This Christmas let’s be watching for God in all the places of our lives that we so often try to avoid. Because if there’s anything we learn from Jesus, it’s that God often surprises us by showing up in the most unlikely and unlovely places.
Whatever we face, we can say to the God of abundance: Thank you for all that you have given us, and for all that you have taken away.
Whenever we fail to weather the storms of our faith, God’s response is the gift of new life!
Join us for Holy Week services as we celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Nativity scenes rarely stop traffic. But that’s exactly what happened in Philadelphia —twice— this month.
Easter invites us into a raw, utterly personal encounter with the God of our faith. And here’s the interesting thing: our journey to Easter happens in the midst of our weekly routine.
Join us for Holy Week as we journey with Jesus from death to new life.
We just needed a do-over. Seriously. Last month Kendyll & I bought our tree after Thanksgiving and it didn’t work out. Within the first week pine needles were already coating the floor and the branches were getting brittle. It wasn’t long before we realized that our little tree wasn’t even going to last until Christmas. So this week we rushed out on our day off to replace it with a new tree before hosting a family gathering.
Sometimes we all just need a do-over. Maybe we’ve been surprised by the people or circumstances in our lives. Maybe we haven’t thought through our plans. Or maybe we’ve done everything that we were supposed to and we’re still left with a situation that seems to be crumbling before our eyes. We all face people or circumstances that are surprising, difficult, broken, or inconvenient. Sometimes we just need a do-over.
Christmas is the perfect time of year to consider new beginnings and fresh starts — but I’m not sure we can describe it as a do-over. If we learn anything from the great tapestry of Christian Scripture it’s this: God is more interested in joining our circumstances than replacing our circumstances. God joined Abraham & Sarah in the midst of their wandering. God joined Jacob in the midst of exile. God joined Joseph in the midst of imprisonment. God joined Israel in the midst of slavery. The story continues through famine, war, exile, homecoming…
Until we arrive at Christmas, when God joins us personally in Jesus. That’s the great message of the Incarnation: God doesn’t make a fresh start by replacing our surprising, difficult, broken, or inconvenient circumstances. God joins us, and then transforms our circumstances from within.
At Christmas, we’re invited to gather up all of the surprising or challenging circumstances of our lives. We’re invited to find a fresh start by allowing God to join us. We’re invited to let God continue — or begin — the lifelong journey of transforming our lives & communities from within. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus we’re invited to see where new life is already coming to birth around us. And then we’re invited to keep watching and listening, trusting that the divine birth we celebrate at Christmas is the same transforming love that comes to join us in every circumstance throughout the year.
The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas
Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24th at 7 pm: Evening Eucharist w/Candlelight
Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25th at 10 am: Festal Eucharist
New Year’s Day, Sunday, January 1st at 10 am: Service of Nine Lessons & Carols
Feast of Lights, Sunday, January 8th at 3 pm: Ecumenical Epiphany Service at Sacred Heart
It was a dream come true. That’s how a pumpkin farmer in Sharon, MA described his record-setting gourd at this year’s Topsfield Fair. Weighing in at 2,075 pounds, it was “the largest grown this year in North America and the second largest in the world.” That’s a big pumpkin! But it was no accident. Because this pumpkin farmer has spent the last 26 years growing massive gourds in his backyard. His winning entry was just one of five pumpkins that he’s been cultivating for six months, investing “three hours a day, seven days a week… feeding them fish, seaweed, kelp, molasses and composted cow manure.” He describes it as a passion, but it’s no “fair-weather sport.” After taking home this year’s prize he’ll spend the next several months rejuvenating the soil & getting ready for next year. He says: the season never really ends.
We could say the same thing about our stewardship at church. In many ways, last year was a record-setting entry for St. C’s. We received our highest pledging total ever and we had our lowest cash deficit in 15 years. We also received some record-setting gifts that allowed us to repair & beautify the property and to increase our accessibility. That’s a big year! But it was no accident. For every dream come true in parish life, there are dozens of investments in time, energy, money, and prayer.
