August 20th, 2019

Nicole and I have been constantly plagued by the notion of ‘what’s next’ over the course of the last decade. As we were driving to Enid yesterday, she pointed out that we have moved eight times in the last ten years. Eight. Times. It’s unfathomably exhausting to move that much, both physically and emotionally. We have tried to take root in each of our locations but it’s difficult to make long-lasting bonds with folks when we’re always ‘on the move’. It has to be quick work, done with the might of a whirlwind, sweeping in and enveloping as many people as possible as quickly as possible so that we can do our best within the timeframe we’ve been given.

Enter Resurrection.

For the first time in years—years—we don’t have an expiration date. There’s very little thought these days to “what’s next” in terms of locale. Now, “what’s next” has taken on a whole new meaning. Every time that question is uttered, it has context to it concerning ECOTR. We’re constantly thinking of ways in which to nurture and be nurtured by the place we currently serve. And we’re developing stronger relationships with those around us than we’ve been able to do in years’ past. With that comes learning.

You see, relationships are easy at first. Most of the time, people don’t allow much to ruffle their feathers during the course of a budding friendship. It’s new. It’s exciting. And, as humans, we’re glad for new connections with others. But then, inevitably, something happens. A word is spoken with mistaken meaning; an action is done with unintended receipt. As I said Sunday, meaning is collaborative and it takes all involved to come to a sense of corporate understanding. With individual comprehension at play, this is sometimes impossible. With different perspectives on the world around us, it is often times difficult. With passionate opinions, this can be disastrous.

When you’re always moving, it’s easy to say things and do things (albeit sincerely) and simply move on to the next group. There’s very little at stake. This has never given me license to speak harshly to others or mistreat them, but it has offered the opportunity to get away with much more than I could if I were going to be around a little longer. Why? Because words and actions, when spoken or done with courage, can also require courage to accept the consequences of them. If relationships aren’t strong enough, then those moments can fracture people’s understandings of one another and unintentionally see a rift develop, thereby separating people from those they love.

As a preacher, this becomes very difficult. I’m deeply invested in this community, and Nicole and I have been intentional about cultivating relationships with anyone who is willing to allow us that grace. But sometimes the Gospel commands me to speak the truth in love, much like I did Sunday. And as I said above, meaning is collaborative. There will be times in the future where we will have to face our paradox of truths together and find a way in which to reconcile and move forward together. You won’t always agree with me, and I won’t always agree with you. But if we’ve learned anything about our communal life together, it’s this: Anything worth having is going to take work and dedication to obtain. 

With a sense of permanence here, I hold each of you in high esteem. I mean that. ALL of you and your individual perspectives are important to me, I want to engage with you and learn together. But I can’t do that if I’m afraid to speak my truth, and to have the courage to hear yours. If we all separate from one another every time we get angry, every time we become offended, then the world will continue to split itself into microcosms of like-minded individuals living in boring and stagnant environments. Every time I say something from the pulpit that challenges you, know that I’m also challenging myself. In private conversations, if I offend you, I never mean to; I’m just as imperfect as the rest of the world (probably more-so to be honest). But we can’t always be thinking of “what’s next” when we encounter difficult moments. We have to talk to one another, speak and hear the truth in love simultaneously. If we’re willing to do that, we will forge an unbreakable bond that will allow us to accomplish whatever God has in store for us. 

I don’t have anyone in particular in mind while writing this, nor do I have underlying intentions of whom I hope this message reaches. But it occurs to me that we’re entering a phase in this church life where words/actions can hurt a little more than they otherwise could have due to our growing relationship with one another. Now, more than ever over the last decade, my beloved and I are in a space that we can grow roots and stand firm with commitment to a particular setting. It feels wonderful. But it also comes with the possibility of being hurt deeply by departures or separations due to something I’ve said or the way I’ve said it. As the world continues to see horrible acts of human treatment, I will—when guided by the Gospel and the Holy Spirit—speak out against atrocities committed in the name of undignified anti-grace. And I will never do so with the intent of shaming any of you, or demeaning your understandings. But, as our deacon said, we must stand firm in the preaching of the gospel, unafraid of telling its truth. What I ask is this: Please, when you disagree or become hurt by something, just ask to talk it out. Again, and I can’t say it enough, meaning is collaborative and sometimes I may not have done a good enough job of delivering mine. I’m not a priest that refuses to be approached; I want us to speak truth in love to one another, and I’m willing to hear it just as much as I’m willing to speak it.

