E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 14, 2018

Blessing of the Pets, Ugandan Goods Sale, Loving Spoonfuls Help Needed and more in the E-Newsletter for October 14, 2018 https://mailchi.mp/914ccba8b9fa/ey7eu7o5mr-1411109

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

Dear *|FNAME|*,

I got my first and only dog of my own when I was in the final year of my Master of Divinity in Texas. 

I named him Cappadocian, after the great Cappadocia Fathers who were so important in the development of early Christian theology. We call him "Cappy" for short.

Many of you have gotten to know Cappy as he used to come to the office with me pretty regularly. These days his knees have gotten bad and he sleeps more than he runs. It's hard for him to get in and out of cars and so he spends most of his time at home.

Cappy turned fourteen years old last month and so Bethany and I truly cherish each day we still get with him. Last weekend I built a ramp on our deck stairs to make it easier for him to get up and down. I've also started carrying him, all seventy pounds of old dog, up the stairs at night time so he can still sleep in the same room as Bethany and me.

Each year, early in October, we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, that great monastic who, as many say, is often admired and rarely imitated. He renounced the wealth of his family so that he might serve the poor. Many people don't know that St. Francis was never ordained a priest. Rather, he chose to be ordained a deacon—one who is consecrated by the church to a life of service. 

Many of the stories surround St. Francis include his love of nature and creation. He believed it was our sin that had wounded creation itself and that we were called to be faithful stewards in the healing of creation. All creation, St. Francis believed, worshipped and praised God. 

At St. John's, we honor St. Francis in October with the blessing of the pets. Since I was out of town last Sunday, we are holding our Blessing of the Pets this Sunday at 2:00pm in the St. Francis Prayer & Meditation Garden. We'll say some prayers together, remember those faithful pets who have died, and then bless each pet along with their owners. 

Cappy won't be at the blessing of the pets. He's always been a bit too… energetic… around other dogs. And, with his knees now, we try to keep him calm so that he won't throw one out again. I'll say prayers for him when I get home that day.

And as I go around the garden on Sunday, praying with you for each of your animals, I will do so convinced that St. Francis was right. Our companion animals do manifest God's love and praise in the world and in our lives. 

May we be faithful to them, and to the entire creation that is entrusted to our care. 

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 14, 2018  https://mailchi.mp/914ccba8b9fa/ey7eu7o5mr-1411109

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dragging One Another to Jesus, Pledge Update, Naturalization Ceremonies and more in the E-Newsletter for October 7,2018 https://mailchi.mp/6c0a49b9c036/ey7eu7o5mr-1408457

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

Dear *|FNAME|*,

I have spent the past several days of this week at a conference in New York City for the Society of Catholic Priests in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.  

I helped found this Society ten years ago (this is where the "SCP" after my name comes from). It truly was a joy to gather with other sister and brother priests for this tenth anniversary conference as we together reflected on the theme of baptism in the life of the church. 

One of my colleagues, Father Robert Hendrickson, who was with me in the original group that founded the Society, wrote this in a reflection after day one of our time together,

There is a story that one of my colleagues here has told me of a young man, ravaged by HIV/AIDS, at the height of the crisis in the eighties. A group of former army nurses, ancient and feebly strong themselves, dragged him to the Altar every week for Communion when so many others feared to touch the man.

This is what catholicity is to me – we drag one another to meet Jesus – we do it when we feel weak. We do it when others wonder why or how or if it matters. We do it when it’s indecorous and socially questionable. We do it when we don’t want to or think we can’t. And we let others carry us when we’re too tired or broken to make the walk to the foot of the Cross and the throne of grace.

We do all of this because the giver of every good gift wants us to receive him in waters stirred, in bread chewed, in wine poured with abandon, in forgiveness made real with tears, in healing known so deep it sears, and in every moment made sacramental by the visible signs of God’s grace swelling and pulsing beneath it all.

I think this is perhaps one of the most powerful and true descriptions I have ever read of Christian community. We do indeed drag one another to meet Jesus—whether in the Sacrament, in the poor, or in an embrace of love when all had seemed lost. 

I'm looking forward to bringing the fruits of this conference back with me to SJE. I've already been talking online with another parishioner about turning some of what I've learned here into an Advent Faith Formation Hour series. Stay tuned.

But in the meantime, know how grateful I am for the ways you have dragged me to meet Jesus during these years together. You have strengthened and enlivened me when I was tired and given me your wisdom when I was unsure. Thank you.

And yet, the work we do of bringing people to meet the reckless and unexpected love of Jesus cannot continue without your help. As you'll see in the Stewardship Update below, we are only 14% away from the amount of pledges we will need to continue our ministries in the new year. That may not seem like a lot, but if this is where we end then there will be over $50,000 in ministry cut out of the budget.

