St. John’s Episcopal Church
207 Albany Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401

The Good News of St. John’s

  1. January 21, 2021

    St. John’s Annual Meeting: What you need to know

    Come one, come all! The St. John’s Annual Meeting is scheduled for January 31.  A time to focus on the ministry of St. John’s and reflect on our mission.

    Obviously, we cannot meet in person which is a disappointment because we always put on quite a brunch spread and we do enjoy being together.  However, the officers have been working on a plan that allows space for us to reflect on our ministry and mission this past year, learn about ways to be engaged in the coming year, and have the opportunity to speak with the leadership and ask questions.  Here is what you need to know:

    1. Date and Time: The Annual Meeting will be combined with worship.  So we will begin at 10:00 am on Sunday, January 31.  Please be a few minutes early so that we are all assembled in time for the Clerk to take attendance.  Believe it or not, many congregations combine their Annual Meeting with worship so this is not all that unusual.
    2. Length: Please be prepared for our Annual Meeting/Worship to last around 90 minutes.
    3. Content (in no particular order because the details are still being worked out): Scripture readings, prayer, music, brief reports from ministry leaders, Rector’s address, thank yous, conversation with the officers, and a celebration of our ministry in 2020.
    4. Brunch: Please prepare, for your household, a delicious brunch (so we don’t miss out on this tradition) and we’ll eat together at the beginning of worship, similar to our Easter celebration last year.
    5. Annual Report: Next week, in the middle of the week, you will receive the Annual Report as an electronic file via email.  This will be a large document so don’t print it unless you really want to.  If, you need a hard copy mailed to you or would like to stop by the Rectory to pick one up, please email Rev. Michelle no later than Tuesday, Jan. 26.  Copies will be printed and mailed (or made available) on Wednesday, Jan 27.
    6. Election of Vestry: Most years, the members of Vestry have been elected by the Clerk casting one ballot (with all the candidates on it) on behalf of the congregation.  This year, to allow for nominations from the floor, the “Ballot Box” will be opened at the beginning of worship (rather than at the end) and the named Clerk will be available to take nominations via Zoom chat during the meeting.  Unfortunately, we cannot accomplish complete anonymity.  After at least an hour, the Clerk will be asked if there have been any nominations (without being asked who made the nomination) and we will move forward with the election.
    7. Communion: The sacrament of Communion will not be offered after worship that day.
    8. Vestry Meeting: The newly-elected Vestry will meet immediately after the Annual Meeting to complete some necessary business.

    If you have any questions about this year’s Annual Meeting, please reach out to our Wardens, Lynn Dennison (radennison@aol.com) and Claudette Ford (crford1@gmail.com), or our Rector, Rev. Michelle (michelle.stjohnskingston@gmail.com).

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    Tending Our Light

    Our weekly offering of goodness to help keep our spirits buoyed and our mental health on track through the darker months of winter.

    Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest in Nashville, TN who started a ministry many years ago to help women who found themselves in sex-traffic work and wanted to get out.  Over the years, this ministry has developed into employment for the woman who complete the program and, more recently, a way to support other women – a company called Thistle Farms, a manufacturer of skin care products and distributer of products produced by women all over the world.  Find our more about this amazing company here.

    The other day, Becca posted something beautiful on her Instagram page – 50 Small Things.  A list of “50 very small things we can do with great love to carry us through the next stages of the pandemic that help us practice peace and hold fast to hope.”  And here they are:

