Homily December 31 2023

Homily sharing for December 31, 2023. 1st Sunday After Christmas, by Connie Aurand

 I offer these words of sharing this morning from my heart.  They are part of my personal story and walk with Christ, and thus not the typical homily one might hear on the 1st Sunday after Christmas.  Please open your hearts, mind and ears and share with me this offering, a part of my personal present journey.

I begin this story with some background.  28 years ago on December 28th, 1995, our family was changed forever along with many in our communities, and I would offer in the Puget Sound area.  Our son, Trevor 16 years of age at that time on an annual Christmas celebration in Seattle with former Boy Scout staff members from Camp Parson, was murdered on Aurora Avenue in a drive-by shooting.  All of the details from that night would make up twenty TV or movie scripts and basis for books.  There were many angels that responded to that horrific tragedy, none more important than the four other Boy Scouts who had to respond to the immediate emergency.  However, within a few minutes, they were surrounded by other angels–the Seattle patrol police officers, detectives and paramedics who went into action.

Trevor died at Harborview before Jim and I could arrive surrounded once more by God’s precious angels—nurses, ER physicians, medical techs, neurosurgeons, social workers and our beloved priest friend who rushed to be at the side of Trevor and us.  We surrounded Trevor that night with prayer being offered over him as we surrounded his hospital bed.  What I want to offer here is the precious gift of light –of Christ’ light in the service by all the first responders, his fellow Eagle Scouts, and Harborview medical team–of how our son, Trevor, was never alone but surrounded by the Light.  As I said there are many stories that have been shared and lived since that tragic day.  Over the years, there have been several law enforcement people who stopped by our house who knew of Trevor’s story, and thus ours.  These individuals serve as angel protectors for all of us, leaving their families working sometimes long shifts, even at night.  Please remember the police and our paramedics in your daily prayers.  Now, we move to the present.

Recently, our seven-year old grandson, Grayson, out of the blue, pronounced to his mother, Amanda, police officers have to work at night in the dark away from their families for long periods of time.  They are by themselves and are in dangerous situations wanting to help others. “They don’t get to go home at night during Christmas.” “I think we should take them some cookies as a thank you especially with it being close to Christmas.”   Well, Grayson was emphatic that the gift go to the police officers.  Amanda listened and took Grayson’s request very seriously and followed up in action.  In a few minutes of time Grayson put together a platter of homemade cookies and candies to be taken to the local police station in Poulsbo as a gift of gratitude and unconditional love and thanks for their service, sometimes in the “dark of night”.  Grayson, his brother, Kegan, mom, Amanda and I went to the police station in Poulsbo on December 28th.   Grayson was blessed to meet with Officer Brian Munoz explaining why he was there and delivered his gift.  I do not believe Grayson realized his thoughtful unselfish gesture was what Jesus would have all of us do.

The power of this gesture is what it means to “shine the light in the darkness” to give of oneself for another.  Once more, a sweet child has shone all of us the light and connected us to the living Christ through his actions.  As John wrote in this morning’s Gospel reading, “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”  I do not think Grayson caught the significance of his actions of this

December 28th (on the church calendar marked as the day remembering, “The Holy Innocents”) as our family marked another year once more without Trevor.

As Christ’ light shines brightly in the world, as we ready ourselves to welcome a new year of 2024, I pray we all find a way to bring a small piece of Christ’ light to another person in this world.  Grayson has taught us much.  Let us all give God our thanks and praise and recognize the significance of Grayson’s gift to the world –a caring and loving heart–a true child of God.    Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve Reflection 2023

Christmas Eve Reflection.  Dec. 24, 2023.  Faith Episcopal Church, Poulsbo, WA.

Rev Beth Orling

Isaiah 9:2-7.  Luke 2:1-20

You have been witnesses this evening – witnesses to the light.  The baby Jesus – light of the world — grew up to teach us forgiveness, generosity, kindness, and victory over oppression and over death.