You are beloved to me. As our relationships continue to deepen, so will our different perspectives collide. Instead of allowing those moments to divide us, let us allow them to unite us in stronger understanding of one another; in these instances, we can live in tension with differing opinions, but grow stronger in mutual affection that over-writes our need to be ‘right’. I want to hear from you. I want you to want to hear from me. Let us continue to build up the kingdom of God, together, and do so with courage, with truth, and with an abundance of love. Thank you for hearing my truth, today. I look forward to hearing yours. 

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

August 15th, 2019

I just had a mountain-top experience.

No, really. I was literally on a mountain, 9000 feet above sea level where the air is crisp, clean,

and very thin. It was a little sad how belabored my breath became after just a few short

steps…but I digress. The landscape was beautiful—clear skies, mild days and chilly nights—and

my body was confused about having to wear a hoodie in the midst of August. The campgrounds

were accommodating and the staff was very friendly. Thirty bishops, priests and lay ministers

from around the nation gathered together to engage in conversation concerning unity and

division within the church—a timely conversation regarding our current context. So…all had

arrived and everything was going well that first day when, all of the sudden, clouds rolled in,

lightning crashed and thunder spoke it’s judgment to the people of the mountain: “You will not

have wi-fi or access to the outer world whilst on my mountain.” For three days, a group of

highly-connected individuals who are always on emails, social media or chatting via text were

suddenly left walking around in a confused stupor, not knowing what to do.

It was awesome.

Being unplugged allowed for a deeper connection, oddly enough. Without our phones or

laptops to distract and call us back to our work back at home, we were able to be present with

one another on a different level. For three days, the Holy Spirit spoke without having to

compete with Siri.

For me, it was life-giving.

I thought about how grateful I am to have this life; there’s nothing like being a priest. I have

been blessed beyond compare to have been called by name to Church of the Resurrection, to

spread by word and example the good news of Jesus Christ, and to do so with a community of

people who consistently and continually amaze me by their faith. You. All of you. You’re so

important to me, you’re my family. Through our ups and downs, and even during the times

when you’re not here, I’m constantly thankful for you and couldn’t imagine being anywhere

else, now, alongside you.

Today marks two years at Resurrection. Two wonderful, challenging, joy-filled, sometimes

heart-breaking years. I realized something: I’ve been on a mountain-top all along. As I listen to

others of my ilk, I hear their woes and worries, their frustrations and chaos; but I also hear in

them the same love I feel in my soul when they talk about their people. It’s not always easy

being a priest—sometimes the heart-ache threatens to overwhelm me during times of conflict

and loss—but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Your clergy love you very much, you need to

know that. We’re not perfect…far from it, actually. Sometimes we say things that we mean in a

different way than perceived, sometimes we don’t have the answers, sometimes we want to

rail and scream just like you. But we ALWAYS love you. No exceptions. And here’s my message

to you, two years in:

I care for you and this place with everything I have. When I stumble, catch me. When I say

something dumb, tell me and I’ll try to do better. When I disappoint, anger, or sadden you,

know that my heart apologizes in advance. But above all, know that you and this place are a

mountain-top for me. A place where I feel connected deeply to the Holy Spirit and to all of you.

A place of exciting times and God’s work. And I hope to be your priest for many years to come,

so that we can continue being on the mountain together, in this holy community of

Resurrection. Thank you for calling me and Nicole, our lives are better because of it.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

July 30th, 2019

Do I belong here?

It’s a question each of us has asked at least once in our lives. Whether it be a new job, a new town, a social environment, and yes…a church, at some point we have all asked ourselves if we have a sense of belonging within that particular moment. For me, it happens quite a bit. Although I’m not socially awkward—well, not too much anyway—I always hold hope that I’ll be accepted for who I am and what I believe. I think the trick is not being too abrasive about stating those beliefs, and being capable of hearing others’ opinions without losing my mind.

Sound easy? It isn’t.

