E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 21

Call to Fast this Sunday, Upcoming PRIDE Concert and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 21    http://mailchi.mp/914f9668b96d/ey7eu7o5mr-1226773

<From the Presiding Bishops
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Episcopal Church
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Dear *|FNAME|*,

We are coming together as leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church to oppose deep cuts to programs that are vital to hungry people struggling with poverty. We make this call in anticipation of the May 21 Global Day of Prayer to End Famine. We highlight the importance of foreign assistance and humanitarian relief as members of the World Council of Churches.

We also make a call to pray, fast, and advocate not just on this Sunday, May 21, but throughout the 115th Congress. At the invitation of Bread for the World, we join with ecumenical partners and pledge to lead our congregations and ministries in fasting, prayer and advocacy, recognizing the need to engage our hearts, bodies, and communities together to combat poverty. As the call to prayer articulates,

“We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger. We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change. We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation. We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP, who often run out of food by the last week of the month.”

Domestically, Americans throughout the country are struggling with poverty, and many government-funded programs allow them to care for and feed their families. As we look overseas, we must acknowledge that foreign assistance and humanitarian relief can help to address regions confronting famine and food insecurity, including South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lake Chad Basin. We will challenge proposals to eliminate or defund proven anti-poverty programs, at home and abroad.

The story of Esther provides encouragement for our fasting, prayer and advocacy. Esther, a Jew, was the wife of the Persian king. When plans were made to slaughter all the Jews in the empire, Esther’s cousin Mordechai pleaded with her to go to the king and use her voice to advocate for them, even though this might place her life in danger. He urged her not to remain silent, as she may have been sent “for such a time as this.” Esther asked people to fast and pray with her for three days to fortify her advocacy before the king, resulting in saving the lives of her people.

God’s intention is the flourishing of all people and we are called to participate in God’s loving purpose by standing with our neighbor who struggle with poverty and hunger. Following the Circle of Protection ecumenical fast in 2011 to fortify the faith community in opposing cuts to vital anti-poverty programs, we may have also been prepared “for such a time as this”. We commit ourselves to and invite our members to one day of fasting every month to undergird our efforts to convince our members of Congress to protect poverty-focused programs.

You can view a video of the Presiding Bishop's video message about this call to action online here:


Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 21  http://mailchi.mp/914f9668b96d/ey7eu7o5mr-1226773

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 14

A Mother’s Day Thanksgiving, May Baskets, Movie Group and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 14    http://mailchi.mp/2f84bd041a9c/ey7eu7o5mr-1223985

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

During my and Bethany's journey to having our daughter, Lucy, I came to an acute realization that Mothers' Day can be a rather painful day for some people. 

Whether it is the memories of a mother who is now departed, a history of strained relationship with a mother, or a longing for motherhood that has been unfulfilled, this is a day where it is important to be careful with our words.

It is good and right to bless the mothers in our midst, but we must do so while acknowledging that mothering can be much more than raising children. We must do so without wounding those for whom this day is difficult. 

For all of these reasons, I'm grateful for the "Mother's Day Thanksgiving" we use at St. John's. I came across it years ago, but each year it seems only to grow in meaning for me. You can read it online here.

For me, I'm grateful to be spending this Mother's Day in Tennessee. It will be, of course, our first with Lucy. We'll be able to be with Bethany's mother and my own stepmom. I will be thinking fondly of my own mother, off in England with my two sisters who are visiting right now. 

But I'll also be thinking of those for whom this day provokes other emotions and feelings. You will be in my prayers as well.

And I'm grateful for the breadth of Christian tradition, that reminds us that God is not a man, but that both motherhood and fatherhood, in all their richness, are found in the divine life. May these words from Archbishop of Canterbury St. Anselm, written in the eleventh century, be our prayer as well,

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you; * you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride,* tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, * in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life* by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness; * through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead, * your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us; * in your love and tenderness, remake us.
In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness, * for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

A blessing this weekend upon you, no matter where you find yourself in the breadth of experiences of mothers.