The candles you have placed and enjoyed, the candles you will light when we sing Silent Night again – these candles witness to the light that our dark and troubled world so desperately needs.

Tonight we have welcomed the Universal Christ, the Christ that is forever being born in our human souls and into our real, authentic world.

Christmas-tide lasts 12 days. It might be a challenge to celebrate each one.  But perhaps you can find a way.  Perhaps a special cookie treat one day, perhaps a special walk in the woods one day, lighting candles each of the 12 days, a surprise you give someone in your neighborhood or in your home, perhaps a time of silent meditation one day, perhaps a letter you write to an old friend, perhaps a visit to someone who is sick, along with constant prayer for peace in the world and in the lives of troubled relatives or friends.

Every day – in the 12 days of Christmas – and in your year to come: light a candle – with flames of fire or quietly in your heart — for someone. You will reflect Jesus’ light, his words of hope, when you see the newborn babe in those you encounter.  As we celebrate the mystery of God among us, we come to see the light in our dark world, every day in Jesus’ blessed Name.

God grant you and your children and grandchildren this eternal blessing, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

November 12 – Matthew 25:1-13, Where do you know God’s extravagance (perhaps in places of scarcity) in your life?

Paul and Sarah Steinke

When we work with parables during Godly Play, we speak of them as a priceless gift given to each of us by Jesus before we were even born. And this gift is for all time… for you and me back then, now, and for our future. And parables are so precious and so valuable that “we need to be very careful when we come close to a parable. We need to be ready because we can break a parable if we aren’t ready.”

But even if we are ready, sometimes… sometimes when we try to open a parable we just can’t go inside. “But don’t be discouraged,” we’re told… ”keep coming back again and again. One day the parable will open up for us.”

And so it is today… when we try to open up this parable about the bridesmaids, we often get close to breaking it as we try to “figure out” who represents what? Who are the bridesmaids? Who is the bridegroom? And what does the oil represent anyway?

Treating the poetry of a parable as a vehicle to teach us all a moral lesson is one of the ways it breaks. For it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, not the scolding that, like another kind of oil from my past—cod liver oil—is difficult to get down but others guarantee will be “real good for us.”

It’s not a surprise then that some of us may be resistant to opening the gift of this parable today  because we suspect there’s cod liver oil in there for us somewhere!

But these stories that Jesus tells in the Gospels are not primarily moral lessons or platitudes but gifts given to us long ago that continue to be alive and continue to transform our hearts and the way we see each other and the world. And that is good news.

So today, I wanna play a bit… and as I open the gift of today’s parable I ask, “Where is this parable alive in me—here and now? Where might this parable come alive in all of us – this community of Faith – today?”

And as I opened the parable this time around, I was struck at how the whole parable hinges on the phrase five of the bridegrooms say to the other five… a phrase I heard again for the very first time: “No, there is not enough for both us and you.”

That sentence stops me in my tracks… ”No, there is not enough for both us and you.”

I wonder how many times I’ve said that in one way or another to myself, to Sarah, my kids, or others. I wonder how many times that’s been said to me… ”No, there is not enough for both us and you.”

And I wonder where you’ve heard that sentence–in what circumstances, relationships, desires, and dreams has this phrase been present:“No, there is not enough for both us and you?”

I wonder where we’ve heard that sentence in our life together as the community of Faith?

Because of that story of scarcity–“there is not enough for both us and you”–each of the characters in today’s parable didn’t get to experience the extravagant feast of the kingdom of God. Some of them left the feast because they didn’t have enough. Some of them didn’t get to participate in the fullness of the feast because they didn’t want to lose what they had, and both responses led to a shut door.

And so I wonder if one of the meanings of this parable for us here today is that it points to our belief in the story of scarcity, which keeps us from experiencing the extravagant feast of Jesus’ kingdom, and which so often leads us as Christians to justify dominating or hiding from others or closing the door on others, or parts of ourselves, who are without, or who are hungry, thirsty, or in need.

