Minister of Christian Formation: Position Description

Grace Episcopal Church, Newton Corner, MA is seeking a part-time (lay) Minister of Christian Formation for Children and Youth, to begin late August 2018. We seek someone with strong Christian faith who loves working with children, youth, and families, is very organized, and an excellent communicator.

Grace Church is full of lively, friendly, and creative people who feel that ministry with children and youth is one of the most important things we do in our lives together in Christ. Over the past several years, we have prioritized connecting children, youth, and families with social action opportunities. We have also been experimenting with new models of Christian formation that are intergenerational and hands-on, and allow children and youth to participate fully in worship. In the next several years, we want to build on our strengths with our Church School program while also expanding our offerings for teenagers. Grace is a great place to be, Christ-centered, hospitable, and fun, whether you are looking towards a future as an ordained minister, or following your vocation to work specifically with children and youth.

 

20 hours a week, Godly Play experience a plus,

basic musicianship (singing and guitar or another instrument) always handy.

 

For seminarians, other opportunities for ministry could be coordinated into this placement.

 

Send a letter of interest, résumé, and references to the Rev. Regina Walton, Pastor and Rector, at pastor@gracenewton.org. Reviews of applications and interviews will begin asap.

 

Idols and Freedom on the Edge of Holy Week

This morning, I again served as “the third Wednesday priest” for the Sisters of St. Anne at their convent in Arlington. The lessons were from the book of Daniel, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol, and so were thrown into the fiery furnace, and yet survived by God’s grace. The gospel was from John 8, where Jesus says in v. 31, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 

These scriptures about idolatry and freedom are fresh in my mind, as I consider that on Saturday, a group of us from Grace will attend the March for Our Lives in Boston, to witness against gun violence. Guns have become an idol in our American culture by those who oppose even common-sense gun laws, even in the wake of tragedy after tragedy. And the debate about guns includes very different notions of what “freedom” is, and what it means to be free. Are we only free when every citizen is heavily armed, and when citizens are “free” to purchase weapons designed solely for the destruction of human life, with little or no oversight, background checks, or insurance requirements? Does our “freedom” involve the right to intimidate or even to assault others, especially women and people of color, with weaponry? This could not be farther from the freedom that Jesus is describing.

On Saturday we will march in Boston, and on Sunday we will march much closer to home, on Eldredge St. and in Farlow Park, as part of our observance of Palm Sunday. As we begin to walk the way of the Cross this Holy Week, please pray that as a nation we will know the kind of truth that Jesus speaks about—the truth of love, the truth of the dignity of every human being, the truth that perfect love casts out fear—and that that truth will make us free.

 

In Christ,

Regina

Our Witness Against Gun Violence

Many of you have heard me preach multiple times against government-enabled gun violence, and in support of common-sense gun laws. You have likely been in church when we have remembered victims of mass shootings by name, ringing out the Eldredge Chime for them. Like me, you have also probably shed many tears with each fresh and predictable horror. Perhaps you have also been encouraged by the students of Parkland, Florida, who are speaking out and organizing people of good will to witness against the cowardice and inaction of our elected officials in the wake of so many preventable and traumatic deaths. So I hope that you and many members of Grace Church will join me on Saturday, March 24 in the March for Our Lives event in Boston. We will meet at the Cathedral of St. Paul at 11:30 am.  More details will follow. If you are interested in travelling to Washington, DC for the 3/24 event there, ECM is considering chartering a bus: you can express interest in that here.

Please read this statement from our bishops below. Also, you may take heart from this article, describing how The Episcopal Church was part of the shareholder action that led Dick’s Sporting Goods to modify its gun sales policy.

Passing even commonsense gun laws in our nation will likely be a long and difficult struggle. But we believe that perfect love casts out fear, and that with God, all things are possible.

 

In Christ,

Regina

The bishops of the Episcopal dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts have jointly issued the following call, “From Lamentation to Action.”  In it they urge solidarity in prayer on March 14, in response to a call for such from the Bishops United Against Gun Violence coalition, and they encourage participation locally and nationally in the March 24 “March For Our Lives.”  Ways to be involved are listed below the bishops’ message.

