Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Visit from Saint Nicholas ~ Clement Clarke Moore

A Visit from Saint Nicholas
Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

The Nativity by GK Chesterton (1874–1936)

The Nativity
“For unto us a child is born.” — Isaiah
The thatch of the roof was as golden,
Though dusty the straw was and old,
The wind was a peal as of trumpets,
Though barren and blowing and cold:
The mother’s hair was a glory,
Though loosened and torn,
For under the eaves in the gloaming —
A child was born.
O, if a man sought a sign in the inmost
That God shaketh broadest his best,
That things fairest are oldest and simplest,
In the first days created and blest:
Far flush all the tufts of the clover,
Thick mellows the corn,
A cloud shapes, a daisy is opened —
A child is born.
With raw mists of the earth-rise about them,
Risen red from the ribs of the earth,
Wild and huddled, the man and the woman,
Bent dumb o’er the earliest birth;
Ere the first roof was hammered above them.
The first skin was worn,
Before code, before creed, before conscience —
A child was born.
What know we of aeons behind us,
Dim dynasties lost long ago,
Huge empires like dreams unremembered,
Dread epics of glory and woe?
This we know, that with blight and with blessing,
With flower and with thorn,
Love was there, and his cry was among them —
“A child is born.”
And to us, though we pore and unravel
Black dogmas that crush us and mar,
Through parched lips pessimistic dare mutter
Hoarse fates of a frost-bitten star;
Though coarse strains and heredities soil it,
Bleak reasoners scorn,
To us too, as of old, to us also —
A child is born.
Though the darkness be noisy with systems,
Dark fancies that fret and disprove;
Still the plumes stir around us, above us,
The tings of the shadow of love.
Still the fountains of life are unbroken,
Their splendour unshorn;
The secret, the symbol, the promise —
A child is born.
Have a myriad children been quickened,
Have a myriad children grown old,
Grown gross and unloved and embittered,
Grown cunning and savage and cold?
God abides in a terrible patience,
Unangered, unworn,
And again for the child that was squandered —
A child is born.
In the time of dead things it is living,
In the moonless grey night is a gleam,
Still the babe that is quickened may conquer,
The life that is new may redeem.
Ho, princes and priests, have you heard it?
Grow pale through your scorn.
Huge dawns sleep before us, stern changes —
A child is born.
More than legions that toss and that trample,
More than choirs that bend Godward and sing,
Than the blast of the lips of the prophet,
Than the sword in the hands of the King,
More strong against Evil than judges
That smite and that scorn,
The greatest, the last, and the sternest —
A child is born.
And the rafters of toil still are gilded
With the dawn of the star of the heart,
And the Wise Men draw near in the twilight,
Who are weary of learning and art,
And the face of the tyrant is darkened,
His spirit is torn,
For a new King is throned of a nation —
A child is born.
And the mother still joys for the whispered
First stir of unspeakable things;
Still feels that high moment unfurling,
Red glories of Gabriel’s wings.
Still the babe of an hour is a master
Whom angels adorn,
Emmanuel, prophet, annointed —
A child is born.
To the rusty barred doors of the hungry,
To the struggle for life and the din,
Still, with brush of bright plumes and with knocking,
The Kingdom of God enters in.
To the daughters of patience that labour
That weep and are worn,
One moment of love and of laughter —
A child is born.
To the last dizzy circles of pleasure,
Of fashion and song-swimming nights,
Comes yet hope’s obscure crucifixion,
The birth fire that quickens and bites,
To the daughters of fame that are idle,
That smile and that scorn,
One moment of darkness and travail —
A child is born.
And till man and his riddle be answered,
While earth shall remain and desire,
While the flesh of a man is as grass is,
The soul of a man as a fire,
While the daybreak shall come with its banner,
The moon with its horn,
It shall rest with us that which is written —
“A child is born.”
And for him that shall dream that the martyr
Is banished, and love but a toy,
That life lives not through pain and surrender,
Living only through self and its joy,
Shall the Lord God erase from the body
The oath he has sworn?
Bend back to thy work, saying only —
“A child is born.”
And Thou that art still in the cradle,
The sun being crown for Thy brow,
Make answer, our flesh, make an answer.
Say whence art Thou come? Who art Thou?
Art Thou come back on earth for our teaching,
To train or to warn?
Hush! How may we know, knowing only —
A child is born?
GK Chesterton (1874–1936)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas Services

We will have Christmas services at St. Mary's on December 24th at 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm 
and on December 25th at 10:00 am

Merry Christmas!
Join us! 