I don't think we'll need to do that. So far, nine-eight of our one hundred and fifty one families have pledged. I'd invite you, if you are in that group of fifty-three families who have not yet turned in a pledge, to do so today.

As I said in my sermon last week, we are not here just to play church—to have nice music and a pleasant service on Sunday. We are here because there truly is darkness in the world and it is our sacred vocation to join the work of God in overcoming that darkness with God's love… and there are no bystanders in that work.

That's why Bethany and I don't even hesitate when we sit down and fill out our own pledge card, taking my entire salary along with Bethany's projected income for the year and giving 10% of that total to the work we all do at SJE. 

There is a hurting world out there, a world that needs the love and justice of our God. Please step up and be counted among your fellow parishioners who are committing to be a part of that work in the year to come. Please turn in your pledge today so that SJE can continue to be a place where all people are invited to come and experience the love of Jesus… and then to go into the world and be agents of that love and justice today. 

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 7, 2018  https://mailchi.mp/6c0a49b9c036/ey7eu7o5mr-1408457

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ingathering & Harvest Festival this Sunday, Preparing for 2019 and more in the E-Newsletter for September 30, 2018 https://mailchi.mp/81095c1cbe48/ey7eu7o5mr-1406469

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

Dear *|FNAME|*,

There are two new banners outside of our parish, right on Washington Avenue. They were purchased in a Facebook fundraiser by you, the members of St. John's, to declare one of the messages that lies at the heart of who we are as a congregation. There is one banner in English and one in Spanish. In English, the banner says,

Love your neighbor, who doesn't….
look like you,
think like you,
love like you,
speak like you,
pray like you,
vote like you.
Love your Neighbor. 
No exceptions.  

This message is at the core, to me, of our congregation at its best. This is the ministry you and I seek to do together each and every day. 

But this is not a ministry that happens on its own. We need your support to continue this ministry the year to come. 

The Stewardship Commission decided this year to do our Annual Pledge Campaign differently. Previously, we have had our Ingathering of Pledges in early November and then spent the final two months of the year trying to get the rest of our pledges in so that we could meet our budgeted expenses for the next year. 

This year, however, the Stewardship Commission has moved the Harvest Festival up earlier. We will celebrate that Festival this Sunday, September 30, as the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. The Commission has sought to get all pledges turned in before the Harvest Festival so that the Festival can be a celebration of what we have completed together. Their hope was that by moving the whole process earlier in the program year, we could spend November and December focused on thanksgiving, holidays, and preparing for the joyous celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord on Christmas.

As of this afternoon, we have $235,618 in General Fund pledges turned in, that reflects 73% of what will be needed for our parish to continue our current ministries into the new year. That 27% we are still lacking might not seem like a large number, in reality it is $85,382 worth of ministry. 

That's ministry we will not be able to do in 2018 without your support, without your commitment in the year to come. We can indeed reach that final goal and cover the remaining $85K in these final days. Indeed, with an average pledge right now of $3,142, just twenty-seven more pledges of that amount will get us to our final goal. That's a pledge of roughly $60 per week. 

You have done some amazing ministry in the previous year. I know when I read this year's Forward in Mission Report, I was struck by the breadth and vitality of what our congregation has done together.

I am excited about the year to come. There is so much ahead of us and I hope you will join us in making this next year one of the best that St. John's has ever seen. 

Together, we can make this happen. You can click here to turn in (or change) your pledge for the year to come. On Sunday, September 30, the Parish Office will add any pledges turned in over the weekend to the current total and then we will announce that total amount at the Harvest Festival. 

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 30  https://mailchi.mp/81095c1cbe48/ey7eu7o5mr-1406469

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rector’s Open House, Stewardship, Harvest Festival Signup and more in the E-Newsletter for September 23, 2018 https://mailchi.mp/7053d5252b18/ey7eu7o5mr-1404653

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

Dear *|FNAME|*,

Each year in the fall, Bethany and I host one of our favorite church events of the year: the Rector's Fall Open House. 

In the early centuries of Christianity, before there were church buildings and cathedrals, Christians would gather in homes for worship and fellowship. I've visited the large one in Capernaum, the one Jesus likely stayed in with his disciples and which later became the primary home church in the area. Our Holy Eucharist likely has its origins in the Agape (or Love) feast of the early Christians as well, the bread and wine being blessed and shared after the congregation gathered for a meal.

It's easy to think of Christian fellowship as kind of a nice part of church but not as essential as outreach or faith formation or worship even. But the truth is that the bonds of our fellowship as a congregation are what enables everything else the church does to take place. 