This year we’re invited to continue cultivating the soil of our congregational life. Because not so different than a dedicated pumpkin farmer, our season of stewardship never really ends. We’re regularly invited to roll up our sleeves and to continue rejuvenating the soil of Christian faith, hope, and love. We’re blessed with parishioners who are passionate about following Jesus, but following Jesus has never been a fair-weather sport. Even when we’re blessed with soil that gives growth, we’re invited to focus more on God’s gifts & less on our own effort (1Cor. 3:5-7).
This year I invite you to use the enclosed Pledge Card to help us continue cultivating the soil of our Christian worship & witness. Regardless of the amount, please join us in offering your financial pledge. A full 70% of our annual budget is funded by voluntary donations and these cards represent our primary tool for planning our shared life of worship, education, fellowship, and service. Church stewardship is about prayerfully cultivating a community that grows to embody the life of Christ in the world. And when that happens, people might even look at this community and describe our faith, hope, and love as a dream come true.
The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas
On Sunday, November 13th, Vestry Warden Sean Carpenter gave a presentation about St. C's Stewardship, as we both celebrate the life at our parish and also highlight important areas for giving & service in the coming year.
Stewardship - Mr. Sean Carpenter
“Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward & learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.”
The words of St. John Chrysostom, the namesake of this parish is doing a great service to me today, by guiding my talk about money. I am truly grateful to be among you today and thank you for your attention as I address the needs of this worship community. I have had some opportunity to read up on John Chrysostom as I was intrigued by the bumble bee so often given out here….and have a certain kinship with some of his direct and delivery with a bit of an edge and attitude, something else you might have experienced over the last year.
It is an interesting time of year to be talking about stewardship. For the last year or so, we have heard the political campaigns rail on and on about the doom and gloom that we will experience IF or WHEN, or At SOME POINT. At every debate, the candidates were directing viewers to their websites to make a monetary contribution. Collectively, these campaigns spent over $2B to showcase their message of words with no action. This might trigger a word or two from our beloved St. C…”Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth, but theirs.” They celebrated publicly their fundraise hauls each month…where John Chrysostom might perhaps say…”Riches are not forbidden, but the pride of them is.”
I’d like to share with you, how we can spread our message of love and acceptance in the spirit of Christ on a budget of less than $150,000. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, the theme of the season is giving thanks for all that we have. It is a great time for charitable organizations and churches to get folks at the happiest time of year and make a specific ask, reach out and say…”As you are thankful, We are thankful for you as well…Now let’s settle our tab!”
We come to church for many reasons…Some to seek salvation, some to seek solace, some to seek shelter, some to seek peace. We may not think of the church and its teachings every moment of every day, but when we walk through the doors, we are reminded of the wonderful feeling of filling our spiritual desires of truth and happiness. We are lucky to come through these doors. We are grounded by fantastic leadership, wonderful friendships and a true burning desire by many to love and be helpful. We have warmth of heat in the winter, and the cooling of fans in the summer, and the phenomenal MUSIC. The smell of brewing coffee keeps our senses alive as we regularly walk through these doors to receive the familiar sights and sounds and as we learn of the biblical journeys, it may even trigger a want to do more. We, through these teachings of Christ, fill those spiritual needs by smiling at sad eyes, shaking the hands of someone new, welcoming a new family, or lifting up those who make mistakes.
In a recent conversation I had, I mentioned how thankful to God I was for making mistakes. The gifts I have received as a result of my poor decisions in life had led me to a deep spiritual need for forgiveness. Because of those mistakes, I found a fellowship that understands my transgressions. And that fellowship led me to a God of my understanding. A god that I can commiserate with on a regular basis. That journey of my life is assisted and encourage by the faith community here at St. Chrysostom Church.
That was not always the case in my journey. As many of you know, if the doors at St. Chrysostoms were not open for our property sharing partners in the 12 step groups, I may never have made that journey upstairs. And the day I did, the overwhelming sense of YOU ARE WELCOME created a deep sense of happiness in me. What a wonderful feeling. But, we need to do more.
A few weeks ago, Fr. Eric dropped downstairs at one of the 12 step groups …………….Actually he was there to support me as I celebrated three continuous years of sobriety. At the end of the meeting, after the Lord’s prayer, a gentlemen walked up to Eric and said…”You may not remember me father, but I met you at Phoenix House…and their conversation continued. What AN IMPACT. But is that enough?
