Kneemail: 15 February AD 2017

15 February, AD 2017

ON THE DUE OBSERVANCE OF SUNDAY
The Rt Rev’d Daniel Martins, Bishop of Springfield
This is slightly abridged version of the article here: http://livingchurch.org/covenant/2017/02/06/on-the-due-observance-of-sundays/

I was recently copied on a letter from a member of one of the parishes of my diocese to her priest and vestry. It was in response to the annual stewardship appeal, and the author expressed reservations about continuing her financial giving to the parish, citing a long list of complaints. Evidently, in order to forestall anyone judging her, she admitted to being very sparse in her Sunday attendance; even though she had served on several special committees and projects over the years, she offered the information that her six-day-a-week demanding job left her with Sunday as her only opportunity for self-care, and it seldom worked out for her to attend services.

It was at that point that she lost me. Yes, the judgment that she had hoped to prevent came welling up inside me. Fortunately for both of us, I am not her immediate pastor, so it’s not on me to respond to her letter. This allows me to lift her up as the poster child for not getting it. For a Christian, public worship on Sunday is of the utmost importance, “unless for good cause prevented,” per the Episcopal Church canon the name of which I borrowed for this post. If one does nothing else by way of practicing Christian discipleship, one must still come to church on Sunday. Merely doing that much is not adequate discipleship. Private prayer, Christian community, and service in the world are also essential. But, without coming together to worship on the Lord’s Day, even those good things are deprived of their lifeblood.

At a recent clergy gathering, one rector observed that the standard by which clergy make the subjective determination that a parishioner is adhering to the “unless for good cause prevented” canon is steadily eroding. It used to be that you would see your “regulars” in church 40 to 50 Sundays per year. Nowadays, 30 seems to qualify. For the record, whenever I have a platform to speak to the subject, I will offer the rule of thumb that the proper target is … 52. People take vacations, of course, but it’s a rare vacation venue where no church is available.

At the same clergy gathering, another rector reminded the group that the first element in the liturgy is not the Opening Acclamation or even the Entrance Hymn, but, rather, the gathering of the people. The church — the ekklesia, the assembly of the “called-out ones” — is constituted and reconstituted every time the laos, the baptized people of God, come together for the “principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day” (1979 BCP, p. 13), the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In the liturgy, we “do this” in “remembrance” of the crucified and risen Christ. While “remembrance” might, for many, connote something like “conjuring a mental image of a past event,” its meaning is really more robust, and would become clearer if we were to merely insert an apposite hyphen: re-member, that is, to bring the members back together. When any of the “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) is missing, the structural integrity of “God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9) is compromised.

Sometimes, of course, it is possible to attend corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, but under less than ideal circumstances, such as in a community that is not celebrating the Eucharist, or in a community that does not extend eucharistic hospitality to all the baptized.  In my recent traversal of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, I spent six Sundays walking across northern Spain. There were no Anglican churches along my route; in fact, I saw no evidence of any practice of Christianity other than the ancient native Roman Catholic Church. On three of those six Sundays, circumstances prevented me from even being present at a celebration of the Mass. I complied with the “due observance of Sundays” canon as best I could by privately praying the Liturgy of the Word, through the Prayers of the People. On the other three, I was able to be in attendance at Mass, though, of course, not able to receive the sacrament.

In effect, I fasted from Holy Communion for those six Sundays in Spain and a seventh in Venice before I found a community of Anglicans in Rome. During that fast, however, the abundance of grace made itself manifest to me in some unexpectedly rich experiences of “spiritual communion.” Within the limitations of language (I am conversant, but not fluent, in Spanish), I brought my “full, active, and conscious participation” (per Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium) to the liturgical action, attending closely to the readings, trying to glean whatever I might from the homily, joining in some familiar Latin chants, forming a eucharistic intention, and, in lieu of going forward for communion, praying the words of the Anima Christi (“Soul of Christ, sanctify me”). Even with the unhappy divisions among the people of God preventing me from sharing at the Table, I felt like there was a compensatory blessing that will always be very precious to me.

