A favorite St. John’s tradition is our annual Christmas Tree Cutting Trip. On Saturday, December 3, we will organize at the Nickles’ home at 10am and journey to the Big Horns for our annual event. Megan will create a potluck sign-up sheet that will be posted next to the Coffee Hour sign-up sheet. Please note that permits can be obtained at the “Country Store” Gas Station in Lovell (same place as last year), which is on the way to the Big Horns. Their phone number is 307-548-7110. The Lovell Forest Service Office is not issuing tree permits at this time.
The good news of Advent is that if we wait,
while we wait, in the waiting, God comes.
Advent is a season of hopeful anticipation of God’s breaking into our world and our time. It is composed of four Sundays prior to Christmas Day, beginning this year on November 27. Liturgical colors are used for vestments and altar decoration (frontals) to mark the seasons and to symbolize the themes. The color used for Advent is either purple or blue. We prefer blue to represent water – the water over which God’s Spirit moved in Creation (Gen. 1) to begin the process of life and the water of Baptism which is the starting place for all Christians who anticipate the coming of Christ into their lives. The liturgies of Advent are characterized by a sense of the awesomeness of the God for whom we wait. We often use an Advent Wreath of four or five candles, lighting one more each week, to mark the time of waiting. This year at St. John’s, we will be singing a quiet chant while the children sound their chimes as the Advent Candle is lit. Many families have their own Advent Wreath custom at home.
Christmas is the Season when we proclaim the unique nature of our God – that God does not stand aloof from us, but fully enters into our lives. The first liturgy of Christmas is the Eve of that day. At St. John’s, we celebrate this first liturgy of Christmas at 6pm on Christmas Eve, and it is a joy-filled time of being together, looking inward and looking outward. The season of Christmas lasts for 12 days, beginning on the 25th and ending on the 12th night, or January 5th. The color used in Christmas liturgies is white, symbolizing purity, joy, and hope.
In our world today, our culture bombards us with images of a perfect Christmas that is obtainable if one spends the “right” amount of money on the “perfect” gift. St. John’s would like to offer support for alternative ways to celebrate new or on-going traditions of simplicity and meaning during this Advent and Christmas Season. How can one find new ways to celebrate these seasons in a way that deepens our faith, deepens our relationships with each other and the world, and deepens the Advent/Christmas meaning? A good first step would be to begin the discussion: how can we celebrate this year? What new traditions can we create? What treasured traditions do we hold dear? What does this look like as our children are now adults? What can this mean for families with young children or for families with no children? Here are a few examples to consider:
- The Nickles/Woods family has decided to forego giving each other gifts this year. They will fill stockings for each other with small, personal, meaningful things. They will also carry on their tradition of exchanging Christmas Cards with each other and sharing this exchange as a family.
- Another St. John’s Family, the Tillotsons, have continued to enjoy a tradition that Angela’s grandparents initiated. It’s a competition of sorts, with participants making ice cream balls (usually vanilla with coconut) that have a candle in the center. The competition is to see whose candle stays lit the longest. The winner is pronounced King or Queen for the year and presented a crown made out of an ice cream bucket decorated with tinsel . Their picture is taken and their name is added to a scroll which lists previous winners.
- Another way to create memories is to travel together as a family in lieu of gifts, with the focus on spending time together. This could be as simple as planning day trips to spending days away.
- Another tradition, in lieu of gifts, is to make a donation to a favorite charitable organization in a loved one’s name. Locally, this could include Powell Valley Loaves & Fishes, the local Marine Toys for Tots, the Senior Center, the Moyer Animal Shelter, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Globally, this could include Heifer International (they work in the areas of livestock and agriculture to develop programs that alleviate hunger and poverty), the Humane Society, the ASCPA, St. Jude’s Children Hospital, etc. The important idea is that it is a place of great meaning to the person in whose name the donation is being made.
- Buy socks! Socks are the #1 most requested item at homeless shelters. This fact is the driving force behind Bombas. Bombas exists to help solve this problem, to support the homeless community, and to bring awareness to an under-publicized problem in the United States. Visit them here for more information.
- A donation of time is also important, especially to volunteer your time along with your kids, partner, or loved one. Spend some time visiting at the nursing home. Help sort and organize food items at Powell Valley Loaves and Fishes. Call the Moyer Animal Shelter and see how you can help with cleaning the animal cages, walking the dogs, or other specific needs they may have.
As the planning for the remodeling comes to its final stages, the building committee will move the furniture to represent the final layout as closely as possible. So, during the summer, the pews in the nave will be repositioned in a chevron shape as depicted in the architect’s drawings. Tape will be used to mark the floor with the two options for shaping the sanctuary. As always, open conversations about the plans, feedback and suggestions are encouraged.