It is because we spend time in relationship together—just enjoying life and becoming more than people who pass one another in the aisles—that we can step forward in Christian mission as a stronger community. It is because we know and love one another that worship becomes more meaningful, that formation becomes more challenging, and that outreach becomes more deeply committed. 

I know that when Bethany and I sit down to write our pledge card out, we think of you. We know that our pledge is a tithe (or 10%) of our income to the work of God, giving back to God's work from what we have so generously received. Many people divide their tithe between their congregation and other important ministries in the world. That is right and good. For Bethany and I, you are our family in Christ and so we commit almost all of our tithe to the work we all do together as a congregation. The amazing work you do every day to worship God, be transformed in Christ, and change the world. 

We only have about one more week left in the 2018 pledge campaign. There is currently $170K pledged to the General Fund, 53% of what we will need to continue our ministries next year. That means we have quite a ways to go yet—and we need your help to get there.

The inspiring news, and what gives me confidence that we can hit our minimum total goal of $321K, is that over half of those who have pledged so far have increased their pledge. Indeed, the average pledge is currently $4,262, a little more than $80 per week. That's a 58% increase over last year's average of $2,700. 

We are halfway to the goal with forty pledges turned in so far. There are one hundred and fifty one families in our church. Please take a moment this weekend and prayerfully discern how you can be a part of supporting the work we do together, as a Christian family, next year. Then click here to turn in your pledge for 2019.

And this Saturday, come by our house at 11571 Oak Grove Rd in Grand Haven anytime between 4pm and 7pm. We'll have pulled pork here and waiting for you. If you want to bring something to share, we've divided it up by the first letter in your last name (A-F brings a snack, G-P brings a side or veggie, and Q-Z brings a dessert). Bethany, Lucy, and I look forward to enjoying the afternoon and early evening with you.

Because it is the relationships we have with you that make us so deeply grateful to be doing this thing called church together. 

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 23  https://mailchi.mp/7053d5252b18/ey7eu7o5mr-1404653

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 16, 2018

Holy Cross Day, What is Stewardship?, Movie Group and more in the E-Newsletter for September 16, 2018 https://mailchi.mp/6d0bb4ece924/ey7eu7o5mr-1402825

From the Stewardship Commission
John Harberts, Chair

Dear *|FNAME|*,

As you all know, our pledge drive is underway. There are actually only two weeks left to turn in a pledge for the 2019 budget. But I'm not writing at this moment to talk about the pledge details. Instead, I want to say a few words about how we think about pledging.

The chances are if I went up to most people in this church and said, “Are you engaged in a ministry?” most of us would say, “Oh, no. I am a parishioner and I attend church, but I am not engaged in a ministry.  We have a priest, staff, deacons, and so on. They do the ministry.”  We tend to have a rather passive image of our role in the church. Even if we are actively engaged, we don't think of ourselves as ministers. We say, "Oh, well I volunteer."

We need to seriously rethink that, if we say we are part of the Body of Christ. We are really, each of us, engaged in a ministry. If ministry is the act of helping someone in need so they can be closer to God, that is what we are really engaged in – not simply fundraising, but our own ministry.  

And at this moment, you have an opportunity… one we shouldn’t miss. 

We are a community—not just of Episcopalians, but —a community or ministry of God’s love. We all have needs: spiritual, religious, emotional, and most likely even at times physical needs with our health, food, shelter and so on. Together we are a community with needs that also has the resources to meet those needs.  God has invited us to worship as a group for that reason—because we all have needs and together we can meet those needs. If you think about it, I can hardly come up with anyone in this community who in the last few years hasn’t at some point faced the kinds of needs I listed. I can’t think of a time either, when those needs were ignored. God works through community. God works through our relationships.

God works through the people here for the people here. or relationship. That means God works through you…not just the staff.

So, you are engaged in a ministry. And we need to be clear that ministry isn’t always easy. It takes effort and even some sacrifice. The gifts and resources you have are yours. That is why giving is an act of love on your part. You are giving something you have received yourself. That is an act of love. You sacrifice something for others with no thought of payback.

A pledge should be seen as something deeply meaningful we all do.  As I mentioned, we call our collective efforts by different names. We call it volunteering, charitable giving, “helping out,” pledging, etc., but make no doubt about it, it is really your own ministry.  We need to know that, because we need to feel empowered as Christians, not passive.

That is what we are being called to do. This is your gift to give. Turning in a pledge is your chance to minister as much as Father Jared visiting someone, performing a wedding or baptism, a Stephen Minister counseling someone, helping at Loving Spoonfuls, or someone providing at the Unity School in Uganda. The list goes on and on. There should be no doubt that your pledge or gift is your opportunity to your own ministry because it is your love, your sacrifice that is being made. We are all part of the Body.