As an act of Faith in Jesus’ extravagant abundance, where are we being called to imagine we are enough or have enough to participate in the feast? Where are we being called to share our giftedness, our homes, our resources, our voice, and our perspective? For this parable is for you and me and was given to each of us by Jesus before we were even born. You are invited to a feast, and in sharing this feast with others, you are to know and be known. . .Are you ready?

Last week we heard Connie and Jim share stories of Faith’s origins… how after deep heartbreak the community’s longing for home and belonging with each other and within the diocese, led them to offer the same to those broken-hearted within Kitsap.

Imagine if at some point in the process Jim and Connie and the other founders would have said, “No, there’s not enough for both us and you,” and shut the door on their desires, their hopes, the needs of others, and the possibility of a feast?

But that is not our legacy. And it is not the future we are creating with each other and the Spirit of God. In the midst of our panic that there isn’t enough–time, resources, capacity, love–our stories here at Faith offer us a different perspective. I believe God is telling a story through this community, a story of God’s with-ness and calling a people–calling you and me–into a life of deep extravagance that overflows into the world around us. This, dear friends, is “good news,” which is to say, Gospel.

Today we continue with stories from our community… I’ve asked Jeffrey and Yori and Sara if they would share what they and their families know of this deep extravagance within our community of Faith?

Question for the response card (ask them to put it in the offering place):

Where do you know God’s extravagance (perhaps in places of scarcity) in your life?

God’s “with-ness” offering November 5, 2023

God’s “with-ness” offering November 5, 2023

Jim and Connie Aurand

We begin this sharing by remembering a time many years ago, after growing and nurturing relationships and ministries at St. Charles, when our beloved rector of 20+ years retired, and we were in the search process to call a new rector.  Upon that “call”, it became evident after several months that Jim and I would not be able to remain at our then beloved St. Charles Church.  Little did we realize that there were many more pilgrims within the church who felt the same way, and we all ended up in the wilderness, “wandering in the desert”, without a church to call home.  This was a time when Jim and I felt very alone—no regular Sunday service with people we loved.  One Sunday during Advent we attended Grace Episcopal Church on Bainbridge Island.  This church had been through a similar story and had split from St. Barnabas Episcopal on Bainbridge Island.  At that time in their journey, they were meeting at Bainbridge’s local high school library.  We arrived and were warmly welcomed by many who were regulars at Grace and very soon learned there had been many others from St. Charles who were also visiting as part of their respective journeys.  We learned very quickly that we were not alone in our wanderings.  It was when the Rev. Carol Ludden, Interim priest at Grace, as part of their Christmas pageant, called to the little children dressed as barn animals … “Come little lambs, come little sheep, come little calves and cows, and horses and see the child in the manger” … that we realized we were loved and were being guided by the Holy Spirit to continue Our journey in finding our church home.

After many letters to the Office of the Bishop (Diocese of Olympia), it was evident that the Bishop’s office wanted us to be absorbed into other parishes in the diocese.  It was also clear to us that we wanted to remain together as a community, focusing on staying within the Kingston/North Kitsap area.  So, we continue on our ‘journey in the desert’ with our tents that would be moved periodically over subsequent years searching for our home.

Because we were small, we looked at Faith as a form of a hospital where people could come and heal.  Some went on to other churches—but for many, they were called to remain steadfast and faithful at Faith Church.

Initially we met at a parishioner’s home celebrating morning prayer, and eventually moved on to meeting in many different places in Kingston including a Fire sub-station, the Kingston VFW Hall, the Fire House Theatre, a Methodist Church in Kingston, and finally, after many years, being offered our current church property in Poulsbo. Our Faith Church had made a full circle, returning to the home where it all started. These many years in-between were filled with a mix of pain, healing, and service culminating with a good dosage of faith, hope and joy.  The Holy Spirit was moving within and around us always.

