An Instrument of Grace
A reflection from David Tate, Vestry Member
Dear siblings in Christ,
Lent is intended as a time of reflection. It seems there is so much upon which to reflect; mostly negatives. The senseless tragedy in Ukraine; the paradox of how Ukrainian refugees are being welcomed versus the treatment of Iraqi, Syrian, Afghani, Yemeni, Sudanese and other refugees; and at the same time African and Asian students encountering discrimination while trying to flee the horrors in Ukraine; and here at home growing violence against Asian Americans accompanied with legislative assaults on trans people, women’s reproductive rights and the very right to vote itself. It appears the evil one is busily at work undermining the core value of our faith which is hope.
Yet this is where I find the Spirit once again present and active. Yes evil does exist in the world and we are called to confront it. We as a people are called to follow Christ’s example as he humbled himself to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus submitted to unspeakable pains in order to fulfill God’s greater glory and make us whole. We too are called to sacrifice some part of ourselves in order that the Spirit may empower us for the greater good. We are called to reflect on ourselves and our lives.
Lent is the traditional time for us to take stock and engage intensely in that reflection. We do so knowing that this discipline is meant to draw us closer to God and prepare us for the Easter miracle. Even in the darkest times we are people of faith who know the Son will rise.
I have been a member of this parish for approaching 40 years and an Episcopalian Christian since baptism in infancy. I have been a Co-Warden of this parish twice and a member of vestry for more years than I remember. I have witnessed many transitions both positive and negative and watched us uplift many to ordained ministry including our soon retiring Diocesan Bishop Ian. I have also witnessed the Spirit’s power in the birth and growth of our lay ministries.
Around 1990 then Canon Jack Spaeth met with the parish and pronounced that, based on our finances, we had about five years before we could no longer sustain ourselves, leave alone call a full time rector. He has since passed to God’s glory. We remain; stronger than ever. Since that time we have begun revisioning our worship space and our relationships with the greater New Haven community. I truly believe the Spirit is active and God is continuing to use us as an instrument of grace.
Let us take the time to reflect with joy as we embrace the hope that God inspires in and through us. In the name of the One who was and is and is to come. Amen.
David Tate, Vestry
Hello and welcome to The Episcopal Church of St. Paul & St. James! We are an open and affirming community of faith centered around the Eucharist, and grounded in compassion and generosity - for ourselves, each other, and those around us.
Our FAITH is expressed in loving-kindness to all whom we encounter. Our openness creates a safe space for those with questions of faith or complicated relationships with church. We manifest our faith through the rise of lay leadership who have answered new calls during this transitional period, and through our apostles who daily go out into the world to serve their neighbors. Our lay Pastoral Care team reaches out to those in our community who are homebound, or who may not be able to get to church every week.
Our WORSHIP is enthusiastic, spirited, and creative while remaining reverent with respect for tradition. Our jazz music is vibrant, inspirational and founded on Christian theology. We value sermons from a diversity of voices that are both theologically imaginative and practical. In addition to Sunday services, we continue to worship in-person on Wednesdays for noonday prayer, and online on Tuesdays/Thursdays for Compline. Our embrace of openness and adaptability is embodied in our recent decision to remove our pews, creating a flexible worship space in our sanctuary that is ripe with possibility.
OUTREACH into the neighborhoods around us is most visible in our support of and participation in the weekly Loaves & Fishes food pantry and clothing closet which happens in our undercroft. Parishioners also support and participate in the daily morning meal served by Sunrise Café in the same space. We recently launched “The Square at St. PJ’s Church,” opening our building and resources to the community-at-large for celebrations, cultural events, sacred events, co-working space, and more. Given these strengths, we also have areas for growth regarding outreach; for example we intend to lean into our history and responsibility around racial reparation and reconciliation with all of our local communities.
Our CHALLENGES as a community include solving such mundane issues as parking availability, in addition to the more spiritual matters of empowering disciples into action and initiating Christian education for our young children. We also look forward to increasing our visibility as a faithful worshiping community so that we may grow in body and spirit.
Our next PRIEST-IN-CHARGE will delight to stand with us and thrive among us – we are on this journey with Jesus together. We are hoping our next Priest-in-Charge will help us to support our growing lay ministry to expand their gifts in areas including preaching and leading small groups. They will provide spiritual leadership and help us to make theological connections in all that we do. The Priest-in-Charge will share church duties with the laity, and introduce more Christian Formation sessions. They will encourage us to look outside ourselves and increase our meaningful involvement in the neighborhood and the world.
