Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Syllabus for the UW Episcopal Community @ St. Francis House

A Syllabus for the UW Episcopal Community 
@ St. Francis House, 2014-2015

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” Wendell Berry

About Coming Together

One of St. Francis House’s core qualities is a thing we call, “No strings.” No strings is the idea that you are always welcome in this community as you are, without condition. In turn, this place, her student leaders, and staff, commit to share themselves as they are. As people committed to following the one who is Truth, we commit to be truthful with one another. And yet, no strings is more than that. As it turns out, in the commitment to love without condition and be truthful with each other, we discover we need each other in order to be truthful.

No strings means your level of participation in St. Francis House comes without judgment. Whenever you are here, you are welcome.

That being true, the truth also compels us to tell you that our community’s experience in engaging God’s ministry of reconciliation together is enhanced by each one’s regular participation in the life of the community. You matter here. Regular participation in Sunday worship, Wednesday dialogues, or both, will bless and grow our fellowship. We believe regular participation will most bless and grow you, too.

No one will be here all of the time - not even the Chaplain - but know that being welcomed here includes being valued here. We value the unique gifts each one of you brings to this community.

Sundays at the Episcopal Center

Every week, our community gathers in the St. Francis Chapel at 5 pm for worship. Most weeks, we celebrate the Holy Eucharist together. On the 2nd Sunday of each month, however, our community celebrates “A Service of Light,” in the style of Taizé. 

There are several ways to be involved on Sundays. Talk to Fr. Jonathan or anybody you see doing any of these things if you’re interested in learning more. 

Ways to be involved on Sunday:
  • Help prepare the altar area for worship before the service.
  • Read the lessons and/or prayers of the people.
  • Bake communion bread.
  • Play an instrument during worship.*
  • Assist the priest during the service, serve the wine at Eucharist.*
  • Read a lesson in a foreign language (Taizé service).
  • Lead a Taizé service.
  • Serve on a dishwashing team.
Wednesdays at the Episcopal Center (“Life Together”)

Each Wednesday, our community gathers in the Club House (downstairs) at 6:30 pm for a student meal, followed by a short presentation and small group conversations. At 8:00 pm, our time concludes with Compline in the Chapel.

Ways to be involved on Wednesday:
  • Prepare a meal with friends.
  • Play music for Compline.
  • Lead Compline.
  • Serve on a dishwashing team.
SEPT 26-28!

“Worship and Dinner,” Sundays, Fall 2014

Sept 7 Holy Eucharist and Dinner
Sept 14           1st Service of Light (2nd Sunday) with Taizé worship
Sept 21           House Blessing Eucharist
Sept 26-28      RETREAT at Lutherdale Camp, Elkhorn, WI.
Oct 5               St. Francis Sunday
Oct 12 Service of Light with Taizé worship
Oct 19 Holy Eucharist and Dinner
Oct 26 Holy Eucharist and Dinner
Nov 2 All Saints’ Sunday
Nov 9 Service of Light with Taizé worship
Nov 16 Holy Eucharist and Dinner
Nov 23 Christ the King Sunday
Nov 30 1st Sunday of Advent
Dec 7 Holy Eucharist and Dinner
Dec 14          Pre-Christmas Hymn Sing (last Sunday of the semester)
Dec 20           SFH closes for winter break
Jan 18          1st service of the Spring semester

“Life Together,” Wednesdays, Fall 2014

Sept 10 Good Beginnings
Sept 17 Slow Church, Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus
Sept 24 Slow Church, Stability and Patience
Oct 1 Slow Church, Sabbath, Reconciliation, and Wholeness
Oct 8 Slow Church, Receiving and Generously Sharing God’s Gifts
Oct 15 Open Gathering
Oct 22 From Prayer to Service, at the His House Community
Oct 29 From Prayer to Service, at the St. Francis House Community
Nov 5 From Prayer to Service, service project night
Nov 12 From Prayer to Service, debriefing
Nov 19 Open Gathering
Nov 26 No Gathering (Thanksgiving)
Dec 3 Ephesians 4, Unity in the Body of Christ
Dec 10 Galatians 5 - 6, The Fruit of the Spirit and Bearing Each Others’ Burdens
Dec 17 Open Gathering

