Worship: A Hotel Room In Amman?

Posted by ajenkins on August 19, 2013 under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

This past Sunday morning, as I awoke in my hotel room in Amman, Jordan, I immediately thought of a time of worship. Here I was in an Islamic nation, surrounded by a great deal of religion and reverence and I really had no where to go and no one with whom to join in worship. So, without the normal “church” surroundings with which I am so accustomed, I put on some worship music on my iPhone and began to worship. While on this pilgrimage I have always carried my Bible, but I didn’t have my Prayerbook. I decided to see just how much of the worship service I could remember. All of you Saint James’ faithful who worship at 8:00 AM know that I have often said that when I loose my place I revert to Rite One. So, that’s what I did. I just began the 8:00 worship service with all of you there and began with those powerful, reverent and comforting words. “Blessed be God, Father and Holy Spirit.” I have to say, God gave me a gift and I think I was able to say, pray, worship the entire service. Okay, probably a bit of it was my paraphrase, but not much. Please understand. I’m not just being proud of my memory. On the contrary. I’m being blessed by the incarnation of those words, that worship which has become part of my very soul.

Now you may be wondering, what I did when I got to the sermon? I’m sure Louise would say, “What else? He preached.” She would be right. Well, it wasn’t a sermon. It was more like a prayer, my personal proclamation before God. I was so overwhelmed by the simple, powerful opening words of the worship, blessed be the Trinity, that this became my prayer, my sermon, my proclamation of faith. I was inspired by my location. Here I was alone, in a hotel room, in an Islamic nation, amongst a people who faithfully kneel to pray three times a day to the God of Abraham, the Monotheistic God (Please, this is not the place for me to argue the finer points of Allah, Yahweh and The Trinity) Here I was alone, in the midst of Islamic monotheism and the power and the presence of the Holy Trinity, God in three persons joined me. Or should I rightly say, I joined them? My heart was overwhelmed with thanksgiving for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As I stood and prayed and talked to the Trinity, gave thanks to each Person of God and for Them I was taken into their fellowship. Jesus prayed that we (that’s us and God) might be one as He and the Father are one (John 17). The Apostle Paul called this the third heaven (2 Cor. 12 & Jude 14,15). This was living water for my soul.

Before taking this sabbatical, this pilgrimage, God gave me several words of direction and encouragement. You all know one of them. It was God’s direction to pray for you, by name on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. Another word He gave me, a promise, which I shared with only a couple of people, was the promise of Sacred Ecstasy. I must say, when I heard that, I wasn’t even sure I knew what it meant. I tried researching it a bit, but no help. So, I thought, okay, this sacred ecstasy will happen in some Holy place in Jerusalem: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa, the Garden of Gethsemane. Or maybe up in Galilee: Capernaum, the site of so many miracles, the Mount of the Beatitudes or even in Jericho at the Mount of the Temptations. Isn’t this God’s way? This amazing moment, this fellowship within the person of God: Father, Son and Spirit was happening in a hotel room in Amman.
Isn’t this God’s way? Isn’t this how He has revealed Himself to humanity since Creation and the Garden? God reveals Himself in His fullness, not dependent on holy places or holy things, but for and through holy people who submit in humility, reverent fear and worship of Him.

My prayer today is that upon my return and because of this great experience you have given me, that God will make the gift and joy and wonder and power and sacredness of the revelation of the Holy Trinity more real and powerful for you. God has truly given us a treasure. May we treasure it and share it.

Arthur
1 John 1:1-4

Travel to Galilee

Posted by ajenkins on July 28, 2013 under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee and traveled up to Jerusalem. That “up” was both an altitude, a spirituality and a theology. Therefore today we had to leave Jerusalem and travel down, literally some several thousand feet to below sea level to the Jordan river basin and then North to Galilee. When we follow Mary and Joseph in Scripture and read of the their traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem it never occurs to me how difficult a trip it might be. After making that trip in reverse I am humbled at the thought of a pregnant woman doing that. Bethlehem is literally a suburb of Jerusalem. Nazareth is many hot miles, deserts and mountains to the North.

Once we arrived in the valley of the Sea of Galilee we first stopped at the Church of the Mount of the Beatitudes. Every church that commemorates a holy site is quite different and owned by one Christian denomination or monastic order or another. Some are beautiful and lavish. Some are small, dank and disappointing. I have to remember I didn’t come to the Holy Land to see or visit churches. I came on a Pilgrimage. I have found the most spiritually nourishing practice at each holy site is to sit and read the Word that is associated with the event and ministry that the site commemorates.

Today as I sat atop the Mount of the Beatitudes, looking out over the Sea of Galilee and while reading the Sermon on the Mount, I was touched by the Holy Spirit. What can I say? I don’t have the means to convey to you on paper what it was like. I can do it when I am face to face with you, as I was with Jesus. On the edge of the Sea of Galilee I became more intimate with the ministry and mission of Jesus our Savior. The place and content of His sermon, the bravery, the humility, the radical call to a bold and sacrificial life struck me more powerfully than it ever has before.