Through Grace,

Father Cramer is away this weekend receiving his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Commencement Exercises for the School of Theology at the University of the South. Commencement will be tomorrow, Friday, May 12, at 10:00am Central Time (or 11:00am, our time). If you would like to watch the service, it will be broadcast live online here

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 14  http://mailchi.mp/2f84bd041a9c/ey7eu7o5mr-1223985

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 7

Uganda Sunday, Episcopal Youth Event, Women’s Retreat and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 7    http://mailchi.mp/26f774d7cac8/ey7eu7o5mr-1220073

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

Over the past couple years, a new Mission ministry at St. John's has truly been blossoming. 

The UNITY School is a project of Call to Care Uganda, a humanitarian non-profit focused on health and education initiatives for the children of Uganda. Through craft sales, fundraisers, and your own generosity, our church has helped bring a school to Kaberamaido. 

The school opened this year and they are finding their way through all the myriad of need and possibility in Uganda, particularly the area around Kaberamaido. 

This Sunday, we are thrilled to be welcoming back Martha Hoffman, from Call to Care. Martha will be preaching at both the 8:30am and 10:00am English services. She will also be leading our 11:30am Faith Formation Hour, during which she will be able to share with us some of the progress the school has had and what is ahead for this important work.

Mission and ministry work in Uganda has been a rich tradition of St. John's. Join us this Sunday to find out what we are doing now—and if you want to get even more involved in the work, susanmorr@aol.com?subject=Unity%20School%20Team&body=Please%20add%20me%20to%20the%20Unity%20School%20Team!” target=”_blank”>contact the Parish Office and let them know you'd like to join the Unity School Team, led by Sue Morriss. We're always looking for an extra hand and some extra ideas!

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, May 7  http://mailchi.mp/26f774d7cac8/ey7eu7o5mr-1220073

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 30

Stephen Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Financial Peace University and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 30    http://mailchi.mp/28f1e7a5820b/ey7eu7o5mr

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

Three years ago, a new ministry launched at St. John's: Stephen Ministry. You hear about it each week when, in the prayers, we pray "for our Stephen Ministry and Eucharistic Visitors, who enable us to care for each other." 

This past week, one of our Stephen Ministers, Karen Nisja, has been in St. Louis getting extra training so that she can join Barb Giebel as a Stephen Leader. Karen gave up a week of her own time to do this training out of her love for St. John's and her commitment to strengthening the pastoral care we offer one another as a Christian community. And, as she said on Facebook, "Watch out. I will be returning with ideas!!"

Barb and Karen, along with our other Stephen Ministers, Mark Kelley, Susan Morriss, and Liz Pray, provide high-quality, confidential, and Christ-centered care to people in our parish who may be hurting. Usually they meet with the parishioner to whom they are assigned once a week for abut an hour. They also meet twice a moth with the Stephen Leaders at SJE for supervision and continuing education. 

It truly takes an entire community for a church to care for each other. Each of us have our own roles and responsibilities. Whether it is a visit from me as the priest, communion from a Eucharistic Visitor, a home-cooked dinner from the Crisis Meals team, a shawl from our knitting ministry, or care from a Stephen Minister, we try to support one another when life is difficult. 

So, when you see Karen be sure to thank her for being willing to go through this training and help lead this important aspect of our pastoral care ministry at St. John's. 

And if you are hurting or in need, don't sit there quietly in your pain. Contact me or Cindi in the parish office so that we can respond and help you work through your struggles, so that all of us can experience the joy and peace that comes with being in community.

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 30  http://mailchi.mp/28f1e7a5820b/ey7eu7o5mr

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 23

Movie Group Tonight, Mustard Seed Sunday and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 23    http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=7209c63e2d3f0357d9deba6c3&id=d0f36431ee

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

One of my favorite liturgical shifts our congregation has made over the years is seeking to find ways to make our worship more welcoming to children.

There is a long journey in the church that led to that, though…

Around thirty or forty years ago, churches noticed they were beginning to see a decline in worship, particularly with regard to participation from families with children.