Friday, December 13, 2019

The content of Christ’s Eucharist is love

“The Church, if it is to be the Church, must be the revelation
of that divine Love which God  'poured out into our hearts.' 
Without this love nothing is 'valid' in the Church
because nothing is possible. The content of Christ’s Eucharist is love,
 and only through love can we enter into it and be made its partakers.”

― Alexander Schmemann

Thursday, November 28, 2019


The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Advent Calendar, by Rowan Williams

Advent Calendar
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
Rowan Williams, was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019

St. Nicholas visited St. Mary's yesterday

St. Nicholas visited St. Mary's yesterday and nickels were collected for the children of the Diocese of Jerusalem!

A wonderful occasion!

St. Nicholas (another of our wonderful children) will join us again next Sunday!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Nickels for St. Nicholas!

For the next three Sundays, our children will collect nickels from our congregation which will then be sent to the children of the Diocese of Jerusalem.  Please join us on Sunday, and bring your nickels!

"St. Nicholas" will be here among us, and we will hear the story of St Nicholas, and at the offertory, the children will ring the bell and collect nickels.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The highest gift

A billion times God has turned man
Into Himself
You stand in line for the
Highest gift
For his generosity cannot end.
But best to bring an instrument along
While waiting in the cold desert
And make some dulcet sounds
To accompany the palms’ swaying arms
That are casting silhouettes
Against the sky’s curtain
From our fire
Remind the Friend of your desire
And great patience.
A billion times God has turned man
Back into Herself.
We all stand in line
For the highest
–Hafiz, The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Feast of All Saints

Collect of the Day: The Feast of All Saints

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Friday, November 1, 2019

All Saints Day

For all the saints

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who to the world their steadfast faith confessed,
your name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

You were their rock, their refuge, and their might:
you, Christ, the hope that put their fears to flight;
'mid gloom and doubt, you were their one true light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Still may your people, faithful, true, and bold,
live as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and share with them a glorious crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Ringed by this cloud of witnesses divine,
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet in your love our faithful lives entwine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
then hearts are brave again, and faith grows strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Tune: Sine Nomine
Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

God's unwielding love

“God’s unwieldy love, which cannot be contained by our words, wants to accept all that we are—nothing of our humanity is to be discarded. No part of our hardwiring or our messy selves is to be disparaged. Where we stand, in all our mistakes and imperfection, is holy ground. It is where God has chosen to be intimate with us, and not in any way other than this.  [Our] moment of truth isn’t in recognizing what a disappointment [we] have been all these years. It comes in realizing that God has been beholding [us] for all this time, unable to look anywhere else.”
–Gregory Doyle, Tattoos on the Heart

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Kneeling, by R.S. Thomas

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar

Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun's light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

R.S. Thomas (1913–2000)

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Bishop's Budget Message

The following is also available on our web site and will be in next issue of Caminos, the diocesan magazine, as well as in the Diocesan Convention materials.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:1-7)

As I begin my fourth year serving you as Bishop, I write this introduction with great hope. We are at the point in our common life when we are prepared to take those bold steps to proclaim the Good News. The world desperately needs the promise and love of Jesus Christ. As disciples in the 21st Century we are prepared to move forward with faith and courage. Now is the time to live fearlessly in Jesus. 

