Ask Alban: Questions about faith and liturgy

Ask Alban

 

 

 

July 28, 2016

Dear Alban…Who was William Wilberforce?

Answer:
William Wilberforce whom the Church remembers each year at the end of July was a Christian leader who engaged in one of the great moral battles of the human condition, the fight to end the slave trade that beset the 17th, 18th and 19th century. He is remembered for a life of intense struggle in the public arena to uphold the truth that all are children of God.
The life of William Wilberforce refutes the popular notion that a politician cannot be a saintly Christian, dedicated to the service of humanity.
Wilberforce was born into an affluent family in Hull, Yorkshire, on August 24, 1759, and was educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge. In 1780, he was elected to the House of Commons, and he served in it until 1825. He died in London, July 29, 1833, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
His conversion to an evangelical Christian life occurred in 1784, several years after he entered Parliament. Fortunately, he was induced by his friends not to abandon his political activities after this inward change in his life, but thereafter he steadfastly refused to accept high office or a peerage.
He gave himself unstintingly to the promotion of overseas missions, popular education, and the reformation of public manners and morals. He also supported parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. Above all, his fame rests upon his persistent, uncompromising, and single-minded crusade for the abolition of slavery and the salve-trade. That sordid traffic was abolished in 1807. He died just one month before Parliament put an end to slavery in the British dominions. One of the last letters written by John Wesley was addressed to Wilberforce. In it Wesley gave him his blessing for his noble enterprise.
Wilberforce’s eloquence as a speaker, his charm in personal address, and his profound religious spirit, made him a formidable power for good; and his countrymen came to recognize in him a man of heroic greatness.

 

June 9, 2016

Dear Alban…Who reads the Holy Gospel?

Answer:
The Gospel in the Episcopal liturgy is the final reading from Holy Scriptures taken from the Canonical Gospels at the Eucharist (BCP, pp. 326, 357). It marks the climax of the Liturgy of the Word. The congregation stands for the Gospel, which may be read or sung from the midst of the congregation. The proclamation of the Gospel is properly done by a deacon, and in the Episcopal Church the Gospel must be proclaimed by a Gospeller, that is, someone who is in Holy Orders

 

 

June 2, 2016

Dear Alban…What’s a stole?

Answer:

A stole is the band of cloth worn by ordained persons who are leading worship, especially worship including Eucharist. Its use in the church likely descends from the customary dress of leaders in the Roman Empire, but its present meaning comes primarily through its use and controversy through the intermittent centuries. The stole may now be associated with Jesus’ towel when washing the disciples feet, or with the gentle yoke or Christ, or with a shawl for prayer. For a time, Anglicans dropped the use of stoles, but in the last century they have become common, and often seen as the most basic eucharistic vestment.

The color and ornamentation of stoles in Anglican worship reflects the church season being celebrated (such as Advent, or Easter). Because of their distinctiveness alongside current fashions, they have also become a conspicuous sign of clergy participation in public life (such as “Ashes to Go,” marches, or protests) as representatives of the one universal church.

 

May 26

Dear Alban…how many member Churches make up the Anglican Communion?
 
Answer:

The Anglican Episcopal family is a global family of Christians representing over 165 countries. These make up 38 Member Churches (also known as Provinces) and six other national or local churches known as Extra Provincials. Explore the list of Member Churches by country here

 

 

May 19

Dear Alban…can you tell us more about this Trinity thing?

Answer:

Watch the video below for my friend St. Patrick’s answer to this “Trinity thing” question.

 

 

May 12

Dear Alban…What is Pentecost?

Answer:

Scripture tells us that fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a wild wind, touching and changing the lives of the apostles. This event is called Pentecost and it commemorates a starting point for the great commission of ministry given to the Apostles to baptize and build up the faith. So, we celebrate this day as the beginning of the church…the community of believers. And we celebrate this season of Pentecost alert to the Spirit stirring our hearts and lives. We often wear red on the Day of Pentecost…a symbol of the fire and life of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

May 5, 2016

Dear Alban…What is a Seminarian?

Answer:

A seminarian is a student at a seminary, a religious school of higher education. Upon graduation, seminarians often receive the graduate degree Master of Divinity, usually after three intense years of study, often in residence. Students are studying for ordained ministry and lay leadership. Seminaries also offer other advanced theological studies, master’s degrees, doctor’s degrees, and certificate programs, all related to theology, liturgy, music, mission and ministry.
In the Episcopal Church a seminary education and M.Div. are prerequisites for ordination and are part of a multi-year discernment of ministry that the student has entered into with his or her local parish and bishop. Bishops remain in close touch with each student during their studies.
While studying in seminary most seminarians also serve an internship at a local parish, helping on Sundays and other times in parish life. First-year seminarians often spend their summer break enrolled in Clinical Pastoral Education, a formal and intense training in the ministry of hospital and other chaplaincy. Following their second year, rising seniors are free to pursue other formative choices such as summer parish position, study abroad or mission work.
More information on the the Episcopal Church seminaries can be found here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/episcopal-seminaries

 

 

April 22, 2016

Dear Alban….Sometimes the priest invites us to the altar with words about taking the gifts of bread and wine out into the world. What’s that about?

Answer:
One way to understand this is to see that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament that includes human participation in God’s life by sharing sacred life with each other and the world.
As a public, open, joyful, hopeful meal, the Lord’s supper is a taste, perhaps a foretaste, of a new just humanity. Christians cannot truly eat and drink at this table–where all are welcome and none goes hungry or thirsty–an continue to condone any practices which permits hunger in the world. We are changed by this meal and sent out to feed the world. The Lord’s Supper is the practice of “Eucharistic hospitality”  in which strangers are welcomed into the household of God. Christians cannot truly share this bread and this wine while failing to share their daily bread and wine with the millions of hungry people around the world. There is an intrinsic connection between being fed at the altar and commitment to God’s hungry people everywhere.

 

March 17, 2016

Dear Alban…Why do we say “The Holy Gospel according to St. So-and-so”?

One of the inherent lessons of the Bible as we have it today is that the life of Jesus can be seen from many vantage points. Jesus’ life comes to us primarily from four tellings, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These tellings are known as the “Good News” (or “Gospel”) tellings.