At the end of our day we moved in to a Lutheran Guest house also on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We gathered for worship and Holy Communion and I was given the privilege to be the preacher. The lessons for this Sunday included a bit of the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord teaching the disciples to pray their prayer. How sweet is that? I have just come down from the Mountain, I have touched the Sea of Galilee and now I am asked to speak on our Lord’s Prayer for us, his disciples. God is so gracious. A Divine Appointment.

We will spend the next two days traveling around the area and our Lord’s Galilean Ministry. This is where He called the disciples. This is the Sea (a large lake) where He “traveled to the other side.” This is where He walked on the water. This is where He delivered and healed the man with a legion of demons. This is where, following His Crucifixion, the disciples retreated and where He came to find them and cook breakfast for them on the edge of the lake. What a place. But remember, it isn’t just the geography. Some of the places today are overcrowded, over developed, over used, over politicized and over commercialized. It isn’t just the place that is Holy. It is the Life of Christ that was shared there. It is the reverence of the people who come. It is the on going power of the Holy Spirit that invades any who will come and see and submit.

A beautiful and overwhelming example. When we visited Mensa Christi, the spot that commemorates Jesus’ cooking breakfast for the disciples from John 21, it was just another Church, just another rocky beach on the Sea of Galilee. And it was 101 degrees  hot. So, we saw it. It was nice. We remembered. We gave thanks. We moved off the beach to find a spot to talk and pray a bit and heard singing. We were drawn to the song, the praise, the worship. What we found was a Philippino Youth Group with their Praise Team singing in english. It was amazing. They couldn’t speak a word of english, but they worshiped in english and it was stupendous. We became their congregation and just as Jesus did, they and the worship gave us nourishment on the beach.

Now it is my prayer that your worship on Sunday, your Sabbath will also be that nourishing.

Good Night from the Sea of Galilee.
You are my love and in my prayers,
Arthur

The Patriarch’s Road

Posted by ajenkins on July 25, 2013 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Today we left Jerusalem proper and drove south to Hebron. Our first stop was in Makhpelah and the tomb of Abraham and Sarah. Of all the nations God promised Abraham would father and of all the land God promised Abraham would occupy he only owned one small bit. The cave at Machpelah where he first buried Sara and then himself. This became the burial site of all the patriarchs. The site we saw, actually constructed by Herod the Great almost 2000 years later is actually one of the best attested holy sites in Israel. Of course, there always seems to be a broken world story that accompanies every holy site and every Holy act. Because Abraham is claimed as the Father of Faith by both Islam and Judaism, both religions have a piece of the site. Abraham’s tomb is literally in a room divided down the middle by bullet proof glass and viewable on one side from a mosque and on the other side from a synagogue. Sad. Yet, I could not let these divisions prevent me from giving thanks for Abraham saying, “Yes” to God. Because he said yes, we may also. Thank you father Abraham.

Our next stop was the Oaks of Mamre, the site where Abraham and Sarah were promised they would be the parents of many nations. I hope you get to see the pictures I’ve posted of the Oaks of Mamre where there are no oaks. It is also the site of a great church built by the Emperor Constantine to commemorate the event since then destroyed. Kay and I had a blessed moment to stop and give thanks for our children and that God also made us parents and gave us the gift to pass faith on to a new generation. Join us, won’t you?

We spent the afternoon at a Jewish settlement in Ephrata (Micha 5:2) We heard a really fine talk from and had a fine discussion with an American orthodox Jew who emigrated to Israel 31 years ago. We heard his perspective on the current geo-political situation with Israel. Then we traveled just a short distance over the green line to a Palestinian refugee camp for another fine presentation and time to speak with a young social worker telling us of his hurt and frustration with the same situation, a divided country. Who can solve this? I afraid it isn’t John Kerry. Only God. Only God.

I’ll leave you with this one last thought of my day and the evening. Every place Abraham went he dug a well and built an altar. At each place he offered hospitality to those who came. Isn’t that exactly what Abraham was doing when three men visited him at the Oaks of Mamre? (Genesis 18) What is it about the combination of water and worship and hospitality that is a foundation for our faith, the way of life that we are led to live by power of the Spirit and in the Love of Jesus Christ?

Some of you have enjoyed my quizzes, so here’s another. What are the events of Abraham’s life that occurred between the time he was promised children in Genesis 12 and the renewal of that promise in Genesis 18? Which of these events do you think is most important for us as Christians?

Good Night from Jerusalem.
With my love and joy,
Arthur

Jerusalem 101

Posted by ajenkins on July 24, 2013 under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

Today was such a full day. This morning we had Jerusalem 101. That means we had a three hour lecture on the history of Jerusalem beginning with the Canannite Period through to today. That’s 2000 BC through to the Six Day War. Yikes. The lecture was great, interesting and informative, but three hours?