Young Adult Leadership Council

Anna Barker, Retreat                                
Michael Fleischman, Life Communication                 
Shannon Jablonski, Social                              
Terri Roth, Building and Grounds                       
Claire Spence, Music
Noah Van Dam, Meal Coordination

What Leadership Looks Like

* Offer your gifts in a regular way for the life of our community
* Regularly participate in Sun and/or Wed gatherings
* Keep the Episcopal Center, students, staff, mission in your prayers
* Participate in twice monthly meetings of the YALC

Look For These

Monthly Women’s Group * October Pumpkin Carving * Thanksgiving Dinner 

Slow Church:
an EpiscoBadger conversation in 4 parts

Tonight is week 2 of a 4 week conversation we're having at the UW-Episcopal Center based on the book 'Slow Church.' In case you missed last week, here's the outline we (mostly) followed. Tonight's a new night, and we'll be looking at the first large portion of the book, which talks bout the relationship of ethics to taste, stability, and patience. Dinner's at 6:30p, convo at 7p, Compline to close. Come!

(a 4 week conversation at the UW-Episcopal Center)

“Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually; to be spiritual is to be amazed.” Abraham Heschel

“Above all, trust the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“We are impatient, anxious to see the whole picture, but God lets us see things slowly, quietly. The Church [has] to learn to wait.” Pope Francis


The Drama of God’s Story

Act One: Creation
Act Two: The Fall 
Act Three: Israel
Act Four: Jesus
Act Five: The Church

“The biblical narrative is the story of the whole creation, from the beginning through the present to the end - and yet it’s not so much a story that we mechanically act out but rather a story that serves to form us into the people we need to be.”

Improvisation: 3 Rules

1. Always agree with your improv partner
2. Not just yes, but YES AND.
3. There are no mistakes, only opportunities

Patience and Collaboration: A God Willing to Move Slowly

“All around us we see the ‘huge spontaneous upheaval of the entire human race’ that Thomas Merton talked about, a revolution he rightly predicted would be manifested in desperation, cynicism, violence, self-contradiction, fear and hope, doubt and belief, creation, destruction, and ‘obsessive attachments to images, idols, slogans, programs that only dull the general anguish for a moment until it bursts out everywhere.’ In the midst of the frantic, churning, disturbed and roiling shallow waters of modernity, Slow Church seeks to anchor itself in the deep, still waters of a remarkably patient yet radically immanent God…

“In everything, Slow Church looks ahead to the eschatological redemption that is the climax of the central drama of the world. Slow Church takes the long view, examining all thought and culture, every ideology and assumption, all action and faction by the messianic light of the last day. Paradoxically, taking the long view allows us to be truly attentive to the details of the here and now. It all matters, nothing is wasted.”

Scriptures illuminating the patience of God: Matthew 13, 1 Corinthians 13. 

“God’s plan has always been centered on the gathering of a peculiar people who will embody reconciliation.” Reconciliation all things to God is the mission of God: the healing of creation, us to God and one another.

Chaplain’s note: reconciliation is both the love of the community for the world around it *and* the love of the community for one another: Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector were each called to be Jesus’ disciples. They were opposites within the twelve.

We are learning to act out the drama of God’s reconciliation, an improvisation, without fear.

“The resurrection of Jesus relieves us of the fear of death.” 1 Cor 15:55 “Those who love their sisters and brothers have already passed from death to life (1 John 3:14)

“The primary work of Slow Church is not attracting people to our church buildings, but rather cultivating together the resurrection life of Christ, by deeply and selflessly loving our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and even our enemies. As we holistically embody God’s love, we find joy that we pray will draw people closer to Christ.”

“The nature of the drama being played out in creation is that the troupe of actors who were conscious of the drama and actively cooperating with it began small, but it is slowly expanding, gradually winning the trust of all humanity until everyone is playing his or her role.”

Conversation Starters

According to Scripture, what is the ultimate end to which God is bringing all of creation? What is God doing in and with the world?

According to Scripture, how has God chosen to accomplish God’s mission in the world? What is the role that the Church has been given?

What are the particular strategic initiatives to which God has called our local faith community, in its particular time and place, in participation with God’s mission?

What are the theological and practical convictions that we share as a faith community and that give shape to our following together in the way of Jesus?