When we say that a telling of the Good News of Jesus is “according to Matthew” we acknowledge that our experience of Jesus, even from the very beginning, is bound intimately to our own place in the world and our experience of all the rest of life. We are blessed with the gift of four early Gospels, which keep reminding us of this truth day after day, and encouraging us to both humbly and boldly tell again how we have known the Good News according to our own lives!

 

March 10, 2016

Dear Alban…What does the priest mean in the Communion prayer when he or she says that we are all sanctified by the Holy Spirit? 

 

Answer:
Sanctification is a fancy word for the process of growth into Christian love. The word sanctification means “to make holy,” but that definition may be more confusing than a help. We should not understand holiness here in the sense of some moral flawlessness. it certainly has little to do with smug piety. Becoming holy or sanctified in the New Testament sense means being shaped more closely into the image of Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit in our day-to-day lives. What are the marks of this Christ-likeness? A free self-giving, other-focused love that is called agape. I think of it as both a choice and gift to love God and our neighbors. It is first of all a gift of God, and then also a human task. There is real movement in Christian life, but it is not predictable and does not take place in neat, identified stages. So sanctification is both an aspiration and something we can tangible experience.

 

March 3, 2016

Dear Alban…What is TEC?

Answer:

TEC (Teens Encountering Christ) is a weekend long event here in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, where high school students from all over the state come together to worship, learn and have FUN together! This year, TEC is being held March 11-13th at Trinity Church in Portland, and will offer an in depth look at Jesus- his life, his message of faith, and his ongoing legacy.
The teen leaders put together this great video! click here

 

February 25, 2016

Dear Alban…What’s so distinctive about Christian “repentance”?

Answer:
First of all, the Christian experience of repentance is rooted deep in the Hebrew experience of God. Ever since the earliest stories that describe our relationship with the Creator God we’ve recognized that God’s love for us is constant even if our response to God’s love isn’t. “Repentance” describes those moments when we “turn back” toward God’s love after having walked the other direction for a while. What is distinctive is that we exercise our personal wills to say “sorry” and we find freedom by joining in God’s lovely will.
That brings me to a second important piece about repentance…it is inextricably bound with forgiveness. Forgiveness is our experience of God’s love as it washes over us and reunites us with God right after we repent/turn back and accept God’s love again. Forgiveness can also be experienced as reconciliation, or as harmony, or as peace. These are the joyful part of Lent, when use the stillness and reflection to let go of our self-defined ways of being and slip back into the stream of God’s presence.

 

 

February 18, 2016

Dear Alban….What does Jesus mean when he says, “Be compassionate?”

Answer:
Henri Nouwen says it best…..Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human…It is not surprising that compassion, understood as suffering with, often evokes in us a deep resistance and even protest. We are inclined to say, “This is self-flagellation, this is masochism, this is a morbid interest in pain, this is a sick desire.” It is important for us to acknowledge this resistance and to recognize that suffering is not something we desire or to which we are attracted. On the contrary, it is something we want to avoid at all cost. Therefore, compassion is not among our most natural responses . We are pain-avoiders and we consider anyone who feels attracted to suffering abnormal, or at least very unusual.

 

 

February 11, 2016

Dear Alban….What is Lent, and how do Episcopalians celebrate it?
Answer:
Dear reader,
Lent is a time of careful preparation before we enter into the joy of Easter. In the early church, it was a time of contemplation for new converts to consider their baptism, but modern people embrace a variety of disciplines during this time. Some choose to give up a practice they feel impedes their embrace of God’s love (smoking, Facebook time, etc.), and others choose to add in a practice they feel draws them closer to God’s love (community service, daily prayer). Choices for the observation of Lent are as varied as Episcopalians are, and chosen practices can change from year to year and person to person.
What will you choose to draw close to God during the next 6 weeks?

 

December 6, 2015

Dear Alban…Do you prefer blue or purple for Advent colors?

Answer:

Tough call, intrepid reader! I’ve seen it all since my time back in 3rd century Britain. Now, blue for Advent really had its heyday in England from 1000-1500 AD when the folks at Salisbury Cathedral were all about it! And then it seemed like everyone in British Isles was getting on board. They started calling it “Sarum Blue”…something about the Latin name of Salisbury being Sarum. It has a nice anticipatory feel, like pre-dawn light, and the mystery of deep water, and it’s hopeful too I think; like there’s something unexpected and wonderful just coming into sight.

Seems to me some old “Mozarabs” in what you now call Spain were using blue back in 700-1000 AD too. Of course, purple was being used other places at the same time. Lots of variation back then.

Then in the 1500’s most everyone in the Western churches got on the purple bandwagon. There was a lot of connection between the purple for the penitent season of Lent before Easter, and the penitence of Advent as we waited for Jesus’ coming. That was a good few hundred years. Advent penitence always reminds me that Jesus was coming not just to be gentle when we needed that, but also to confront us and help us have good boundaries when we needed sterner instruction.

Nowadays I see people getting back to the old diversity of practices-blue over here, purple over there-and it’s got me enjoying all the old experiences of Advent I’ve had. As to favorites? Well, since we’ve got blue up this year, I’m soaking up the mystery, and when I want a little penitence, I’ll just squint and have that too!

November 25, 2015

Dear Alban…What is Advent? When does it begin and end? What is it’s history and meaning?

Answer:

For many Christians unfamiliar with the liturgical year, there may be some confusion surrounding the meaning of the Advent season. Some people may know that the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is an important part of the story, but there’s even more to Advent. At St. Alban’s we often use these days of Advent as a time for additional prayer, study and active imagining of what it means that God comes into our midst now, in the future and for all time.

The History of Advent

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1).

During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas. By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the“coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to the anticipation and preparation for Christ’s first coming at Christmas.

Advent Today

Today, the Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. At that time, the new Christian year begins with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. (Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year.)

Some suggest that Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to complete his eternal kingdom. In some ways the church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season: O come, O come, Emmanuel.

 

November 12, 2015

Dear Alban…What is the “lectionary” and where does it come from?

Answer:

A “lection” is a snippet of text from a larger writing. The “lectionary” is a huge chart of all the little snippets of the Bible that we read in church together. It guides our reading and lets us know which stories we will read each week.