Following lunch we circled Jerusalem and the Old City. This gave us geographic and historical perspective. From the Mount of Olives we looked over the Garden of Gethsemane, the Kidron Valley, the Lower City or the City of David, the Hinnom Valley and more. To be able to see these places we have all studied so long and to get the perspective of place and distance was so useful. How humbling it was to stand on the Mount of Olives just above the Garden of Gethsemane and be able to see and visualize the path taken after Jesus was arrested and carried to Caiaphas’ house to be interrogated.

We left the Mount of Olives and traveled around the Kidron Valley and back over to the lower city, just below the Temple Mount. There we visited the Jerusalem Archeological Museum.  Here we could view the Temple Walls, the remains of Robinson’s Arch (think back to Peter Walker’s teaching during Holy Week) and the market where the animals for sacrifice were sold. I could easily picture Jesus coming to the Temple on that Palm Sunday and clearing the Temple.

Great introductory material today, even if there was 4000 years of it. Tomorrow we go to Hebron, the Oaks of Mamre and Abraham and Sarah’s grave. Can’t wait.

Good Night from Jerusalem. You are all in my prayers.
With Love and Joy,
Arthur

The Three Streams Church

Posted by ajenkins on May 15, 2013 under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

A number of years ago at Saint James our hearts were captured by a Biblical vision of the Church. It is called a Three Streams, One River vision.

Three Streams…is derived from Psalm 46:4: There is a river whose streams make glad the city (people) of God…” I pointed out that “glad” can be translated  “whole.” God has provided these streams to bring His people into wholeness — a reality that Ezekiel saw when he noticed that, growing beside the river of the water of life, were trees whose leaves were for the healing of the nations.  Ezekiel 47:12
One observes that three great streams have flowed throughout the history of the Christian Church. (We can also find evidence of them in the Old Testament.) The apostle John identifies these three streams in his first letter. In 1John 5:8, he says There are three witnesses — the Spirit, the water, and the blood — and these three agree.

Some of us come from “the Spirit,” or Pentecostal stream. Others identify more with the “water,” with its emphasis on the washing of the Word and personal cleansing. This is the Protestant — the biblical and evangelical — stream.

Others of us come from the “blood” or Catholic stream, with its emphasis on the sacramental. The differences and even struggles which may arise between us often reflect our inability to understand another “stream,” where we feel less at home.

John says that, though these three witnesses are distinct, they are in complete agreement! What do they agree about? They are unanimous about the person of Jesus Christ: who He is, why He came, and what He has done for us. Those witnesses agree because, together, they create a brilliant composite picture of Christ. None of them can manage that completely on their own.

So the three streams agree on the substance of our faith: the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet though their witness is in perfect agreement, there is a dynamic tension between them.

The three streams – Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal – have always been present in the Christian Church. They are complementary, intended by God to flow together. Tragically, they are usually separated. Churches which major in a specific stream typically reject – and often criticize – the others.
What, then, will a “three streams, one river” church look like?
Here is a brief summary of the distinct approaches adopted by each stream in just six areas:

Standards of Orthodoxy
A “three streams” church won’t separate faith from works. It will be passionate about calling people to a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. But it will not be tempted to see that as an end. The goal is also to call people into a life of obedience to Jesus by sacrificial service “to the least of these my brothers.” Our vision statement captures that truth. We are called to “Proclaim God’s Grace in Jesus Christ.”

Music and Worship
All the great kinds of music which Paul mentions in Ephesians 5:19-psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs-will be welcomed and balanced in a “three streams” church. Each has its own unique place: “psalms” – liturgical music to enhance the liturgy; hymns, which express the grandeur and majesty of God and which are rich in doctrine and biblical imagery; and “spiritual songs” – music which arises spontaneously out of, and gives expression to, what God is saying and doing to His Church now. Spiritual songs usually have a relatively brief shelf-life. They feel dated after a few years. At our Sunday celebration – a “three streams” service – we employ all three genres.

Authority
Our Anglican model of authority is hierarchical. Clergy have spiritual authority over their congregations. Bishops have spiritual authority over clergy. A “three-streams” church receives and respects that authority. But it will expect those in authority to recognize the spiritual giftedness of the congregation, and to call all its members to the work of ministry. A “three streams” congregation knows the utter futility of engaging in ministry without the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It will pray for its leaders to be freshly and powerfully anointed, so that their leadership will manifest the presence and power of Christ.

Structure
The Catholic preference for top-down, centralized structures speaks of the need for spiritual oversight, and submission to the authority God has placed over the church.
The Protestant preference for bottom-up (lay-initiated and -led),  diversified (shared power) structures insists that the congregation be trusted  with real responsibility, and be given a sense of ownership for the life and mission of the church.
The Pentecostal preference for spontaneity speaks of a burning desire for life – and a recognition that structures in themselves cannot bear fruit.
These three, apparently incompatible, approaches are mutually consistent. Each needs the others. The first, by itself, leads to authoritarianism; the second to anarchy; and the third to chaos.  We will hold these three structure preferences in cohesion with our Team based organization.  This method of organizing, administering, and encouraging our shared ministry recognizes the episcopal authority of the bishop imputed to the Rector, while relying on the ministry of all believers in ministry team participation and discerning and employing the Spiritual gifts of the congregation.