Accepting change, especially significant change to our worship space, can be challenging. In times of transitions, we are called upon to adapt, and grow. It can be demanding, complicated, confusing, frustrating.
Most of us rely on our basic coping strategies: we use our wisdom, tolerance, flexibility and adaptability; we use our sense of humor and irony.
But if these fail us, the one thing we can rely on, the one constant in this sea of change and transition, is God’s grace and love for us. God is always there and always providing us with the love, support and strength to deal with upheaval.
Through faith and prayer, we can find opportunities for hope, growth and second chances. We can respond with words and actions that are grounded in our faith and deep history as a people of God. We can apply the wisdom and insight acquired through our experiences and faith journeys.
This may not mean everything will go our way or that every transition and change will be painless or positive. But God is there for us. In Malachi 3:6 God says, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” Isn’t that comforting? With all the changes, there is one thing that cannot change – God and God’s great love for us.
For the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance. — Psalm 94:14
…for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. — Hebrews 13:5
There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God. — 1 Samuel 2:2
So let the changes come. We will not walk in fear, but in faith. Yes, prepare yourself: trust God to help us and to bless our work.
At this time of year the realm of nature becomes still and quiet. People are busy in their homes preparing for the celebrations of the season. Inwardly, it is also a time of preparation, contemplation and hope. We search our hearts, minds, and souls for the inner light that will carry us through the dark days of winter. We wait for Christ with an open heart.
The Season of Advent begins Sunday, November 29. It is also the beginning of the Church year. The word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus meaning “arrival” or “coming,” particularly of something having great importance. In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, December 24.
Advent is a time of contemplation and anticipation of the birth of Christ. Our days of light grow shorter and the darkness can seem overwhelming at times on many levels. One way of celebrating this season of Advent is through the creation of an Advent Spiral for walking. The tradition of Advent Gardens or Spirals is thought to have originated in Scotland. Evergreen boughs are set up in a spiral shape and seasonally decorated. The space is dark except for a single candle in the center of the spiral. Each participant is given an apple holding a candle. Against the backdrop of quiet seasonal music, participants walk through the spiral to the center, carrying their apple. They light their candles and place it along the spiral path on their return to the start. The surrounding space moves from darkness to light. This is a lovely, quiet way to commemorate the Advent Season in the company of others, and to remember to carry the light within the dark.
This year, St. John’s will again create an Advent Spiral, on Sunday, December 6. Please watch for more details in the Sunday bulletin in regard to the time.
On Saturday, December 12, members of St. John’s will organize at the Nickles’ home at 10am and journey to the Big Horns for our annual Christmas Tree cutting trip. Please note that permits must be obtained prior to that day, as the Lovell Forest Service Office is not issuing these permits.
Another way that St. John’s will be offering support for that inward journey of stillness, quiet and preparation during this season is in the offering of an Evensong service on Thursday evening, December 17, at 7pm. It will be a time of quiet music, sacred reading, communal silence and tending the ground of our inner preparation for Christ’s coming. Please watch the Sunday bulletins for further details.
Small Group Studies Offered
LOL in text-speak means “laugh out loud.” But on Wednesday mornings at St. John’s, it means Little Old Ladies. A group of laughing ladies gathers at 10 a.m. with Katy Lytle and Claudia Hassler and are currently reading Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris. Blending history, theology, storytelling, etymology, and memoir, Norris evokes a spirituality rooted firmly in the chaos of everyday life—and offers believers and doubters alike perspective on how we can embrace ancient traditions and find faith in the contemporary world.
Charlotte Patrick is facilitating a 7-week video series on Church History based on Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch, which was used in EfM. The video series is much abbreviated but should offer a great overview with quality scholarship. The course requires no reading or preparation. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan Nickles will lead a video study featuring Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, Embracing Forgiveness: What it Is and What it Isn’t. The five weekly sessions topics are: Seventy Times Seven: Really?; You have Heard It Said; Chipping Away; How to Start; Why Forgive. This series starts Thursday, October 22 at 7 p.m. A workbook will be provided; preparation for each session is helpful, but not required. Please let Sue Woods know if you are interested in attending. This class will also be available in January. Contact email@example.com
A men’s group is also forming. Ron Lytle will facilitate this group to explore how the men of St. John’s can find their voice and role in our community. The group itself will decide on group norms, including time and place and will use an 8-week study to provide initial structure— Following Jesus: Invitation to Discipleship. This study seeks to offer guidance for the journey through scripture, commentary, reflection, and prayer.
A few months ago St. John’s agreed to team up with Mountain Spirit Habitat for Humanity in a new project known as Powell Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, or PNRI. Megan Nickles approached St. John’s Outreach Committee about this project. We all concurred that this would be purpose-filled work for the Outreach Committee to help Powell residents improve the exterior of their homes and make other needed repairs for safety and comfort. Our goal is to help home-owners preserve their homes and revitalize their neighborhoods. Habitat/St. John’s will provide a list of work needed and a financial estimate. Because we work with volunteers and sponsors we expect our estimates to be affordable. Habitat offers non-interest bearing loans for up to five years.