Each of us hold opinions regarding a great swath of issues. The one thing that all people hold in common is their passion behind those opinions—opinions stated as belief quickly turned to ‘fact’. Conversation seems to be a lost skillset today, in its place rises diatribe and raising one’s voice to be heard over others. The art of listening has been replaced by the need to ‘be right’; we no longer seem to care about other perspectives, only our own understood agendas.  

If this seems like a harsh judgment, well…it’s simply my opinion. I have watched for the last decade as people tear each other down in the name of righteousness, spouting reasons for their own understanding in ways that diminish other’s beliefs. It happens on all fronts.  We have stopped arguing about the issue itself with any integrity; we have started arguing just to be right and feel better about ourselves while simultaneously pinning down people who oppose us.

The context within which I currently present this argument is that of the church. We have traditionalist members, we have progressive members. We have members who just wish to ignore the shouting and kneel in silent prayer. The problem we face as a church (worldwide, not simply Resurrection) is that we are moving further and further from each other. Without the ability to have a civil conversation, which has become very difficult in the last few years, we are becoming entrenched. I see memes and gifs on social media all the time stating, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,” and then has the type of people ‘welcomed’ to it. Oddly enough, that welcome isn’t very welcoming at all. There seems to be a typology emerging in the current Episcopal Church: You must believe this way, agree with ‘us’ or we will decry you as a bigot or hatemonger.

Where, for years, the traditionalists have been gatekeepers to the church (and they have…just ask any woman or person of color), it seems that the pendulum has swung and now those traditionalists are being told that they should go somewhere else. I see it on Episcopal blogs, in chatrooms (yes, those still exist) and hear it from the mouths of some in authority. I wonder, if in the name of inclusion, whether or not we’ve over-corrected and are now seeking to do the same thing that was done in the past—namely, to eradicate and exclude those within our ranks that hold what we deem as an archaic theological viewpoint. I recently witnessed a conversation between two Episcopalians that went like this:

 

Person one: “I don’t really like Rite 2…I wish we’d go back to Rite 1 a little more and worship in the old way”

Person two: “Why? It’s weird language and nobody talks like that anymore. I don’t see the point in being all old in our worship.” 

Person one: “Well, the old way is how I grew up and I really love it. I just miss it, that’s all.”

Person two: “Well, the church isn’t the same as it was when you were growing up. And now we’re trying to get new members. You must not care about the future of TEC. Maybe you should consider leaving.”

Seriously, this is what I watched transpire on the internet. Since when did we lose the ability to disagree with compassion? And before you ask, yes I do believe that we had that ability at one point. I want us to be able to be different from one another, but to do so together. We have far more that binds us than that which separates us. We just have to be able to allow one another to hold opinions without shaming or judgment.

If someone disagrees with you, let them. Give them that grace. Allow for a space where The Episcopal Church—and to be honest, the whole church of God—can be what it ‘was’ for some while also venturing into what it ‘will be’. We’re about to enter another election cycle. We’re about to disagree with one another quite a bit on who we want this country run by and the best ways to do it. We’re about to enter into an election of a Bishop; we’re going to disagree with one another on who the best person will be. But what we need to remember in both instances is this: We care deeply about our faith, and we care deeply about the state of this world. It’s not the ‘who’ that should separate us, but rather the ‘how’ that should unite us. Our differences should serve to make us stronger, not strangers. Our perspectives should come together to find the best possible solution for the future and not continue to divide us into factions at war. The kingdom of God on this planet is far too big to be broken apart by small-minded arguments. We have the ability right now, at this moment, to choose to be better than we have been. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to start listening better. We just need to start listening again, period.

I know we can’t do this overnight, but we have to start somewhere. We have to start hearing each other again, in church and in the world. We’re not doing our children any favors by treating each other like enemies or shouting over one another to be ‘right’. Church can be a place where different perspectives intersect and live in communion, a safe space for all people across the spectrum of beliefs to come and sit side by side, exploring faith and engaging in the paradox of truths, so that everyone feels as though they belong. I urge us to be that. To concentrate on loving God through loving our neighbor as ourselves. That means everyone. Everyone.