There is, in fact, so much grace that surrounds a Christian’s “Sunday obligation” that it shouldn’t have to be a matter of law at all. I can remember talking with a fellow parishioner around 35 years ago about how diminished we both felt when some of our number were absent on a Sunday. He said something like “wild horses couldn’t keep me away from Sunday Mass.”

May his tribe increase.


WEDNESDAY
Low Mass with hymns at 5:30pm, Supper (fried chicken) at 6pm, Classes and activities for all ages 6:30pm to 7:30pm.  In the adult class: Stories of Conversion with Fr David.  We will be delving into different stories of conversion in the lives of people found in the Bible. This class will include some DVD material, group discussion, and Bible thumbing. Please join us as we learn more about conversion as our response to the call of Christ.

THURSDAY
Mass in the Chapel at 10:30am.

SUNDAY
Masses are at 8:00am and 10am (sung).  We provide a staffed nursery from 9am onwards.  Christian Education classes at 9am.

IN THE ADULT CLASS THIS COMING SUNDAY:  THE ‘DUMB OX”—the theology of St Thomas Aquinas.  This week: The human person; how your soul works.

SHROVE TUESDAY.  The EYC will be cooking and serving pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, February 28th from 5:30pm to 7pm.  Donations will be accepted as a fundraiser for their summer Image result for pancakes stuff facemission trip.

ASH WEDNESDAY: ADVANCE NOTICE
Wednesday, March 1st is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Masses with imposition of ashes will be at 12”10pm and 7pm (sung).

CELEBRATING BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK:  Joan Richards, Melissa Cook, Brandon Rampy (12), Charlie Trammell, Shelby Anderson, Davis Crouch (14), Nina Goldman, Lisa Soyarss, Mason Miller (16), Andi Sue Townsend, Sandy Wentz, Sarah Kyles (17), Nick Williamson (18).

WEDDING ANNIVERSARIES:  Billy & Suzanne Hackett (14), Christopher & Brandi Montano, Chet & Lois Moore (17).

HOUSEHOLD WEEK:  Suzanne Davis

GRANT THEM REST ETERNAL. Anniversaries of death: Gene Vann, 2001; Madeline Logan, 2016.

FROM THE D.R.E. Thank you to those of you who have responded to our requests for help with the children and youth programs. Still needed….Chapel leader for March 5, 19, 26; teacher for games for unit VI (Feb. 26, Mar. 5, 19); supper for youth on Feb. 26, April 2, 23. Thank you, thank you. –MNS

THE DAUGHTERS OF THE KING is an Order for Episcopal women founded in 1885.  We are a prayer and service group who meets once a month.  We regularly take part in worship, study, and aid our Clergy as asked.  If you are interested in more about us, please call or e-mail Lova Wile (903-832-2533  lova@cableone.net ), Tammy Cowdery (903-277-2148 cowdery@txkusa.org ), or Gail Crisp (903-838-0942 gjcrisp@cableone.net ).

FR DAVID FAULKNER, former Curate of St James’, has been called back to the Diocese of Dallas as rector of Good Shepherd, Terrell.  His institution as rector will be Saturday, February 25th at 11am.

Explore! Anglican Essentials.  Are you interested in exploring what it means to be an Anglican Christian?  This is our annual inquirer’s class for those considering membership at St James’ and Confirmation / Reception into the Anglican Communion, and refresher for everyone else!  We will begin on Sunday, March 5th (Lent I) in the Great Hall at 9am.

THE ROSARY GROUP meets on Tuesdays at 10am to pray the “Bible on a String.” Come join us.  For more information, contact Lova at lova@cableone.net

THE 2017 FLOWER DONOR CHART is now in the Narthex (porch) to sign-up to give flowers in memory or in thanksgiving of a loved one, or you may call or e-mail Martha Bean at 903-547-6911 – e-mail wpmvb@windstream.net .  The cost is still just $35 per donor, per Sunday.  What a great way to honor or remember those who are important in our lives!

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