Stewarding our Wealth

Finally, we are done with the giant sized post cards that poured into our mail boxes urging us to vote for this man or that women.  The election is over. However, now we are barraged by catalogues that promise happiness through buying or, to put a better spin on it, ideas for Christmas presents.

This is also the time of year that the mail brings reminders to make that pledge so that your school/college, or local charity or radio station will not only survive but thrive.  The church is no different.

This is the time of year that St. Pauls is asking you to think about what your parish means to you and express that through financial giving. This is our opportunity to show how your wealth can translate into a commitment to God.

Every one of us has wealth. True, some bank accounts are heftier than others but all of us have been given—either through hard work or gifts—assets that enrich our lives. We can also talk about our wealth in terms of our innate talents or the skills we have acquired. And, to press this further, our wealth can be counted in number of our years, our family and friends and the physical world in which we live.

The question is how do we steward this personal wealth; how do we manage it so it becomes a source of blessing for God’s little acre in which we live. The Gospel invites us to be smart about our wealth and to be generous. I take that to mean paying attention to the needs of people, including your own, and adopting an open hand posture that enacts the spirit of Jesus Christ. As Christians we can do no better.

Rev. Deborah Dresser

St. Paul’s welcomes the Rev. Dr. Deborah Dresser

For the month of September, we are excited to welcome the Rev. Dr. Deborah Dresser to lead St. Paul’s services.
THE REV. DR. DEBORAH DRESSER THE REV. DR. DEBORAH DRESSER, ordained in 1984, has served in six parishes in the Diocese of New York including St. George’s Church, beginning in 1996.  During that time she mentored and worked alongside deacons-in-training and seminarians including St. Paul’s recent vicar, the Rev. Candace Sandfort.

During her tenure in Newburgh Mother Dresser spearheaded Episco-Build, a multi-parish effort of Episcopal parishes in Orange County building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Greater Newburgh. She served as Chair of the Newburgh Interfaith Dialogue; Chair of the Board of Project LIFE, a tier-2 residential transitional-living shelter in the city; and a founding board member of Newburgh Chamber Music, which performs at St. George’sShe also initiated two mission programs of St. George’s: Open Space, a creative support program for pregnant teenagers or teen moms and their children; and Voices of Hope, a community children’s choir.

In the Diocese she served as President of the Standing Committee; she continues to serve as a member of the Global Mission Commission of the Diocese, and the Committee for Diocesan Human Resources.  She received the Bishop’s Cross in 2008.

In 2013, Mother Dresser completed a term as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a humanitarian foundation supporting Arab Christians in Israel and Jordan.  She has led numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land and will lead another in October 2015.

While retired, Mother Dresser continues to supply in local parishes.  She and her husband the Rev. Dr. Robert Dresser continue to live in Newburgh with Cuthbert, the watch-dog corgi.  They have four grown daughters and five grandchildren who bring immeasurable delight to both.

An Important Announcement

July 19, 2014

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to share the bittersweet news that while on Sabbatical I was offered a full time position at St. John’s Church in Montclair, New Jersey, and I have accepted the call.  It is of course very sad for me to leave St. Paul’s and all of you.  I treasure the five years we have spent doing ministry together, and am so grateful to have worked in such a devoted and spiritual community.  I will be forever grateful for the love and warm support you gave me in the beginning when I was finding my way as a new priest.

Our God is a God of new beginnings, and like all new beginnings this will be a challenge for all of us.  To paraphrase the great Anglican writer C. S. Lewis, “God refreshes us with many ‘Inns of Happiness’ along the way, but does not let us tarry long lest we should mistake them for home.”  I am looking forward to the challenges of full time ministry, and I believe St. Paul’s is ready for the challenges that lie ahead also.  You are a strong and loving community and a wonderful example of how a small church can be a healthy church – that is something I have always said about you, and will continue to say as I move out into the broader church.

I plan to end my Sabbatical early and return to St. Paul’s on Sunday, August 3rd, so that we have several weeks together to process all of this and make plans.  My final Sunday will be August 24th.  I look forward to seeing all of you when I return August 3rd when we will have a chance to talk about all of this.