After we left St. Charles and were initially “wandering in the desert” we were not allowed an Episcopal priest or even recognition from the Diocese.  However, Mother Carol Ludden had entered our collective lives with the simple eloquent words that we, as Christians and leaders, were called to “feed the sheep” not “starve them”.  The Diocese did not know what to do with us and we really did not come onto their radar until Carol agreed with the early unofficial Bishop Committee that we would send our estimated diocesan assessment check monthly to the Office of the Bishop.  It was that step that got the Diocese’s attention.

When Mother Carol Ludden was called to another parish and left the area that we learned that there were retired priests that would come to worship with us and to offer Holy Eucharist.  For a time, we shared in Eucharist once a month and on the other Sundays a member of the laity led morning prayer.   Every Sunday we had to transform whatever space we were using in Kingston for worship, and then take it down and store the items for use the following week.  It was hard work and many hands volunteered to make it happen each Sunday.

Each year Faith was able to stand on its own and had money left at the end of the year to save and invest in the Diocese Investment Fund.  Some of those funds remain in the Fund to this day.  Because we had low overhead costs, funds were available for outreach and service to others, which was a big part of the early Faith community, as it is today. In the early years Faith awarded three scholarships to graduating Seniors from North Kitsap and Kingston High Schools.  A member of Faith who was a retired teacher would present those scholarships to the recipients.  We also prepared and donated homemade soups to the Kitsap Health Department for the patients suffering with AIDS and participated in the annual walk for Aids support.  Faith was also contributing to the local foodbank, and we supported a monthly community meal along with the VFW members and later with the parishioners at Bayside Church in Kingston. Faith received financial assistance to purchase a dishwasher for the kitchen at the VFW hall from Grace Church Bainbridge.  There were many opportunities for Faith members to celebrate and to serve in the community. The Spirit moved among us to help us with our Eucharist services when the VFW moved an oversized pool table into the space we used as a sanctuary on Sundays. The space was small, and the fire department had deemed to authorize only 45 people or less in the room at one time.  That pool table became our altar, the largest altar in the diocese, I am sure.  When later we were accepted as part of the Diocese of Olympia at our first convention, we presented a skit using the rack and the nine colored and numbered pool balls for a visual symbol of our creativity, with the belief that God had always been with us and continues to be with us.  There was never a question of whether the Holy Spirit walked with Faith along our journey to find a home.

Every year on the Fourth of July, Faith had to vacate the VFW Hall.  We used this time to take our faithful membership on the “road” to visit other Episcopal Churches.  Sometimes on one of those weekends we couldn’t use the VFW Hall in Kingston we’d meet in a local park, known as “Tiny Tony”, and we’d offer the “blessing of the animals” on that Sunday.  We felt led to convene with our greater community even when we did not have the physical space to gather.  One of our gifted elder parishioners had sewn stoles to be worn by visiting priest for these “Blessing of the Animals” celebrations. There were potlucks and Octoberfest celebration put on by one of our long-time parishioner couples. There were times to celebrate our temporary and long-term clergy with a special get togethers, complete with decorations and of course lots of food.

We used large tree branches to form arches in the space at the VFW Hall for seasonal church decorations. We’d green the church in the afternoon in time for Christmas Eve worship. Two of our favorite Christmas Eve service gatherings were held at one of our member’s barn, an unheated barn that was filled with the farm’s animals including horses, sheep, and geese.  Luminarias lined the pathway for people to walk up to the barn for worship.  Bales of hay were used as an altar and some seating.  We utilized our folding chairs and lanterns as well.  Music was provided by two of our youngsters (one being our own daughter, Amanda) on portable keyboard and flute.  The public was invited to “Come to the stable” for Christmas Eve services.

Other examples of Faith outreach included a Coins for Christ gathered during Advent and a presentation of those coins made at the creche on Christmas Eve. We would have in-gathering school supplies for Fishline Food Bank’s distribution to children in North Kitsap; in-gathering of Christmas gifts for residents at Martha and Mary Health and Rehab Center; and an in-gathering of about 400 small stuffed animals for a Bainbridge Island physician to take with him on his ministry abroad. Two of us on a monthly basis wrote cards to other Episcopal Churches in the Diocese letting them know their church family was being prayed for by their sisters and brothers at Faith.  We would pray for them as part of our Prayers of the People. We later started an in-gathering of cans of soup on Super Bowl Sunday.

