Table Rock Talk January 2018

The Newsletter of Lawrencefield Parish Church

Looking to Lent

Adult Education planned

Lent begins February 14 (Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day – Talk about Occasion Confusion!) with Ash Wednesday. Plans are already afoot for adult learning opportunities during this season of preparation for Easter, which this year falls on April 1 (April Fool’s Day – Another case of Occasion Confusion!)

With the Wheeling Cluster of Episcopal Churches

As we have in previous years, Lawrencefield will join with St. Matthew’s downtown and St. Luke’s on the Island to present an adult education series on the Wednesdays of Lent: February 21 and 28, and March 7, 14 and 21. We gather at St. Matthew’s at 6pm each evening for a soup supper provided by the host congregation. Lawrencefield will have an opportunity to serve as host congregation. Participants are welcome to bring a sandwich or salad to complement the soup or just have soup. The clergy of participating congregations will take turns presenting the educational element, which will begin about 6:30pm and last about an hour.

Our theme this year is “Why?” based on a book by the same name by Adam Hamilton. According to this book’s promotional material, this series will “bring fresh insight into an age-old question of how to understand the will of God. Where is God when tragedy and suffering strike?” Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas and the author of several books.

At Lawrencefield

Plans for an in-house adult education series are also in the works. At present both topic and meeting time are to be determined according to where interest lies, so please convey your preferences to either the Rector or Education Chair Barb Hinkle. The two topic options an exploration of the Gospel of John as an aid to spiritual growth or a workshop on Centering Prayer. The two meeting time options are Sundays between the services or Tuesday lunchtimes. The final choices will be announced in the next Table Rock Talk.

Lawrencefield Snow Policy

According to the Crisis Management Plan adopted by the Vestry in 2016: “The rector will determine if services must be cancelled for bad weather. Anyone knowing of a non-weather-related emergency shall notify the rector. In either case, the rector shall then notify the senior warden. The senior warden shall then notify members of the vestry. Each vestry member will be provided with an Emergency Call List. Upon being notified by the senior warden of a weather or non-weather emergency, each vestry member shall make a reasonable effort to notify the persons on their list as to the nature of the emergency and whether worship services or other events are cancelled.”

The Rector’s Study The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Byers Walter

The homilist at home

One of the short-answer questions on the General Ordination Examination I took my final year of seminary to determine my readiness for ordination (also known as five days of academic hazing), there was a question about presenting an adult-education session on how to prepare a sermon. Since by the time I took the GOE I had been a Lay Preacher for twelve years, this was the easiest question on the test.

I wrote about how, about a week in advance, I would read the day’s lectionary assignment, then take a long walk and think about the readings. Before putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard), I would pray for inspiration, then list some ideas. Then I’d take another walk. Then I’d do my research and write a draft. Then I’d take another walk to see how it set and consider if I’d really said what I meant to say. Then I’d revise. The whole process took several days. If I was able to do all this days in advance of the delivery date, I would read my sermon every day to decide if I wanted to do further edits and familiarize myself with what I’d written so I had to refer to my notes as little as possible. As my husband drove me to church on Sunday morning I would try to commit my sermon as much as possible to memory.

When my graded exam was returned to me, I was startled to see, scrawled in the margin, “This is totally impractical!” I was nonplused. I’d been preparing my sermons this way for years and it worked for me. I had to wonder if maybe my grader was jealous of my sermon preparation time and was taking out her/ his frustrations on me! I still passed the test, so I decided not to worry about it anymore.

Last November the question returned to me when I solicited questions from the congregation for an “Ask The Priest” adult education to take place during Advent. The anonymous parishioner’s question was not exactly the same as the GOE question, but similar to it: “How do you find inspiration for your sermons?” I thought maybe this as a good topic for this newsletter column.

My method for sermon writing has evolved somewhat in the fourteen years since the GOE, especially with a schedule of having to preach every Sunday. I don’t have the luxury of as much time between sermons as I used to when I was a Lay Preacher, seminarian or Assistant Rector. But my search for inspiration has remained fairly consistent.