What are our shared practices for intentionally nurturing the formation of our local faith community?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Don't Make the Rocks Cry Out
A Call for Stories of God at Work

Rocks with stories, from the Chapel garden at St. Francis House.
"The key to the future is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known." Pete Seeger

My wife texted me that quote, which she read on a bumper sticker, this morning. She texted me that quote as an encouragement because she says ol' Pete was an artist and storyteller like me. I don't know if I'm a storyteller. I know I like to talk. I also love to listen. Especially to stories. And I am convinced that the world is more beautiful when and where stories are told, because it is not easy to share a story without also sharing a part of yourself. To tell a story is to admit that this thing and not that thing caught your attention, commanded your interest. Something grabbed you and, in the grabbing, showed you something about yourself.

To tell a story is to reveal the gravity of your heart, as well as the things that most pull into that gravity. Stories, of course, are full of ideas, details, deep truths, and meaning. In addition to these, the gravity of the heart picks up things like fears and sadnesses, hopes, passions, and joys. 

A friend on campus told me recently, "I need to hear stories of Jesus at work in the lives of other people."

I love stories. I love my Church. With my friend, I long for my Church to tell more of her stories.

Modesty, false or true - along with God knows what else - silences far too many stories with the potential to speak to the longing of my friend. But storytelling can only feel like boasting when the longing of my friend and others like her is forgotten. Stories are living water for the a thirsty soul. Who, possessing such water, would deny it to another? 

In an email from my Gathering of Leader peeps this morning: 
It is important for us to know, really know, whether our efforts to become a loving community of worship, education, and outreach bearing witness to Christ’s redeeming grace are bearing fruit. What we believe about this impacts our ministry and identity. How do we add, as a tool of assessment, our stories of transformed lives?
And then, as I am writing this post, a PhD candidate unaware of this post comes in to tell me his advisor has given him only one question with which to frame his dissertation: "What is the story you're trying to tell?"

To see and speak the things we have seen - these are the actions of those who belong to the Story of God With Us. Scripture and Spirit. 

What are your stories of the Spirit at work in your faith community, your neighborhood community, strangers, your family - in you? What are your stories of unexpected joy in the promised-still-surprising presence of Jesus? What part of the story of Scripture is the Spirit singing back to you these days in the lives of those around you? 

How will you tell the stories you see? With love, of course, but how else? In a book? Through your vocation? On a blog? Through your art? In music? Dancing? How else will you tell them?

Promise us you'll find some way to give voice to the stories you see.

Did you know that some of the people you are afraid to tell these stories to are longing with all that they are to hear them?

"I want to hear stories of Jesus at work in the lives of other people," said my friend. 

I do too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Unsolicited (but Awesome) Idea For Your Church's Next Photo Directory

Put a map in the back, with dots marking everywhere a member of your faith community lives AND works. Keep the dots anonymous if you need to, but leave no one out!

You are never far from saints.

PS If you do this, let me know. I'd love to see it and hear how it changed (or didn't change) your faith community's imagination for being Church.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Prayer for UW-Madison at the Start of a New Academic Year

Gracious God, our heavenly Father, the Son you sent among us collected his followers for three years of training. These disciples appear - from the record of the gospels - to have learned very little during that time. Three of them slept through the closest thing to a final Jesus gave them. Lord, have mercy. The example of your friends does not ease our fear that we will find ourselves in the course of the year ahead stepping up to challenges that will expose us. Thank God for your Spirit.

Patient God, may the example of the disciples a) keep the rest of us from making enslaving idols of our failures, and b) save us from our illusions of self-importance.

God of Anna, Simeon, and all who longed to see your promise in their lifetime, in the semester ahead, show us Jesus. Show us Jesus in the usual places, yet surprise us, like Moses, with fiery challenges to our presumptions to know where you belong and so also where and through whom you will talk to us. Give us your Spirit. Train our eyes to see the Spirit's active presence in language labs, science centers, coffee shops, and even on State Street. Seeing your Spirit, give us courage to laugh and be gentle.

God of parables, teach us the humility necessary to seek knowledge not for the sake of curiosity, vanity, or - God help us - money, but - as Bernard would remind us - for the sake of the love that is knowledge in order to serve.

Finally, God of victory over death and lots of other possibilities we haven't yet imagined, make of the Episcopal community at St. Francis House a living parable of community, love, and joy in the Gospel of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and then some. We love you, and we ask these things in Jesus' name.



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