Jeremiad: noun \ˌjer-ə-ˈmī-əd, -ˌad\ a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue. From ‘Jeremiah’ the Hebrew 6th c. B.C.E. prophet who foresaw the destruction of the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians, who seized Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. and took many of the inhabitants into exile in Babylonia. Jeremiah was eloquent but ultimately ineffective in warning the people that the coming destruction was not an act of God, but the consequence of their own actions.
Blogging-Thomas has been quiet for almost a year. The lack of complaints about this has been humbling, but then humility is less and less of a stranger the older I get. Today’s Navy Yard massacre in Washington, DC, where I live, was the last straw. I’m writing for the sake of my own soul, as perhaps Jeremiah realized at times he was doing as well.
This won’t be as long as a proclamation by Jeremiah, and the only eloquence about it will be a brief quotation from his biblical writings. If you want something eloquent about Jeremiah and in his style, listen to my spouse’s sermon yesterday from St. Thomas’ Parish here in Washington. This post won’t be that good. But I’m going to finish it anyway.
The Hebrew Scripture lesson yesterday was from the fourth chapter of Jeremiah’s writing. And it used words that, as was said in yesterday’s sermon, we always assume are being said about somebody else, not us: “My people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.”
Now I don’t know yet anything whatsoever about who did this shooting (one shooter is dead and two more are still at large). They are perpetrators of evil actions. I have no compunction saying that.
But if God showed up in person for the evening news and asked: Now didn’t something like this happen back in Ft. Hood, TX? How did those folks die? We’d say, guns. And the 6 a little later in Tucson, AZ? Guns. And the 12 at the theater in Aurora, CO? Guns! The 6 at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI? More guns!! And those 23 precious children in their own school Newtown, CT? Guns, too, ok?!?!!! And the dozen who’ve died thus far in Washington, DC, today? GUNS!!!!!
And then I imagine God asking simply: And so what did you do after Ft. Hood? And we’d have to say, nothing! Tucson? Nothing! Aurora? Nothing. Oak Creek? Nothing! Newtown? NOTHING. And what do you plan to do tomorrow? IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH, I IMAGINE WE’LL DO NOTHING ONCE AGAIN!!
And Jeremiah the TV Commentator signs off by reporting God’s parting words: “My people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” Thank you Jeremiah. I know I couldn’t have said it that well myself.
Jeremiah could have dissected the Babylonian captors ad nauseam, and they probably weren’t very nice people. But his point was that the real problem was a society that has lost it’s way, and was destroying itself by glorifying, indeed deifying, power and violence and injustice.
For Jeremiah and Judah, there was no happy ending. Their kingdom fell. For us, maybe there’s hope. Maybe our national response to gun-violence one day won’t be “don’t do something, just stand there!” For we will never get all the crazy, angry, bitter, violent people off the street or out of our lives or world. But we’ve got to find a way to take the guns out of their hands. Let’s help one another to quit just standing there, and this time do something!
“Theories and Theologies of Space and Time.”
December 2, 9, 16, and 23 — from 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. in the Guild Room.
- Ever wondered what we really mean by claiming that God, the creator of the cosmos, entered into our world in the baby Jesus?
- Can the physicist’s world of black holes, Higgs boson particles, and the “space-time continuum” tell us anything about a creation that waits with eager longing for what God has yet to reveal?
Bishop Gene Robinson – Guest Preacher This Sunday
We welcome once again Bishop Gene Robinson to St. Thomas’ Parish.
Invite a friend (or two!) to come and worship with us.
There is always room at God’s table!No comments
I am writing in response to Matt Jarvis’ final blog post at Creating Sanctuary, “What’s Past is Prologue.” First, I want to thank Matt for always giving us as our architect more than we imagined we had asked of him. His design for a new worship space for St. Thomas’ Parish still inspires us, and his thoughtfulness in helping us move through a long process of exploration and decision has never flagged.
“What’s past is prologue” – and that means it’s not done yet. In recent months, we have had to admit that our original plan to build a standalone worship space that we could pay for entirely without indebting the congregation in the future – a space that could sustain itself solely on the normal yearly income of a small urban Christian congregation – is no longer feasible, given the realities of the devastating financial crash of 2008 and the continued slowness of the economic recovery worldwide.
Yet the “prologue” has already begun for what is next to come. We have realized that despite our successes in fund-raising thus far, including almost $1M from within the congregation itself, we have not been thinking broadly enough. We have been sitting, literally, on our greatest asset without putting it into play – the quite valuable piece of real estate on the corner of Church and 18th Streets NW.