One of the responses many congregations tried was to change the shape of Sunday worship. Children were taken out of the main worshipping assembly for the first half (or sometimes nearly all) of the worship service. Worship services were shortened to be kept under an hour. Tradition was eschewed in favor of what was more casual and contemporary.

As valiant as these attempts were, they did not stem the decline. In fact, they did quite the opposite. They created the largest unchurched generation of young people in our country. Children were kept in a separate part of the church and when they grew up they rarely made the transition into the main worshipping community. Children's programs may have been full… but very few of those children are still actively involved in church.

You can read more about the issues surrounding this question in numerous articles online (see, for example, Sunday Schooling our Kids out of ChurchKilling the Church with Sunday SchoolFirst Secret of a Pew Worshipper, and more resources and articles online here).

At SJE, our Future Families Task Force in 2015 sought to chart a different course, one the Vestry and I have taken very seriously. We reorganized our Sunday experience, so that Faith Formation for children and adults would fall between our largest English service and our growing Spanish service. Now kids and adults from both cultures can learn together. The formation of our children and youth is led by a new staff person, Reyna Masko, who is working to bring an entirely new curriculum to children's worship at St. John's (read more about how you can help online here!)

But just as importantly, we sought to be even clearer that kids are an essential part of our worship. Now, every single week children are invited to be right up near the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer, seeing and participating in this holy moment. In addition to our Soft Space for small children at the back of the church, we have installed a video system so that if parents do need to go downstairs to the nursery, they can still hear and see the worship. 

And we continue to celebrate Mustard Seed Sundays near the start of each new liturgical season. At these services, children join the procession. They sit on the chancel steps with the preacher for the homily. They then stand right at the altar with the other ministers during the Eucharistic Prayer.

The next Mustard Seed Sunday is this Sunday, April 23. I know I'm looking forward to it. It is always a particularly joyous day, filled with excitement, energy and life. 

Each Mustard Seed Sunday is meant to be a focusing, though of a larger theological truth our worship hopefully reflects more faithfully: children are not the future of the church—they are the church today.

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 23  http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=7209c63e2d3f0357d9deba6c3&id=d0f36431ee

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E-Newsletter for Easter Sunday, April 16

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 16    http://eepurl.com/cKhXaD

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

Tonight begins the three most sacred days of the Church  Year: The Great Triduum. 

At this moment in the Church Year, our common life reaches its climax. The word triduum literally means three days and is used to set the three Holy Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday apart from the rest of Holy Week.

The Triduum begins tonight with Maundy Thursday. We'll gather at 6:00pm for a traditional Middle-Eastern meal, remembering that the roots of Holy Communion are in a last meal shared with friends. Then, at 7:00pm, we'll gather for the Maundy Thursday Liturgy, when we commemorate the Institution of the Lord’s Supper and remember Christ’s example of love through the humble act of foot washing. At the conclusion of that liturgy, the altar is stripped and the church darkened. The church, strengthened one last time by the Eucharistic feast, now enters the painful darkness of God crucified.

During an overnight vigil that lasts until Good Friday, we keep watch with Christ at the Altar of Repose, where the last of the Blessed Sacrament remains. Even that is then consumed in a liturgy of Communion from the Reserved Sacrament the morning of Good Friday. At noon on Good Friday, we commemorate the Passion (suffering) of Christ through the Passion reading and a series of solemn collects (prayers) that bring the needs of the world to the foot of the cross. We'll do the same in Spanish at 7:00pm.

Holy Saturday begins at 10:00am with a short and austere service of prayer. The Altar Guild traditionally attends this sermon along with other worshippers. After the liturgy, all are invited to help the Altar Guild begin the preparations for Easter. The rest of Holy Saturday is traditionally kept in silent prayer.

Finally, at the end of Holy Saturday, we gather at 8:30pm outside the church, just as the women gathered at the tomb, for the Great Vigil of Easter. In hope, the Church lights the new fire which sparks a new Paschal Candle and, lest we forget the story of our salvation over the darkness of these few days, we tell it to one another once more. Christ passes over from death into life, destroying death by death, tearing the veil of our sin and suffering and inviting us into the joy of the resurrection. In the Parish Hall, after the liturgy ends, we share in a festive reception to which people bring cheesecake, sparkling grape juice, and champagne. 

