May 28, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
This week hangs heavy. How do I even find the words to say? So soon after the horrors of last week in Buffalo, where a racially-motivated teenager murdered 10 people in a grocery store, we were bombarded with the news of yet another mass shooting. This one in Uvalde, Texas, where the victims were 19 children and 2 teachers at an elementary school.
Here in Connecticut, we remark on how eerily familiar this sounds, close to ten years after the events of Sandy Hook in 2012. And what has changed since then? There are more guns. I learned this week that guns have surpassed automobile accidents to become the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. That makes me feel so sick and angry I don’t know what to do. It seems such an easy thing to address, right?
The timing of this news is particularly poignant. This past Wednesday marked the 2-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. This coming Monday we remember those who gave their lives for this country, and the ideals of freedom and democracy it is supposed to represent.
People keep saying that we need more than just “thoughts and prayers.” We need action, policy change, police reform, mental health care, and above all, serious restrictions on guns. And we need these yesterday.
Yet as years and shootings and killings go by without any significant change in gun control legislation, and rooted in my faith in a God who is present in even the darkest of times, I feel like all I can do in this moment is pray, and pray hard.
O God, I pray that today is the day that the people’s cries are loud enough to rattle those with the power to do something about the gun epidemic in our country.
I pray for the loved ones of the victims, that they may find solace and comfort in their grief.
I pray for all whose lives are forever changed and broken by gun violence.
I pray that we all, including myself, never get lulled into numbness, complacency, or forgetfulness.
I pray for the troubled souls of the shooters, that no one else follows in their footsteps.
I pray for those whose lives were taken, that they may rest in peace and safety in the palms of Your almighty hands of love.
And, if we all pray hard enough, long enough, loud enough… I must believe that someone will truly hear us.
Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You this day in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
For resources, action, and prayers from the Episcopal Church on gun violence, we recommend Bishops United Against Gun Violence.
A time to celebrate
May 21, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
This week we celebrate completions and beginnings. Sunday, we recognize the completion of degrees by students at university and graduate school. Monday leads to new beginnings.
St PJs is blessed by having many students worship in our space. They bring energy, ideas, technical skills, thoughtful sermons, and often very beautiful voices. Each student has been on a journey of hard work, late nights, deadlines, exams, and seemingly endless papers. That has now come to an end, at least for a short time until they enter their new beginnings.
I am struck by the Lesson this week from Acts (16:9-15). In a vision, Paul was told to travel with his followers to Macedonia to proclaim the good news. The writer describes the journey: sailing from Troas to Samothrace, then to Neapolis and finally, overland to Philippi, where they ‘remained… for some days’. Since there probably was not a synagogue in Philippi, they went to the river to speak to some of the women who had gathered for prayer. One, named Lydia ‘opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.’
They didn’t meet a huge throng of people. They didn’t convert hundreds. They made a journey, based on a vision, to find one woman who opened her heart to God, and, with her household, was baptized.
New beginnings do not need to be full of large or exciting events and accomplishments. The journey starts with the people you meet, the respect and love you give, the relationships you form. And, over time, little by little, something wonderful can build.
For each of us on our journey, whether it is new or old, Jesus reassures that the Holy Spirit will help to guide us. ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid’ (John 14:25-27).
May 14, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
Jesus was a fully formed human, a complicated person. Many popular images and hymns portray him as gentle and mild, a serene peacemaker, and thoughtful teacher. He did say that the meek would inherit the earth. The Gospels also describe how Jesus could be intense, and a person of action. Yes, he healed the sick, and ministered to the broken and marginalized. But he challenged the wealthy, the powerful, and the self righteous. He spoke with authority when arguing with religious leaders, even when threatened with death.
Our churches often reflect the cultural view of Jesus as solemn and comforting, contemplative, and even contented. Sitting in church during a service is a good way to connect with Jesus in these ways. But Christ called his first disciples as he was walking beside the Sea of Galilee and he said to a few fishermen, " Come, follow me!" Most of us are not in a position to put down our nets and follow Jesus. So how are we to be "people of action"? What can our 'following Jesus' look like? Well, this Sunday you can lay down your "net", and pick up a watering can! The St. PJ's Garden Ministry needs volunteers to help water our planters and gardens after Church on Sundays if we have not had rain. Or consider being a greeter at the front doors of the Church, before and after services, to engage with other worshippers, especially new-comers. We have a need for liturgical assistants to serve at the altar. The Capital Campaign will need volunteers to do research and development. We are forming a Columbarium Committee to clarify and reorganize our approach to the internment of ashes there. So if you feel called, or if you receive a call from someone in the parish inviting you to step up, you might just be hearing Jesus saying "Come, follow me". Frequently, during Dismissal at the end of the service we are called to "Go forth into the world in peace, to love and serve the Lord". Now is the time.
Brian Fillmore, co-warden
A message about change
May 7, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
Change is everywhere and often when I hear that word, bells go off in my head. What is wrong? What can I do? What should I do? But change doesn’t have to set off these bells or whatever it does for you. Change can be good as well, I‘ve been noticing all the buds popping everywhere, trees stretching their limbs and unfurling new leaves.
And even some surprise visitors among the blooms!
So, with change there can be life-giving newness. We don’t always have to fear change. And so too for us at St PJ’s. Jesus is risen and life is reborn within us. And it’s not the addition of chairs alone at St PJ’s that reflect a change and newness. It’s within each of us. Under the leadership of Brian and Claire and supported by sharing in Eucharist with Nathan we are becoming something new as a community of faith at St PJ’s.
At Noon Day Prayer this past Wednesday, we read from Luke 7:11-17 about the death of a widow’s son and how Jesus brought him to life again. And following this, "they all realized they were in a place of holy mystery”. And I believe we too at St PJ’s are in a place of holy mystery. A time of change, yes and transition, yes; but we must trust that our God is with us and within each of us as we move forward to a new future as the people of God on this corner of Chapel and Olive.
Let us not fear change, but rather welcome it, with renewed faith in ourselves, one another and our God.
I close with a prayer, author unknown, which fell out of my Book Of Common Prayer. (Just by chance?)
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the
freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. (And I would add laugh.)
It is there for each and every one of us.”
Blessings to all!
Marilyn J. Bergen,
PJs Wardens and Vestry