Abbey mosaic of St. Bernard

Abbey mosaic of St. Bernard

Be careful:  If you come here, you will grow!

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

Easthampton, MA

A note from the Rev. Michael A. Bullock
Dear Folks:

Most of us adjust to our surroundings, even if we do so with a grumble.  Like the proverbial frog in an increasingly hot pot, we tend to accommodate ourselves to the “water” we are in, until…until the stress breaks in on us.  Then, the chances are that our reaction to being “boiled” is not very helpful nor very emotionally accurate, just raw.

In last month’s clergy zoom meeting, our Bishop, Doug Fisher, offered to his clergy what I found to be a surprising help.  I say “surprising” because the topic was “grief”’ in terms that the noted Swiss therapist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has famously expressed them.  My clergy colleagues and I most likely could recite her famous “5 Stages of Grief”, the ingredients of which are denial; anger; depression; bargaining; acceptance.  So, I was “surprised” by the presentation, not because the content was new but because Kubler-Ross’s description of grief’s workings named a good deal of what going on with me and many of us.  Surprise! (and “thank you” Bishop).  I suddenly woke up to the fact that I have been grieving a good deal and being reconnected with Kubler-Ross’s offering helped me recognize the “frog” in me who was unhelpfully adjusting to the rising temperature of the pot’s water.

In these last six months in particular, all of us have been grieving, whether we can recognize it or not.  So much of what we are familiar with, so much of what we cherish and depend on in our lives has been turned up-side-down; and the result is grief.  My understanding and experience of grief is that it is that uncontrollable recognition that something deeply important to us has been unavoidably lost; and in that profound sense of loss, we fear that everything else we are and have will fall into that dark abyss.  In this sense, grief truly stems from the reality and experience of death.  But as Kubler-Ross conveys (so does Jesus’ cross and resurrection), grief need not be a defining state.  With attention (that is, with emotional courage and faith), grief can and does transition into mourning: that is, we still know that there is a hole in our lives due to loss (that hole never goes away); but there can be a time when we realize that we don’t have to fall into that hole, that absence – just honor it.

The benefit of what Kubler-Ross portrays is to be able to name what we experience in loss and in the reality of death.  Her “5 Stages of Grief” are not meant to describe sequential, lock-step stages but rather to identify the various “ingredients” that are involved in grieving.  For instance, to what extent is our country (that collection of all of us individually) grieving?  To what extent does grief describe what is going on in our national life?  Many continue to deny the reality of loss, whether it is refusing to use masks or to make personal sacrifices for the common good.  By and large, the most pervasive response to grief among us is anger.  While there are lots of things to be angry about (issues of justice — social, economic, political justice), left unchecked anger can be a state that feeds on its host, to the extent that anger gets focused on oneself, leading to a depression, a self-imprisonment and isolation.  Another way we deal with grief’s reality is to try and bargain it away, giving to others the power to “fix things”. Finally, we can put ourselves into an emotional (and spiritual) place that simply accepts what the grief is all about: Death is real; we are not in control.  Very rarely do we welcome such an experience of loss.

I mention grief because by and large we don’t do well dealing with it; but stuffing it away leads to more hurt – to us and to those around us, often without our awareness, until…until our emotional reaction dominates and even begins to destroy who we are and what we do.  Healing is what is called for in the context of grief, and this healing (from grief to mourning) takes time and it takes awareness’s diligent work.

It was one of Kubler-Ross’s seminal regrets with regard to her grief work that she never got to publish what she discovered was the “6th Stage”: namely, “Meaning Making”.  For Christians, the “meaning making” stage of our grief has its roots in the cross of Christ, which says (to me, at least) that death is real – very real; but it is not the last word in life.  It is this “last stage” that we need to keep in mind, as we experience the more immediate and necessary stages of our deepest pain and fear.  The “meaning making” of the cross does not take what we loathe away; nor is it “magic” that makes us “feel all better”.  The cross is not an analgesic that just numbs the pain of loss.  It is, however, the source of our hope and trust that God-in-Christ offers more life than we imagine or make for ourselves.  The God-life is larger than all of this; and it is given to us, if we receive it.

It seems to me that this is one of the main “job descriptions” of the church: That community that never stops regrouping, remembering the God-life, and moving forward to receive what we need and cannot provide for ourselves.

So, I remind you in these grief-stricken, separate times to keep “showing up” through your prayers, your “remote” presences, and in the Godly hope that always breathes new life into what is passing away.