Theological Emphasis
The Charismatic Renewal succeeded in bringing back the forgotten Holy Spirit into the Church. “Three streams” churches will make generous room for the Holy Spirit. They will welcome the manifestation of all the spiritual gifts. They will emphasize intuitive ways of knowing Truth, not restricting these to the rational and cognitive.
But they will never divorce the Spirit from the  Word-preferring manifestations of the Spirit to disciplined Bible study and biblical preaching (in fact, the Word should judge manifestations); or creating false dichotomies between spontaneity and freedom on the one hand, and program and structure on the other. Neither will they divorce the Spirit and the Word from the Father, who creates order by keeping Word and Spirit in dynamic tension.

Key Aspect of Christ’s Salvation
A “three streams” church will receive and love Jesus Christ as the scriptures reveal him to us through his incarnation, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection, and glorious ascension; through the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost; and through His promised return. It will never prefer His divinity over His humanity, or His miracles over His command to love and serve others.

Recovering the True Meaning of Repentance

Posted by ajenkins on May 1, 2013 under Anglican Events, Devotionals, Good News, Reformation, Repentance, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

By: The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison
This past Advent my wife asked what I was going to preach about on the coming Sunday.
“Repentance,” I replied. “Oh gosh!” she replied wearily, “I wish you’d preach on something cheerful.” One can easily understand why repentance is not considered a joyful subject! The dictionary defines ‘repent’ as “self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do,” “conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it,” or “to feel remorse.” The brilliant novelist E. M. Forster claimed that, “of all means to regeneration, Remorse is surely the most wasteful. It cuts away healthy tissue with the poisoned. It is a knife that probes far deeper than the evil” (Howard’s End, Ch. 41). One could expect such a negative view of remorse from Forster’s known failure to trust Christian forgiveness. How-ever, we should not overlook the unfortunate truth in his observation.It is especially important when we acknowledge that our secular culture increasingly shares with Forster a hope bereft of divine forgiveness, where mere regret sadly replaces repentance.

I contend that the Greek word used in Scripture to express repentance distorts the true biblical meaning of the crucial term: Repent. The Greek word that is used is metanoia, meaning to change one’s mind, whereas in every context in Scripture ‘repentance’ is not a change of mind but a change of heart. The difficulty lies in the fact that the Greek language has no word for change of heart—no metakardia. Swahili has no word for atonement because there had been no experience of atonement. So Greek, bereft of Israel’s revelation concerning change of heart, is left with a superficial hope, only a change of mind, metanoia, no metakardia.

This failure to appreciate the deeper dimension of human nature was abetted by the teaching of Socrates and Plato, who insisted that knowledge produces virtue. They identified goodness with knowledge, saying that to know the good is to do the  good. Vice and evil are simply the result of ignorance.

Such belief is radically different from that of Scripture: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt,” and “If I… understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing” (I Cor. 13: 1, 2). Love comes not from a change of mind but a change of heart. “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13); “The Lord is nigh them of broken hearts” (Ps. 31:18); “The wise in heart will heed commandments” (Prov. 10:8); “The heart of men is set to do evil” (Eccles. 9:13); “receive the heart of contrite ones ”(Is. 57:15); “Blessed are the poor in heart for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). In fact, it takes nine columns of Cruden’s Concordance to list the texts regarding heart, but one column is sufficient to include all the verses regarding mind.

Because the Greek language had no word for change of heart, Greek translation gives prominence to the mind. This was bootlegged into Christianity, resulting in a Greek rather than a Christian understanding of repentance. It is not enough to change one’s mind. Our hearts must be changed, changed not by knowledge but by love.

Following this mistake the meaning of faith or belief (pistis) tends to be relegated to the mind and not, as in Scripture, more deeply to the heart. One can intellectually acknowledge the existence of God, but that is a far cry from the trust of God in one’s heart.The latter results in action whereas the former can rest in mere passive acknowledgement.

Much of the historical misunderstanding in the relation between faith and works stems from teaching that faith (pistis) is a matter of the mind instead of its being a trust of the heart that, as true faith, inevitably leads to works. Professor Ashley Null has taught us that “what the heart desires, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” This, he tells us, is his paraphrase of Philip Melanchthon’s writings that so influenced Thomas Cranmer and can be seen in his Prayer Books. Knowing that the will is but an agency of the heart, Cranmer saw the virulent vanity of Pelagianism. Unless the heart is enticed, evoked, and changed, it is vain to exhort the will. The Gospel itself is the means by which the heart is changed by the message of a gracious God. Unless the heart is moved, the will cannot be effectively engaged.

It is particularly evident in the parable of the prodigal son that repentance in the pig-pen is a low level of repentance, an insight of the mind. “I can do better as one of my father’s servants.” But true repentance, a change not of mind but a change of heart, occurs when the prodigal son experiences the undeserved, initiating, costly love of his father. Similarly, Cranmer’s absolutions in both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (1928) show that true repentance comes after, not before, absolution. The grace of unearned and undeserved absolution speaks to the heart and results in the fruit of the Spirit.