Over the past three years, together we have done the hard and important work of preparation and formation. In a world of increasing secularism and separation, our time is now. We can no longer live as though this beautiful diocese is receding into the shadows of irrelevance. We can no longer plan for a church suited for 1950; our ministry is to prepare for 2050 and beyond. The world needs us, and we need to be part of the world. Our diocese matters. We matter to southeast Pennsylvania, we matter to The Episcopal Church and we matter to the world at large. Working together we are making a difference in the name of Jesus Christ. 
I have the blessed opportunity to be with you 3-4 times a week. At each visitation, I see and hear your desire to live into our true calling. All our churches, whether small or large, work to spread the Gospel. With each liturgy, outreach, confirmation, hospital visitation, common interaction, we are showing the face of Christ. And your efforts are providing a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. I am always inspired to see your ministry to our community, where prayers are turned into reality. 
You show tireless Christian love in action. This reflects our convention theme, “The Year of Living Fearlessly in Christ.” We chose this theme because of your witness. It is evident that we are ready. Ready to try, to fail, get up and try again. All because of our belief in the power of Jesus Christ. 

Together, we are meeting the world as a church. 
Your Office of the Diocese will not be a distant entity far removed from your daily journey. We are committed to live incarnationally with you and the community. In the last year, we strengthened and re-envisioned new life and possibility at previously closed churches like St. Jude and the Nativity, Church of the Crucifixion, St. Stephen’s Philadelphia and St. John’s Norristown and worked hard assisting parishes in making critical decisions which allow them to continue their life of worship and service; recruited 6 priests from outside the diocese and ordained
11 new priests and deacons towards the overall goal of recruiting 60 deacons in five years; added 8 parish wellness centers with the goal of adding more; opened the nation’s first program for female veterans living with moral injury and offered trainings in the use of Narcan and mental health first aide; created a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to address impoverished children; led more than 18 churches through the work of envisioning, offering assistance with marketing, providing demographic data; and disbursed $300,000 in direct financial support to our parishes through the Growth Development Fund.  
Yet there is still so much to do. This is especially true when it comes to our commitment to address poverty in the world. Jesus tells us that our very salvation depends upon how we respond to those in need (Matt 25:31-40). Philadelphia has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. It also has the highest number of children in poverty. Christ echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah when he proclaims freedom to those who are held captive (Luke 4:18). We have to remember that poverty is not only an economic condition; there are sisters and brothers who are experiencing spiritual, physical, and mental poverty. Together we must work not simply to feed or clothe them for a day, but to help break the chains which hold them for all time.  
This brings us to the 2020 budget itself. Budgets tell a story. They speak of who we are. They tell of our aspirations and where we hope to go. They can even hide secrets. In short, the budget of this diocese tells the world who we are. 

So, what does this 2020 budget say about The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania? When I look at these numbers, I see four threads that weave throughout. It is a story that speaks of: 1) meeting the challenges we face with courage and hope, 2) deepening our trust with one another 3) grounding ourselves as a community formed in Christ 4) the willingness of a faithful diocese to move forward in hope spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

We began 2019 facing the obstacle of projected deficit totaling $873,000. This was troubling for many people across our diocese and for me personally. Yet there was no clear answer. We wanted to continue to support our churches but at the same time needed our churches to increase their giving to support our diocese. In much the same way, the deficit was a result of transparency. Over the past three years, we have aligned all previously existing budgets and demonstrated what it actually costs to run a diocese For the previous three years we had frozen assessments and dramatically increased direct support of parishes, missions and ministries. I was not willing to let us go backwards and undermine the seeds of growth that are sprouting across our diocese.
Yet at the same time we heard the concerns you voiced at the budget and preconvention meetings last year. The deficit was an obstacle which was impairing our capacity to move forward as a single body. We had to find a solution.
This brings us to trust. Immediately following Convention 2018, diocesan leadership went to work.  There were seven sacred conversations in the spring of this year during which we listened to your concerns and suggestions. We heard you when some of you said that the deficit made it harder for you to increase your commitment and support of our diocese. We listened as some expressed fear of declining membership and giving. We integrated your suggestions into the evolving budget. We heard of your willingness to go forth into the world and support our mission in southeast Pennsylvania and the world. We took your words to heart. 
As a result, we once again approached the 2020 budget ready to continue our commitment towards mission, accountability and transparency and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. We were firm in the resolve to discard anything that detracts from addressing the pain and poverty of the world, the support of our churches and that proclamation is Jesus Christ. After prayer and hard work, we:  
When we were done, we were left with a surplus of $2,000. While some of those cuts were costly, it was worth it for to the sense of community that this budget has helped engender. This reflects my commitment that we cannot simply play at being “church.” We must be the Church. 