Michael+

A four person committee made up of Ann Truehart, Bonnie Katusich, Brian Dillon, and Fr. Bullock have been hard at work preparing to post the position of parish administrator.  We have a clear job description and an approximate timeline.  We hope to be ready to post the position next week.
CLICK HERE FOR SUNDAY BULLETIN
Abbey mosaic of St. Bernard
Bernard of Clairvaux, Monastic and Theologian, 1153…
(1090-Aug. 20, 1153). Influential monk who was called the “Pope maker” and “the uncrowned emperor of Europe.” He was born in Fontaines, France, and entered the Cistercian monastery at Citeaux, France, in 1113. In 1115 he established a Cistercian monastery at Clairvaux and became its abbot. In 1130 both Innocent II and Anacletus II claimed to be Pope, resulting in controversy. Bernard sided with Innocent II and became his confidant and advisor. His influence with the papacy increased even more when Eugenius III, a monk of Clairvaux, became the Pope. Bernard was a leading mystic of the period, and he had a great impact on medieval devotional life. His literary masterpiece was On Loving God. He also was called “The Mellifluous Doctor” because of his eloquence. His work as a monastic reformer earned him the title, “second founder of the Cistercian Order.” He was declared a saint in 1174. He was named a Doctor of the Church in 1830. The hymn, “O Jesus, joy of loving hearts,” numbers 649, 650, in The Hymnal 1982, is attributed to Bernard. He died in Clairvaux. Bernard is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Aug. 20.
At the July, 2020 Vestry meeting the mid-year financial report was approved.  Thank you Treasurer Joe and the finance committee for your hard work!  Read the report here
Nightly Compline

One of the purposes of Compline is to close down the day and prepare ourselves for rest, but it is also a part of the larger purpose of having a book of common prayer. I get a sense of comfort from the repetition of the same prayers over and over again and that is the purpose of common prayer. I bet that the majority of us could probably participate in a regular Sunday worship (wouldn’t that be nice?) without a bulletin because we are so familiar with the prayers we use for Eucharist we have them memorized. As I have been participating in Compline since I began the service in March I am finding that I don’t even need to look at my prayer book for most of the service, not only because I have memorized it, but because I have internalized it and I am now hearing and interacting with the prayers on a more deeply spiritual level. If you have not already engaged with the Compline service I challenge you to do so, you do not need to join it live at 8pm, you can go and watch or even just listen to the video whenever you wish. I also recommend doing so without a prayerbook in front of you, just listen and join in when you can and over time you will find that the prayers are so familiar you will be able to fully participate from memory. It is at that point that the unexpected can happen. It is at that point that we are truly allowing the Holy Spirit to enter and guide us. Compline can always be found on the St. Philip’s YouTube Channel,
please join us,
Deacon Jason

Scripture study will return to Sunday mornings in the Fall!  See you there?
From Steve Abdow, Canon for Mission Resources
August 17, 2020
Dear parish leaders,
Over the past month we conducted a survey of our congregations to get a fuller understanding of your financial situation through the first half of the year, and your outlook for the rest of the year. The survey has been completed at this point by almost all  of our 51 congregations. Here are the results:
Congregations were asked to rate the financial outlook for 2020. 85% report they are “fine” or “okay”. Seven reported the outlook is “not good” and none reported that the outlook was “bad”. Most of our congregations are forecasting a surplus, some of them fairly significant. The average surplus was around $12,000. Apparently, with strong pledge fulfillment, financial assistance made available through the diocese, and the PPP loans, congregations of all sizes have been able to reserve funds  to be used over the rest of the year.  This is fantastic news in the midst of otherwise very challenging times! Of the congregations we heard from, only two showed a material deficit through mid-year.
At this point, 71% of our congregations have online giving capabilities. Pledge income overall has maintained, and in many cases has exceeded expectations. This is a testament to our strong stewardship practices and our faithful membership. There have been few requests to the Trustees for extra withdrawals from investments. The other Province One (New England) dioceses all report similar scenarios. Overall, we are  in good shape financially. Some churches are struggling, but most of those were already facing challenging situations before the pandemic began.
These results are encouraging. They exceeded our expectations and made us hopeful. The PPP loan/grant was intended to protect paychecks and it accomplished that in the short term and gave us time to prepare and adapt for the rest of the year. While none of us can control what tomorrow will bring, our churches have shown tremendous resilience and adaptability. We go forth with hope and faith and a willingness to respond to what is emerging in our ministries. The work to which God calls us continues, especially our work with the most vulnerable in our communities.Steve Abdow,
Canon for Mission Resources
THANK YOU for Maintaining Our Financial Health
During the Covid-19 PandemicPlease continue to honor and maintain your financial pledge, while we are not able to be in church together.  You can mail your weekly pledge directly to St. Philip’s at 128 Main Street, Easthampton, MA 01027, attention Joe Bianca, OR you can now pay your pledge or other donations securely online here: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1332157.
Thank you again and God bless you all,
The Finance Committee
During the Covid-19 Pandemic
SUPPORT OF THE EASTHAMPTON COMMUNITY CENTER The need for food aid continues to grow in our region, as more families become victims of the economic fallout associated with the pandemic.  The center continues to provide food aid to several hundred families and senior citizens as well as distributing a “Kids Bag” to every child every week.  Most of these children participated in the school free lunch program.
Donations of food items can be made directly to the center, located at 12 Clark Street.  Monetary donations can be made directly to the center, via their Face Book page, or through St. Philip’s by sending a check to 128 Main Street, Easthampton.  If you send a check to the Community Center please put St. Philip’s in the “For” line.  If you send a check to St. Philip’s please put EHCC in the “For” line.
Thanks to your continued support, St. Philip’s has donated $680 to the EHCC over the last three months. 
The center could also use a few more volunteers, to pack and distribute food bags on Monday and Wednesday, pick up food during the week, etc.  Details can be found on their website, or you can contact Robin Bialecki at 413-527-5240.
Copyright © 2020 St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, All rights reserved.

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