Dear friends of Saints James and Andrew,
Our faith is like a garden, and we are the gardeners. I once read that to be a great gardener, we might take classes or read books about gardening; nurture our soil; pay attention; visit other gardens; plant seeds; and take chances. This same advice applies to a life of faith. If we want to grow in our faith, we need to adopt a growth mindset. A willingness to learn, take chances, and be changed.
From May - August, I will be away on a clergy renewal leave (sabbatical) so that I might tend the garden of my faith by reading and studying; nurturing the soil with prayer, retreat, and pilgrimage; visit other places to be inspired; all while the Holy Spirit plants seeds, that when cared for, will enliven my faith.
As parish leadership has planned for this sabbatical, it has been equally important to us that parishioners have the opportunity to enliven their faith, and that Rev. Molly has that same opportunity by taking her annual time away at her cottage in Maine. Our hope is that this summer will be a season of mutual growth, so that when we resume our ministry together this September, we will all have had the chance to tend our gardens, grow, and be changed. Who knows what seeds the Holy Spirit may plant in this season. We can only begin to imagine how She will help us to grow in faith.
Enlivening our Faith
Summer Worship Program
To that end, we have planned a rich array of worship services and a set of diverse and fascinating guest preachers that will most certainly offer an opportunity to enliven our faith. It all kicks off on Sunday, April 23, where our liturgy, designed by our Green Team and Youth Group, will focus on Earth Sunday, and feature guest preacher, Episcopal priest, author, retreat leader, and climate activist the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas.
We will hear from three up-and-coming young leaders within the Episcopal Church. Their fresh perspectives will remind us of the ways the Church continues to grow and evolve, inspiring us to do the same. We will welcome seminarian Silas Kotnour on May 14; seminarian Chris Leung on May 21; and newly ordained transitional deacon, the Rev. Deacon Jimmy Pickett, on May 28.
We will hear from leaders within the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, each who serve in a unique ministry context that will help us better appreciate the depth and breadth of the Church’s work in the world, encouraging us to take chances and explore new avenues of our faith.
This includes: Lay Evangelist and Co-Coordinator of the diocesan Loving the Questions discernment program, Craig Hammond, on June 11; the Chaplain to the College at Williams College, the Rev. Dr. Valerie Bailey Fischer, on July 4; beloved local Episcopal priest and retired Northfield Mount Hermon teacher, the Rev. Ted Thornton, on July 9; diocesan Missioner for Latino / Hispanic Ministries, the Rev. José Reyes, on August 6; diocesan Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Dr. Rich Simpson, on August 13; and the Director of Organizing for Episcopal City Mission out of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Rev. Edwin Daniel Johnson, on August 27.
Working with our lay worship leaders and preaching guild, we have also put together a series of three Summer Lessons & Carols services. The themes for these services are: Creation on June 25; Taize & Peace on July 16; and Gospel & Hope on August 20. These services will offer readings, hymns, and prayers and are based loosely on the format of the familiar Festival of Lessons & Carols put on by King’s College that many of us listen to each Christmas.
Changes and Coverage
When the Vestry approved this clergy renewal leave, it was with a clear sense that Rev. Molly should remain ⅓ time, instead of asking her to fulfill both of our responsibilities. Given Rev. Molly serves more than ⅓ time for much of the year, it is our arrangement that she takes most of the summer from late June - August to enjoy her camp in Maine, though she remains accessible through email and phone. This is what fills her cup back up, allowing her to return to this parish and engage in our mutual ministry together.
This decision meant that parish leadership needed to make some intentional decisions about which aspects of parish ministry need to continue as is and what could be adapted or laid fallow. To that end the Vestry has determined the following:
As a faith community, it will be important that we adjust our expectations during the summer, and that we be patient and gentle with one another as we adapt to reduced staffing and volunteer lay leaders who are carrying extra responsibilities.
Lastly, I want to thank you, the Vestry, the Staff, and Rev. Molly for the gift you are giving me to rest and renew this summer. Know how beloved this community is to me, you will remain in my prayers, and I will look forward to returning in September and continuing our ministry together.
In the meantime, let’s spend some time reflecting this summer: Where has our faith grown stagnant? What new experiences might inspire us or plant new seeds? What do we need to pay closer attention to? How might we take new chances?
Life is short, and our God of abundant, transformative Love wants to see each of us blossom into the fullness of who we were made to be. This summer, let us together enliven our faith.