The Bible. And specifically, the Episcopal Lectionary. I am very happy to be part of a tradition that prescribes what part of the Bible to preach on each Sunday. If I had to choose from everything in Scripture each Sunday it would drive me nuts. Which is not to say that I find each Sunday’s selections equally inspiring.

Often, however, one of the readings will grab me. Chances are if I find something particularly interesting I can communicate my enthusiasm to the congregation (and therefore minimize the possibility of people walking out or falling asleep.)

This doesn’t happen every time. So then I turn to my own prayer life. What is on my mind? Where do I personally need the guidance of God’s holy word? Is there anything in these lectionary selections that speaks to my personal issue? Chances are, if I have issues about anything, other human beings may have experienced something comparable. Human beings aren’t that different in what causes us joy, sorrow and confusion. And certainly I am motivated by a strong desire to demonstrate how faith, informed by Scripture, can apply to daily life. I always try to make the scriptures relevant to what people are really experiencing.

To this end, a preacher has to be aware of what’s going on in the world. Karl Barth, possibly the most prominent Christian theologian of the twentieth century, supposedly said that preachers should have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. If God’s living Word is really God’s living Word, it must speak to us where we are today. So current events are another element in the Sermon Inspiration Cocktail.

I also have a clergy Bible Study group that meets most Tuesdays to discuss the upcoming Sunday lectionary. Often my colleagues have inspired me with their own insights.

If all else fails, there is a lot of literature out there. Somewhere somebody’s written something that I have to either share or take issue with!

A preacher of course relies upon her seminary learning, but must always keep reading. Many clergy, myself included, find it difficult to stay current with the latest research and commentary. Preachers always have to approach preaching with a humble spirit, confident that a successful sermon depends more upon what the Holy Spirit chooses to reveal to God’s people through the words of the sermon than on the sermon itself.

Vestry Vibes

Summary of the December 17 meeting:

Narcan—According the Vestry’s recommendation at the November meeting, the rector will speak to Harry Gamble at County Health to meet with the vestry and address concerns about keeping Narcan on the property in case of opioid overdose and training people to administer it. This will take place, God willing, after the first of the year.

Personnel Committee—A Personnel Committee consisting of vestry and non-vestry members was appointed to review compensation packages for the rector and payment levels for our other three employees: organist, secretary and custodian. In particular the rector’s housing allowance must be approved annually. In addition, the rector will be going on her husband’s insurance which should save the church considerable money. The Personnel Committee will have to determine whether or not to convert this savings into additional income for the rector, and if so, how much.

Vestry Offices—The vestry elected Karen Dalby and Fran Schoolcraft to share the duties of Senior Warden in 2018. Scott Duymich will continue as Junior Warden. Janine Reddy was elected Vestry Register and Tom Farnsworth will be asked to continue as Treasurer. According to Church Canon the treasurer does not have to be an elected member of the Vestry.

Budget Commmittee—Bob Luchetti, Jr., Jack Wheeler and Ron White volunteered to serve on the Budget Committee, which will meet after the first of the year with the treasurer once we are confident we have received most of the giving cards.

Education—The Rector asked Barb Hinkle to continue to serve as advisor for adult education even though her vestry term has ended.

Rector Absences—The rector will be gone January 7 to attend her grandson’s baptism and February 4 for vacation. The Rt. Rev. Ralph Dunkin has agreed to cover Sunday services as he has in the past.

Damage to the Lawn—Damage to the turf from the painter’s hydraulic lift was noted and will be brought to the attention of the Jr. Warden. Evidently the yardman has advised that if the ruts are not smoothed out before mowing season they may cause damage to his equipment.

Minutes were not available as there was no quorum at the last meeting to take any recordable action.

Financial Report was reviewed.

Ash Wednesday Services—The vestry continues to feel that having two services Ash Wednesday at noon and in the evening is advisable given that some people cannot come at night and some cannot come during the day. The rector will discuss the timing of the evening service with the organist.