After the first of the year, as many of you know, we will experience a bit of a baby boom here at St. C’s. At least 3 new children will echo among the choir with their coos and crying, laughs and scrambles. The instant smile that a baby brings to so many is worth sharing.
The serious and mundane side of this is that in order to keep these doors open, enjoy the music, create an impact on the community, we need to raise money.
SO if you go to stcquincy.com right now and make a $3 contribution, your life will change! No..
We survive on pledges. It’s a simple formula. The budget is based on the expenses that we have to create an impact in the community so that we can reach out and welcome new people. We have great abundance here in St. C in asset and spirituality. But we will face a significant deficit in 2017. We will not close in 2017, nor 18, nor 19. But the hard conversations of finance will consume the vestry for the next 24 months. That conversation becomes easier by our ability to understand what our community can pledge. The balance will come from either the endowment, or from our ability to create MORE IMPACT and OUTREACH to welcome others to join and celebrate in this very well hidden secret community.
We don’t need to be a secret. We have done great work, and we can do more! Not everyone who walks through the door will translate to a pledge card, but our outreach to help and understand will bring a new sense of light and purpose of this community for this community!
It doesn’t need to be an evangelical sales pitch either…Just share our commitment to community!
Celebrate our leadership here at the church and our parishioners who serve at the diocesan level
Celebrate our Prayerfulness
Celebrate our Music and our Choir that is second to none!
Celebrate our beautiful church grounds and assets that we share!
Celebrate our work with New Americans in our Asian outreach programs
Celebrate our work with young theologians discerning
Celebrate our work with inner city youth in supporting their summer camps
Celebrate our work with those in recovery battling death as a result addiction!
Celebrate our work with the poor through Interfaith Social Services and our incredible outreach through the Thrift Shop!
We have a lot to share, and once people realize what we offer, we have a lot more to share!
To leave you with more from John C.
"If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice."
EASTER LETTER 2016
Sometimes I stare at the board and I just can’t make any sense of it. It happens when I’m playing Scrabble. Kendyll & I enjoy sitting down for a board game on our day off. We like Scrabble but sometimes the letters just don’t line up; they don’t make any sense. If you’ve ever played the game, you know what I’m talking about. You either have too many consonants, or too many vowels. It can even be tragic if you have all the letters for a great word but there’s nowhere on the board for you to play. When all else fails, I find myself staring at the board and I just can’t make any sense of it.
There’s something like that about Easter. Because Easter answered a question about Jesus that nobody could figure out. Up until Easter, everyone had been staring at Jesus and wondering how to make any sense of him. Was he a prophet? Was he a teacher? Was he a public revolutionary or a religious reformer? They didn’t know where to line him up. It wasn’t until Easter that Jesus’ followers began to figure him out.
Here’s what they discovered: Easter exceeds our greatest hopes and it dispels our greatest fears. Up until Easter, all of the great “hopes” that people had for Jesus were actually too small. Whether they were hoping for a revolutionary or a teacher, they were just lining him up to beat the competition or to help them win a debate. Up until Easter, all of the great “fears” that people had about Jesus were actually too narrow. Whether they were afraid that he would threaten their power or disturb their way of life, they were just protecting creature comforts or trying to save face. Easter upended all of those hopes and fears.
At Easter they realized that following Jesus was about witnessing to God’s love, instead of beating the competition. It was about participating in God’s life, instead of protecting their own lives. At Easter the followers of Jesus were freed to love without limit - even if it meant suffering on a cross. Because thanks to the Resurrection, none of their love or their suffering would ever be wasted or lost. That’s our invitation at Easter too. We’re invited to let the Resurrection overturn our other attempts to make sense of Jesus. We’re invited to see the Resurrection as God’s invitation to love without limit and to share abundant life. We’re invited to let the Resurrection exceed our greatest hopes and dispel our greatest fears.
Please join us for Holy Week and Easter this year.
