it should, as I can now see the top of my desk again. The holes that Beasley carved in the laundry room drywall are now nonexistent. And, thus, I find therapy in the work that I am currently able to perform.

As we find our own ways of carrying on, waiting, coping and caring, I hope you will avail yourselves of the alternate forms of socialization, if you will, that we have. St. John’s Church has made a commitment to continue as much of our ongoing activities as possible on the web-based Zoom application. If you aren’t yet familiar with Zoom, I will oversimplify it be saying that it brings us together on our computer screens, tablets or smartphones, where we can see and talk with each other, share videos and photos, discuss business or just chat. 

The vestry held their regular monthly meeting last week on Zoom. They then piloted an informal “virtual coffee hour” on Sunday following the livestream Virtual Eucharist from the National Cathedral. The Starfish House committee met on Zoom yesterday and the Shared Ministry Oversight committee will meet on Zoom at 6:15 this evening. Look elsewhere in this eNews (and how about this new eNews format?!) for more information on how we are embracing virtual socialization at St. John’s.

Let It Be, Let It Be 

Yesterday, March 25, was the day the Church celebrates The Annunciation of the Lord. Most mainline protestant faiths have taken their time in developing a focus on the mother of Jesus. The feast day we reserve to “commemorate how God made known to a young Jewish woman that she was to be the mother of his Son” is an exception, for which we ought to take time now to reflect.

The words in quotation above are from The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts of the Episcopal Church. As I read those pages, I cannot help but think of some other words about Mary, which may give us some extra strength these days –

From Lesser Feasts, I leave us today with the Collect for the Annunciation of Our Lord –

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

From Deacon Tom …

3/26/2020

My position at St. Cloud Hospital as an “Intern Chaplain” has changed because of the Covid-19 virus.

For the past two weeks all Clinical Pastoral education interns (Students) have been told we are not essential personnel and as such we are not allowed in the hospital due to our exposure to the virus. That status changed yesterday in that we were deemed by hospital administration as essential, however my supervisor left it up to me/us (students) if was want to return to the hospital or pursue our clinical hours in another way. 

This is why I am writing to you now. I have decided to not expose myself needlessly to the hospital 3 to 4 days a week and instead am being allowed to make phone or computer contact with members of my congregation (St. John’s) and offer pastoral/chaplaincy care in that capacity.

That means I will be cold calling all of you on a regular basis to check in and see how you are doing. You of course can decide to share how things are going with me or not.  You also can move up the list and have a pastoral conservation sooner by letting me know you want this.

I also have the ability to see you face to face via Zoom which the church has purchased and I have access to. You would need to go to www.zoom.com and download the free zoom software from their website.

Anything discussed with me would be confidential unless you tell me otherwise.

Please know that as always you are welcome to talk to Deacon Ham if you are more comfortable talking with him. 

I look forward to serving you and being a listening presence in this time or change.

Peace,
Deacon Tom Roy

badge2206@gmail.com

From Deacon George …

“Fasting From Public Worship”
3/19/2020

It’s not house arrest, I tell myself. Although I commit to follow the “critical guidelines,” one of them – stay at home if you are feeling ill – has now morphed into stay at home, period. Thank you, God for my pretty good health; please help me keep it that way.

Being over 70, I am labeled “particularly susceptible to developing serious complications from the COVID-19 virus.” I respect that, and I will honor it by staying put. I suppose it is getting easier, in the sense that just about everything I would go out for is about to be, or already is, closed.

The last couple days, I am seeing a lot more people in my very friendly neighborhood out walking their dogs, or just out walking. We wave or nod, but we just keep walking. Yesterday, I stopped to say hello to a couple who were walking with their two daughters on their bikes and carrying a baby. An entire family out for a walk on a marginally nice day. We maintained our perfunctory six foot distance. “We just had to get out of the house,” she said. “I know,” I said.

When we announced the suspension of activities at St. John’s Church last week, we used the term “Lenten fast of public worship” and we said that this is a sign of our love for each other and our neighbors, and that each of us will be called to make changes, adjustments and difficult decisions. Before you fall into the rut that I am trying to climb out of, please know that our current situation is not house arrest. It is an essential component in helping ourselves, our neighbors and our country drastically reduce the spread of a horrific pandemic. And, it can be – no, it will be – an opportunity for us to strengthen our faith.

For example, I’m taking my homebound time to catch up on some reading, as I finish an 827-page tome, Underworld, by Don DeLillo. Near the end, he writes, “Sometimes faith needs a sign. There are times when you want to stop working at faith and just be washed in a blowing wind that tells you everything.” I submit that while we must not stop working at faith, we can still be washed in that wind.

Our Governor has today suggested that, as we huddle via social media and other virtual communication to get ourselves through this historic pandemic, we should refrain from grousing about it (was I grousing?) and, instead, share positive stories and outcomes. I am so glad to report that your faith leaders at St. John’s Church are preparing the way for us to do exactly that.

Over the coming days, you can expect to hear about several online opportunities to participate in meetings, small groups, youth and adult formation, bible study and I hope, even Sunday Eucharist together, via a live interactive online gathering called Zoom, and by streaming video at our website. So, let us continue to share the greatest story of all – the story of Jesus, and the greatest outcome of all – his resurrection and promise that we are saved from sin and have life in Him.

Have a Blessed Week!
Deacon George