In fact, there have been many lectionaries. The tradition of reading scripture when the community gathered was something that early Jewish followers of Jesus naturally continued from their synagogue practice. They began adding readings from the Gospels and letters of the apostles to the traditional readings from the Books of Moses and the Prophets. Different rhythms for reading the scriptures grew up in different locations as Christianity spread to Asia, Africa, and Europe. Eventually, folks decided that it would be great to all be reading the same thing each week, and some lectionaries were developed that specified actual chapter and verse instead of just general biblical sections.

The cycle of readings we use Sundays at St. Alban’s is the “Revised Common Lectionary”, and using it means that we share our readings with Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, and many others!

 

October 22, 2015

Dear Alban…can the Holy Spirit fly?

Answer:
Why yes! …when it’s a bird, bat or flying insect! The Holy Spirit is the person of the Holy Trinity that Christians have seen at work in movement of Creation, in the guidance of a listening human heart and mind, in the water of baptism and the oil of anointing and the hands of healing. In the Hebrew Scriptures our spiritual ancestors often recognized the “Spirit of God” at work in the mystical things of life. Early Christians recognized this Spirit at Jesus’ baptism, and at Pentecost, and then beyond, and saw in it the characteristics of “personhood” akin to those of our Creator and of Jesus the Christ.
For thousands of years, we’ve given definitions of the Holy spirit, but like a parable, the Holy Spirit has always been too wild to be pinned down. In the words of Jesus, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” So maybe I’ll ask you in return…Can the Holy Spirit fly?

 

 

October 15, 2015

Dear Alban…The Celtic Eventide service is one year old. How’s it going?

Answer:

Celtic Eventide at St. Alban’s Celtic Eventide

Celtic Eventide…offered every Sunday at 5:30 PM is proving to be a much appreciated time for contemplation and prayer with Celtic music and an open table for Blessings and Communion. It feels like something very old has come to St. Alban’s in a fresh, new way. Attendance is strong, there has developed a wonderful cadre of volunteers to serve and lead. The musicians are talented and deeply committed. A time for healing prayer has been added to the service, with gifted volunteer chaplains offering brief, confidential, personal prayer one on one. And following each service, a time for fellowship has sprung up with folks enjoying friends, new and old. The plate offerings of attendees have been generous.

Father Tim says, “In our hurried and noisy world, we offer gracious space and an evening’s hour to enjoy the power of quiet … gently touched by candlelight, music and prayer. The Celtic tradition holds that we find God in Christ in our hearts, in each other, and in all creation. Through moments of reflection and calm, quiet words, fine music and the sacrament of Communion, we refresh this tradition with our own St. Alban’s hospitality. This spirituality, part of our Anglican/Episcopal heritage, took root in Scotland, Ireland, North Umbria and their coastal islands. It seems particularly appropriate to our Maine coastal life where we often seek to be part of God’s creation and long for thoughtful connection to the natural world and to one another.”

We have found this to be a rich experience for frequent church-goers and those who have never attended church– indeed all who seek God’s grace in their lives.

As in all worship at St. Alban’s, we welcome the faithful, the seeker, the doubter, the hopeful, the troubled and the joyful. Come as you are, for God’s embrace is wide.

 

October 8, 2015

Dear Alban….What is an antiphon?

Answer:

A sentence, usually from the Bible, said before and after the Psalm.

 

October 1, 2015

Dear Alban….What is the beautiful short hymn that St. Alban’s is singing at the beginning of worship instead of the Gloria?

Answer:

The rubrics in the Book of Common prayer say that before the Collect of the Day either the Gloria or “some other song of praise is sung or said, all standing.”

This season Fr. Tim and Dr. Strand have chosen the first verse of “O God beyond all praising!” words written in 1982 by the Rev. Michael Perry, a Church of England vicar and hymn writer. It is set to a hymn known as “Thaxted” by the English composer Gustav Holst, based on the stately theme from the middle section of the Jupiter movement of his orchestral suite The Planets and named after Thaxted, the English village where he resided much of his life. He adapted the theme in 1921 to fit the patriotic poem “I Vow to Thee, My Country” by Cecil Spring Rice. The tune with the patriotic words is often sung at England and may be familiar from royal weddings and state funerals.

With the words of Michael Perry, we find this hymn a particularly fine beginning of our worship. You can hear the first verse we sing and the other beautiful verses here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3R7ynobWQU

 

 

September 24, 2015

Dear Alban…Did the Archbishop of Canterbury make an important announcement about the Anglican Communion recently? What do Alban and others think?

Answer:

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/whither-the-communion/

 

September 17, 2015

Dear Alban…what’s an easy way to stay in the touch with what’s happening in the wider church…without getting overwhelmed?

Answer:

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/     Alban says:  The Episcopal Café is a bright and upbeat online magazine that has news, inspiration, images and keeps me in touch with the whole Episcopal and Anglican world!

 

September 10, 2015

Dear Alban…What is prayer in a Christian sense? I often hear about people praying in new ways, like through coloring or movement, but I’m not sure what the Church says about these approaches.

Answer:

There are five types of prayer: adoration, when we simply adore and praise God; confession, when we admit we’ve done something wrong, turn away from sin and seek to restore relationships we’ve damaged; thanksgiving, when we express thanks to God for things and people in our lives; intercession, when we make requests for God’s grace and healing on behalf of others; and petition, when we ask God for blessing and grace for ourselves.
Christians can make each of these types of prayer in a variety of ways, including through physical activity or dance, coloring or drawing, writing or journaling, and a host of other activities. Check out what our Book of Common Prayer says about prayer on page 856!

* Description of prayer based on account in My Faith, My Life by Jennifer Gamber

 

September 3, 2015

Dear Alban…why do we Episcopalians say that we are a “sacramental people?”

