Table Rock Talk December 2014

The Newsletter of Lawrencefield Parish Church

Annual Meeting held

Business included elections and reports

Thirty-three voting members of Lawrencefield Parish Church attended our Annual Congregational Meeting on November 16, following the 10:00 service. The meeting began with a delicious spaghetti luncheon prepared by Ron White.

Three new vestry members were elected to three-year terms: Tom Farnsworth, Barb Hinkle and Airry Schultz. Jay Paulovicks and Rich Walter were elected as Lay delegates to Diocesan Convention, with Nancy Paulovicks and Tom Farnsworth as alternates.

Reports were presented from various officers, committees and ministries. Printed annual reports, including a draft budget for 2015, are available in the Narthex.

The meeting concluded with a review of the instructional video for the defibrillator that is kept in the office wing of the church.

Scott Duymich, Lisa Martin and Aimee Stern continue to serve on vestry with terms expiring in 2015. Michelle Beihl, Dave Duymich and Bob Luchetti, Jr. comprise the class of 2016. Officers will be elected at the December Vestry meeting. Vestry members serve a three-year term. The role of the vestry is to provide leadership for the congregation and manage the church's business. The Vestry usually meets on the third Sunday of the month after the 10:00 service in the rector's office. Parish members are always welcome.

In the spirit of the season...

Opportunities abound for responding to God's gift of Christmas

  1. Angel Tree   Lawrencefield is sponsoring fifteen children for Christmas this year through the House of the Carpenter. Tags bearing children's names, gender, ages, sizes and interests are available from the tree in the Narthex. When you take a tag, please also sign the sheet so we know that all children are covered. Return unwrapped gifts (though you may include wrapping, if desired) with the tag attached to the church by December 7.
  2. Cookies!   Bring a dozen cookies December 7 for a gala Christmas Cookie coffee hour!
  3. Birthday gift for Jesus   Parishioners are invited to provide supplies for the church, kitchen and Sunday School. A basket with slips listing needed supplies will be available in the Narthex. Please bring these gifts on December 21, when coffee hour will be a Birthday Party for Jesus.
  4. Thirteenth month   If you are looking to make end-of-the-year charitable donations for tax purposes, consider a "thirteenth month" donation to Lawrencefield Parish Church. An additional amount equivalent to your usual monthly giving would be especially helpful as we balance our books for the end of the year.
  5. Food Pantry   Help hungry families by giving to the St. Matthew's Food Pantry or Charlie's Closet, PO Box 508, Wheeling, WV 26003.
  6. Christmas Dinner   St. Luke's on the Island provides a free dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas Day. Support this effort with checks marked "Christmas dinner" sent to St. Luke's, 200 S. Penn St., Wheeling, WV 26003.
  7. Gifts for Life   As an alternative to extravagant gift exchanges, consider a gift to Episcopal Relief and Development, which sends animals and agricultural and health supplies in honor of loved ones to needy families abroad and at home. See https://www.episcopalrelief.org/what-you-can-do/gifts-for-life.

The Rector's Study The Rev. Cynthia Byers Walter

"Normal" mysticism

I just finished rereading Evelyn Underhill's Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People. I first read this book about twenty-five years ago, when I first became interested in the contemplative life. It made quite an impression on me then, and figured into the spiritual discipline I try to follow even today. One might even say that it led to my becoming a priest.

The title showed up on one of my doctoral reading lists. (No one book is required on these lists, it's more of a Chinese restaurant menu: choose one from Column A and one from Column B.) This particular volume has the dual virtue of (1) being available at low cost from Kindle, and (2) being quite short.

Evelyn Underhill was an English laywoman who lived 1875-1941. Practical Mysticism was published one hundred years ago. I found it just as fresh and relevant as ever.

As I've indicated, the material is not new to me. But I was stunned at what I'd forgotten, or simply taken for granted in the spiritual life. As Underhill is at pains to point out, the spiritual life endeavors to take nothing for granted.

Her position is that mysticism is not the exclusive province of great saints, but can be learned by anyone, taking no more care than is needed to, say, learn to play golf. But the rewards are enormous, and further, have the potential to change the world, bringing it more into conformity with the goodness and love for which the created world was intended. As she says, "The mystical consciousness has the power of lifting those who possess it to a plane of reality which no struggle, no cruelty, can disturb."

Her definition of mysticism is "the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment." Most of us are content to live at quite a superficial level, "the world of labels," as Underhill puts it, rather than deal with the mystery inherent in reality. We may become aware of this higher reality through "happy accident," by direct unfiltered experience freed from "the tyranny of that which we call ‘thought,'" or we may simply become dissatisfied with life as usual.

Evelyn Underhill offers simple directions for embarking upon the contemplative life. Learning the practice of mysticism is a slow process, but not necessarily more so than learning any other skill. One begins in "self-simplification," clearing the windows through which we look at life from assumptions, convention and self-interest. The first stage in the "training of the contemplative consciousness" is thus to withdraw attention from usual concerns to be "ready for messages from another plane," exercising discipline of the will and affections.

There are three levels of mysticism, corresponding with the natural, spiritual and divine levels of reality. At the first level one encounters God in God's creatures. At the second level one moves, fleetingly at first, beyond the bodily senses to a deep darkness and silence. At the third, one abandons oneself to the whole, and experience union with reality, and ultimately, God. Ultimately, one returns with renewed vigor to the world of the senses, to share the love and unity one has discovered through contemplation.

Reading these words, I feel like, despite my previous exposure to this theology and twenty years' (albeit sporadic) practice of contemplative prayer, I am still at the first stage – seeing God in God's creation. But I aspire to a deeper knowledge of reality, to a peace that cannot be shaken by the vicissitudes of life. I long to share with others the transformative peace that the world cannot give. The world today so clearly needs a transformation of this sort.

I am interested in forming a study group to read this book of Underhill's and attempt to experience the deeper level of reality she describes. If you are interested in sharing this experiment, please speak to me.

Vestry Vibes

Summary of the November 9 Vestry Meeting:

Vestry Calls

Vestry member were reminded to call Lawrencefield members on his/her list to encourage participation in the annual meeting on November 16, and in the stewardship and budgeting process.

Communion Bread

Rev. Walter presented the idea of baking our own communion bread (Rich Walter has volunteered to do this.). Feedback was given by Vestry members. Rev. Walter will discuss this idea with the Altar Guild members.

Flower Guild

Shirley Weaver has agreed to serve as the chairperson of the Flower Guild. Michelle Beihl will assist Shirley.

Senior Warden

Lisa Martin submitted names to be included on the prayer list.

Stewardship

The Stewardship committee has asked that all Vestry members submit their pledge cards before the annual congregational meeting. Letters from the Stewardship committee will be sent to all church members quarterly.

Soup Kitchen

The 2015 sign up list is in the Narthex.

Coffee Hour

Nancy Paulovicks reported that coffee hour is covered until January.