The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas
Maundy Thursday, March 24th at 7pm: Foot Washing with Eucharist
Good Friday, March 25th at 6pm: Stations, 7pm: String Quartet, 8pm: Passion Liturgy
Holy Saturday, March 26th at 7pm: Easter Vigil with Baptism
Easter Sunday, March 27th at 10am: Holy Eucharist with Light Lunch
Holy Week services begin with our Palm Sunday procession on March 20th.
Come celebrate the last day before Lent with St. C's traditional Pancake Supper. Join us this Tuesday, February 9th at 6:00 PM as we wrap up Epiphany & roll into Lent!
The Imposition of Ashes will be offered this Wednesday, February 10th at the following services:
- 8:30 AM Morning Eucharist
- 12:30 PM Noonday Prayer Service
- 7:00 PM Evening Eucharist.
On Sunday, September 15th, Vestry Member Sean Carpenter continued our 2015 Stewardship Conversation as we celebrate the growing life at our parish and also highlight important areas for giving & service in the coming year. The full text of Mr. Carpenter's presentation is included below.
Stewardship - Sean Carpenter
"Christ makes a way for us where there is no way, so we walk confidently into God's future with our hearts & bodies washed in the water of baptism."
These words from our summary of today’s readings ring such truth in my life. It’s funny that as a kid, at times, I thought I would become a Catholic priest. As the youngest of 8, my family occupied the entire 2nd row at St. Joseph’s Church. My mother thought it best that if we mis-behaved, the priest would see us and we would have to answer to him! I guess that means that I always wanted to be the one that I feared! However, I think this may be the only time in my life that I have been invited to speak from the pulpit.
Years later, I would stray away from church and eventually discount religion, spirituality and faith. And the words of a hymn I remember well summarize my return:
I, the Lord of Sea and Sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in Dark and Sin
My Hand Will Save
As I stand in this sanctuary I need to reflect back on my journey that brought me over the parish Threshold in April 2014. In fact it was April 13, the anniversary of my father’s passing, and I was in a new stage of my life , seeking some sort of spiritual connection. At 10A.M. I crossed the parish Threshold for the Eucharist service. And as I did, the entire congregation lined up behind Fr. Eric and left the church. I have such a great ego, I assumed it was me. Turns out, it was just Palm Sunday and the congregation was processing. (As I told Eric as we sat at Diocesan Convention yesterday…I do believe that God has a sense of humor!)
In all reality, there was a sense of warmth that came over me as I sat down in the back row ….where all the newcomers are triaged. As I sat in quiet meditation, I felt right, I felt good and I didn’t fall asleep during the sermon. Although this was the first time I came into the worship space of the church, It was Not my first time at St. C’s. In fact, my introduction to St. Chrysostom was through the meetings that take place regularly downstairs. Those meetings have helped to direct my thinking away from a drink or a drug for just over 2 years. Again a saying comes to mind:
God saw fit to bring me to my recovery
My recovery brought me closer to a God of my understanding.
My journey of recovery may someday become an anecdote in my life’s story, but I can’t help but think of the impact that St. Chrysostom’s parish has had on my family. A month after I walked through these doors, God graced Lisa and me with Samuel James. (The name Samuel is Hebrew, meaning “gift from God!"). What a wonderful gift we received. We were also able to provide Sammy a gift from birth; a sanctuary, a safe place. A place of worship. A sanctuary, if you will, of God’s grace.
Just as Lisa and I were received a month earlier, Sammy was received immediately with love and excitement. The happiness that he brings to us as a family, and to so many of you each Sunday, is truly a great Gift from God. This journey continues to brighten my once dimmed understanding of faith. The hand of God saving me from my own failures through pushing me through our parish Threshold.
SO what if our parish Threshold did not exist?
Although I have not experienced firsthand some of the dark financial history of this parish, it is clear from previous reports that this sanctuary, too, was saved by the hand of God. And the work to maintain our existence continues each day.
Over the last year, as a vestry member, I have enjoyed a front row seat to some major capital projects in this building. Visionary projects that assume a long term viability of the parish. We have done much without breaking the bank. We have utilized donor funds efficiently, effectively and frugally to maximize the return to the parish and to protect this sanctuary.