We have identified homes that appear to need exterior work, such as paint, safer entrances and yard repair. This week we mailed letters to identified home-owners, inviting them to attend a meeting at St. John’s on Saturday morning, September 19th, at 10:00 a.m. We hope a number of those receiving letters will attend this meeting and complete applications. Our next step would be to schedule visits with the interested applicants at their homes to decide what work needs to be done, including details and timelines for accomplishing the work.
We have already started on our first project, a home on the corner of Division and Avenue E, where a single mother and her four children live. Due to financial constraints, a broken sprinkler system had not been repaired or replaced. Megan assured us that Steve was a mechanical genius and could most likely repair the pump. So, on Steve’s last trip home, he fixed and installed the pump, repaired the sprinklers and saved Habitat/St. John’s approximately $400. Thank you, Steve!
Our next job at that house is to remove weeds, take out a dead tree, repair a walkway and plant seed or lay sod. Volunteers are welcome. Just let Genny Bettger, Bridget Andersen, Sue Woods, Megan Nickles or Carra Wetzel know what you can do and are willing to do.
PNRI is a challenging undertaking, and an exciting one. Helping make owner-occupied homes safe and attractive is good for the home owner, good for Powell and a wonderful way for St. John’s to reach out into our community.
As Thomas Merton wrote: “May we come to know the Christ who is in us when we love and serve one another in true brotherhood, when we realize that we are not our brother’s keeper but our brother’s brother.”
In March, St. John’s entered into partnership with our local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate to improve owner-occupied homes as part of Habitat’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI). This mission was awarded a major $50,000 grant from our Diocesan Foundation to support this project.
The NRI preserves existing homes, including repairs and other services which helps families that are already living in their homes, but can no longer afford to maintain them. The NRI starts at the grassroots level — with people in the community determining the goals for their neighborhood. It is a house by house, street by street and neighborhood by neighborhood program to preserve and improve existing homes and build stronger communities.
Our NRI committee has canvased the houses of Powell, and has begun to focus on neighborhoods and particular houses, and will begin making contact with homeowners in the next week or so.
St. John’s was also part of a grant-seeking effort to support families take part in a invigorating winter activity. The grant provides Big Horn Basin families the opportunity to learn to ski at Sleeping Giant Ski Area. The Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, the fund-raising arm for the ski area, is hoping to promote skiing with a $40,000 grant for its family scholarship fund.
Included in the $40,000 from the Diocese were grants from the following local churches: Christ Episcopal Church, Cody ($10,000), St. John’s Episcopal Church, Powell ($500), St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Meeteetse ($100) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Basin ($250). The money will be used to finance YRF’s family scholarship fund.
General Manager of Sleeping Giant Jon Reveal said the grant will make a significant impact.
“The scholarship fund identifies people who are unable to afford the expense of skiing,” Reveal said. “We recognize the expense of skiing. …We need special clothing, special equipment.”
The grant offsets more than the lift ticket expenditures. “This grant covers not only their lift tickets but lessons, rentals and season passes,” Woods said. “It’s not just one round of skiing. It covers the whole season.”
Ann Simpson, vice president and chairman of the fundraiser of YRF, said the grant makes it easier for families to spend time together. “It’s to encourage families to ski together,” Simpson said.
If interested in applying for a family scholarship, or if you know someone who might benefit from it, call YRF’s office, 578-6312 or pick up an application at the office, Suite 207, 13th St., Cody or online at the Sleeping Giant website, skisg.com. Click “Contact Us” and select “Scholarships.”
Remember also that all fifth grade students ski free as well, and equipment rentals and one group lesson are included, too!
St. John’s was established 1909, the year Powell was founded, in a little white country church located on the west side of Bent Street, between 3rd and 4th streets. We moved from Bent Street to our present location in 1967, when it was on the very edge of town; an open irrigation ditch flowed along the street in front, with only a concrete slab to serve as a foot bridge to the long steps up to our front door.
Much has changed in the neighborhood since then – the ditch has been covered, the long steps are gone and housing development has spread to the south and to the west. We are no longer the church on the edge of town.
Even more has changed within the life of church itself. We are well into our 13th year as a shared ministry community, organizing ourselves around our gifts and abilities, working from our areas of power to work with God’s power as a transformational force in the world. As we are beginning a three-phase building revitalization, we hope to maintain the integrity of the building, but to also reflect the deep values we hold now as a shared ministry community.
In the last 106 we have also watched as our oldest, and often most charming neighborhoods devolve into the poorest areas, while the outer edges of town host the biggest and most expensive homes. Many problems of our growing town concentrate themselves into the hole of this doughnut, as our poorest citizens struggle to keep their properties safe and their neighborhoods places of civility free from crime.