Answer:

We are not only hearers of the Word in scripture, as important as that is, but we are also about touch and sight and smell and taste. And this is where the sacraments come in, visible and tangible signs of very real but invisible grace. Through the ordinary stuff of life—water, oil, bread, wine—we encounter God’s grace afresh. As important as it is to hear and respond to the scared stories of the Bible, we also find initiation and inclusion, strength and renewal, hope and comfort in the sacramental rites we embrace in our Book of Common prayer. These rites point to a larger reality for us Christians in Episcopal/ Anglican tradition, a sacramental approach to life itself. Far from being some modern innovation, this approach is grounded in the incarnation itself, rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism and the Eucharist are known as sacraments of the gospel, having their origins in the life and ministry of Jesus. The BCP also recognizes five other sacramental rites, that “evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” These include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation a penitent and unction, or the blessing with oil of the sick and dying.

 

August 27, 2015

Dear Alban…is Augustine of Hippo, the Christian whose life we celebrate on August 28, the St. Augustine?

Answer:
Well, you’ve probably also heard at some point of Augustine of Canterbury, who was the first missionary sent from Rome to England, and who established the precedent that leads to the contemporary Archbishop of Canterbury as the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion…but yes, I suppose Augustine of Hippo is usually thought of as the St. Augustine.
Augustine of Hippo was born in modern day Souk-Ahras, Algeria in northern Africa all the way back in 354. He’s usually remembered for this thoughtful and prodigious theological writings, which have formed a primary foundation for later Western Christians, Roman and Protestant alike. But Augustine of Hippo didn’t even begin these writings until he was about 35, and there was a lot more to his life than sitting at a table writing quietly! Augustine got hooked on philosophy early on in life, and the passion led him to embrace and study many non-Christian ways of life. He was so renowned for this that he even became chief professor of rhetoric for Milan (maybe something like being a Supreme Court Justice in the U.S.A. today). Augustine wrestled with disrespectful personal living, with his place as a good person in a challenging world, and with what it might mean to be in relationship with God. His autobiography includes poetry sharing the wonder of his conversion to Christianity, thanks in part to his intellect, but also to opening himself to other mystical ways of knowing the world. Knowing all that helps me remember that the St. Augustine was also Augustine of Hippo, and maybe to his mom just “Augy,” one more of God’s saints like you and I!

 

August 6, 2015

Dear Alban…How can kids in my family be a part of the Treble Choir?

Great question! The St. Alban’s Treble Choir is a special opportunity for children to experience and learn a variety of musical styles, such as gospel, folk, spiritual, classical, hymnal, and other sacred music repertoires, while having fun and receiving early vocal training. The Treble Choir will be open to all children in grades 3-8, both within the parish and others in the wider community.

Click here to learn more and sign up.

 

 July 2, 2014

Dear Alban….who is our new Presiding Bishop?

Answer:

Great question! Click here to watch a video interview with Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry.

 

 

May 14, 2015

Dear Alban…What’s all this I’m hearing about Hometown Nazareth? Did somebody important come from there?

Answer:

YES! Only the most important person in all of Christianity: Jesus himself!

And you’re hearing lots about it because Hometown Nazareth is the really fun, really great vacation Bible school that St. Alban’s is hosting this summer. It’s where children will learn all about when Jesus was a kid. They’ll meet Mary, Jesus’ mother, and hear stories about his youth. They’ll visit a Bible-time Marketplace that has vendors like a carpentry shop, olive oil seller, basket weaver and jewelry maker, just to name a few. They’ll sing, and be silly, and see a puppet show or two. They’ll play lots of games outside on the church lawn, and try some snacks that were popular in Nazareth in Jesus’ time. It’s going to be great! Click here for more information!

 

April 16, 2015

Dear Alban….What’s a Presiding Bishop?!

Answer:

The Presiding Bishop is the Presiding officer and primate of the Episcopal Church and a symbol of the unity of its dioceses. The Presiding Bishop is elected at a meeting of the General Convention by the House of Bishops with the concurrence of the House of Deputies, for a term of nine years, ending at the General Convention nearest to his or her sixty-eighth birthday. The office of the presiding Bishop is located at the national headquarters of the Episcopal Church at 815 Second Avenue in New York; the Presiding Bishop’s official cathedra is in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul (the National Cathedral) in Washington, D.C. The responsibilities of the presiding Bishop are to preside at meetings of the House of Bishops and of the Executive Council, to be the chief officiant at ordinations of bishops, to oversee the entire program of the church, and to represent the Episcopal Church to the member churches of the Anglican Communion.

Our current Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. She is chief pastor to the Episcopal Church’s 2.1 million members in 17 countries and 109 dioceses, ecumenical officer, and primate, joining leaders of the other 38 Anglican Provinces in consultation for global good and reconciliation. Jefferts Schori was elected at the 75th General Convention on June 18, 2006, and invested at Washington National Cathedral on November 4, 2006.

 

 

March 19, 2015

Dear Alban...who was Albert Schweitzer?

Answer:

Albert Schweitzer was a German – and later French – Theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary in Africa. He is also known for his historical work on Jesus. The expression “reverence for life” is the key to his personal philosophy. No person must ever harm or destroy life unless absolutely necessary. this attitude permeated everything he did. His words will be read at the concert on Sunday, March 22 at 3:00 p.m. Click here for more information about the concert.

 

March 12, 2015

Dear Alban…Which saint do YOU hope wears the Golden Halo in this year’s Lent Madness?

Answer:

Now, that is an almost impossible question to answer!* The 32 saints the Supreme Executive Council (SEC) selected for this year’s bracket represent an array of the graced and grateful, gifted and giving men and women who have inspired Christians through the ages. Naturally, I’m partial to those who walked on my beloved isle of England, but there are so many others:

Egeria, my contemporary, the fourth century wandering monastic who, through her detailed writings, connects us with the liturgical practices we still use today. Cecilia, a woman of faith and courage, the patron saint of singers and musicians who sang praises to God even while being tormented for her faith. (Dr. Stand’s favorite, I presume). Jackson Kemper, the inexhaustible missionary bishop who established and organized rural parishes throughout the mid-western United States in such far flung places as Minnesota, Nebraska and … Green Bay, Wisconsin.

But I digress. All the saints in this year’s tournament, and especially those who have progressed on to today’s Saintly Sixteen, exhibited heroic commitment to Jesus Christ, sometimes at great cost. By participating in Lent Madness and learning more about these useful, thankful, hopeful and joyful fore-bearers of our faith, we can celebrate the presence of their lives in the risen Christ.