    1. Take a walk.
    2. Drink a cup of tea.
    3. Look in the mirror.
    4. Take an extra flight of stairs and say something you are grateful for on each step.
    5. Smile at a stranger.
    6. Sit with your hands folded for 3 minutes.
    7. Say grace before breakfast.
    8. Tell a positive story on social media.
    9. Pet a dog.
    10. Make something.
    11. Write a thank you note.
    12. Say the name of a teacher.
    13. Forgive something.
    14. Laugh at something.
    15. Use a healing oil.
    16. Sip water.
    17. Vote.
    18. Donate something.
    19. Clean out a drawer.
    20. Cut someone some slack.
    21. Pick up a leaf and marvel.
    22. Imagine a desert.
    23. Imagine a river.
    24. Hear the silence.
    25. Don’t buy something.
    26. Skip a meal and donate $5.
    27. Meditate on a bird.
    28. Skip a Zoom call.
    29. Write down a dream.
    30. Sit in a bath.
    31. Light a candle.
    32. Wear an old piece of clothing that has a story.
    33. Remember a hero of justice.
    34. Feel the floor holding you up.
    35. Remember where you got your shoes.
    36. Feel the sunshine on your face.
    37. Feel the rain on your back.
    38. Eat a piece of fruit and imagine its journey and the hands that touched it.
    39. Memorize a verse.
    40. Sing a song.
    41. Draw a picture.
    42. Whistle.
    43. Throw something away.
    44. Write a line of poetry.
    45. Call a friend.
    46. Say something good.
    47. Look at an old photo.
    48. Remember a story about snow.
    49. Find the change in your home.
    50. Change your mind.
    51. Plan a vegetarian meal.
    52. Stretch.
    53. Get up early to see the sun rise.
    54. Howl at the moon.

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    COVID-19 Vaccinations – Hope, Patience, and Being Informed

    Dear Ones: I cannot tell you how incredibly heartened I am to know that our federal government is now moving forward with a plan to combat the pandemic – to get more vaccine produced and distributed, stricter guidelines for behavior in public, and more personal protective equipment to those who need it.  Our duty in this fight is to comply with these directives and to be informed about how/when/where the vaccinations will be distributed.

    I was asked to be a part of the Westchester Medical Center’s Equity Task Force and other clergy on the Kingston Interfaith Council been asked to be on other task forces so, through our faith communities, we can hopefully help inform our community.  That’s how this virus is going to be conquered – the members of each community working together.

    The first thing to understand is that the demand for vaccines is much, much greater than the supply right now.  How much greater?  Here’s an example: In Ulster County there are approximately 180,000 people.  About 25% of those people are currently eligible – around 45,000 people.  Right now, Ulster County is only receiving 1,200 doses/week as a part of the 300,000 that New York State is receiving.  And each person needs 2 vaccinations in order for this to work.  The difference is pretty dramatic.

    So, if you’ve been trying to get an appointment and haven’t been able to procure one yet, that’s why.  There is simply not enough supply to meet the demand right now.  The good news is that there is more vaccine being manufactured so the amount of vaccine will soon increase.  There is also one manufacturer working on a single-dose vaccine but it hasn’t been approved for use yet so it’s still a ways out.  Unfortunately, what all this means is that we need to have some patience in the meantime.

    There is a resource for Ulster County: COVID-19 Vaccination Resource Center – Ulster County COVID-19 Information (ulstercountyny.gov).  On this website, you will be able to do three things: 1) review the eligibility protocol to know if you are eligible to receive a vaccine, 2) sign up to receive notifications about when appointments are open (if you’re eligible), 3) access FAQs about vaccine distribution.

    The process of obtaining an appointment is simple but, at this point, extremely frustrating because there are so many people trying to get appointments at the same time.  If you have access to a computer and have the ability to use your phone to sit on hold, know that you are privileged in this process.  There are so many who do not have the same kind of access so, effectively, they have no access.  And, in most cases, these are people who we have learned to call “essential workers,” or they are living in more vulnerable conditions than most of us.

    In short, if you’re eligible, keep trying.  And pray for those who have no access to try.  The equity task force I’m a part of is working to remove as many barriers as possible while trying to make sure the public is informed.

    If you are eligible to receive the vaccine and you have no regular access to a computer nor have a family member to assist you, please contact me.  Also, if you obtain an appointment and need transportation, please reach out to me directly and I’ll make sure you get to your appointment. 

    Hope is here, beloveds.  The task before us right now is patience.