Self Examination and Repentance
“I invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word”
This prayer, from the Ash Wednesday service in the Book of Common Prayer, has
been offered by Sarah and Isaac while leading the Lenten Saturday series on
movement and meditation at St. PJ’s. The gatherings include yoga, meditation,
prayer, and scripture, all while circled on the new floor of our sanctuary. It offers a new perspective and a deeply moving experience in the sacred spaces of the Church.
“Self-examination” is also the next step for us to take on our transition journey as we seek a new Priest-in-Charge. Our Sunday Lenten series, “Episcopal Q&A” has provided folks who have any questions about the Episcopal Church or what it means to be Episcopalian, to have their questions answered, or at least discussed.
This Sunday we will change the focus from asking about the Church, to asking
about ourselves. The Diocese has provided us with a definition of a Parish in the
“new missional age”. This “new missional age” is now, when most parishes have a part-time Priest-in-charge, and so the members of the parish are called to take on many of the duties that were formerly the responsibility of a full-time Rector. The Diocese has also posed a series of questions. How are we living into this definition? What are our strengths and weaknesses? How do we see our new
Priest-in-Charge helping us to move forward?
Our completed “Parish Self-Study” will be provided to potential candidates for
Priest-in-Charge. We invite everyone to stay and take part in discussing the
questions and contributing to the answers. The full “definition of a parish” and
the exact questions will be printed out and inserted into the bulletin on Sunday. If you will not be attending on Sunday, you may access the full definition and
questions below, and forward your thoughts or answers to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Saturday “Movement and Meditation” series meets at 3 pm in the sanctuary
and our Sunday “Episcopal Q&A” gathers right after the service. Both will
continue through Lent. Please join us.
Peace and Blessings,
Brian and Claire
A reflection from Maggie King, Clerk of the Vestry
I have a small bumper sticker on my car that reads “Be Nice.” It is a more secular way of saying “Love one another,” isn’t it? I see it every day as I approach my car to go off to work. My current chosen work involves not much more than “loving one another” and teaching others to “be nice.” I am a pre-school teacher assistant working with 3-year-olds. The pre-school children’s job is not to learn their ABCs, nor their 1-2-3s. Their primary job is to learn to get along with each other – to learn to “be nice.” And this is a tall task for some. Just as loving my neighbor can at times be challenging for me. I’ll start with “being nice.”
I was at a gathering recently where one of the party-goers wore a sweatshirt with a red-white-and-blue image of an AK-47 that also spelled out “2nd Amendment.” I found it to be very “in-your-face” and I made the educated guess that, given my liberal political persuasions, I would not have too much in common with this neighbor. On the other hand, he can’t be all that bad, I thought…he just feels strongly about an individual’s right to bear semi-automatic assault rifles that fire 40 rounds per minute and are specifically designed to kill other human beings. Can you tell that I struggled to make room for this man in my head and in my heart?
It was easier to make room for him in my head. I could recognize his dignity as a father, a son, a worker, a friend. I could recognize that he loves and laughs and wrestles with life just like all of us do. But could I find a place for him in my heart? Could I find love for him? Well, I did not introduce myself to have his acquaintance. I did not enter his sphere nor let him into mine. But I did let him be and enjoy the party on his terms while I enjoyed it on mine. I am challenged by “love thy neighbor” when it is my foe of which we speak.
So where is St. PJs in all of this musing? St PJs is where I feel free to bring my struggles. St PJs is where I feel welcome in all my imperfection. St PJs is not a home for the superficially coifed or frozen chosen few. St PJs is a home to whomever will have her. St PJs, in my experience, is a place where people from a variety of backgrounds and history find comfort, solace, friendship, rest, renewal. Some of us have been here our whole lives, others have just arrived on our albeit crumbling doorsteps; many have called St PJs their home for decades. There is just something about PJs that feels comfortable to certain kinds of folk. And to all those folk: You are in my heart!! I feel it – and it feels oh so good!
Thanks for helping me to be nice, and not just to those for whom that is an easy task. Thanks for helping me to expand my heart and live into that which is challenging. Thanks for all you do just by showing up at St PJs on a Sunday morning.
May the peace of the Lord always be with you,
Maggie King, Vestry
PJs Wardens and Vestry