Parish Read: The Church Cracked Open by Stephanie Spellers
“This book will make a profound difference for the church in this moment of history.” – The Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
In the introduction to her book, the Rev. Stephanie Spellers offers her readers a beautiful metaphor from scripture – the woman with the alabaster jar. Here’s the story from Mark’s Gospel:
3While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she
broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. 6But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ (Mark 14:3-9)
Spellers sees this woman as bold and daring – someone who would challenge convention and be willing to break open the precious jar so that the abundance of what’s inside will be used freely. And she sees a parallel with what’s happening in our church: Can we love our church in a way that doesn’t mean we only desire to protect it and maintain it? Can we love our church enough to let it crack apart and see who we are and what God is calling us to become?
The Christian church is going through an identity crisis. Most churches are experiencing a decline in attendance and a shift to how people want to be connected to church. Who is the church in the 21st century and what do we mean to people? What is God calling us to become? Spellers asks us to take a look at what has formed us as a church. As she travels through the history of our larger Church and the social/economic factors in which the Church “grew-up”, Spellers provides a sharp and concise picture of just how deeply connected the Episcopal Church is to systems of racism and privilege. She also tells the amazing stories of those who pushed against these systems for the sake of the gospel. But she doesn’t stop at story telling. She offers us hope for how to move forward from this reality to a new day, a new creation.
The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers serves as the Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation, and Creation.
Please join us in this fall’s Parish Read. There are copies of the book available at church and we will be starting the conversation this coming Sunday (September 12) after worship in the Parish Hall. Even if you haven’t read it yet, please come to the conversation.
Vestry Notes: Here’s what the St. John’s Vestry Discussed in August
- The Vestry meeting began with a reflection on Mark 14:3-9, a passage featured in our parish read, The Church Cracked Open.
- Episcopal Futures: A new program of the Diocese of New York in which 5 people from St. John’s will meet with a coach and others from the diocese to learn more about developing programs and missional work. The Vestry voted to apply to this program that will begin in February 2022.
- Lightning Strike Repairs: We still need to replace our bell controller and our sound system, both of which were damaged in the lightning strike. The Vestry voted to replace both, noting that the new sound system will include the ability to plug the sound directly into a computer for online broadcasts. We will seek reimbursement from our insurance company.
- The Vestry also discussed: an inspection of our furnaces, the pledge campaign, our new Kitchen Rental program, and the parish read, The Church Cracked Open.
Zoom Bible Study – Not your grandma’s Bible study
I find that one of the most fascinating aspects of any faith is the holy texts around which that faith has developed. I marvel at how these texts are translated and interpreted across cultures and through time. Because, just like any text, our interpretation provides insight into who we are as people. We see ourselves reflected in them. I find this hopeful because it means that God’s Holy Spirit hasn’t finished speaking to us. The interpretation of scripture is not a closed book, no pun intended.
Our scriptures are living texts that invite us to the task of interpretation so that we may learn more about who we are and our relationship with God. In them, we can find support, wisdom, and hope for ourselves and for all of creation. So studying scripture is central to ongoing Christian formation.
I invite you to Zoom Bible Study this fall. No preparation is needed. We will gather online every week to look more deeply at scripture – ask the hard questions and bring our full selves to these texts. This isn’t your grandmother’s Bible Study. I’ll use all kinds of scholarly resources to help us learn more about the language that’s used and the time in which they were written and the larger context of scripture itself.
Click on this link to let me know all the times you are available. If enough people sign up, I may offer two sessions each week – that’s how important I think this is. If you’ve never tried Bible study before or even if you have, I believe this will be a meaningful experience for you.
I look forward to learning with you.
In God’s love and mine, Rev. Michelle
Announcements for September 12, 2021
THIS SUNDAY! Fall Parish-wide Book Read Discussion. Even if you haven’t yet read the book, please join us as we begin our discussion on The Church Cracked Open by Stephanie Spellers. Pick up your book at church or purchase one online. We will discuss in the parish hall (with masks) on the following Sundays so please read ahead!
September 12: Intro and chapters 1, 2 | September 26: chapters 3, 4, 5 | October 24: chapters 6, 7, 8
Zoom Bible Study is back! Join Rev. Michelle for online Bible study every week. To discern the best time for as many people as possible, please go to the St. John’s website and fill out the form on or before September 15: Grow > Fall 2021 Online Bible Study or click here: Fall 2021 Online Bible Study The day/time will be announced so we can begin later in September.
St. John’s Kitchen Harvest: “Feeding people is our jam!”
We’re starting up a new fundraiser for St. John’s and we can use lots of help. Do you have a favorite canning recipe? Do you like to chop things up into little pieces? Do you love to stir hot pots of sweet things? This is your chance! Join the new Harvest Team as they have fun and cook up recipes in the St. John’s Kitchen. We’ll sell everything we make during the month of December. The first cook-in: Saturday, October 9. Talk to Ana Hernandez or Sara Hutton for details.
The Page Turners book club will meet on October 5th and the selection is ‘The Book of Longings’ by Sue Monk Kidd. All are welcome. Speak to Claudette Ford or Barbara Johnston in church, or contact Lynn Dennison at firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
St. John’s Prayer Chain – The St. John’s Prayer Chain is a small group of parishioners dedicated to ongoing prayer for the world and for the needs and concerns of people in our community. If you need prayers or if someone you love is in need, please email email@example.com Leave as much information as you feel comfortable with, and you or your loved one will be prayed for.
Have an announcement?
Please send by Wednesday at noon to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall Schedule at St. John’s
More items are being scheduled… stay tuned!
Sept 12: Parish Read: Church Cracked Open, parish hall after worship
Sept 19: Pastoral Care Team Meeting, parish hall after worship
Sept 26: Parish Read: Church Cracked Open, parish hall after worship
Oct 3: Blessing of the Animals, Memorial Garden after worship
Oct 9 (Sat): Harvest Team Cook-In, begins at 10:00 am
Oct 16 (Sat): Christian Healing Workshop, parish hall, 10-12:30
Oct 24: Guest Preacher! Dr. Modele Clarke, Lead Pastor of New Progressive
Baptist Church, Kingston AND Parish Read: Church Cracked Open, parish hall after worship
Oct 31: The Rt. Rev. Andy Dietsche preaches and receives our new
members into the Episcopal Church AND Trunk-or-Treat! Prizes for costumes and car decorations!
Nov 7: Celebration of All Saints’ Day and Commitment Sunday
Nov 28: Advent begins