    In God’s love and mine, Rev. Michelle

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    Announcements for January 24, 2021

    Epiphany House Blessings!  Each year Rev. Michelle makes the rounds to offer a blessing upon your home and will gladly do so this year, although she cannot stay for a visit.  You can sign up for a House Blessing visit from Rev. Michelle or download simple instructions on how to bless your own home.  Epiphanytide House Blessings – St. John’s Kingston

    The Page Turners book for February 2nd is “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  The book for March 2 is “Hamnet,” by Maggie O’Farrell.  Speak to Lynn Dennison for more information.  All are welcome!

    SAVE THE DATE!  St. John’s Annual Meeting is on Sunday, January 31 via Zoom.  More information is forthcoming.  Here is this year’s slate of candidates for Vestry:

    • Lynn Dennison – Warden (2 year term)
    • Liz Moeller – Vestryperson (3 year term)
    • Nilsa Rodriguez-Jaca – Vestryperson (3 year term)
    • Sara Hutton – Vestryperson (1 year term)

    Ministry Opportunities

    Children’s New Book Drive: Family of Woodstock is in need of books for children who are in or are leaving shelters.  If you are coming to in-person church, please consider bringing a new children’s book (all ages).  Or send a donation to the church (207 Albany Ave) and we will do the shopping.  Questions? Contact Outreach Coordinator Elaine (845-532-6585) or Deacon Sue (845-331-5575).

    Have an announcement?
    Please send by Wednesday at noon to 
    stjohnskingston@aol.com.

  2. January 14, 2021

    Pledging at St. John’s

    Thank you to the entire community of St. John’s for your participation in the financial life of our parish through our 2020 Pledge Campaign.  We raised more in pledges than we expected to for our 2021 budget.  Although we still have a deficit and will need to rely on our investment accounts again this year, the Stewardship Committee is very pleased by the commitment from the parish.  Just about everyone sent leaves to cover our Stewardship Tree with life and color, a symbol of our commitment to Christ and to one another.

    The life of any faith community relies heavily on financial pledges made by its members and St. John’s is no different.  Our plans to open up our kitchen for rental in 2020 were put on hold, of course, due to the pandemic and the need to keep all our Angel Food East volunteers safe.  We also lost rental income in 2020 from other groups who use our parish hall.  It looks as though the pandemic will continue to alter our plans for 2021 but we have hope that, by the end of this calendar year, we will be able to open the building again.

    We’re also happy to be able to offer Paypal as an online donation option to those people who need it, as well as for those people who are just visiting St. John’s as it functions like a collection plate for now.  Two things to note about the use of Paypal:

    1. Paypal’s service is not free.  For example, a $100 donation results in a charge of $3.20.  If you are able to pay by check, please consider continuing that practice.  However, if you would like to use Paypal, consider helping to defray the cost of this service by increasing your donation by a couple of dollars.
    2. Paypal offers the ability to insert a note.  When using Paypal, please be clear as to why you’re donating so we can properly apply your donation.  This information will only be seen by our Treasurer.

    Thank you, again, to the community of St. John’s for your generosity and your commitment to our common life.

    _______________________________________________________________________________

    Tending Our Light

    Our weekly offering of goodness to help keep our spirits buoyed and our mental health on track through the darker months of winter.

    Have you heard the expression, “Going all Zen?”  Perhaps something like this: “I was so upset and thought she would be too, but then she went all Zen on me!”

    In American popular culture, this word means “peaceful and relaxed.”  Which is interesting, considering that the Zen form of Buddhism requires rigorous self-restraint and a strict meditation practice.  It’s not a complete disconnect, however, because through restraint and meditation, one can become more emotionally detached from day-to-day pressures, resulting in more peace and more relaxation.

    One of the practices of Japanese Zen Buddhism is tending to a rock garden, where islands of rock or, sometimes, plants, are surrounded by a large area of gravel or sand.  This gravel is raked regularly and resembles the waves of the sea, while the rocks resemble islands.  Small versions of these have become popular in gift shops – to be put on desks in the office or side tables in our homes.  The idea is that spending the time to rake the gravel or sand is a very calming activity.

    There are many resources available to help you in creating your own simple “Zen garden.”  A simple Google search will give you lots of information.  You can also purchase small table-top ones for around $25.