I simply want you to realize that an act such as pledging and giving is far more than meeting a budget. Pledging is a call, a knock on our door, an invitation to what is perhaps the most critical and essential ministry in this church. Because this single ministry—turning in a pledge—is what enable all other ministries here to exist, it is what enables them to blossom. 

The ministry of your pledge reaches children, those in distress, those without enough to eat, those who need lifting up, those who want to worship and thank God, those with joy in their hearts, those with sorrow, young and old – all of us. Please take this opportunity and share in the pride of being responsible for all the good we do.

So, if by chance someone does come up to you and ask, “Are you engaged in a ministry?” I hope you answer, “Yes, I am.” If we are part of the Body of Christ, we are not passive bystanders. Our actions and giving are active ministry. Please answer this call and click here to turn in your pledge today.

Yours in Christ,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 16  https://mailchi.mp/6d0bb4ece924/ey7eu7o5mr-1402825

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mustard Seed Sunday, Ministry Fair, Ministry Training Day and more in the E-Newsletter for September 9, 2018 https://mailchi.mp/1242dd201a4c/ey7eu7o5mr-1400301

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

Dear *|FNAME|*,

In the lectionary readings each Sunday we are currently working our way through the Epistle of James, a letter that challenges our religiosity.

I've particularly enjoyed the conversations these readings have engendered at our regular Thursday Noon Lectionary & Lunch Bible Study. (Speaking of, did you know you can actually get a shirt with our Bible Study motto on it online here?) We've wrestled at those meetings with the insistence that faith that is not manifested in outward actions has no worth, no value. 

There is always a sense in our culture that the point of going to church is to feel good (or better!) about life. Or the sense is you go so you can get saved. The problem is that both of these views present a rather anemic understanding of the Christian faith.

The Christian faith is not only about you and your relationship with God. It is not only about your (or my!) sense of spiritual connectedness. 

The Christian faith is about experiencing the love of God and letting that love transform you so that you can be an instrument of God's love to change the world. 

As a parish community, we are in the midst of that time every year where we discern as individuals how we will take our part in God's work in the church and in the world.

One of the key questions during this month is how we will bring our worldly treasures to bear in that work. I know that as I have experienced rising violence, anger, and vitriol in the world, Bethany and I are more committed than over to being absolutely sure that a tithe, a full 10%, of our household income goes right here, to the work SJE does to change the world through the love of God. 

This year the Stewardship Commission is asking for all pledges to be submitted no later than Sunday, September 23—just a little over two weeks from now. Their goal is that we can then set a budget for what our church can (and cannot do) to spread God's love next year. With that budget set earlier in the year, we can truly devote the holiday seasons of November and December to gratefulness and joy. 

I truly hope you will join Bethany and me in committing to give a percentage of your first-fruits to the work of God through the people of SJE. If a tithe of 10% is beyond you, consider starting working in that direction, maybe giving 5%. And know that there are fellow parishioners who invite you to join them, who also tithe to the work of God here—or who even give more than a tithe. You can click here to make your pledge for 2019, or to change it if you have discerned God is calling you to something different. 

And as you discern, I really hope you will spend some time in the Parish Hall this Sunday after each service for the Annual Fall Ministry Fair. All the various ministries of the parish will have tables set up, with members eager to share with you what they do to transform lives and spread God's love and justice. 

And Sunday afternoon, our Worship Ministries will have their annual refresher meeting and workshop for new members. If you've been thinking of getting involved in a worship ministry, click here to see what's out there and what time each ministry is meeting. 

After all, our financial commitment to our faith is only one part of the puzzle. God also invites us to action, to standing up and doing something so that we can more faithfully Worship God, be Transformed in Christ, and Change the World. 

We cannot do this without you, without your generous support, and without your hands, feet, and hearts. 

Thank you, people of St. John's, for being a congregation that always wants to ensure that our faith is not just a fuzzy ideal, but that is a generous and sacrificial lived way of life that actually does change the world we live in. 

Through Grace,

PS~ And don't forget this Sunday, being the first Sunday of the Program Year is also the Blessing of the Backpacks AND a Mustard Seed Sunday. Kids and teachers bring your backpacks with you to be blessed. And at all three services, all children will be invited to join the Gospel Procession, sit on the chancel steps with Fr. Jared for the homily, and then stand with the other altar ministers around the altar for Holy Communion. 

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 9  https://mailchi.mp/1242dd201a4c/ey7eu7o5mr-1400301

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