(* If you must know … I’m pulling for Francis.)

 

February 19, 2015

Dear Alban…what is Lent Madness?

Answer:

Lent Madness is a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints.

Click here to learn more.

 

February 5, 2015

Dear Alban…will it ever stop snowing?

Answer:

Oh Friend, only God knows when it will stop snowing. But I can tell you that there are a lot more references to snow in the Bible than you might expect. We tend to think of Israel as a hot and dry place, but it still snows there a few times a decade (see the attached photo). As a result, when scripture is looking to talk about something that is really, really white or really, really clean, it often references snow. Jesus appears at the Transfiguration in clothing white a snow. Psalm 51 asks God that the psalmist be made pure as snow. Job talks about God commanding the snow to fall.

I have even heard some people talk about snow as God’s way of enforcing Sabbath rest on a busy world that needs it. So next time you’re stuck inside for a snow storm, don’t fret about your to-do list. There’s literally nothing you can do to stop things falling from the sky. So instead, I suggest a cup of hot cocoa and a prayer of thanksgiving. Maybe it won’t stop snowing until God’s convinced you’ve taken some time to refresh yourself…

Israel snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 29, 2015

Dear Alban…Why does St. Alban’s have a partnership with St. Luc’s in Haiti?

Good question!  Click here to learn  all about our partnership.

 

January 22, 2015

Dear Alban…Why do we have an Annual Meeting?

Answer:

Friend,  in a long-standing tradition,  each parish in the Episcopal Church holds an annual meeting to elect lay members to serve with the Rector on a Vestry, the governing and decision-making body for the church. The Vestry’s duties include calling the Rector, approving the budget and making policy. The Vestry is led by the Senior and Junior Warden, and works closely with the Rector in faithfully guiding the parish forward. Authority within the church is divided between the Bishop of Maine, the Rector and the Vestry working together in a collaborative way.  At St. Alban’s, eleven vestry members serve and are elected at an annual meeting in January to serve three year terms. At St. Alban’s the Vestry meetings are scheduled the second Tuesday of each month and open to the whole congregation.

 

January 15, 2015

Dear Alban….What’s your favorite sermon or speech by Martin Luther King, Jr?

Answer:

What a fantastic question, my friend!  There are so many important, amazing things that were written by Dr. King that it’s really difficult to choose.  I think my favorite thing by Dr. King is not a sermon or a speech, but rather the letter he wrote from Birmingham Jail in response to a letter from local white clergy that expressed their disappointment with the disruption caused by the protests Dr. King was leading.  Dr. King’s response was a powerful, prophetic call to the church to stand on the side of justice.

 

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.  I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than justice…[I had thought] that we would have the support of the white church.  I felt that white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be some of our strongest allies.  Instead, some few have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious that courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.”

 

1800 years ago, I died because the Roman Empire was persecuting Christians.  I died to save a priest because I believed in the power of Christ and the ability of our faith and our Church to effect change in the world.  Dr. King’s letter is a clarion call to the Church to remember that we must stand on the side of the oppressed, whether they are oppressed for religious reasons, racial reasons, or any reason at all.

 

To read all of Dr. King’s letter from Birmingham Jail (which I highly commend), please click here.

 

 

 January 8, 2015

Dear Alban…What’s up with the Baptism of Our Lord?

Answer:

A very interesting question, my friend! Once upon a time, January 6th was the day when Christians celebrated Epiphany AND Christ’s baptism AND the miracle of the wedding at Cana. Really, it was a very overwhelming day. So the tradition shifted, and we began to celebrate the feast of the Baptism of our Lord on the Sunday after Epiphany. On that Sunday, we always read the story of Christ’s Baptism. There are four days in the church year when it is considered most appropriate to have a baptism, and those include the Easter Vigil, Pentecost, All Saints, and the Baptism of our Lord (though you can certainly have baptisms at other times as well).

 

 

December 18, 2014

Dear Alban…Why do we have Christmas Pageants?

Answer:

Christians have performed Christmas Pageants, or Nativity Plays, for centuries. Some believe St. Francis of Assisi’s presentation of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in 1223 in front of a life-size nativity scene, complete with live animals, was the first true pageant. Others credit the nativity portions of medieval Mystery Plays, which were widely popular in Europe from the 10th-16th centuries, as the basis for modern Christmas pageants. In Germany, children perform weihnactsgeschichte, in Latin America, pastorelas are the norm, and in Belgium elaborate puppet shows are beloved. Regardless, the telling of the story of Jesus’ birth, whether by adults or children, whether with live animals or a paper-mache camel, has become a treasured tradition. I sincerely hope you enjoy this year’s presentation by the children of our parish.

 

 

December 4, 2014

Dear Alban….Why do we read Isaiah during the season of Advent?

 Answer:

Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one predicted in ancient Jewish scripture. Many of these predictions about the Messiah are found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah. So we read Isaiah during the season of Advent because they are readings about preparing for the coming Messiah, which is exactly what we do in the season of Advent.

BTW, if you want to learn more about the prophet Isaiah, I hear Rev. Kelly is doing a band-up job talking about it in her class…

 

 

November 26, 2014

Dear Alban…What is Advent?

Answer:

Well, most of us know that Advent is a season of the church in the weeks before Christmas. But, it is important to remember that Advent is not just a season in which we recall an event of the past—Jesus’ birth—but also a time in which we look to the present and the future. The season is one of great anticipation and hope because we know that God became present in our lives in a special way with Jesus’ birth AND that Christ has stayed with us in our histories, our present day and we pray in our futures. This Christian hope is not just about the end time, although it is that; it is also about the here and now. Advent is the time when we look to Christ’s coming into our lives at all those moments. Our word Advent comes from the Latin Adventus, which means “coming.”

Alban wants to remind you that Advent is distinct from Christmastide, the eve and day of Jesus’ birth and the twelve days that follows. Advent, although a time of lots of commercial holiday hype, is a time for quiet, thoughtful reflection and consideration. That’s why St. Alban’s has a parish reader project and adult and children’s programs during this season. We nurture each other in understanding the coming of Christ.