There is no Socratic reliance upon the mind as the means of virtue and obedience in Cranmer’s prayer books. His use of Psalm 51 in the penitential office, “make in me a clean heart, O God…, a broken and a contrite heart, shalt thou not despise,” his responses to the Decalogue, “incline our hearts to keep this law,” and the reception of Holy Communion, “feed on him in thy heart” show clearly that Cranmer’s incomparable use of Scripture for the biblical meaning of repentance indicates a true metakardia even though there is no such Greek word.

When Dr. Null’s work on Cranmer was published by Oxford University Press, it was promised that the whole title would be on the cover. Unfortunately it was not. One has to turn inside to the title page to find it: Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to Love. Given the general and
understandable attitude toward the term ‘repentance’ the sub-title badly needs to be up front. Many of us feel that repentance is good for other people, but understanding that repentance renews “the power to love” makes us realize a dimension that all of us seek. “Renewing the power to love” rescues the remorse in repentance from destructive possibilities. Sin is a deeper matter than merely breaking a rule or law. It is always radically personal against others, against self, and against God. No self-hate, self-damage, despair, or the accumulation of sacrifices—the fruit of mere remorse—can rectify or redeem sin.

God’s absolution is no mere acceptance. It is God’s grace squeezing into the bastion of our hearts through the crack of remorse. This is the repentance (metakardia) that renews the power to love.

The Rt. Rev’d C. FitzSimmons Allison is the 12th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and lives in Georgetown with his wife Martha.

Rector’s Annual Report Annual Meeting for Ministry, 2013

Posted by ajenkins on under Anglican Events, Faith At Home, Just A Thought, Regeneration, Sabbatical, The Parish, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”    Acts 20:28

TO BE AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST
by
LOVING GOD.     LOVING PEOPLE.     BUILDING COMMUNITY.

THANKSGIVING

We continue to be a congregation of Thanksgiving. I know you have heard my refrain, “Let your thanksgivings overwhelm your complaints.” As there is always something about which to complain; by faith, there is also always something for which to give Thanks. Remember, we call the prayer of consecration at the Holy Communion, “The Great Thanksgiving.” I pray that you have been blessed and awed by the thanksgivings offered. For me these thanksgivings are humbling and encouraging. The testimonies to God’s goodness and action in our lives are to many to mention. We have joined the thanksgivings of our brothers and sisters-in-Christ for everything from birthdays to the birth of a child or a grandchild to the answer of prayer for healing from cancer, resurrection of a marriage and new faith and life. Yes, people have come to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Yes, I start this report with thanksgivings because expressing our thanks and recognition to God is changing who we are and our life together.

SHARE OUR SACRIFICE

Our stewardship, our Christian giving during 2012 was marked by the Share Our Sacrifice request. It reminded us of the power of Biblical solutions over financial solutions. It reminded us that as the Body of Christ we look for family solutions and not business solutions. It reminded us that as the Body of Christ we are an organism and not just an organization. Several of you have asked me why we didn’t continue that request this year. My answer continues to be two-fold. First, we did continue it. I asked you to simply add your increased sacrifice to your tithe. That’s what Kay and I did. The second part of the answer is that your Staff doesn’t have anything more with which to sacrifice. We sacrificed to  make a point, that is, if we all share in the giving there is very little sacrifice in it. Have you experienced the joy and peace of tithing, of giving intentionally to God and this ministry we share? Try it.

PREPARATION FOR A NEW ASSISTANT RECTOR – WE’VE DONE IT!

We’ve done it and I am so proud of you all. We have prayerfully and I think, faithfully called a new assistant pastor. The Rev’d Andrew Williams and his wife, the Rev’d Jill Williams and their two sons, Jude and Joshua will join us this Summer. Andrew will join us for his first Sunday on June 9th, the same Sunday our Bishop, Mark, will be with us. Jill may need to stay in Massachusetts for a time to sell their home and finish up some of her own ministry within the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Andrew will bring a new energy and perspective to our clergy staff. Andrew thinks about car seats and soccer matches, while I think about reading and naps.
This new method of ministry transitions has been blessed and encouraged by our Bishop. In the past it was traditional and understood that no assistant could or would move into the leadership role upon the senior pastor’s retirement. This made for transitions that always depended on bringing someone from outside the parish family, outside the ministry organization to become the new spiritual leader. While this was done carefully, prayerfully and with a discerning search committee, it still was often marked by great change by not fully knowing what you were going to get. By growing up the pastoral leadership from within our ministry and life together will not miss a beat. But that is why we are bringing Andrew into our clergy staff now instead of 7 years from now. With God’s help and your understanding this next seven years will be a fruitful season of life and ministry at Saint James.