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

July 23rd, 2019

Music is the universal language—NOT MATH, as my college algebra prof used to tell me. (Ok, math, too but nobody really likes math, right?) We associate music with our ups and downs, with breakups or weddings, funerals or births, with car rides on Saturday night and worship on Sunday morning. Music speaks to us, collectively and individually. Not all music speaks to everyone in the same way, however; death metal may be a boon for some, but I prefer some good ol’ Garth Brooks when I’m mowing the lawn. When I write, I typically listen to classic rock—yep, I need that dramatic chorus to pump me up. When guests are over and, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll slap on some old crooners and let it play low. Different moods require different tunes.

 

When I was growing up, country wasn’t typically played in my house. Truth be told, if it wasn’t written in the sixties or seventies, and it didn’t have rad guitar solos, it wasn’t played in our house. My folks were classic rock connoisseurs; I grew up learning from the Gospels of John, George, Ringo and Paul; my theology consisted of believing that I needed to find this mystical “Stairway to Heaven”; and when things were rough, I realized that “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” From Stones to Dylan, my musical road was paved by the greats—or at least, who my parents named ‘The Greats’.

 

Well, when I started branching out with music, it went over like a Led Zeppelin. (Ok, I’m done)

 

The point is this: We all have our favorite music, the rhythm and rhymes that speak to us, that makes our feet tap and our hearts beat on time. And we all also have that music that we really don’t like. Church can be the same way, really. We all have worship styles we appreciate, we all have worship styles that we don’t consider worthy. I think that’s fine, but I’d like to encourage us not to be too fancy when talking about others’ styles. Let me give you an example.

 

Last Saturday, I attended the wedding of a good friend’s daughter. The pastor was a Southern Baptist Preacher from their congregation here in Oklahoma City. Immediately, I had preconceived notions of how the service would go, what the theology would be, and cringed at the ideas of inevitable unity candles and sand ceremonies (note: If you had a unity candle or sand ceremony, I don’t want to offend—my wife made me have one, too). What I received instead, was church. At a wedding.

 

That preacher brought it, y’all. He talked about Adam and Eve’s union and then tied it up with Christ’s union to the church in Revelation. In the middle of the ceremony, the preacher stepped back and said, “And now the couple will take communion together.” I was like, “Whaaaaaaaat?” I saw God on Saturday in the midst of a style of worship about which I had preconceived notions. After it was done, I found that preacher and shook his hand. We talked for a bit about his church plant and what they were doing, how they were doing it. Then we talked about the Episcopal Church and what we were doing.

 

As I turned to go, I shook his hand and said, “One kingdom my man. Thank you.” And I walked away.

 

Like music, Jesus has a universal language. I think it’s important for us to know what other denominations are doing in their worship, to know who they are rather than who we think they are. Times are changing. Theology is changing. Worship is changing. I think before we talk about ‘the Catholics’, we should know what we’re saying. Because, pro tip, they’re Christian, too. Baptists, Church of Christ, Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians, and everyone else under this big tent of Christ—all carriers of their perceived and received Word of God. We may not like the style, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate that they’re trying to make a song of praise to God. So next time you’re in a conversation with someone and they start to bag on a different denomination, maybe step back and recognize that we’re all trying to get it right, and every one of us is inevitably making mistakes along the way. In the end, it’s about trying to get the message of love to the rest of the world, and I believe that, FOR THE MOST PART, Christians everywhere in all places are genuinely trying to do that. Pray for them. Pray for us. Because…

One kingdom, y’all. One love.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

July 17th, 2019

Psalm 46 contains one of the (to me) best lines in all of scripture: “Be still and know that I am God.” Those eight words—admit it, you just counted them—have meant a great deal to me in busy times, through worrisome times, and even in joyous moments. I remember walking outside during Nicole and my wedding reception to move the car around. When I got in, I couldn’t make myself turn on the ignition. I was so overwhelmed by the generosity of family and friends, and all that they’d done to ensure we could have the best wedding possible, that I broke into tears. That deep sense of gratitude allowed me to take a moment, to be stilled, and to thank God for the blessings of those around us.  

