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.

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AuthorEric Hillegas

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. 

Sincerely,
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 

Posted
AuthorEric Hillegas

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.   

Sincerely,

Eric+

The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas

Posted
AuthorEric 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."

Posted
AuthorEric Hillegas