The Outreach Committee has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to have a direct, meaningful impact on these houses and homes, and a positive effect on our community as whole. In this work, we will serve as a kind of footbridge for the wider community of Powell to serve those who are struggling with their housing needs.
Housing isn’t just about a roof over your head. Clean, affordable housing creates stability for families and children, a sense of dignity and pride, better health, safety and security and it increases the prospect of educational and job opportunities.
Clean, safe neighborhoods also improve the larger community. How city blocks look can directly affect the behavior of those people who live there and those who pass through there. This is often referred to as “The Broken Window” theory. This theory says that maintaining neighborhoods to prevent small crimes such as vandalism and public drinking or drug use helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.
In March, St. John’s entered into partnership with our local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate to improve owner-occupied homes as part of Habitat’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI). The NRI preserves existing homes, including repairs and other services which helps families that are already living in their homes, but can no longer afford to maintain them. The NRI starts at the grassroots level — with people in the community determining the goals for their neighborhood. It is a house by house, street by street and neighborhood by neighborhood program to preserve and improve existing homes and build stronger communities.
This is a three-year commitment from St. John’s to Habitat, to the City of Powell and all of our neighbors who live here.
Briefly, the project works like this: using the Habitat for Humanity model, volunteers from St. John’s will survey Powell neighborhoods to identify at street level which ones may benefit the most from the NRI. This data will be scored and ranked for immediate attention. Realtors will assess each street to identify owner-occupied homes (rental properties do not qualify). Homeowners are then contacted to determine their interest and need – a house that needs attention on the outside often needs it on the inside as well. A homeowner informational meeting will be held at St. John’s to present the program, and to offer help with applications. Approved homeowners will participate in the repairs (sweat equity), working side-by-side with volunteers.
We will all be called to train our gifts into new settings – bringing welcome and acceptance to people who cannot afford to maintain their homes, mentoring these homeowners through the life skill of completing applications and paperwork, creating hospitality for volunteers from around the community, and of course, offering their skills on workdays. Others will bring their experience and leadership into new committee and community settings, as this will be St. John’s first foray into partnering with entities outside our worshiping community.
Other community volunteers will be welcome and we expect other churches to provide volunteer hours, in-kind donations as well as follow-up support for families. St. John’s will be the hub of the volunteer corps, and the leading voice in fundraising and other public relations matters.
We are all looking forward to engaging with Habitat for Humanity to have a direct, meaningful impact on these houses and homes, and a positive effect on our community as whole.
We believe these two projects, our own renovation and the NRI, one that looks in and one that looks out, will complement each other and keep us focused on those Baptismal vows which call us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Ah-Ha! It’s the moment of sudden realization. A spiritual flash. A revealing scene that opens the door to comprehension or perceptions. You have probably had one —an encounter that changes the way you see things. Or changes the way you see yourself. It may reorder your work flow, solve problems, create understanding, or unblock your conscience. Yep, that’s an epiphany.
This is the season we celebrate epiphanies. Not just our own, but those moments in our history when the cosmic Spiritual Flash was experienced collectively. When the abstract idea of God became fact and action in Jesus, and the people around him began to see things differently, began to see themselves differently.
The Epiphany, the big one, is celebrated annually on January 6 each year, in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. The season of Epiphany continues by looking at various events that emphasize the divinity of Jesus. The Baptism of our Lord is observed on the Sunday after Epiphany. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany is always devoted to the Transfiguration, when Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is dramatically revealed.
The themes of Epiphany are of light, anointing and commissioning for public ministry. This season of the church year gives opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and rededicate ourselves to the ministry of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, which requires changing the way we see things, and especially how we see ourselves.
Chalk One Up
A part of church history is the custom of blessing homes during Epiphany. By doing so, we invite Jesus to be a guest in our home, a listener to each conversation, a guide for troubled times, and a blessing in times of thanksgiving.
“Chalking the door” or the door step may be used as a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion. In the Old Testament the Israelites were told to mark their doors with the blood of the lamb on the night of the Passover to ensure that the angel of death would pass them by. Deuteronomy 6: 9 says that we shall “write [the words of God] on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house … and you shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.”
Chalk is made of the substance of the earth. As the image of the chalk fades, we will remember the sign we have made and transfer it to our hearts and our habits.
Typically, blessed chalk is used to write: 20+C+M+B+15 above the doorways or on the steps: 20 for the century; C, M, B for the 3 Magi (Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar) and for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, (Latin for “May Christ Bless this House)” and 15 for the year.
Chalk will be blessed during our regular service on January 11, 2015. Each household may take a packet with chalk and suggestions for prayers and markings to welcome and invite the Christ in each who crosses the threshold.