Less than a year later, my father died. In my mind, I almost immediately went into ‘savior mode’. I began calling people to let them know, I started making plans for mom (without her permission), and I initiated processes by which we’d all come through this tragedy. This was about a week after he passed. Then, the night before the funeral, I broke. I had to walk away from a living room filled with the same friends and family from the wedding—the same people who’d lifted us up and taken care of us; only now, I wanted to weep and be alone in order to avoid burdening them with my sorrow. I sunk to our bedroom floor and wept. Hard. My sister-in-law Tiffany was the one who found me. She didn’t say anything, she didn’t try and ‘fix’ me, she simply sat down and let me ‘be’. In that moment, I experienced another opportunity to be still, to know God loved me—even if I didn’t feel that love at that moment through my sadness. It was right then that I thanked God for dad’s life, I dried my eyes, and I asked that He be there the next time I needed to break. Sometimes being still isn’t easy.

Fast forward. I’m a priest, in case you didn’t know. J This life can be full of all kinds of stuff—the days run together, the meetings are endless, and the clown-car of emotions from day to day can be overwhelming. But I still find time to ‘be still’ and listen to God, for the most part. I could always do better, but then again, nobody’s perfect (another life-lesson that seems difficult at times). 

I think we all struggle with this notion of being still. We all have so much on our plates—being busy isn’t a competition, and the overwhelming feeling of being stretched in fifty ways is unique to each of us, as each of us is capable of different levels of busy-ness. Do you make time to be still? Do you take time to be with God, one on one, whether you’re happy or sad, angry or just ‘there’? Taking five to ten minutes a day, multiple times if you can, to just sit and ‘be’ with God can make a huge difference in your daily life; I know this because it’s made a difference in mine. So even if you’re struggling (especially, actually), even if you’re happy, if you’re lonely, if you’re sad, joyful, worried, afraid…whatever/however you are, take a moment. Be still. Allow God’s grace to seep through the barriers built by that anger; allow God to join you in those moments of rapture; allow God to be known. And just be still.

 

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

July 10th, 2019

I’m a sucker for 80’s music. Growing up, I watched 80’s movies and, inevitably, there’d be a montage a little over halfway through where the characters got better at something—learning to fight, building a boat, dancing, etc—and that moment would be accompanied by a sweet rockin’ 80’s tune. One of my favorites of these is “Eye of the Tiger”. The first two Rocky movies might be some of the most awkward film ever made, but Rocky III? Amazing. What’s better than Mr. T? The answer is “very little”, but still, that song… The lead up is great, the video is hilarious (Google that here), and the refrain? Absolute mastery (ok, not really, but still...its pretty good). It wasn’t until I made…erm, strongly suggested…that Nicole watch these movies (yep, she made it all the way to 34 without seeing them) that I began to take note of the verses, to the message of the song.

It’s actually pretty great.

In the film Rocky III, the plan was to use “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen; unfortunately, Stallone couldn’t get the rights to the song and thus, Survivor was contacted and asked to amend their soon-to-be hit, “Eye of the Tiger” for use during the movie. It ended up being 1982’s biggest hit. The chorus is catchy and uplifting, but I think my favorite line is, “So many times, it happens too fast; you trade your passion for glory.” It hits me in the chest every time I hear it, now; it does happen too fast, am I trading passion for glory? And if so, whose? God's or mine?

We’re a merit-driven people. The only ways we know if we’re succeeding are through feedback and results—the former usually only manifesting in negative ways and the latter fluctuating. I came into an environment with very few people and wanted nothing more—after listening to their story—to help, to lift this place up and get more people…get more ministry going. So, I put my head down and I charged ahead. The thing about looking down is that most of the time, you miss the stuff going on around you. Now, I won’t say that I haven’t paid attention to the people of this parish--I feel like I've been present and that we've grown together, but I will say that tunnel-vision has had me on a quest for growth and prosperity and left me tired and searching for the next 'thing', rather than stopping and listening to God for direction. And while we’ve done well, so far, I've felt the need to reorient, but I didn't know where or how to begin. Then, God sent me a message.