From Lamentation to Action
A joint statement from the bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

March 1, 2018

We have all had enough of our children dying in their classrooms.  We have had enough of mass shootings in which a semi-automatic rifle was the weapon of choice.

They lurk in ambush in public squares
And in secret places they murder the innocent;
They spy out the helpless. (Psalm 10:8)

We have all had enough of the cycle of trauma, shock, anger, grief and numbness, fatigue and inaction.  As followers of Jesus we have a two-fold mandate:  lamentation and action.  We must bring all of this to prayer for that is where we are held by the God who weeps with us.  Prayer is the way we can come to some recognition and understanding of our complicity.  It is the doorway to a transformed life.

As your bishops we join with Bishops United Against Gun Violence in designating Wednesday, March 14 as a Day of Lamentation for the lost and for the guilty, and to seek the transformation of our hearts.  We ask you to gather in your congregations, or pause wherever you may be, at some time on that day, to weep, to mourn, to cry out to the God of justice.

We are grateful for and blessed by the initiative of young survivors of the recent Parkland, Florida, shooting who are leading the way in calling for the removal of weapons of war from our streets, and we thus encourage participation also in the March For Our Lives on Saturday, March 24.  The mission statement on the event site reads as follows:

“March For Our Lives is created by, inspired by and led by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to stop the epidemic of mass shootings that has become all too familiar.  In the tragic wake of the 17 lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us now is not the time to talk about guns.  March For Our Lives believes the time is now.”

On March 24, many will make the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C.  Many will travel to Boston.  Still others will march in locally organized “sister” marches throughout our Commonwealth.  It is our fervent prayer that these coordinated events will be effective in moving the leaders of our nation to enact common-sense gun safety measures to proactively address the security of our schools and public places, including reinstatement of an assault weapons ban.

The Episcopal Church stands with the brokenhearted.  Let us pray together on March 14.  Let us stand up on March 24.  Let us move from lamentation to action for the sake of our children, for the soul of our nation and for the love of Jesus Christ.

The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop Diocesan, Western Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop Diocesan, Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Massachusetts

# # #

Ways to participate:
Wednesday, March 14
• In response to the call from Bishops United Against Gun Violence for unity in prayer on March 14, a Litany of Lamentations will be included as part of the 10 a.m. service of Holy Eucharist and the 12 p.m. Santa Misa at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (138 Tremont Street) in Boston that day.

Liturgical resources collected by Bishops United Against Gun Violence for use in local services and observances are availablehere.

• Locally and around the country, many are calling for students, teachers and allies to take part in a National School Walkout at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 killed in Parkland, Fla.  Other types of walkouts also are being planned.  Guidelines from the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for College Admissions are available here as resources to students contemplating participation in local actions on March 14.

• For information on potential student actions in Boston on March 14, contact the Rev. Tim Crellin at St. Stephen’s Church in Boston at tim@ststephensbos.org.

Saturday, March 24
• In Washington, D.C.:  Episcopal City Mission is in the process of determining whether there is sufficient interest to book a charter bus to the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 24.  Find more information and register commitment here.

• In Massachusetts:  In solidarity with those taking part in the Washington, D.C., March For Our Lives, more than 100 sister marches are taking shape in locations across the country, including Boston, Northampton, Springfield and Worcester.  In Boston, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (138 Tremont Street) will offer hospitality, respite and a gathering place on that day beginning at 10 a.m., in partnership with the Diocese of Massachusetts and its B-PEACE antiviolence campaign and Episcopal City Mission.  Those interested in marching with other Episcopalians should plan to meet at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul by 11:30 a.m.  Organizers also hope to offer space for youth-led trainings or other organizing activities, including a B-PEACE postcard-writing campaign to state and federal legislators, corporate decision-makers and other stakeholders.  More details will be posted here as they emerge.  For more information on activities at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston on March 24, or to offer help with planning, contact the Rev. H. Mark Smith at hmsmith@diomass.org.