 

November 13, 2014

Dear Alban…Who was Samuel Seabury?

Answer:

Samuel Seabury was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church and we remember him on November 14th. Old Sammy was a priest of the Church of England who lived in the colony of Connecticut when the American Revolution began. Like many Church of England folks, Sam was actually a Tory and he served as a chaplain to the British Army on Long Island (NY…not the one you have in Maine). After the war, the Church of England in America was in a real pickle. After all, thanks to Henry VIII, the head of the Church of England is the British monarch. But now that America wasn’t made up of British Colonies anymore, it didn’t make sense for a church in the English style (or “Anglican”) to look to the King for leadership. So the Church of England in the American Colonies changed its leadership structure and renamed itself “the Episcopal Church.”

There was one snag, though. There were no bishops in America…and Episcopal means “bishop,” so we needed some of those. A bunch of clergy in Connecticut got together and decided that Samuel Seabury should be the new bishop of Connecticut. But it takes 3 bishops to consecrate a new bishop, and there were no bishops in America. So Sammy Seabury went across the sea and tried to convince the bishops in England to consecrate him and continue the church in America. The British bishops said no. Eventually he found some rogue bishops in Scotland who were willing to consecrate him as long as some Scottish prayers were incorporated in the new American Book of Common Prayer. The deal was made, Seabury was consecrated, and he returned to America where Connecticut became the first diocese of the world wide Anglican Communion. This is a fact that Rev. Kelly, who was ordained out of the Diocese of Connecticut, likes to brag about. I’m actually kind of surprised you haven’t heard her tell this story already…

 

November 6, 2014

Dear Alban….Our guest this Sunday is Dean of the American Cathedral in Paris. What is this church?
Answer:

 

October 30, 2014

Dear Alban….. Who are the Saints mentioned in I sing a song of the saints of God?

Answer:

The text is by Lesbia Scott (1898-1986) and the music is by John Henry Hopkins (1861-1945).

The author wrote the hymn for her children. Although she never mentioned specific persons, the following names are generally associated with the occupation or event:
Doctor – St. Luke
Queen – St. Margaret of Scotland
Shepherdess on the green – St. Joan of Arc
Priest – John Donne, priest and poet (see hymn 140/141 and stanza 2 of hymn 322)
Soldier – St. Martin of Tours; Slain by a fierce wild beast – St. Ignatius of Antioch

More information can be found at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 

 

October 16, 2014

Dear Alban…What is ministry?

Answer:
Ministry is all that we do, together and individually, when we try to answer Gods call to love him and one another. Ministry changes us, and our world. And ministry changes our relationship with Christ.

 

October 9, 2014

Dear Alban…Are the priests wearing a poncho?

Answer:
Yes, though in churchy language we call it a “chasuble” rather than a poncho.  Back in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the clergy frequently did a lot of traveling around congregations, so they would wear a “casula” – an ancient Roman garment similar to a poncho.  Casula means “little house” and they were designed to protect traveling people from the elements.  So when the priests arrived at their congregations, they were frequently wearing their casulae and people got used to seeing the clergy wear them when they were presiding at celebrations of the Eucharist (because back in the early church, the Eucharist was celebrated at almost every opportunity to worship).  Somewhere along the way, the word casula morphed into the word chasuble.

Today, in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran churches, you’ll see clergy wearing chasubles.  They are worn during services with Holy Communion, but not a services without Communion (like Morning or Evening prayer, or weddings and funerals without Eucharist).  This is why clergy frequently have a little costume change during worship and wait to put on their chasuble until just before we celebrate Holy Communion (also because they can be very hot to wear for a whole service).

 

September 24, 2014

Dear Alban…Why do we sometimes say, “Tis a Gift to Be Simple”?

Answer:
These words, taken from a 19th Century Shaker song written in Maine, have a particular appeal in the information-saturated, hectic life we live.  In this season with all the return to work and school, sports and schedules, we are wise to reflect on how we might make our lives more clear and simple, less cluttered and more focused on what truly matters.  One Christian writer says, “the practice of simplicity is a healthy orientation toward life that can foster a good sense of the right proportion and right relation within all our commitments and community.”

Alban likes that notion of balance and clarity and simplicity. As the old song says, “tis a gift to be simple tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where we ought to be!”

Here’s more about the the song!  “Simple Gifts” is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.  It has endured many inaccurate descriptions. Though often classified as an anonymous Shaker hymn or as a work song, it is better classified as a dance song.  The tune was written by Joseph Brackett (1797–1882) in 1848.  Brackett, a lifelong resident of Maine, first joined the Shakers at Gorham, Maine, when his father’s farm helped to form the nucleus of a new Shaker settlement.

The song was largely unknown outside Shaker communities until Aaron Copland used its melody for the score of Martha Graham‘s ballet Appalachian Spring, first performed in 1944.  Copland used “Simple Gifts” a second time in 1950 in his first set of Old American Songs for voice and piano, which was later orchestrated.  Many people thought that the tune of “Simple Gifts” was a traditional Celtic one but both the music and original lyrics are actually the compositions of Brackett. “Simple Gifts” has been adapted or arranged many times since by folksingers and composers.

“Simple Gifts” was written by Elder Joseph while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. These are the lyrics to his one-verse song:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Several Shaker manuscripts indicate that this is a “Dancing Song” or a “Quick Dance.” “Turning” is a common theme in Christian theology, but the references to “turning” in the last two lines have also been identified as dance instructions.

September 17, 2014

Dear Alban…. What is Holy Cross Day?

September 14th is the day in the church calendar when we take some time to celebrate the cross.  Sometimes we focus on the cross in light of the Good Friday story and understand it as an instrument of pain and death.  Other times, we think of the empty cross of Easter and understand the cross as a symbol that death does not have the last word.  But the image of the cross encompasses life, death, resurrection, and more.  As the Rev. Sam Portaro says in his reflection on Holy Cross Day, “The cross is the sign of mortality, the intersection – and tension – of horizontal relationship with one another and vertical relationship with God; it is the intersection of life here in this earthly plane and life with God.”*  So on September 14th, we celebrate the intersection point where life and death and humanity and God all meet together and acknowledge the cross as a powerful symbol of that truth.