Recently, I was gently counseled that the message on Sunday seemed to be lacking content, and that it seemed like I was strongly focused on numbers and engagement. The thing about counsel? If someone is willing to voice it, there’s a large possibility that others agree in silence. It takes courage to speak opinions, and to do so lovingly. So, hearing this, I took a step back and started reviewing my past articles, my sermons, and the other communications I’ve sent. I wanted to see with different eyes and determine how I could get back to the message God wants versus the message of Sean. In short and after my search, I discovered this: I had begun to trade my passion for glory. Not God's glory—which is the only glory I should ever seek to promote—but instead, the glory found in being over-proud in a human way of our accomplishments and therefore seeking more to 'do' to keep that feeling going. People are noticing what we're doing here and I started to become caught up with constant growth rather than real growth...both mine and yours, spiritually and communally. And I miss it. I am a passionate man, I give all of myself to whatever I do (for better or worse) and it's time I remembered the passions that drive me.

My passions—in this order—are: Jesus Christ, my family, this community, and then a bunch of other fun stuff that follows when I have time. I’m hyper-focused on most of the things I do, but sometimes I lose sight of the ‘why’ while I’m doing it; the work of God overtakes my growth in God during the process. Does this happen to you? How can I help? Because without passion and without growing ourselves spiritually and faithfully, we're no longer being church, we're just a social group who meets on Sundays. I don’t want to lose that passion, or have it translated as a mere numbers game. I'll wager you don't either. I recently told someone that the people with whom they were charged were ready to grow—grow in spirit and knowledge of the love of God—and that they were just waiting on this person to lead them.

Time to take my own advice.

Jesus Christ is more than just an ancient figure to me; he’s my life, the life of a passionate man trying to figure out how best to remain faithful, disseminate Christ's message, and take care of a budding congregation in the process. I believe in his words, his actions, his miracles, his love, his abounding grace. I believe in his Passion. The TRUE Passion. The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that began in a manger and hasn’t ended yet. I want people, as many people as possible, to hear his good news and feel his presence. I want the world to shout, “Holy, Holy, Holy” when they think or speak his name. The numbers are a vehicle for that—nothing more—because just a few people can do this just as well as a few thousand. I got so caught up in projects and community-engagement that I lost sight for a moment of the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. I want to lead with integrity and I hope you want to walk alongside me with grace, while we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

This community is more than just a job to me. It’s my passion. And I wouldn’t trade it for all the glory in the world. I’m so proud to be here, so proud to be your priest and co-conspirator in the subversion of evil and uplifting of good in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. So, this is my montage. This is my moment of a silly song playing in the background that has actual meaning to me (you can google that here). But I’m not learning to fight, not learning to dance, not learning to build a boat. I’m learning to recognize the power of true passion and not get caught up in the draw of glory. This is my ‘why’.

Because of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus at all times, in all places. Through the low moments and in the highest elations; during the deeply meaningful seasons and in the doldrum of summer; throughout successful ministry weeks and in the midst of cancelations; in the darkness of night and the light of day. All of it. All I ever want to do is proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Proclaim that the Triune God has changed my life and done so for the better. Proclaim that I believe the Bible isn’t done teaching us. Proclaim that I believe the Holy Spirit still whispers on the wind and creates the words of the prophets. And proudly proclaim that I want to be a prophet, too, for the glory of God and not my own.

A change is coming. I want to see you as much as possible, but if I don’t, know that the message I believe God wants us to hear (yes, us, not just 'you') will be amped up from here on out, with less 'doing' and more 'being'. We’ll be doing things around the church at the highest level, still, but those communications about the 'when and how' will be coming in the form of other articles in the newsletter, announcements and emails—please read them. Because I’m turning my attention back to my call: The call to proclaim by WORD AND EXAMPLE (both, not just one) the good news of Jesus Christ. I want to start here, now.

Because He didn’t trade his passion for glory…through his Passion, he was glorified...and we were saved.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

June 26th, 2019

Knowing you is one of the chief joys in my life.

I think that, through all the ups and downs, the twists and turns of church-life, people can easily get distracted from the fundamental aspects of faith-based living: Jesus, Community, Support, Growth, Comfort, Worship. I’m sure there are more reasons in each of your minds as you read this; that’s great! We all have particular passions and desires which drive us to continue worshiping together, and many of them are not the same. But those six seem to be universal. At least most of the time, I hope. If those aren’t met, then the rest of the ‘stuff’ we do can seem trite or mechanical. So…how are we doing?