    If having a garden doesn’t appeal to you, consider watching others creatively tend to their Zen gardens.  One such master is Yuki Kawae who creates beautiful art from raking sand and it’s utterly calming and mesmerizing to watch as he does it.  You can view his videos on You Tube by clicking here.

    Please take some time away from the news cycle, especially right now, to find places of calm and peace.

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    The Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Dear Ones: I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before so if I have, thank you for your patience.  Since I can remember, I have always held a definitively large place in my heart for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He was killed 2 days before I was born and, as my mother tells it, there were resulting riots outside the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Youngstown, OH while she was giving birth to me.  So this amazing human being has always been a part of my own story.

    As I grew up, of course, I came to learn about his leadership, the work of equality he was involved in, his deep Christian faith, and the legacy he left our nation – a legacy of hope and challenge.  That we can make a difference in how we live by changing unjust laws and ensuring that the rights of all are protected, but that we also have to be intentionally involved in creating that future together.

    Just a few months before he was killed, in November of 1967, Dr. King announced the formation of a Poor People’s Campaign.  “Seeking a ‘middle ground between riots on the one hand and timid supplications for justice on the other,’ King planned for an initial group of 2,000 poor people to descend on Washington, D.C., southern states and northern cities to meet with government officials to demand jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage, and education for poor adults and children designed to improve their self-image and self-esteem.” (click here for the full version of this article)  Dr. King saw this as an opportunity for new “co-operation, understanding, and determination” by people from across “color lines” because he saw that economic stability is a mark of citizenship and that race and ethnicity are false determinants of differences between people.

    Decades later, the Rev. Dr. William Barber took up the call of Dr. King and pulled together Christians to re-form the Poor People’s Campaign.  It’s not a campaign about politics but about holding our elected leaders accountable to moral leadership.  The campaign meets and works together in smaller working groups to get the information out, meet with leaders, and pressure politicians into creating local, statewide, and federal policy that supports and protects the most vulnerable members of our society.  This nationwide movement is backed by the Episcopal Church, among many other faith communities.

    I hope that during this time of national upheaval, you’ll consider seriously the legacy of Dr. King whose birthday we celebrate this coming weekend.  We’ve witnessed such disgrace in our national life but, no matter how tempting it is, this is not a time to focus on the spectacle and shame of national politics.  Instead, let us pull together as people – brothers, sisters, siblings… all children-of-God, to make a change for good.

    The Poor People’s Campaign is hosting two events.  On Monday, January 18 (MLK Jr’s birthday), the PPC will host a National Interfaith Service of Light, Love, and Leadership beginning at 1:00 pm.  You may also want to join the PPC the night before on Sunday, January 17 at 8:00 pm for a Prayer for Beloved Community in the Midst of COVID and Chaos.  Both of these links will be available on the St. John’s website where you find all the worship links.

    If you’re looking for a way to truly make a difference in our national life, to bring your deepest beliefs to decisions that affect all of us, becoming a part of the Poor People’s Campaign is a positive and moral way to do it.  Click here to begin learning more.

    In God’s love and mine, Rev. Michelle

    _______________________________________________________________________________

    Announcements for January 17, 2021

    This Sunday! Pastoral Care Team meeting after church beginning at 12:30.  Click here to attend.  All are welcome!

    Epiphany Home Blessings!  Each year Rev. Michelle makes the rounds to offer a blessing upon your home and will gladly do so this year, although she cannot stay for a visit.  You can sign up for a Home Blessing visit from Rev. Michelle or download simple instructions on how to bless your own home.  Epiphanytide Home Blessings – St. John’s Kingston

    The Page Turners Our book for February 2nd is “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  Speak to Lynn Dennison for more information.  All are welcome!

    Diocesan Prayer Service:  On Wednesday, January 20, at 8:00 am the bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of New York will conduct a brief prayer service that, in these days of extreme turmoil, we may be one people before God raising a prayer for safety and well-being for our nation.  As soon as it becomes available, this link will be posted on the St. John’s website, along with the other links to worship services.