*quote found in Brightest and Best

 

August 27, 2014

Dear Alban…The Episcopal Church calendar says that today we honor Thomas Gallaudet. Who was he?

Thomas Gallaudet is honored each August 27th with Henry Winter Syle because they led and built up the Episcopal Church’s ministry to and with the deaf. Thomas’ father had led a distinguished school for the deaf in West Hartford. Upon Thomas’ ordination in 1851, he developed a plan for a church that would be a spiritual home for the deaf. Confronting the fears and discrimination of the time, Thomas and his wife Elizabeth Budd realized that all God’s children are invited into Christ’s communion and that we each have special distinctions that we bring with us when we come. One fruit of Gallaudet’s  ministry was Henry Winter Syle who has lost his hearing  as a result of scarlet fever. He was the first deaf person ordained an Episcopal priest, overcoming opposition to ordination, he established the first Episcopal Church especially for deaf people, inviting all into a respectful and inclusive communion of different gifts and diverse perceptions.

 

August 20, 2014

Dear Alban…What is Ordinary Time?

Answer:

Why, we’re in the midst of Ordinary Time right now! There are 5 major seasons of the church year – Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter – and when we are not in one of those seasons, it’s called “Ordinary Time.” Sometimes people might say “the season after Epiphany” or “the season after Pentecost,” and those mean the same thing as Ordinary Time. And the gap between Pentecost in the spring and the beginning of Advent in the winter is actually the longest season of the church year. Ordinary Time is where we spend most of our time, but the practice of the church is to look to this time as being sacred, just like the other seasons. One way you’ll know we’re in Ordinary Time is if the altar and the clergy are wearing green, a color that symbolizes all the growth we undergo during those regular, ordinary times in our lives.

 

 

August 6, 2014

Dear Alban…What will Austin do in his last year of seminary?

Answer:

The last year of seminary is a year of transition. Along with a full academic schedule, Austin will serve at a parish in Manhattan in a similar capacity as his role at St Alban’s. Austin will take a leading role in chapel life and will even give a senior sermon to the seminary community.   Austin will also prepare for the General Ordination Exams in January, a week long test covering courses throughout the three year tenure. Austin is scheduled to be ordained to the transitional deaconate on December 20 in the Diocese of Atlanta.

 

July 30, 2014

Dear Alban…When did the Episcopal Church start ordaining women?

Answer:

Yes, in 1976, following a long discernment, the Episcopal church began officially ordaining women.  We just celebrated the 40th anniversary of women’s ordination this past weekend!  Eleven women were irregularly ordained by some rogue bishops before the Episcopal church officially voted for it.  You can find out more information about that celebration here. We’ve come a long way!  In fact, our current Presiding Bishop – the leader of all the Episcopal Churches in the United States – is a woman. At St. Alban’s two of our clergy are women, one our long-serving Deacon, Audrey Delafield, and one a young Priest, Rev. Kelly Moughty.

 

July 23, 2014

Alban is on vacation this week. So we asked some VBS participants what they liked about most about Bible camp this year. 

Answer:  

 

July 16, 2014

Dear Alban….How can I start to explain Holy Communion to my kids?

Answer:

I think an easy place to start is by telling them a bit about the Last Supper where Jesus told his disciples to remember him through the eating of the bread and the wine. At his Last supper with his disciples Jesus commanded them, and all Christians to follow, to have this mean so that they would always remember who he was and what he said and what he did for us. It was a smart thing for Jesus to ask, because it has meant that one great way to remember him is for us all to get together to have this special meal.   So, once you start to explain to youngsters that this meal is a tradition, to which like a family meal, all are invited, they will begin to experience the sacred presence of a remembered Jesus, with us still. The shared bread and cup become more than mere symbols, they become Jesus in our midst.

 

July 9, 2014

Dear Alban…God asks us to be busy all the time, right?

Answer:

Absolutely not! Jesus left the disciples to pray alone before returning to minister to the people. God calls us to prayerfully and intentionally serve with everything we do, including reserving time for rest and reflection. Based on this idea, this week marks the Feast Day of St. Benedict of Nursia, who articulated specific rules of life. These “Rules of Benedict” are still utilized by many western monastic orders today. When we return to our work after rest, we serve with more mindful hearts, not for our own prosperity but for the prosperity of God’s kingdom on earth.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

(Psalm 34)


 

July 2, 2014

Dear Alban…Why do we sing “God Bless America”?

Answer:

Alban thinks that what we usually mean to say is, “May God bless America,” not at the expense of others, but because this nation, like all nations, continues to need God’s blessings. This is just as we might say, may God bless this family in need or this marriage or this undertaking.

There is no doubt that America and all of God’s people have received so many blessings from God.  So, Alban suggests that rather asking first for more, the first thing we might do is say prayers of thanks for all that has been given us, including us a people. As the Book of Common Prayer urges us, we give thanks to God, giver of all good things. We thank God for the natural majesty and beauty of this land…for the great resources…for the strong women and men…for the torch of liberty…for the sacrifices of those who’ve come before…and on and on.

So let’s give thanks first.  The spiritual danger seems to come in when we say that somehow in the blessings God has given us, we have become set above all others and somehow enjoy privilege and deference not owed to other nations. Alban doesn’t really imagine that God is interested in dispensing special nationalistic blessings.  May God bless America, yes. But one way we mean this is akin to General Carl Schurz, who in 1872 famously made this toast, ‘My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.’  The subjective mood expresses uncertainty, as these words do.  Right or wrong America is our country. And we rightly ask for all the help we can get to set it and keep it on the right path. God’s blessings do just…help us turn and follow.  And how can we best ask this blessing for all? How do we pray that God will walk with and stand beside every single person on this Earth — and every country.

If you’d like to read more reflection on this Independence Day question, here’s a short article from Ethics and Religious Talk. Click here.

 

June 25, 2014 

Dear Alban…What are “Summer Sessions” and will they be boring?