No clergy/parish should be above receiving input on the daily life of their people. So far, I’m proud of what we’ve done, here, and joyfully participate in as much as I can. We try to do as much as possible to meet the desires of as many of you as possible: The open-mic nights, the potlucks, the concerts, Family Fellowship Week, baseball games, game nights, ministry opportunities, special services…we’re trying to reach everyone’s expectations. But, as with anything, we can’t know what we don’t hear/see/have explained to us. Is something missing? How are you feeling about church life—not just ‘church’ on Sundays? During the slow months of summer, a good practice is to gauge the efficacy of our programs, to reach out and get some feedback on what’s working and what’s not.

Simply put: When y’all are happy, I’m happy.

I want each of you to know how much you mean to me, to Deacon Dion and to the staff here at church of the Res. As a result of that, I deeply desire to ensure that most of your church-oriented wishes are at least heard, if not enacted. I also want to reach out to those of you whom have not had a chance to sit down and talk with me. What’s your story? How can I better serve you? How can the church better serve you? And, in turn, is there some way you’d like to get more deeply involved in serving the church or others? If I know the answers to these questions, and if I know you, then life becomes richer and full of more meaningful moments. My goal here is to promote community in faith, and the best way to do that is to know you better and better.

Because as I said at the beginning, knowing you is one of the chief joys in my life.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

June 19th, 2019

Preface: The church is in good shape, building and bank, and your faithfulness is beautiful.

Money is the root of all evil? Not really, no. The root of all evil is…well…evil. Money just happens to be something in our lives that tends to drive us—in some ways leading us down paths of righteousness and in others, down streets of despair. Someone very close to me, during one of our bleaker moments, said something to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “You know, the thing about money is this…you either have it or you don’t.”

Thankfully, we’ve been faithful to our pledges, with few exceptions. For the year, our budget is looking solid and we’re hitting the numbers we need to sustain while also doing small projects to continue the beautification and maintenance of our property. However, I will say that we’re slightly below our pledged budget, right now, and have been for two months. I bring this up for two reasons. The first is obvious—we need to maintain our giving so that we can continue doing the work God gives us to do. Mobile Meals is strong, the Nave looks beautiful, we’re helping folks with food and rent occasionally, and we’re giving coats, trips to various camps, and hope to our kids and kids in the local community.

The second reason is why I’m writing you. One of the most difficult things for a priest/rector/minister/pastor to gauge is the efficacy of her/his ministry. To be honest, we never really know when we’re doing well, but we also don’t know when people are unhappy with us (well, most of the time…). One of the few ways in which we can measure our effectiveness in the church is by virtue of attendance, and by virtue of giving. When people are here and they’re happy, they’re also continuing to give. We’re seeing that, on a large scale. When I say that we’re slightly under the mark for our giving, I mean it. However. It’s summertime, and that means people will be traveling, staying home on the porch for Sunday morning coffee and good weather, or going to do family events. All of these things are GREAT! What I hope this letter will transmit is that, while you’re away, the church still has needs and still needs you. Numbers of folks in pews naturally decline during the summer—it’s expected, although I miss y’all—so, too does giving. But it doesn’t have to. 

If you haven’t considered it, I urge you to reach out and discuss ACH payments. It’s a great way to keep current with pledges while still being faithful to tenets of Christianity. Every Monday, I do finances. I fill in the pledges received from everyone; when I’m doing that, I say a prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts we’ve received…just like I do on Sunday. If you’re one of the people who like to put something in the plate, let me remind you that the dollar initiative that we’ve started (placing a dollar in the plate if you’ve gone to ACH) has provided funds for all of our ministries within the church. We’ve tripled those donations and because of them, our ministries have been at ease and functioned with little stress!

Again, I want to reiterate that we’re not in any financial trouble, whatsoever. I am simply reaching out to talk about stewardship during this season because that’s part of what we do, here. Because of our stewardship, five kids are going to St. Crispins. Because of our stewardship, 22 people get fed every Tuesday. Because of our stewardship, our kids get to proudly display their church’s name on plays, sporting events, and music events programs—and they love that. Because of our stewardship, we’re about to get a new sound system. And mostly, because of our stewardship, we’re able to create a space wherein people can come and feel safe, encouraged, comforted, and loved.