Growth is always change, and as we have grown in our understanding of our total assets, we have had to change our plans for being the best stewards of them. And so we are now looking at a different way to fund the new space that is needed to house the work of St. Thomas’ Parish.
What has changed is that we have come to understand that the way forward to build a new sanctuary must be part of a comprehensive plan that includes the redevelopment of the church’s existing facilities, as well as the best use of all of the land on which St. Thomas’ Parish is located. The outcome may well be to build the exact design that Matt Jarvis developed for us, but now funded as part of a broader, multi-use project on our corner in Dupont Circle.
There is still work to do. Growth and change are like that – always part challenge as well as part celebration.
It’s been said that “the happy ending cannot happen in the middle of the story.” So stay tuned, because this story isn’t done. God isn’t finished with us yet.1 comment
October 25, 2012
My dear St. Thomas’ brothers and sisters,
I am writing to say how excited I am to be joining you at St. Thomas’ early in the new year. I recently put a deposit down on a DC apartment — within walking distance of St. Thomas, of course! I will be in Washington roughly half-time beginning in February. But my heart will be FULL time at St. Thomas! Nancy Lee and your parish leadership and I have begun to talk about my involvement at St. Thomas’, including possibly preaching once a month. Whatever that involvement turns out to be, I will count it a blessing to be among you!
As for the plan to build a new church, I am very encouraged and excited about the upcoming meeting with Michael Foster’s development group , exploring strategies to build our beautiful sanctuary and develop the existing property. I am so excited about this, I have canceled scheduled commitments in order to be in DC November 16-17 to be a part of these discussions. After all, it’s not just YOUR future — it’s MINE too!
Let me say again that the thought of being with all of you in the new year is so very exciting — and that knowledge is easing the pain of leaving the diocese I so love. Together, all of us at St. Thomas will march boldly into our future, trusting that God will be with us every step of the way. See you in church on November 18th!
Bishop Gene Robinson
Note from editor: See http://www.blogging-thomas.org/?p=860 for full information about St. Thomas’ partnership with MFTA Architects.No comments
NOVEMBER 16-17, 2012
At the September 23rd parish meeting the Rector and Vestry announced plans to pursue partnering with a developer to reimagine the future not just of our sanctuary, but our whole site on the corner of Church and 18th Sts NW. We have now retained the services of Michael Foster, with MTFA Architects , to work with our parish over the next four months to determine ways to pursue that goal.
The first step in our work with MFTA will be a formal Visioning Process on Friday and Saturday, November 16-17.
We have shared with them all of our documentation as it relates to our discernment process, building design process and visioning exercises that have been done.
The consultant has requested to meet with approximately 20 members (Ambassadors) of our parish which represents a true cross section of the congregation. Within this cross section we would hope to have representation from youth, elderly, family, singles, clergy, vestry member, major committee member, building committee member, maintenance, administration, teachers, flower guild, choir, missions, finance, fellowship, new member, old member, etc. We encourage you to consider volunteering to serve in this effort. Some of you may be personally asked to participate in order to make sure there is diversity and broad cross-section representation.
Those who will be participating as Ambassadors will need to be available on Friday, November 16 from 6 pm until 9:30 pm and again on Saturday, November 17 from 9 am until noon. On Friday, we will start with an informal light meal together, and will provide a light breakfast for Saturday morning.
According to MFTA: “The Ambassador’s Visioning Workshop is a consensus building workshop aimed at understanding the church’s values, goals, program and vision. There is considerable planning that MTFA will do ahead of the workshop to understand the information that is already available and to analyze the potential of a site. We realize, for instance, that St. Thomas’ Parish has already gone through discernment exercises and even have plans for a new sanctuary. We are carefully reviewing the related data to determine what information is missing and what needs to be confirmed.”
- On the first evening of the workshop, we will begin with an informal meal together. MTFA will summarize our initial research. We will then engage the group to consider what must be preserved and what God is calling the church to do.
- On the second day we will address the inner working of the Church and its relationship with the community. Together, we will look backwards, and we look forward in time.
- Three to four weeks later, the Ambassadors will meet again with MTFA to review our initial analysis. It is therefore critical that the same group of Ambassadors stay with the process at each of these steps since consensus is a critical component to making this work.
Throughout the process, the Ambassadors are called to represent what they did to their constituencies in the Church. If the Ambassadors do their job well, the entire congregation is knowledgeable, informed and in line with what the Ambassadors have done. The Visioning Workshop results in a stable and strong foundation for planning to proceed.