LOUISE WELD

As we prepare joyfully to welcome Andrew to our church I want to be very clear about my plans and prayers for the ministry I share with Louise Weld. I want you to keep her. I want you to give of your tithes and offerings that we might be able to keep Louise on our staff for as long as she can and will serve. Yes, I want us to allow Louise to have a more part-time ministry as she wishes at the same time recognizing that we need her. Louise and her ministry is impacting us at Saint James and also our Diocese. She is about to play a major role in the understanding of women’s ministry and ordination as we reorganize our diocese. She is a symbol of the fullness of ministry that is to be shared by men and women, husbands and wives and parents. I fully believe that Louise and I, clerics male and female, perfect and imperfect, represent a small part of how the Kingdom of God, the Jesus Culture and the Body of Christ works. That representation is important for our Diocese at this critical time.

FAITH AT HOME

Building Faith by building families of faith continues to be the vision and goal of our staff and myself. I recognize this contradicts many of the teaching, standards and expectations of our society and even many of the practices of the church in the past. Just one of the lies that continues to be propagated by society is that you, the parents, have very little influence over your children. This is such a sad lie and completely opposite of Biblical truth and God’s created order. God has given parents power and authority over their children’s hearts. And, as we often say by quoting Dr. Rob Rienow, “IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.”
We are starting to see some of the fruit of this dramatic shift in how we teach and make disciples and how we structure our ministry. I want you to know that many parishes in the Diocese are copying Saint James. Our invitation for fathers to pray over their children at baptism, confirmation, graduation and more is being used across the diocese and more. The Rev’d Mark Holmen, of Faith At Home Ministries is sharing this idea and more across the country. To God be the Glory & Honor.

ANGLICAN EVENTS

Last year I told you that “we have been living as a step-child within The Episcopal Church (TEC) for the last eight years.” Well, now that has ended. To quote our Bishop, The Right Reverend Mark Lawrence, “we have moved on.” During this past year charges of abandonment of communion and judgments of inhibition and deposition were brought against our Bishop. Knowing that if our Bishop were removed we would not be allowed to chose another, our Diocese left TEC. I have been asked by many times, “where are we going?” My answer has been and continues to be, “No where.” We are not realigning with any Anglican entity at this time. We will simply remain the Diocese of South Carolina. Remember, we were a Diocese before there was a TEC and we are one of several dioceses who formed TEC. Obviously and sadly this will all decided in court. Again, I remind you that your leadership, the Vestry and many parish elders have made wise, faithful and effective preparations for whatever may come.
Meanwhile, we continue to keep the main thing, the main thing. That is the worship and ministry of our Living Lord, Jesus Christ. For me, that is most clearly expressed in the Apostle John’s words in his first letter. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also my have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.    1 John 1:3

THE DIOCESE AND THE STANDING COMMITTEE

The next several years will be significant and historic for our Diocese. Because we are now an Anglican Diocese, no longer restricted by TEC traditions or canons, we can and will reorganize ourselves and reclaim some of the Biblical ground that has been lost. Just one small but profound example of that is membership. Canonically speaking, TEC has defined a member for the last many years as “one who attends church and receives communion at least three times a year.” Doesn’t that seem like a pretty meager definition of membership? I have been blessed and challenged to be elected to the Standing Committee of the Diocese for the next three years. As a member of the Standing Committee I will be on the forefront of our reorganization and identity as a Biblically based church and a member of the Anglican Communion.

SABBATICAL

I can hardly believe that my sabbatical is almost here. I must bear witness to you of God’s grace and provision in this. The timing is certainly providential. Yes, I admit I have wanted, even needed a sabbatical for many years. Please remember, a sabbatical is more than a rest or a vacation. It is more importantly a time of renewal, education, reflection and ministry direction. I can’t imagine a better time than this as we all plan for the future and I as I consider the direction and importance of my waning years of ministry with you. The place is also providential. Obviously I had considered possibilities and places for a sabbatical for years. Thoughts, daydreams, listening to other pastors who had traveled here and there and focused on many differing areas of study and ministry. And then, as this sabbatical became a real possibility the door just opened to Jerusalem, Israel and the Holy Land. Two courses of study at St. George’s College and then a month with a Rabbi living with him in his flat (that’s what they call an apartment). I will literally be able to cross that line from being a tourist to be a resident of Jerusalem, even though just for a short time. I will be able to leave the tours and structured itineraries and go to some of the Holy Places and just be. One of the several things the Lord has put on my heart is to go the the Mount of Olives, take with me the list of members of Saint James and pray for you each by name. I can’t wait to name you, your family, your children before the Lord in that place where our Lord prayed, “Make them one as we are one.” John 17:22. Also, the finances have been providential. Last year, Bruce and Virginia, our Wardens, sent out a request to some of the members of Saint James and they graciously funded my sabbatical. I am so grateful and humbled by their generosity. Also, I am blessed that this didn’t take away from the ministry budget and resources we so carefully steward at Saint James.
My greatest prayer for my sabbatical is that it will not be all mine. My prayer is that this will be a time of ministry review, renewal and reflection that will bless, encourage and guide us all. I can’t wait to  return with stories, revelations and places to share.