We’ll be sending out half-year statements, soon, which is the main reason for this letter. I wanted you to know that we’re in good shape, and to know that your giving is more appreciated that you know. Keep up the good work! But also, if you’re behind, I don’t want you to be ashamed or feel like I’m writing to you, personally. I’m not. Period. I’m just communicating our current position, which has been asked of me by many of you.

So, be at peace. Be at leisure. Enjoy summertime and the weather and the trips. I hope to see you on Sundays, but I understand that sometimes it’s just nice to get away. While you’re away, know that I and Deacon Dion miss you, and we’ll be right here waiting alongside everybody else when you come back. Until then, take care and know that you are loved.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

June 12th, 2019

In my backyard there’s a dead spot. About two feet in diameter, it took up residence near the backdoor next to the gutter. For months I tried to get rid of it and—for months—I’ve failed. Until now. As I was mowing yesterday (I’m away this weekend at St. Crispin’s for Iona, so honey-do’s have to happen on Tuesday?), I noticed this spot was diminished somewhat. It’s starting to ‘green up’ and grow again. I know where the spot originated, I know why I wasn’t able to ‘fix’ it.

It was where Tyrone marked his territory. Every. Single. Day.

Tears began to well in my eyes as I saw the new growth. Although I’d tried everything to rid my yard of that eyesore while Ty was alive, I’d purposefully been mistreating it to—after his death—keep it there. It’s one of the last physical vestiges of his presence. One of the last places I can physically see evidence of him. One of the last places I can visit and stare at and just…cry. And now it’s healed. And I’m not, at least not fully. Sigh. So, with a little mist in my eyes (it was hot, alright…) I kept mowing. I finished the yard like a good boy and went inside to shower, the spot ever on my mind: The spot that marks my yard echoing the spot that marks my heart. I started thinking about all the ‘spots’ I have internally, the vestiges of loved ones’ passing, the scars that bloomed from broken moments. My Dad. My Grandparents. Close friends from childhood.

Monty Howard. Clark Oden. Selma Witzke. Rita Jamison. Bob Sackett. Nadine DeWitt. Tomi Sackett.

Then I started thinking about how—even though I miss my family and friends—the pain of their loss has seemed to lessen. New growth has sprouted and soothed the dead areas brought about by their passing. Sure, it still hurts. Sure, this Sunday is Father’s Day and I’ll undoubtedly think about Dad. But just as surely, my heart continues to heal.

I wish that for all of you. My prayers for you to start and continue to heal match my own prayers for the same. I hate that any of you ever hurt; if I could take it from you, I would. But please know that we all have spots, that all of us have been through something devastating to varying degrees—each unique with its own sense of pain—and that many of us are willing to sit with you and say nothing, just ‘be’ with you during your hardships and your low moments of life. Tomorrow is one of those times for this parish. As we remember Tomi and her life, we wrap Chani, Eric, Brett, Grant, and Emily (among many others) up in steadfast love and prayers. Just as we’ve done for many before them and just as we’ll continue to do for many others in years to come.

May all our spots grow over, but may our memories remain. May the peace of God be upon all of us who grieve. May the love of God enfold us, emanating from Him to us, and from us to one another. May the Grace of God see us through the difficult times. And may all those who went before us rest in peace and rise in glory.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

June 5th, 2019

Pentecost is coming!!!!

Otherwise known as ‘The Fifty’, Pentecost is seven weeks after Easter. We celebrate it because

of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—tongues of fire and power to heal and courage to spread

the Word.

But it’s also a time to come together and fellowship. So much of our year is taken up with

fundraising, ministry and worship; I LOVE THAT. But there comes a time in every church family

wherein we need to just sit and have a few laughs, a burger or two, play some games and just

BE. That’s what this Sunday is…a time to be together as a family. Picnic STYLE! And an added

bonus: everything from this weekend’s picnic has been donated by Homeland, Walmart, Crest,

Coop, Elk Valley Brewery and more. It’s my present to you for all you do…you deserve to be

loved on and appreciated for your hard work and dedication and faith…and just for being who

you are.

So come. Come Sunday and worship, stay Sunday and eat and just ‘be’. Let’s start summer off

with some fun!

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+