Table Rock Talk April 2017

The Newsletter of Lawrencefield Parish Church

Walking with Jesus

Holy Week marks events in Christ’s Passion

The last week before Easter, which this year falls on April 16, is known as “Holy Week”. Holy Week therefore begins on April 9, or Palm Sunday. During Holy Week, Christians symbolically relive the last week of Jesus’ life before his death and resurrection. Nearly every day of Holy Week is marked by special liturgies in the church. Lawrencefield will observe Holy Week with services on Sunday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Parishioners are encouraged to attend as many as possible, as each has a particular emphasis, and it is in light of Christ’s suffering and death that the joy and meaning of Easter, when it comes, is most fully appreciated.

Palm Sunday begins with an outpouring of joy, as we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. In the Liturgy of the Palms, palm leaves are blessed and distributed on the porch of the church. The congregation then processes into the church to relive the joyful procession of Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem. After entering the church waving our palms, we hear the story of Christ’s arrest, trial and execution, sometimes dramatically presented by several readers reading the parts of the different characters in the narrative: Jesus, Pilate, and the centurion, among others. The congregation as a whole takes the part of the crowd, which quickly forgets their “Hosannas” and is swayed by Jesus’ enemies to shout, “Crucify, crucify him!” Painful though this might be, the ritual helps us remember the things we continue to say and do that consciously or unconsciously oppose Christ.

Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” is a corruption of the Latin mandatum, or commandment, and refers to Jesus’ new commandment that his disciples love each other. This was Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before his arrest, and probably marked the traditional Jewish Passover meal. It was at this Last Supper that Jesus gave the disciples bread and wine, telling them that this food was his own body and blood, and that they should continue to eat the bread and wine “in remembrance of me”. The Last Supper was therefore the occasion of the first Eucharist. At the end of the Maundy Thursday liturgy, actions are taken to symbolize Jesus’ departure. The altar and sanctuary are stripped of all ornament, and the altar cross is draped in black. The door to the Tabernacle is left open on the emptiness inside to signify Christ’s apparent absence.

Maundy Thursday is followed by Good Friday, a day of mourning and sorrow, as we remember the condemnation, torture and assassination of the innocent Jesus. Good Friday is often marked by the faithful walking “The Stations of the Cross,” reliving Jesus’s walk to his death.

The evening of Holy Saturday, after sundown, the resurrection of Jesus is anticipated in the Great Vigil of Easter.

Going to church is good for you

A 2013 New York Times Op-Ed piece by anthropologist T. R. Luhrmann recently circulated by the Rev. Mark Seitz highlights the health benefits of church attendance Studies show that being a member of a church community boosts the immune system and lowers blood pressure, adding an average or 2-3 years to a person’s life. Social support and healthy behavior are contributing factors, but author Luhrmann also sees a beneficial effect in cultivating the imagination to include the reality of healing coming from a source that cannot be observed objectively or fully comprehended by the intellect.

The Rector’s Study The Rev. Cynthia Byers Walter

One last reference to my thesis and then I’ll shut up

As this issue of Table Rock Talk goes to press, I am still awaiting the “Defense” of my doctoral thesis, which is set for the morning of March 31 in Alexandria. By the time you are reading this, the outcome of that dread interview will hopefully be already known. In last month’s issue of TRT, I provided an excerpt from the introduction to my thesis. To show you where I ended up with that material, this month I quote from the analysis chapter of my paper. Next month, when I, please God, am done with my thesis once and for all and have a few free brain cells to spare, I promise I will get back to my usual Rector’s Study original essay format. In the meantime, please continue to pray for me!

As the vast range of Christian spirituality began to unfold for Friends of St. Lawrence participants, they found their voice. People who were unsure whether they were praying “the right way,” found validation. At the same time participants began to reach beyond the habitual for a richer prayer experience. In an atmosphere of trust, new knowledge and experience were not threatening, but stimulating.

Participants not only learned more about the tradition, they learned more about themselves. Self-awareness inspired humility, patience and renewed commitment. While recognizing the “God-driven, God-given process” participants also recognized their own responsibility in maintaining a relationship with God. FSL participants gave evidence of progressing in faith development, finding spiritual authority within themselves rather than appealing to an external source.

If a difference can be made in the world by individuals making progress in faith development, the faith progress made by FSL alumni has kingdom-of-God potential. As noted, the exit interviews and final papers of FSL participants indicated that their personal spiritual growth indeed appeared to have beneficial effects on their relationships outside the group.

Unfortunately, there was no practical way within the scope of this project to measure, quantifiably and objectively, the extent and durability of these improvements. The results of this study prove only that FSL participants themselves clearly felt more able to deal with family and professional issues in their lives by virtue of guided spiritual activity. This is evidence of growing spiritual confidence bearing fruit in personal and professional life.

If there is no objective way to quantify the effects of spiritual development on relationships, there really is also no way for human beings to gauge the extent to which our behavior builds the kingdom of God. Evidence for kingdom-of-God growth is likely to be anecdotal. That does not absolve baptized persons of responsibility for kingdom-of-God work. We have a baptismal commission to build the kingdom of God, and, as we mature spiritually, a responsibility to cultivate receptivity to the kingdom of God. Insofar as the FSL program cultivates this receptivity (and questionnaire responses indicated that it does), such a program promotes the spiritual confidence that indeed builds the kingdom of God.

Perhaps, in addition to developing another workbook on baptismal identity, yet another expressly devoted to kingdom-building is in order. In both cases, nurturing spiritual confidence has a part to play. Therefore any future workbooks, like the ones used in FSL, will employ coaching in spiritual disciplines. Coaching in spiritual disciplines nurtures spiritual confidence, enabling faith development and kingdom-of-God work in the world.

Vestry Vibes

Summary of the March 19 Vestry Meeting:

Budget Committee The vestry ratified the 2017 Committee Budget previously approved by email vote.

Improvements to Churchyard The rector reported that a family placing a stone in the churchyard had commented on the condition of the churchyard and asked permission to make improvements. The vestry clarified that if the family wishes to donate flowers for the large brick planters flanking the entrance, or plant grass or annuals on the grave that that would be permitted. Any permanent installations, such a bench, would have to be pre-approved by the Vestry. The church will take care of removing pieces of the tree that has been felled and picking up other dead wood.

Transfer to Building Fund The rector reported that a sizable donation had been deposited designated for the building fund and stated that the money would be transferred and applied as directed.

Health Right The parish has been contacted by Health Right, Wheeling’s free clinic, to participate in a city-wide fundraiser on April 9, Palm Sunday by holding an event of our choice. The vestry agreed with the rector to hold a special collection on April 2 instead, so as not to detract from Palm Sunday observance. The rector will put collection envelopes and flyers in the March 26 bulletins, alerting parishioners to the upcoming ingathering, and match congregational donations out of her Discretionary Fund. The goal will be to raise $722, the approximate average cost for Health Right to serve one client for one year.

Education Committee Barb Hinkle reported that the Rev. Bonnie Thurston has volunteered to help us plan an adult education series on world religions.

Long Term Maintenance Jr. Warden Scott Duymich reported that he would be seeking advice from roofers and asked for recommendations. Discussion ensued as to what type of roof we should install. The current material has proved to be quite fragile, and Scott does not recommend using it again. The vestry asked Scott to ask for recommendations and pricing for shingle and metal.

Junior Warden Churchyard clean-ups will be scheduled for the second Sunday of the month May through September.

The vestry voted to accept the donation of a round wooden picnic table from the Home for Men. The table has been placed on the terrace outside the undercroft.