Lastly – FIFTEEN years  (I write this every year to remind us both)

I am coming to the end of my fifteenth year with you as your Rector and Pastor. I remind us both of this because being a long-term pastor is so important to me. I believe when God calls pastors to the ministry He calls us to the same commitment as when married. God calls us to monogamy. When Kay and I talked and prayed about returning to Saint James in 1998 we both knew that this was not a stepping stone, but God’s invitation to be part of Saint James either until I retired or was told to leave. For me, what we do and share together will be my life “well spent.” That is a blessing to me as I pray it is to you.

Arthur
Ephesians 3:14-21
Prayer BCP, pg. 562 & 563, bottom of the page

THE SEASON OF LENT

Posted by ajenkins on January 30, 2013 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

SET APART FOR GOD’S WORK IN YOU

This coming Wednesday, February 13 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This invitation in worship on that day is a keystone of this season of preparation for Easter.

“I invite you, therefore, 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.”

-Book of Common Prayer, p.265

This invitation is the doorway into Lent. Upon first hearing this invitation it is easy to think, “Well Lent is here again and these are the things I am supposed to do to get through Lent.” But what if it is not just about getting through Lent? Maybe the real question is, “How will Lent get through to me?”
We often think of Lent as a penitential season and it is. But far too often “penitential” is misunderstood and Lent often becomes nothing more than a season of blame, guilt, regret, and disappointment. That is not what Lent is about. In fact, the very first sentence of worship for Ash Wednesday says, “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made….” If that is God’s attitude then it should also be ours. We fully believe
“What God creates, God loves; and what God loves, God loves everlastingly.”         St. Iraneaus
We need to hear these words deep in our souls. We need to hear these words as applicable to us, to those we love, to our friends and families, to those we do not like, and to those we do not even know or want to know.
The Lenten invitation is an invitation to the interior life, a call to discover and live into our true identity, our identity in God. Who we are in God is who we are. And who we are in God is a beloved son or daughter. We are no longer dependent on the culture to tell us who we are, nor are we controlled by our own estimation of our identity.
Lent invites us to self-reflection in order to consider the ways in which we have allowed our fears, attitudes, behaviors, our accomplishments, successes and failures, as well as the opinions of others to tell us who we are, to separate us from God, ourselves, and each other. Lent invites us to repent of, fast from, and let go of those false identities and recover our true identity as God’s holy people made in the image and likeness of God.
Just as I have continually prayed for you to have an overwhelming Epiphany. I now pray for you to be so filled and encouraged by the Holy Spirit of God that the Presence of Christ will drive away and heal every scab of our broken and fallen culture. Then our shared season of Lent will be one of DISCOVERY for you.
OUR PRAYER FILLED SEARCH FOR AN ASSISTANT PASTOR
Our Search Committee is fully formed and at work and at prayer. By Divine Appointment (that is without advertising) we have five candidates. These men are all pastors who are an encouragement as to the future and power of the Church. We have already interviewed one candidate and I must say that our Search Committee did a fine job. In a Godly search process the action of discernment goes both ways. Just as we are praying to discern whom God wants us to call, the candidate also has to discern if God is drawing them to us and our shared ministry. Candidates are an active part of the interview process. They ask questions. I couldn’t have been more proud and more blessed than to hear our Committee’s answers of faith, prayer and love of our Lord and Saint James. We are in good hands. I have given the Search Committee only one qualification to look for. “Find someone with whom you can fall in love, because they love Jesus.”
IT’S A SABBATICAL
The plans are fully formed now for the educational portion of my sabbatical to begin July 21st through September 21st. I begin at St. George’s College, Jerusalem with a course entitled The Palestine of Jesus. Following that two week course I will live with Rabbi Natan Ophir, a professor at Hebrew University for a month during which time I will study and also travel, I pray, to Sinai and St. Catherine’s Monastery. During my last two weeks I will return to St. George’s for a course entitled, The Children of Abraham. I am eager to go and eager to return with all that I know our Lord will have me share with you.

Arthur

Christmas: An Inconvenient Truth

Posted by ajenkins on November 20, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Just A Thought, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

In 2008 former Vice President Al Gore grabbed the headlines as the narrator of a film about the environment and global warming entitled An Inconvenient Truth. This short word from me is not about this film or even global warming. The “inconvenient truth” about which I wish to write is the inconvenient truth proclaimed by the truth of Christmas.

Christmas is not a shopping season. It is not a family get together to eat season. It is not even just a season to share and give charitably. Christmas is the celebration of the birth, the incarnation of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. I know that doesn’t surprise any of you, especially as I write this in a church newsletter. I am sad that it may surprise you when I tell you in all seriousness that the birth of Christ has become an inconvenient truth.

The premise of Al Gore’s movie is that we Americans see any sacrifice, no matter how slight, which might care for our environment as inconvenient. It would be inconvenient to our lifestyle, to our comfort, to our plans, to our striving for the American Dream. This is also, exactly what has happened with Christmas, the Birth of Christ and the Gospel. Scripture is filled with what have become seen as inconvenient truths because these truths may be detrimental to our lifestyle, our comfort, our plans, our striving for the American Dream.