Yours forever in Christ,

Candace

The Rev. Candace Sandfort, Vicar

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Chester, NY 10918

Why Bother Going to Church?

Do you feel you have no time, or need, to go to church?  Many people I talk to feel that way–feel that church is not a necessary part of their spiritual life. That may be true for some, but it seems to me most of us are far too human, far too distracted and stressed out, to think much about God without a weekly reminder.

Going to church is a way to realign and refocus ourselves for another week in this hectic, consumer driven world where it’s easy to lose our focus. How can we find time to think about our deepest values, needs, and desires?  Most of us won’t, left to our own devices.
One hour a week in worship, contemplation, and community, helps us remember what’s really important. An hour to hear again the “Good News” of God’s unfailing love for us. An hour to be reminded to love our neighbors; even the annoying ones, even the odd ones, even ourselves.  One hour a week to hear that God is with us whether or not we can find an hour for God.
Have a blessed first week of summer!
Mother Candace+ 
To receive the entire St. Paul’s Weekly Messenger, please email vicar@stpaulschester.org

Seeing the Holy Spirit

I have come to believe that if we want the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we have to be open to the possibility that the people and events that enter our lives are not all random.  Everything and everyone could be a messenger from God. We need to stop questioning the “coincidences,” and pay attention when we have that prickly feeling on the back of or our neck, or unexpected tears come to our eyes.  We need to claim these as cues and confirmations from Christ within us.

   I remember a moment like this when I was to give a sermon at the chapel at the University of Virginia where John and I first met. When I went to put my sermon on the lectern I found a piece of paper there left behind from a previous service. It was a passage from “The Little Prince” that had always had special meaning for us from the time we met. How could that particular passage from that particular book be on this lectern on this particular day? What are the odds a non-religious reading would even be in a church? What are the odds it would be a reading with such special significance to our relationship in the very place we began that relationship and now returned for the first time in decades?

   What if everything your heart needs is all around you? What if that stranger on the bus has just the right words of counsel? What if that person you just met recommends a book that is just the book you need to read, and you read it, and it changes your life? What if it’s all there, all the guidance, all the reassurance you need, and all you need to do is open your heart to the Holy Spirit to receive it?  “Let those who have ears hear! Let those who have eyes see!”

   May you claim all the blessings that await you in this season of Pentecost! Mother Candace+

To receive the entire St. Paul’s Weekly Messenger, please email vicar@stpaulschester.org

How to Lean Into Your Fear

The disciples are full of fear in this week’s Gospel. Panicked at the thought of being left alone without their leader, unable to find their way… Jesus comforts them:  ”I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  But often the closer we get to the truth the more fearful we become–how can we live into our fear?  Here is an excerpt from When Things Fall Apart by the Buddhist writer Pema Chödrön, whose books have mentored me in my own spiritual journey…and perhaps yours?

 “Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.

If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.”

 Ever in Christ,

Mother Candace+

 

To receive the entire St. Paul’s Weekly Messenger, please send an email to vicar@stpaulschester.org

Presiding Bishop’s Easter Message

An Easter Season Message from our Presiding Bishop   

The tomb is empty, and nobody knows where the body is.  Mary Magdalene tells the others about the mysterious disappearance, but they give up and go home.  Mary stays behind, weeping, and then fails to recognize the risen one before her.  As the days pass, each resurrected encounter begins in surprise or anonymity – the disciples fishing all night without catching, Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach, the two on their way to Emmaus.  Nobody recognizes him at first sight.

 Clearly the risen body is not identical to the Jesus who was crucified.  People mistake him for a stranger.  He enters locked rooms.  He walks along the path to Emmaus for a long time without being recognized.  Crucifixion, death, and resurrection result in a transformed body – with evident scars, but changed nonetheless.  When he reminds others of God’s banquet, meant for the whole world – when human beings are fed and watered, delivered from prison, gathered from exile across the earth, and healed and reconciled into a community of peace – his companions discover that he has once again been in their midst.