If you are interested in serving in this effort, please submit your name and contact information to John Johnson, Senior Warden at firstname.lastname@example.org or Matt Cloninger, Building Chair at email@example.com comment
Dr. Wayne Whitson Floyd
Parish Administrator & Clergy Spouse, St. Thomas’ Parish at Dupont Circle
Parish Administrator, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church
I was asked recently to write something for a group of Episcopal bishops, clergy and lay people about the way that St. Thomas’ Parish lives out our baptismal covenant — the way we do “ministry in daily” life as a congregation. Here is what I said.
“I work in two parishes, and belong to one of them, where my wife, The Rev. Dr. Nancy Lee Jose is Rector, in the heart of Washington, DC. The parish where I am a member has pioneered “ministry in daily life” now for more than three quite distinct generations. Originally a large urban English Gothic church that could boast of F.D.R. as its Senior Warden before he was President, and that Eleanor Roosevelt delivered out first lay homily, the building that “was” St. Thomas’ Parish was a 1970 victim of arson that destroyed all but the previous social hall and parish offices, which remain our entire “church” still.
The remnant of the congregation who remained swapped a “building” for a “neighborhood” – becoming a visible and vocal presence at the interface with Dupont Circle war and political protesters, and then the LGBT community, and more recently the influx of young professionals – straight and gay – who have adopted our neighborhood precisely for its generous-hearted and socially-active posture in the larger Washington, DC, urban context. We are constantly being pushed to make more space for our community and its ministries, and as a result have raised almost a million dollars from our members towards a capital campaign finally to build a new worship space to house the work we do amidst our neighbors in Dupont Circle.
St. Thomas’ chose to remain committed to the neighborhood, whoever came to live and work here, in so doing found itself constantly changed by, as well as changing, the daily life of the area where we have lived and worshiped now for more than a century.
One simply couldn’t keep church and life separate when life has so much to say about how you “do church,” and when church understands itself to be intimately entwined in “daily life” – whether confronting police lines, holding funerals for community members and their friends who died during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s at a time when few other churches were willing to do so, developing one of the first services in the Episcopal Church in 1998 for the Blessing of Same Sex Unions, or claiming to have spiritual relevancy for a generation that can find it as hard to come out as Christian as a previous generation found it difficult to come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
“Daily life” for our parishioners is spent working for Congress members, holding senior positions in NGOs and nonprofits, doing research at NIH, going to graduate school, working for the State Department, or raising children while playing in the National Symphony Orchestra. The sacramental life of the parish continues to seek new ways to ground people’s everyday attempts to find God in the world where they work. They in turn bring that world back into the church with them in challenging and amazingly faithful ways.
Our leadership continues to emerge from the people who arrive on our doorstep, most of whom for a generation have been young, highly educated, professionally ambitious, and spiritually hungry. Our Junior and Senior Wardens are forty and under; several Vestry members are in their twenties; and hardly anyone grew up in the Episcopal Church – many didn’t grow up in any church whatsoever. The parish took a risk to call a partnered gay man as their Rector in the 1990s and a straight married woman, who happens to be my spouse, as their first female rector eight years ago. The “daily life” of our parishioners now includes more and more children, whose parents reflect the broad array of sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions, and vocational choices that “are” Dupont Circle in the twenty-first century. We “are” a slice of tomorrow’s America today.
We continue to pioneer ways of engaging the real world in which our members live and work and play – inviting a Montessori School to share our facilities, hosting a Korean Presbyterian congregation, and developing a Taize service that reaches many who otherwise have no ‘religious’ connections whatsoever. Most recently we have partnered with Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to begin work to start a Center for Nonviolent Communication at St. Thomas’ Parish that he will lead as he makes our parish his “church home” when he is in Washington in retirement and also working with the Center for American Progress. We want to help facilitate a more civil and responsible public discourse that can invite “daily life” into “parish life” – and vice versa — in new and creative ways. In the process I think we will once again help to redefine both “ministry” and “daily life” in fresh and responsive and courageous ways. We aren’t striving to be a “big church” but rather a “growing community” of involvement, responsibility, and faithfulness.
No one could have predicted the path we’ve taken to get this far. But with God’s help we will find our path into the future, sure to be surprised and awed by who and what we find there and what faithfulness requires of us in ministry, as in daily life.
ST. THOMAS’ FAITHFUL STEWARDSHIP OF CHERISHED RESOURCES
A Letter Responding to the October 2012 Intowner Newsletter
In your October 2012 issue, you reprinted some of our internal communications under the headline, St. Thomas’ New Church Building Plan May be Scrapped. While we hadn’t expected that publicity, we are delighted now to provide you and your readers with more information – a bigger picture of our building plans.
St. Thomas’ Parish is a thriving faith-community in the middle of our nation’s capital. We are supported by an active lay leadership, strong organization, and a clear vision of how we are responsibly moving into the future. Part of that vitality comes from honest and clear communication with parish members about our plans – and the growth and change in those plans.