See also:  https://www.diomass.org/news/diocesan-news/end-gun-violence-ma-bishops-call-prayer-action-march-14-24

 

 

Change the Script (from the archive)

Sermon: June 19, 2016 (Proper 7, Year C)
1 Kings 19:1–15aGalatians 3:23–29Psalm 42: 1–10Luke 8:26–39
Grace Episcopal Church, Newton, Massachusetts
The Rev. Dr. Regina L. Walton

 

It’s always startling when the comedian Stephen Colbert drops his act and delivers a jokeless monologue straight into the camera, as he did last Monday night on “The Late Show.” He delivered a very brief homily on love, in the wake of the Orlando massacre. I call it a homily, and he himself may have thought of it as a homily, as well. He is a faithful Roman Catholic, whose reflections on faith have always represented to me what is best in Catholic tradition. Colbert began by saying,

“Naturally, we each ask ourselves what can you possibly say in the face of such horror—but then sadly, you realize that you know what to say, because it’s been said too many times before.”

He continued:

“It’s as if there is a national script that we have learned. And I think by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time, with nothing changing. Except for the loved ones of the families and the victims for whom nothing will ever be the same. It’s easy, it’s almost tempting to be paralyzed by such a monstrously hateful act, to despair.” (Stephen Colbert, Opening Monologue, The Late Show, June 13, 2016)

I, too, feel like I am part of this national script, preaching this sermon. In fact, exactly a year ago this week, I preached to you on the urgent need for the prevention of gun violence, because this past Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine parishioners at Bible study were slain with their pastor, after welcoming a stranger into their group. That shooting, like the massacre at the Pulse club in Orlando, was a hate crime by a homegrown terrorist. Last year, we read aloud the names of those precious children of God who were cut down in their church. And today, we will read aloud the names of the precious children of God who were cut down in another kind of sanctuary, a gay bar and dance club. They were young people, mostly Latino, dancing and having fun.

So I’m not going to stand here and say, How long O Lord, because . . . I probably said that last year. It’s time to change the script.

By coincidence or, as one of my former rectors used to say, by “God-incidence,” our scripture lessons today are about exactly that: changing the script—confronting violence and oppression, and changing the trajectory going forward.

We’ve been hearing stories of the great prophet Elijah over the last few weeks, Elijah the long-suffering and courageous prophet of Yahweh, who speaks truth to power and then has to run for it, now for the second time. Elijah has told King Ahab that he cannot worship his wife Jezebel’s god Baal alongside Yahweh. Elijah flees and is protected, and eventually the prophets of Baal are killed. But then Elijah has to confront the wrath of the powerful Jezebel—and so he flees again. And that is where we find him today.

Elijah is a political dissenter. He is a fighter and a crusader for justice. But here we see him exhausted nearly unto death, ready to give up in the wilderness. He is done. He is despairing. Huddled in a cave on Mt. Horeb, the word of the Lord speaks to him: “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Elijah gives a summary of his career as a prophet, and ends with, “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” I alone am left. I am alone. It was all for nothing.

And then Elijah is granted this vision of the Lord passing by, where there is a gale force wind, and then an earthquake, and then fire. And the scripture says that the Lord was not in any of these; they were just the prelude to the presence of the Lord. Elijah knows the presence of the Lord is in that place when he hears this mysterious “sound of sheer silence.” Paradoxical. Ominous. The King James Version translates the Hebrew as “a still small voice.” But the “sound of sheer silence” has something very intense about it, something powerful.

The lectionary reading ends there. Sermons on this passage often end up being about listening to the voice of God within, and the importance of still small voices as opposed to displays of power, etc. And those are fine sentiments. But they ignore the main message of what the still small voice, or the sound of sheer silence, actually communicates to Elijah, which comes in the next several verses. And let me tell you, the still small voice throws it down. The still small voice tells Elijah to essentially go back and foment revolution against Ahab and the other political powers that have become idolatrous and have abandoned the covenant with Yahweh. Elijah is essentially supposed to start a war. He is to anoint two new kings, which of course is not going to sit well with the current kings, and also to anoint his own successor, Elisha, as prophet in his place.