When a society prospers and enjoys great security it is inevitable that false ideas about life, death, truth and God will flourish with little resistance. Conversely when tragedy strikes those same people no longer want what once ticked their ears, but they want answers and truth.

Sadly this is true for the visible church (meaning, the institution). As American Christians continue to gluttonously indulge themselves on the riches and excesses of life that the West has to offer, they tolerate and even welcome all sorts of twisted ideas about life, death, truth and God.
Some segments of the Church will tell you that God wants you to be rich and healthy and that if you’re not, you must be lacking faith. Another segment of the Church will tell you that no one can know anything for sure (emerging church and nature worshippers). And yet another segment will sacrifice any inconvenient truths of Scripture for popularity and the ever increasing appeal to entertain their members and the desires of society.

However, when your child is diagnosed with leukemia, when your spouse is killed by a drunk driver, when a global famine strikes or the stock market crashes or even when you finally recognize your own weaknesses and limitations, will the hard sayings (John 6:59-60) of Jesus Christ still seem inconvenient?

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”
“If anyone would come follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul.”
“If anyone says he has no sin, he deceives himself and the truth is not in him.”

These and more inconvenient truths are embodied and proclaimed by the Angels at the celebration of the Birth of Christ. “For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” It has become an inconvenient truth for many and for much of the Church that we are in need of a Savior. That we are sinners in need of forgiveness and restoration to our Creator.

This year at Saint James, as in every year, we will celebrate the inconvenient truth that we are in need of a Savior. That “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” I pray you will join us.

Arthur

Opening Closed Doors

Posted by ajenkins on April 21, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Just A Thought, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

From the Bishop of South Carolina, The Rt. Rev’d Mark  Lawrence

Dear Friends in Christ,

When Marjorie Goff closed the door of her apartment in 1949 she was 39 years old.  For her the door stayed shut for the next 30 years.  To be accurate there were a few exceptions.  She went out in 1960 to visit her family, two years later for an operation, and once in 1976 because a friend came to her apartment to take her out for some ice cream.

Marjorie suffered from that metaphor of the human condition known as a phobia.  The list of recognized human phobias is legion.  There’s agoraphobia, aerophobia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, pyrophobia, thanatophobia—just to name a few.  Robert L. DuPont a past director of the Washington Center of Behavioral Medicine called phobias, “The malignant diseases of the ‘what ifs.’”

“What ifs” add up to fears, and fears are right smack dab in the middle of the Easter story.  Matthew’s gospel tells of the chief priests’ and the Pharisees’ fear of a hoax by the disciples.  So they pressured Pilate to send a guard of soldiers to secure the world against a scheme (Matthew 27:62-66).  I’m reminded of Houdini, that renowned magician of another era, who told his wife as he was dying that he would find a way back.  His widow waited, but he never came.  You can secure the world against a scheme or even a magician, but you can’t secure it against a miracle.  Mary Magdalene however didn’t know this, so she was fearful for quite other reasons than  the priests and Pharisees.  When she returned a second time on Easter morning to the empty tomb and to face a fearful future without even the dead body of Jesus to console her, the “what ifs” got the better of her.  The Gospel of John recounts how she mistook the risen Jesus for the gardener.  “Sir,” she queried, “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him…”  Our fears and “what ifs” as did hers may well hide from us the presence of the risen Christ.  No wonder in the Easter narratives the attending angels and the risen Jesus tell the disciples “Do not be afraid.”  It is Christ’s victory on the cross and in the tomb over every mortal enemy of humankind that makes these words have substance and therein makes them liberating.

“Christ is risen—Jesus lives” that is the telling message of Easter:  even in the face of Death, Sin, Hell, Judgment, the Devil, and all the “what ifs” of fear— Jesus lives!  After all these enemies of mankind have done their worst, He still Lives—and He still delivers.  This is what gives truth to those wonderful words of Julian of Norwich, “All is well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  She too lived like Marjorie Goff in a room with a closed door.  She was an anchoress.  Her room was attached to a cathedral.  She had only two windows in this room.  One looked in towards the altar of the Norwich Cathedral.  The other looked out to the world.  Unlike Marjorie, however, it was not fear that kept Julian behind a closed door.  It was love—love for Christ and love for a needy world.  It was for this world that Jesus died, and for which He now lives to make intercession, and within His love and intercession she presented her intercessions and so can we.

C. S. Lewis once wrote of Christ’s resurrection:  “He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man.”  It is this opened door that made Julian of Norwich free, free enough to be joyous in a single room, two windows and a closed door so she could live devotedly with an open door of abiding prayer (Revelation 3:20).  It is the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection that when rightly heard and understood will open the doors and lives of those like Marjorie Goff who have lived in the fear of “what ifs.”  I encourage you to invite a friend or acquaintance to join you at church for the Easter Day Eucharist so they might hear this Good News and of the door that Christ has opened for you and keeps open for them as well.

Blessings in Christ our Savior and Lord,
+Mark Lawrence
South Carolina