    SAVE THE DATE!  St. John’s Annual Meeting is on Sunday, January 31 via Zoom.  More information is forthcoming.  Here is this year’s slate of candidates for Vestry:

    • Lynn Dennison – Warden (2 year term)
    • Liz Moeller – Vestryperson (3 year term)
    • Nilsa Rodriguez-Jaca – Vestryperson (3 year term)
    • Sara Hutton – Vestryperson (1 year term)

    Ministry Opportunities

    Children’s New Book Drive: Family of Woodstock is in need of books for children who are in or are leaving shelters.  If you are coming to in-person church, please consider bringing a new children’s book (all ages).  Or send a donation to the church (207 Albany Ave) and we will do the shopping.  Questions? Contact Outreach Coordinator Elaine (845-532-6585) or Deacon Sue (845-331-5575).

    Have an announcement?
    Please send by Wednesday at noon to 
    stjohnskingston@aol.com.

  3. January 7, 2021

    Epiphanytide Home Blessings

    The door of one of Rev. Michelle’s friends after a blessing. Pine spray w/ ribbon is not included.

    When the Magi arrive at the home of God, they offer a blessing in response to the epiphany – the glorious awareness of God’s inbreaking into our world.  This is a blessing that spreads as the Magi offer the gift of this love to whomever comes to their door.  The tradition of House Blessing during Epiphanytide comes out of this Christian story and occurs all over Europe as a way to bless a home and its inhabitants for the coming year.  There are two ways to have your home blessed:

    1. Rev. Michelle will still offer this blessing (because, when has their been a more important time to have our homes blessed?) but this year, because of the pandemic, we’ll be shortening the Home Blessing a bit.  Rev. Michelle will come to your door with chalk (to mark your door) and holy water (to bless the entryway) but won’t be able to come into your home to visit.  And, if it’s not too cold, she’ll ask you to say a very short prayer with her in the doorway.  You can sign-up for an appointment here.
    2. But you may want to bless your own home.  If so, there are instructions on the website here.  All you need is a piece of chalk.

     

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    Tending Our Light

    Our weekly offering of goodness to help keep our spirits buoyed and our mental health on track through the darker months of winter.

    Who can resist watching a cute little otter paddle around in the water?  Or the graceful beauty of a jellyfish?  How about a young giant panda rolling around on its back as it chomps on a snack?  Or the crazy antics of a penguin or a baboon?

    Animals have the distinct ability to help us reconnect with delight and calm.  They aren’t concerned about national politics and they could care less about social media.  They just are.  Moving around, eating, playing… all the simple things that all God’s creatures are capable of, including us.

    Why not devote a few minutes everyday to watching a few of our fellow creatures just be who they are?  Here’s a list of just a few locations that have live webcams.  Google “zoo aquarium webcams” to find more!  Most of them have lots of educational resources too, if you’re so inclined.

    But most important, just enjoy and let the animals be your guides.

    Monterey Bay Aquarium

    Smithsonian National Zoo

    San Diego Zoo

    Click here for zoo cams from around the world!

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    The Meaning of Epiphany

    Dear Ones: I hope you received my email on Wednesday.  In the midst of the chaotic moment we all witnessed at the U.S. Capitol building that afternoon, I found myself experiencing so many emotions, seemingly at the same time and some of them were conflicting.  As I watched posts pour out across social media, I realized I wasn’t alone.  Perhaps you had the same experience.

    And one voice rose above the cacophony of posts – an African-American woman who teaches the Hebrew Scriptures at a seminary and is an Episcopal priest.  She said, “Go, check on your people.”  I’m so grateful to her for that clarity, for her ability to channel God, because it reminded me to send that email and to invite you all to prayer.  And so we had a special Compline service that night.  I was glad to see so many people attend in the Zoom room and on Facebook.

    I’m not the only person to recognize the timing – that incursion into the U.S. Capitol building took place on the Feast of the Epiphany.  Because it is and should be exactly that – an epiphany for so many of us that have remained in various states of unconscious about what’s happening in our nation.