And when these things come to pass, we learn that Elijah was wrong: he was not the only one left, still fighting for Yahweh. There are seven thousand other prophets left in Israel who still worship the Lord. Elijah was not alone. And through a long and circuitous path that is not without great cost, Israel returns to the Lord, returns to the Covenant with Yahweh. Israel forsakes its idolatrous relationship with guns—I mean Baal.

In the gospel lesson from Luke, Jesus, too, changes the script. He crosses the Sea of Galilee into the country of the Gerasenes—Gentile country. And as he is getting off the boat, he is confronted by a man possessed: out of his mind, violent, naked, living in the tombs, terrorizing his community. The citizens keep trying to chain him up like a junkyard dog, only to have him break free. What was it like to live in this small city, with this violently ill man on the loose? Did the citizens there become used to him? Had they worked out strategies for managing him, or containing him somewhat? Or did they just flee to their homes when he got particularly bad?

Jesus asks the demonized man his name. The answer surely made everyone’s blood run cold, for the man says, “Legion.” Legion means many, but it also means a unit of Roman soldiers. This man is possessed, is occupied, in the way that the land has been possessed and occupied by the Roman Empire. There are so many demons that when Jesus sends them out, they enter a whole herd of pigs, which throw themselves into the lake. And now, this is the first time in the story when fear is mentioned, after the man is healed! The citizens see the man “clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.” They ask Jesus if he would please go now. Jesus’ power, his radical compassion on this man, his radical healing, is what makes them afraid. They had become used to living with a deranged man! They had become acclimated to living in fear for their safety! They had become acclimated to the continual threat of violence. It’s JESUS who is considered the dangerous and irresponsible party.

In the United States, we have a lot in common with the people of the country of the Gerasenes. We have become acclimated to gun violence, semiautomatic weapons but also handguns. We are so afraid of another possible future, that it is currently illegal for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence. We have become acclimated to young children shooting each other or their parents. We have become acclimated to incidents of domestic violence ending in the shooting deaths of the woman or abused partner. We have become acclimated to those with mental illness dying by suicide because of ready access to guns. And we have become acclimated to the most horrific mass shootings in elementary schools, in churches, and any place where people gather. Jesus, it would be better if you left our city.

Now, the formerly possessed man is so grateful to Jesus that he wants to become a disciple. But Jesus sends him back to his family. “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.

This line about returning home reminds me of a story about the Highlander Folk School. Some of you may know about Highlander, in Tennessee, which was founded by a man named Miles Horton as a training school for the civil rights movement for decades. This story comes from Horton’s autobiography, called The Long Haul, which I first read in seminary and which continues to inspire me. Horton was white, and Highlander brought together both black and white civil rights leaders from all over, at a time when these integrated gatherings in the South were very rare.

Miles Horton tells the story in his book of the end of one particularly inspiring workshop in the 1950s. The participants were seated in a circle, and were asked to go around and say what was one thing they were going to do when they returned home to further the cause of civil rights. Everyone went around and shared this or that action they planned to take. Then one woman, when her turn came, spoke up and said that she didn’t know what she could do back home in what she called “the cradle of the confederacy.” This was a woman who had been active in the NAACP for many years. But like Elijah, she was discouraged. She felt powerless in the face of Legion, of systemic racism and prejudice, in the face of a government that valued her life less than others. She was preparing to return to the wilderness, Montgomery, Alabama. Her name was Rosa Parks.

That day, she was discouraged. That day, Rosa Parks was ready to throw in the towel, and not for lack of trying. But somehow, the still small voice came to her—maybe it came through others. And it said, Do not give in to despair.

This week, in talking with many of you and with other friends, I heard so much despair and resignation. I heard over and over again that nothing is going to change. That we are stuck in this script, forced to play our parts over and over again in this tragic tale of an idolatrous nation that wants to worship both God and guns. Like Elijah, many of us know that’s not possible. And like Jesus, we can expect to face a lot of fear and irrationality as we fight to remove easy access to firearms from our legal code.

We can be discouraged, angry, annoyed, fearful—the full range of emotions is open to us—except despair. Because despair has the power to write the ending if we let it.