Faith’s existence does not have a destination or end.  It is a journey.  We have had to say goodbye to many friends and loved ones who we have loved.  Yet, we have continued to be called to love others and have found ways to welcome new members and visitors serving God in the name of Jesus Christ.

Our hope as elders is to continue to be faithful, open to possibilities and work mightily towards funding a full-time priest, expanding Godly Play to all grade levels, enhancing our music in varied ways and presentation, and encouraging and growing participation in the varied ministries of the church where growth is nurtured and celebrated.  May we open our hearts and arms and minds a little more so that All are made welcomed!  God is with us always!

And we offer a resounding Amen!

 

 

The organ at Faith Episcopal Church, Poulsbo

By George Daniels

During a trip to the Philadelphia in August of 2017, Bob Kernaghan had an opportunity to visit with friend Wesley D. Parrott, the organist for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Cathedral Road in Philadelphia. It was such a strange coincidence when Bob and Wesley were talking at the coffee hour that the subject of the Faith Episcopal Church organ came up. Wesley told Bob that he traveled to Poulsbo in the early 1970s to install the organ that now resides at the church.

The organ is dedicated to:

Helen Ottalie Lounsbury
1901 – 1975

By her family
Mrs. Jo Ann Kettel
Mrs. Doris Mae Schenaker
Harold E. Lounsbury

Here is, in Wesley’s own words, the history of the Faith Episcopal Church organ:

“I am delighted to tell you that your little organ built by Henry Niemann of Baltimore, Maryland, originally was built for Trinity Protestant Episcopal Cathedral, in Easton, Maryland [editor’s note: in 1886] [Listing in The Organ Historical Society Pipe Organ Database]. I heard it many times as a child and played it occasionally for services at the Cathedral. I remember being very sorry that it was being replaced in the 1970’s by a contemporary organ by the M. P. Moller Organ Company in Hagerstown, MD. Niemann was born in Germany, and eventually moved to Baltimore. It was only later that I discovered that Niemann had apprenticed with both Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and Charles Barker, Cavaillé-Coll having been the greatest organ builder in France from mid 19th century into the 20th century. Henry Niemann built organs for four churches in Easton, MD, and numerous organs in Baltimore and across several nearby states.  Unfortunately, due to changes in taste and demolition by neglect, most of his instruments are no longer around, or have occasionally been incorporated into much larger instruments.”

His tonal style remained much the same among his instruments and are quite distinctive. They have a clearer, brighter tone than others of the same period. The organ at your church remains exactly as it was the day it came from the factory! Quite an achievement considering its age….”

Church Organist:

  • 1989 Organists:
    Isabel Copeland *Bio Below
    Marian Ludicke
    Jessie Butterfield
    Lorie Scott
  • 2019 Organist:
    Howard Bye

*Isabel Copeland’s bio according to Sumaya Ifland:

“Isabel and her Husband Rob were part of the St Charles congregation very early on. Rob was part of a bible study with my older brother and Isabel helped in the office (I remember she counted money after the services) and was the church organist. If I was quick enough to get to her after she finished playing, she would let me push in all the stops and flip the switch for the bellows. She was a very loving and joyful lady. My parents asked Isabel and Rob to be my Godparents in the early 1990s and Isabel would often take me on adventures after church over the next decades. As an organist, she loved going to organ recitals and would bring me along. We would sit next to each other in the pews of churches all across the county listening to classical pieces. Isabel was the organist at St. Charles for 40 years. “

With a gift of $23,000 from an anonymous donor Faith commissioned Bond Organ Builders, Inc .of Portland, OR in December of 2020 to refurbish and tuned up the 100 plus year old organ. The work was completed in early 2021.