    It is a singular event, to be sure.  And it’s so easy to blame a person or one of the political parties.  But I want to remind us all that to do so, to look for a scapegoat, regardless of how deplorable we believe them to be, is an exercise in futility that offers nothing except some sense of false relief.  Finding a Judas is easy and it still bears no fruit.  Love is still sacrificed even when we find a person to blame.  The truth is, the systems and policies of this nation, of our society, are ultimately responsible for this.  Yes, there are individuals who need to be held accountable for specific acts.  But that does not purge the disease from our collective blood.

    The disease is white supremacy.  And, even if we believe we are good people – because each member of St. John’s IS a good person and I love each of you, as does God – of this I am absolutely certain.  But even if we know this to be true about ourselves, that doesn’t mean we are not unconscious about how the system of white supremacy has infected us and forced us to uphold a set of beliefs that are utterly contrary to God’s law that is written on our hearts.

    We love to talk about the Feast of the Epiphany imagining the 3 Magi crossing the desert on camels to arrive at the home of Jesus just after his birth.  We love that this Christ child is such a spectacular event that it drew the richest and the wisest to the manger to worship at the feet of Love Incarnate.  And we should love these things.  It’s a beautiful story of joy, and love, and peace.

    And the point of this story is to understand that this miraculous birth takes place in the manger of our hearts.  When we ready ourselves for the truth of love, we are readying ourselves for quite an epiphany.  Because, inherent in the gift is the blessing we are given to share.  We are given love as we learn to give love itself.

    And American theologian Cornell West reminds us, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”  This means that love is more than being a nice person. It means that we are called to continue looking beyond our own limits of understanding to learn how to see differently and work for issues of real justice.

    My dear ones, I hope the epiphany we have been given this year will open the eyes of your heart in new ways.  This is not a time for blame.  This is a time to humble ourselves at the manger and learn how love can remove this disease from our minds and hearts and lives.  This is not an easy “fix.”  This is work that we will be doing for the rest of our lives.  So, let us do so with joy and a sense of purpose, for it is the work of Christ.

    In God’s love and mine, Rev. Michelle

    _______________________________________________________________________________

    Announcements for January 10, 2021

    Next Sunday, January 17: Pastoral Care Team meeting after church beginning at 12:30.  Click here to attend.  All are welcome!

    Epiphany Home Blessings!  Each year Rev. Michelle makes the rounds to offer a blessing upon your home and will gladly do so this year, although she cannot stay for a visit.  You can sign up for a Home Blessing visit from Rev. Michelle or download simple instructions on how to bless your own home.  Epiphanytide Home Blessings – St. John’s Kingston

    The Page Turners Our book for February 2nd is “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  Speak to Lynn Dennison for more information.  All are welcome!

    SAVE THE DATE!  St. John’s Annual Meeting is on Sunday, January 31 via Zoom.  More information is forthcoming.  Here is this year’s slate of candidates for Vestry:

    • Lynn Dennison – Warden (2 year term)
    • Liz Moeller – Vestryperson (3 year term)
    • Nilsa Rodriguez-Jaca (3 year term)
    • Sara Hutton (1 year term)

    Education for Ministry (EFM):  What is EFM?  Every baptized person is called to ministry. EFM is a program designed to support that ministry.  Participants gather in small, mentored groups where they learn more deeply about the Christian faith and how it shapes our lives.  A Tuesday evening Zoom group is being shaped among the Episcopal congregations in Ulster County that will start in January.  Space is limited so contact Teri Jones ASAP for more information at terijones@optonline.net.

    Ministry Opportunities

    Children’s New Book Drive: Family of Woodstock is in need of books for children who are in or are leaving shelters.  If you are coming to in-person church, please consider bringing a new children’s book (all ages).  Or send a donation to the church (207 Albany Ave) and we will do the shopping.  Questions? Contact Outreach Coordinator Elaine (845-532-6585) or Deacon Sue (845-331-5575).

    Have an announcement?
    Please send by Wednesday at noon to 
    stjohnskingston@aol.com.