We also believe in communicating with the community at large. Here’s more of what you should know:
We haven’t “scrapped” anything. We have received all of the necessary permits to build the new sanctuary we have designed and presented to the community and we continue to successfully raise money from our own parish members and donors outside of our community. In an effort to continue careful progress toward our goals, we continuously reevaluate our plans to be the best stewards possible of the resources we have. This process has led us to realize that the plans we initially developed for building new worship and gathering space at St. Thomas’ Parish needed not to be scrapped, but to be imagined even more broadly and comprehensively — not just as a “new building” but as the best possible use of the entire property we own on the corner of Church and 18th St NW. So instead of proceeding with “modest” plans for a single new building, we are pursuing a “bolder” plan to work with a developer to rework our entire footprint in Dupont Circle — to design a new worship and gathering space that meets our needs, the community’s needs, and is financially viable for St. Thomas’ Parish. To do anything less would not be responsible stewardship of the resources we have.
Our Continuing Commitment. As a matter of context, in the midst of the financial crisis of 2008, we raised nearly a million dollars from within a congregation of about 200 members. And we proposed a building design that would serve our congregation’s needs for more space, and which would serve the Dupont Circle neighborhood as a “third space” for community gatherings, meetings and events. It will house a new Center for Nonviolent Communication that will be led by Bishop Gene Robinson, retiring Bishop of New Hampshire. None of this has been “scrapped”. It is being reimagined given demographic and financial changes that have taken place since our building planning process began.
Our Continuing Vitality. During a time of national decline in church attendance, St. Thomas’ Parish is sustaining our level of attendance and financial support at a healthy level. In a city where there is a constant “churn” of young professionals coming in and out of government, nonprofit, and educational settings, we have the regular blessing of new members who take the place of those who move away from DC for new jobs and professional opportunities. We also regularly hit a ceiling of how much growth can take place given the small gathering spaces we currently have. This is inevitable. It is a sign of our health as an organization. It is also a constant reminder that long-term, we have a critical need for more space to house and support our mission.
Our Continuing Responsibility. Change is not a zero-sum game. And “growth” is always about change. Our plans are changing, but this does not mean they are being scrapped. If anything, our plans are broadening, maturing, responding to the realities of the times in which we live. We have learned that we need to put together a more comprehensive plan that includes not just a new building, but future plans for our current building and for our adjacent parking lot. This strategy has been pursued successfully by other churches in Washington and surrounding cities. It is what our Diocese recommends. It is a strategy that our Vestry wisely has chosen to pursue. We have been a presence in Dupont Circle since 1893 and we plan to be a presence in our city a hundred years from now. This requires nimble responses to changing realities, and creative and courageous plans to address changing needs and resources.
This is an exciting and optimistic time in the life of our congregation. Come visit us. Call. Email. Talk to us. We are eager to build our relationship with the Intowner and with the entire Dupont community as we continue to imagine what will grow on our plot of sacred ground on the corner of 18th and Church Street in this neighborhood of Washington DC.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Lee Jose
focusing on “Developing Compassion in the Face of Adversity“
Roslyn Episcopal Retreat Center
Our Parish Spiritual Retreat Approaches!
Join us this fall for a weekend long retreat at the Roslyn Episcopal Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia, November 9 – 11.
This year’s theme is Developing Compassion in the Face of Adversity. So much of the time, we forget to breathe, to pause, and to reflect when we are faced with adversity in our lives. Please join us on this retreat as we reflect on what it means to make space to listen to what God says to us and how we begin to be more compassionate with ourselves and others. Contact Topher Bengtson at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. Sign up sheets are in the Fellowship Hall.
Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, page 829
Prayers and Thanksgivings “For the Care of Children” and “For Young Persons”
Leader: Almighty God, Creator of all, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good.
As we care for our children:
All: Be with us dear Lord.
Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, who held up children as a model of faithfulness: As we watch our children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world, help us to teach and model to them and to young persons that your ways give more life than the ways of the powers of this world.
As we stand up for our children:
All: Give us courage dear Lord.
Leader: Let us commit ourselves as the Body of Christ to be a Christian community that serves the needs of our children and young persons rather than the devices and desires of our own hearts.
All: We will with God’s help.
Leader: May we teach our children and youth to take failure not as a measure of self-worth, but always as a chance for a new start.
All: Teach us wisdom dear Lord.
Leader: Let us raise up children and youth who are strong in their faith, enduring in their hope, generous in their love and joy for all of God’s creation.
All: We will with God’s help.
Leader: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families:
We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell.
Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness.
Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh.
Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.No comments