The celebrations continue on Easter Sunday, with a Festive Eucharist in English at 8:30am and 10:00am and in Spanish at 12:45pm. In between, all are invited to the Annual Easter Egg Hunt at 11:30am. We have a record number of kids signed up on Facebook to come—if you want to help, contact our Children & Youth Coordinator, Reyna Masko

These are a very full several days in the life of the church, but they are a profound opportunity to reflect upon Christ's suffering even as we experience the joy of the resurrection. 

I truly hope you will join us. 

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 16  http://eepurl.com/cKhXaD

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E-Newsletter for Palm Sunday, April 9

Tonight’s Concert, Next Thursday’s Mediterranean Dinner, other Holy Week Opportunities and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 9    http://eepurl.com/cIYPoT

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

At this moment in the church year, the focus of our Christian journey turns to Jerusalem. We are preparing our annual walk alongside of Christ to the cross and resurrection—and there are many opportunities for you to deepen your journey.

First, tonight at 7:00pm, a select group of Grand Rapids vocalist, Mystical Voices, will perform at our parish. Led by our own Director of Music, Nick Palmer, they will be offering a choral setting of the Passion according to St. Matthew by Heinrich Schütz. The composer was 80 years old when he wrote it in 1666 for performance at the Dresden electoral Kappelle. As one review of the piece notes, 

For the parts of the Evangelist and the various protagonists in the narrative, Schutz opted for a curious form of unaccompanied, unmeasured monody which in character falls midway between the cool impersonality of plainchant recitation tones and the more impassioned idiom of operatic recitative. Deployed over an extended period, this melodic style lends the setting a remarkable degree of dramatic power, with the result that the choruses, far from standing out as highlights, serve rather to heighten a tension that is already present in the solo lines.

You will not want to miss the opportunity to hear it tonight.

The journey will continue with Palm Sunday services, including the traditional procession of the palms before each. We'll worship at our normal times: in English at 8:30am and 10:00am and in Spanish at 12:45pm. At that point our Holy Week schedule begins in earnest—click here to download a copy.

In particular, I would like to draw your attention to a new offering on Maundy Thursday. At 6pm, we'll gather for a traditional Mediterranean meal together, catered by the authentic Osta's Lebanese Cuisine in Grand Rapids. This traditional meal will remind us as we celebrate the institution of Holy Communion that night, that the Blessed Sacrament finds its roots and beginnings in a traditional meal shared with friends. This weekend is your last chance to RSVP. We need to get a final count to the caterer on Monday. You can click here to see the current sign-up list and then, if you're not listed, just click here and the parish office will add you. If the cost is in any way prohibitive, you can request a scholarship at the Parish Office. 

These are just some of the ways for you to walk with Christ during this holiest of weeks. I hope you find this time rich, with an awareness of the cross and a gratitude for the grace of God which always meets us in the valley of death.

Through Grace,


Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 9  http://eepurl.com/cIYPoT

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 2

Godly Play, Compline, Spring Fling Tickets and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 2    http://eepurl.com/cH_3-5

From the Coordinator of Children & Youth Ministry
Reyna Masko

Dear *|FNAME|*,

One of the directions from the Future Families Task Force was that we move to a story-oriented curriculum at St. John’s, one that uses the best resources available. I have looked at both Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Godly Play. Both are excellent curricula that come well-recommended. But after conversation with Gennie Callard, our Diocesan Children & Youth Minister, I have decided that Godly Play will be the best fit for our church.

Children have an innate sense of the presence of God. The Godly Play approach helps them to explore their faith through story, to gain religious language and to enhance their spiritual experience though wonder and play. Based on Montessori principles and developed using a spiral curriculum, the Godly Play method serves children through early, middle and late childhood and beyond. 