We have enjoyed a growth in attendance that makes that vision very real. But, when you see the financials next week when Fr. Eric opens the checkbook, you will see what I have seen: we have not arrived yet.
I can imagine what my life would look like if our parish Threshold didn’t exist. I may have tried to go somewhere else, or maybe not. The experience of community, the abundance of happiness filled with the joy from the incredible music that echoes through this space, would fall to silence.
We need this sanctuary…I need this sanctuary. We need this safe place to remind us that we are fallible, to provide us a spiritual presence and to ground us in our faith. I am eternally grateful for the gifts I have received from this community of faith. And as such, after thoughtful prayer I will pledge to support this community in any way I can, spiritually, professionally, and financially.
On Sunday, November 8th, St. C Warden Eleanor Fox kicked off our Stewardship conversation for 2015. The conversation continues on November 15th & 22nd as we celebrate the growing life at our parish and also highlight important areas for giving & service in the coming year. The full text of Ms. Fox's presentation is included below.
Stewardship – Eleanor Fox
For those of you who might be keeping track, this is the third time I’ve spoken about stewardship at St. Chrysostom’s. The first two times, the inspiration for my talks flowed freely. This time, inspiration has been elusive. I scrapped several ideas that seemed really good in theory but that simply fell apart when I started to write. I finally found some inspiration not in places where I might typically look, like the Bible or the Prayer Book. Instead, I found some inspiration in the dictionary when I looked up the word "stewardship."
The dictionary defines stewardship as the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving. For such a hum-drum, low-tech tool, the dictionary says a mouthful. Responsible. Protect. Care. Preserve. And just like the dictionary, stewardship is accessible to everyone.
Stewardship is something that takes place week in and week out, made up of gifts large and small, visible and invisible; gifts of, in stewardship-speak, time and talent and treasure. Gifts offered freely and joyfully. Gifts accepted gratefully. We practice stewardship by signing up to bring food for coffee hour. Volunteering in the thrift shop. Painting the fence. Maintaining the grounds. Reading a lesson. Singing in the choir. Putting an offering in the plate. Making an annual pledge.
Thanks to an immeasurably generous display of stewardship, we were able to undertake not one but two major projects this year: the restoration of the exterior of the church, including a large swatch of the façade and roof; work which not only helped to return the building to its former beauty but also protected it from further damage. And then we installed a lift, for the first time making the building accessible to every one of us. These gifts – not only on the part of the donor but also on the part of parishioners who devoted significant time to ensure their success – have transformed our church.
Stewardship in action, accessible to us all.
In 2015, we collectively pledged $118,000 to St. Chrysostom’s, an amount that exceeded our goal of $115,000. The last five years have seen a marvelous upward trajectory in pledges, evidence of our shared desire to preserve and care for this place. Despite this upward direction in pledges, though, St. Chrysostom’s remains a deficit operation. This year, we will draw on our reserve funds to the tune of about $20,000. Granted, this is a huge improvement over the $100,000-plus deficit we had just five years ago but nonetheless we are still in the red; our total expenses exceed our total income. We can sustain this for now but not forever. In order close the gap we must continue the upward trend by increasing not only the total amount of money pledged but also the total number of parishioners who make a pledge.
On a Saturday morning in July, the vestry gathered for a half-day retreat. During a discussion about some of the very positive things that have happened at St. Chrysostom’s over the last year, one vestry member said that we need to start thinking of St. Chrysostom’s not as an institution on the brink of failure but rather as an institution on the brink of great success. I think everyone in the room sat up a little straighter at that moment. I know I did and I hope you will, too, because St. Chrysostom’s is a great success story, a story that at its core is very the definition of stewardship. Responsible, protect, care, preserve. Stewardship in action, accessible to us all.
Halleluiah and amen.
Join us on Sunday, September 13th for Homecoming Sunday with the celebration of the Feast of St. Chrysostom. Our service will also include a special thanks to our Music Director, Thomas Bowers, who recently accepted a new position at a church in Alabama.
Click on the following link to download a copy of our Fall Calendar.
Please join us!
All Sunday worship & activities are canceled for Feb. 15th, 2015