Answer

Why friend, certainly not!  Summer Sessions are two offerings for formation from the dynamic duo of our summer seminarian, Austin McGehee and our assistant rector, Kelly Moughty.  Feel like there’s not enough mystery in your life?  Wondering what God’s purpose for the world might be?  Join Austin on July 10th, 17th, and 24th to hear the story of Julian of Norwich – a 14th century British mystic who had visions of Jesus. Does that sound boring? Well then let us share with you how Julian was the first woman ever published in the English language and how her direct experience of God’s will challenged the church hierarchy. There will be hazelnuts! And cats! And Austin’s southern charm!

Kelly’s course on the creeds may sound like a snoozefest until you learn that she’ll be unpacking how the creeds were born in the midst of ancient power struggles, war, and deception. It was basically an episode of Game of Thrones. Then we’ll consider the ways in which the creed does or does not fit with our lives today, and we’ll look at some more recent statements of faith from around the church to see if they’re a better fit. Join us on July 31st, and August 7th and 14th when we ask, “what do we really believe?”

 

June 4, 2014

Dear Alban…What is Pentecost?

Answer: 

Scripture tells us that fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a wild wind, touching and changing the lives of the apostles. This event is called Pentecost and it commemorates a starting point for the great commission of ministry given to the Apostles to baptize and build up the faith. So, we celebrate this day as the beginning of the church…the community of believers.

May 28, 2014

Dear Alban… Will you host Coffee Hour this Sunday?

Answer:

Friend, I would love to, but I’ve been dead for about 1700 years.  Still, your practice of “Coffee Hour” sounds very familiar to me.  Gathering together and sharing food and fellowship has always been the primary Christian practice.  It’s Biblical!  Think of the young boy who shared his 2 fish and 5 loaves and fed thousands of people…that’s as miraculous as making a dozen Cookie Jar donuts feed more than one 6th grader!  And in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gets really cranky when he finds out that folks weren’t sharing the food they brought with them to worship.  People in the Episcopal Church sometimes joke that coffee hour is the 3rd great sacrament (behind Communion and Baptism), but maybe that’s not too far off.  It’s a time of feeding our bodies with a few special treats and feeding our community by entering into deeper relationship with one another.  Coffee hour and our summer Lemonade on the Lawn are really ministries of hospitality into which we are all invited, and it doesn’t take much.  No need for a homemade masterpiece or expensive treats, just a desire to deepen our community life.  Will you host coffee hour some Sunday?

May 21, 2014

Episcopal shield

Dear Alban… What is that weird red, white, and blue shield thing?

Answer:

That is called the Episcopal Shield, and it’s one of the symbols of our denomination.  It wasn’t adopted by the church until 1940, but it includes lots of symbols of our past.  Our Episcopal History is very much linked to American history.  It was because of the American Revolution that the “Church of England” that worshipped in the American Colonies was renamed the “Episcopal Church.”  That’s why the shield is red, white, and blue…to acknowledge that American history is a huge part of our past.  But it also points to other parts of our history.  The red stripes for the cross of St. George who is the patron saint of England.  And the white crosses on a blue field form St. Andrew’s Cross.  Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and the Episcopal Church drew heavily on Scottish prayers when writing the first American Book of Common Prayer.  Our first American bishop, Samuel Seabury, was also consecrated by Scottish bishops.  There are nine white crosses because there were originally nine dioceses that formed the Episcopal Church in 1789.

May 14, 2014

Dear Alban…  June 15th is Trinity Sunday.  Why do we believe in the Trinity?

 Answer:

Belief in the Trinity is a defining characteristic of all Christians. There sure are times when we each have doubts or struggles with any one element of the faith, but the Christian Church is resolutely “Trinitarian.”  This doctrine looks like a quaint and puzzling sum…an odd sum where we try and make one equal three and three equal one. A good way to think of the Trinity is that it is a description of all that we know of God and to make sense of our distinctive experience of God in Christ. For Christians belief that in Jesus of Nazareth we have encountered the Word of God made flesh. In other words, if we ask what God is like, the answer is we know what God is like by looking  at the life, ministry, suffering death and resurrection of Jesus. And…we also hold that the creator and sustainer role of God…for which we use the term Father enables everything to be.  One obvious problem arises: creation and revelation are both past events. Creation was billions of years ago and Jesus’ life about 2,000 years ago. So there is a third aspect of God that enables God to be present for us today and tomorrow, the Holy Spirit.  The Trinity describes all that we know about God.

May 7, 2014

Dear Alban… Who are you?

 Answer:

Why thank you for asking!  I am the first British saint and martyr.  I was a Roman soldier who lived sometime in the 3rd or 4th centuries and was stationed at a town called “Verulamium.”  A Christian priest was running away from Roman persecution, and I protected him.  In return, he converted me.  When the Roman soldiers looking for him eventually caught up to us, I dressed myself up in the priest’s robes and pretended to be him in order to save his life.  That’s why you always see me with an extra robe in pictures.  The Roman soldiers killed me, and eventually the town of Verulamium was renamed after me and became what we now call the city of St. Albans outside of London.

April 30, 2014

Dear Alban:  What are the Sacraments? Why are they important to Episcopalians?

 Answer:

As important as it is to hear, discuss and respond to the sacred stories of the Bible, we also find initiation, inclusion, strength and renewal, hope and comfort in the sacramental rites and practices outlined in the Book of Common Prayer.  Baptism and the Eucharist are known as the sacraments of the Gospel, having their origins in the life and ministry of Jesus. We also recognize five other sacramental rites  that as the BCP says, “evolved under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  These include confirmation, ordination, matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent and unction , or the blessing with oil of the sick and dying.

We are a sacramental people. We are not simply hearers of the Word—as important as that is—we are also about touch and sight and smell and taste. And that is where the sacraments come in, visible and tangible sings of invisible but real grace. The sacraments are ongoing reminders of God’s incarnational presence.

April 2, 2014

Dear Alban:  Can I have doubts and still be an Episcopalian?

 Answer:

Alban says…Of course! It is often said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. We are called to think, struggle, discern and experience the truth about God and God’s relation in the world. We should approach this project with some humility. Our vantage point does not permit certainty. As with the people who speak to us through the Psalms, for us faith and doubt go hand in hand.

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St. Alban's Episcopal Church
885 Shore Road
Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
Phone: (207) 799-4014
stalbans@stalbansmaine.org