This summer, Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City will be hosting Godly Play training from June 9 – 11. I will be going up for the weekend to be trained and am hopeful that some of you will join me. A good rotation of Godly Play teachers will help our program run smoothly. Whether or not you have experience with teaching Sunday School, please consider supporting us now! The weekend’s schedule will be: 
•    Friday, June 9, 1:00pm-9:00pm
•    Saturday, June 10, 8:30am-6:30pm
•    Sunday, June 11, Noon-4:30pm

Dinner on Friday, and lunch on Saturday and Sunday, are included in your registration—and the parish will cover all registration costs for those who attend. There are even funds available to assist with your overnight lodging, if that would help you participate. Please just contact me and I will be happy to help! We need to know who is attending no later than May 9 so we can ensure we make arrangements. Sign up at the Parish Information Table or click here and the Parish Office will sign you up.

In Christ,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, April 2  http://eepurl.com/cH_3-5

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 26

SJE & Sanctuary, Lenten Offerings, Parish Wine Tour and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 26    http://eepurl.com/cG-mk5

From the Rector
The Rev. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

As we approach the end of Lent and the coming of Holy Week, our minds are drawn to those suffering around the world.

High on the minds of many members of St. John's have been the situation facing immigrants—both documented and undocumented in our area—and how our parish is called to respond to the increased need. I've fielded calls and e-mails from people in our area curious if our congregation is doing anything with this concern. It speaks to who you are as a community of faith that this is the congregation area residents assume must be considering action on this question.

Their assumption would not be wrong.

The Vestry discussed these questions at both their previous two meetings and has decided we need to have some parish conversation about the issues surrounding immigration and sanctuary. We need to learn together and then prayerfully discern what action we believe God is calling us to as a community of faith.

The Office of Government Relations of The Episcopal Church has created a video and study conversation for awareness and conversation about this reality. I'd invite you to join us next Tuesday, March 28, from 5:30pm–7:00pm as we begin this parish conversation. You can sign up at the Parish Information Table or you can click here and the Parish Office will sign you up. 

The fruits of the conversation will be brought to the Vestry for their consideration as we ask what St. John's is called to do and who we are called to be for the immigrants in our area. Your voice, your wisdom, your sense of the Spirit's leading is essential to this task. 

Please join us.

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 26  http://eepurl.com/cG-mk5

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 19

Feasibility Report is IN, a Fall Parish Wine Tour, Lenten Follies and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 19    http://eepurl.com/cGm7az

From the Rector
The Rev. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

The Feasibility Study Report from the Episcopal Church Foundation has been submitted. The Master Plan Revision Team has reviewed their report and made a recommendation for a final scope for our Proposal for Stepping into our 21st Century. 

Throughout the several years of this process, you have carefully engaged both the original team and the Master Plan Revision team in their work. You have guided, offered feedback, and helped the Team hone exactly what it is we are called to do at this moment in the life of our parish.

This Monday evening, our consultant, Linda Buskirk, will be at the Vestry Meeting to present the feasibility report findings and help the Vestry talk through what faithful next steps can help bring this long-awaited campaign to fruition this Spring.

Vestry meetings are always open to parishioners and this one is no exception. If you are interested in hearing more about the results of the Feasibility Study and engaging in conversation with the Vestry about final decisions for this Campaign, you are warmly invited to join them. They gather for Evening Prayer at 5:15pm and then convene in the Guild Room for a time of fellowship and a meal at 5:30pm. The business meeting will begin at 6:00pm, with the presentation from the Episcopal Church Foundation. The full feasibility study report will also be available in hard copy for review in the Parish Office by any interested parishioner.

I must say, I'm very excited. I think the plan the Team has come up with has the opportunity to make a significant impact upon our ministry and mission while also safeguarding this building with which we have been entrusted. Bethany and I look forward to being strong financial supporters of this work, truly believing in the work the Master Plan Revision Team has done.

I look forward to seeing you Monday if you want to be a part of this final conversation—or to joining with you as we give joyfully and thankfully to better equip our place of worship for God's mission.

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, March 19  http://eepurl.com/cGm7az

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