Rosa Parks wasn’t just some tired lady on the bus the way it is often told. She was a longtime activist. Her act of civil disobedience in the Montgomery bus boycott was carefully planned. She was part of many networks of civil rights campaigners. Love needs to organize. Love needs to reclaim the gospel of peace.

At the end of his short homily on “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert said, “Love does not despair. . . Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script. . . . Let’s remember that love is a verb, and to love means to do something.”

Our God is a God who loves to change the script. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt—God changed the script. Jesus was crucified and lay dead in a tomb—God changed the script. Black people couldn’t sit in the front of the bus, couldn’t claim their right to vote. God changed the script. Gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people couldn’t legally marry. God changed the script. Here’s the Apostle Paul changing the script in Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” We all know the work isn’t done. Indeed, it’s barely begun. And catastrophic violence and hate and terrorism throw this fact in our faces. But we believe that perfect love casts out fear. And we have access to perfect love, in the person of Jesus Christ. Love needs to organize. Now let’s get organized, and change this script.

In God’s name, Amen.

A Standing Invitation . . .

I have a strange job. Every year, I get to invite people not to a party or a feast, but to a fast. Or, rather, a season of fasting. After the homily on Ash Wednesday, the minister is to stand before the people and invite them to the observance of a holy Lent, in words adapted from the very first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 (the language now includes far less fire and brimstone!). A number of you heard these words yesterday.

Let me invite you (less formally) today, to the observance of a holy Lent. Lent is, in the words of one of the participants of our first-ever Ash Wednesday service for children, like “spring cleaning for the soul.” It’s a time of awareness and removal of the obstacles in our spiritual path. Of course, we can only do this with God’s help. Prayer, almsgiving (charitable giving), fasting, and reading the Bible are the traditional Lenten practices. Now, of course, we have some digitally-available options, such as this series from the intrepid Episcopal monks of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, “Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John.” Sign up here to get a daily email with a video or a transcript of a brief talk from one of the brothers.

For families, try the year-round Daily Devo from the Episcopal group Forward Movement (click free trial for a month of daily devotional emails to read and reflect on with children) here.

If you would like a devotional in printed form, we also have copies of the 2018 Lenten booklet from the Episcopal wellness group Living Compass, called Living Well Through Lent: Loving with Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. Find these in the back of the sanctuary and in the parish office.

Or, just pick one practice on your own. It could be fasting (giving up wine, dessert or another treat), almsgiving (making a donation each week of Lent to a different charity you’ve been meaning to support), prayer (picking a certain time each day to spend in prayer, either silent meditation or praying for others). I’m also a fan of what’s called “the searching review,” where, in a journal or just in meditation, you think back over the past year and take stock of where you are spiritually. What’s going well? What’s in your way? What areas need work?

An invitation to observe a holy Lent is really an invitation to prepare for the feast of Easter, and to live more fully as the people God calls us to be. May God bless you in this season of spiritual spring cleaning!

 

In Christ,

Regina

Celebrating the Reformation at Grace

Unlike many Protestant churches, the Episcopal Church does not celebrate “Reformation Sunday” at the end of October each year—but we are making an exception this year, for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany. This Sunday, we will welcome Dr. Christine Helmer to Grace Discussion Group this Sunday, to speak about Martin Luther and Modernity. On All Saints Sunday, November 5, we will welcome Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett to GDG and as preacher at 10:30, to speak about the English Reformation and its ongoing influence on our Episcopal liturgy. Finally, our Lessons and Carols service this Advent (December 18) will feature European music from the Reformation/early modern era, and we will include readings from several Reformers alongside the scriptural readings.

 

If you’d like a quick and clear read reflecting on the Reformation from an Episcopal/Anglican reflection, click here.

 

There is the Reformation, and then there is the ongoing, daily lower-case reformation that all Christian communities must undergo if they are to be faithful to Christ’s mission in a changing world. This morning I came across this article, about an Episcopal parish in Maine that is engaged in “reformation” work in order to extend its ministry further out into the community, and make its facility a resource for many different kinds of community members. With all the bad news out there, here’s some good news! This, by the way, is the parish that our former rector Jim McAlpine attends in retirement

 

In Christ,

Regina