We are not a social club based on a religious ideal. Neither are we a social service organization, or a political entity.  We are the Church centered in Jesus Christ. All our words, actions and life must be formed and centered in Christ. Christ, in every breath, word, thought and action. Christ should be holy encounter after holy encounter. If we do not proclaim Jesus Christ, we should not exist. 

We are also called to build up the Body of Christ known as the diocese. We have turned the proverbial pyramid on its head. We are out with you at your churches and in your communities. I am working to hold office hours, worship or participate in service at our churches on a weekly basis and the canons are out with you every day. We do so in order to strengthen our common bonds. We laugh, cry, rejoice, mourn and support one another in our life together. We are not 134 individual congregations; we are 134 churches. We are one diocese, one people, one church. 

This brings us to the final part of the story. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, as Christians we are one body united by the bonds of baptism. In our diocese our collective sense of mission and vision is growing stronger day by day. It is reflected in your increased engagement and support. Moving forward we will be asking churches and vestries to gradually increase their support of our collective diocesan budget. Stewardship is essential to our identity and mission. Giving is an act and extension of our worship that continues throughout the week. Your sacred gifts reverberate throughout our diocese.

As you may already know, the average parish support of our diocese is far below the norm. Across The Episcopal Church the average giving to the diocese is 13% of the church’s normal operating income. In our diocese, it is 5.9%. For 2020, we are asking our parishes to take a first small step towards increasing their support towards an ultimate goal of 10%. Some parishes are already giving at this level. Some are close. Others have some work to do. But as one body sharing one spirit we must all share equally in our common life and work. For 2020 we have asked only for a very modest step forward in your support of .02%. We will continue to have open and honest conversations about the best way to get there and I look forward to sharing in this work with you.  

When I look at the story told by our budget, I am enormously proud of all that we have accomplished together. Yet there was concern left unresolved, namely our support of The Episcopal Church. How could we demonstrate our responsibility to one another and build trust with our churches, and neglect to do the same as part of a wider church community? 

As one of the richest dioceses in The Episcopal Church, we could no longer in good conscience continue asking for a waiver from our obligation as the dioceses of Haiti, Honduras and Mississippi are forced to do. The Diocese of Pennsylvania has not met our full obligation to The Episcopal Church since 2007. This is not who we are. So, we went back to you, to the diocese with a proposal to meet our full obligation, not in five years or even three years but now. What we found was overwhelming support culminating in a unanimous vote from the Diocesan Council.  This decision was made easier, because our endowment has enjoyed consistent and steady growth, which has continued through this year.

I understand that some may wonder why it is important for us to meet our obligation to the wider Church.  We all appreciate the importance of full participation in our relationships, but how is it helping? Right now, The Episcopal Church is partnering with us on many initiatives which support our mission to Know Jesus and Change the World. They are supporting new and innovative forms of ministry, providing resources for evangelism and racial reconciliation, and advocating for refugees, the poor and for the environment. We must re-claim our rightful place as full participants in this larger story. 
I hope that as you read through these numbers that you too will find threads that weave together a story of hope and possibility. It speaks of people and churches that refuse to give up or give in; about vestries and clergy who believe in the promise of the Gospel and who will do whatever it takes to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ to a broken and hurting world. 

This budget takes those bold steps into our collective future. We will still face our challenges. But Jesus repeatedly told his disciples to “be not afraid.” Further, he assures us that he will be “with us always.” Let us move forward fearlessly with this knowing. Let us be innovative, faithful, loving and willing to lead, not just here in southeastern Pennsylvania but across the Episcopal Church. We can do this; we will do this. Let us move deeper in prayer, holiness, discipleship as one people united in Jesus Christ. Let us step forward fearlessly in the knowing that Christ is with us till the end of time.

Our story is still emerging. I am blessed to walk this holy pilgrimage with you as fellow sojourner and your servant.  

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. GutiƩrrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
Know Jesus. Change the World.
Connect with us on social media
Facebook ‌ Twitter ‌ Instagram ‌ YouTube ‌