 What does that resurrection reality mean for the Body of Christ of which we are part?  How does the risen Body of Christ – what we often call the church – differ from the crucified one?  That Body seems to be most lively when it lives closer to the reality of Good Friday and the Easter mystery.  In the West, that Body has suffered a lot of dying in recent decades.  It is diminished, some would say battered, increasingly punctured by apathy and taunted by cultured despisers.  That body bears little resemblance to royal images of recent memory – though, like Jesus, it is being mocked.  The body remembers and grieves, like the body of Israel crying in the desert, “why did you bring us out here to die?” or the crucified body who cries, “My God, why have you forsaken me,” or “why have you abandoned us?”  In other contexts the Body of Christ is quite literally dying and spilling its lifeblood – in Pakistan and Sudan, in Iraq and Egypt – and in those ancient words of Tertullian, the blood of martyrs is becoming the seed of the church.

 The Body of Christ is rising today where it is growing less self-centered and inwardly focused, and living with its heart turned toward the cosmic and eternal, its attention focused intently on loving God and neighbor.  This Body is rising to stand in solidarity with criminals sentenced to death, with widows and orphans, with the people of the land who slave over furrows and lettuce fields to feed the world.  This Body can be found passing through walls and boundaries that have long been misused to keep the righteous “safe” and “pure.”  The Body is recognized when the hungry are fed – on the lakeshore with broiled fish, on the road to Emmaus, on street corners and city parks, in food pantries and open kitchens, in feeding neighbor nations and former enemies, and as the Body gathers once again to remember its identity and origin – Christ is risen for the sake of all creation.

 Where and how will we look for the Body of Christ, risen and rising?  Will we share the life of that body as an Easter people, transformed by resurrection and sent to transform the world in turn?

 Christ is risen, Alleluia!  Alleluia, Christ is risen indeed!

 The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

Sleeping for Sorrow

Tomorrow night is Maundy Thursday, the night Jesus prayed fiercely in the darkness of the garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” As Jesus prayed to be released from his fate on that cross, we are told the disciples were “sleeping for sorrow.”  Waking them Jesus says: “Could you not even watch with me for one hour?” And so we come on this night, to watch and pray with him for one hour.

   I hope you can make time in your busy lives for the very special services of Holy Week. Only when we’ve been to that dark garden of Gethsemane can we really appreciate the Resurrection garden that greets us Easter Sunday!   

    

   In Christ, Mother Candace+ 

Another Faithful Woman

The origins of Holy Week (which begins this Sunday with Palm Sunday) are traced back to Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem in the 4th century. Pilgrims pouring into Jerusalem to be baptized Easter morning, followed Cyril around to the various sites significant to the events of Jesus’ last days on earth: the “Upper Room” where he had his last meal; the “Via Dolorosa,” where he struggled to carry his cross; and the hill at Golgatha where they crucified him.    Fortunately for us, these 4th century walking “liturgies” were recorded by one of those early pilgrims, a Gallic woman named Egeria. Eventually these early liturgies became our Prayer Book liturgies of “Maundy Thursday,” “Good Friday,” and “Easter.”

Egeria wrote an account of her Holy Week experience in Jerusalem in a long letter to her Christian women friends back home in Europe, who had never heard of these traditions. It is thought her letter might be the very first formal writing by a woman in the history of the world. 

God bless Egeria, and all the pilgrims who walked with Cyril through Holy Week, marking it in time and recording it. Because of their faithfulness, we are able to follow Jesus’ last earthly journey to this day. If you have never walked this sacred walk I hope you will make time in your busy lives next week for the very special services of Holy Week!   

   Faithfully, Mother Candace+ 

To receive the entire St. Paul’s Weekly Messenger, please send an email to vicar@stpaulschester.org

 

“Jesus wept.”

This week’s Gospel contains the shortest verse in the New Testament:  ”Jesus wept.”  Contemplate for just a moment what God is trying to convey to us in those two words, as Jesus weeps over the loss of his friend Lazarus: God knows how painful it is to lose someone you love, God knows it is good to acknowledge that pain, God knows just how hard it is to be a human being on this earth sustaining one loss after another. But that is not all God wants us to know.  Jesus reassures all of us as he reassures Lazarus’ sister Mary:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
  
Thank God for that great Good News!
Mother Candace+