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The neutral zone
Last Sunday, the Church year ended, and Christmas won’t be here for over a month, so now what?
Now it’s that in-between time, an awkward neutral zone of hope and fear. Old familiar ways have ended, and a new world is coming to birth. But that new world is not at all clear. Will it be kind and beautiful, or brutal and grotesque? We can’t say for sure; times like this are full of both possibility and peril, of chaos and new creation. It’s possible to get shipwrecked.
And yet, as writer William Bridges puts it, “The neutral zone provides access to an angle of vision on life that one can get nowhere else. And it is a succession of such views over a lifetime that produces wisdom.” (Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes (p. 142). Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition.)
Our scriptures offer many stories of risky and wonderful times like this: Abraham and Sarah leave their homeland not knowing where they will end up; Mary lets go of her identity as a solitary individual to embrace the risks and uncertainties of marriage and parenting; Jesus withdraws to the neutral zone of the desert only to discover a whole new sense of himself as God’s beloved child and prophet.
Perhaps their stories are like ours in this moment of transition for our parish, and of my own transition into retirement.
It’s an awkward time, this neutral zone, one we’d like to get over quickly. William Bridges continues:
People often ask whether there isn’t some way to speed up transition, to get it over sooner; when they do, they are usually thinking of the time in the neutral zone when very little seems to be happening. As does any unfolding natural process, the neutral zone takes its own sweet time. “Speeding things up,” hitting the fast-forward button, is a tempting idea, but that only stirs things up in ways that disrupt the natural formative processes that are going on. Far from bringing you out of the neutral zone sooner, such tactics usually set you back and force you to start over again. Frustrating though it is, the best advice is to opt for the turtle and forget the hare.
So welcome to this risky and wonderful season, these dark and murky days of Advent. Embrace them. Jan Richardson’s blessing might help.
Blessing the Door
First let us say
upon all who have
entered here before us.
You can see the sign
of their passage
by the worn place
where their hand rested
on the doorframe
as they walked through,
the smooth sill
of the threshold
where they crossed.
Press your ear
to the door
for a moment before
and you will hear
their voices murmuring
words you cannot
quite make out
but know are full of welcome.
On the other side
these ones who wait—
if you do not
know by now—
a blessing can do
how it appears like
nothing you expected
how it arrives as
how it takes the form
how it comes
in words like
How can this be?
lifted up the lowly;
how it sounds like
in the wilderness
prepare the way.
Those who wait
for you know
how the mark of
a true blessing
is that it will take you
where you did not
think to go.
Once through this door
there will be more:
more who watch and
wait for you
at this door of
the blessing cannot
be said without you.
So lay your palm
against the frame
that those before you
place your feet
where others paused
in this entryway.
Say the thing that
you most need
and the door will
And by this word
the door is blessed
and by this word
the blessing is begun
door by door
all the rest
(Richardson, Jan. Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas. Wanton Gospeller Press. Kindle Edition.)
See you in the church on Julian Avenue.
THIS SATURDAY! Advent Cleaning Party
Sr. Warden Diana McDonnell and Timm Dobbins invite you to come spruce up the sanctuary in preparation for Advent and the visit of Bishop Robinson. We need people to dust the window sills, polish the altar/lectern/pulpit, sweep down cobwebs, and other small chores inside.
We hope to be done by noon, so come for an hour or the whole morning!
When: Saturday, December 2, 9:00 a.m
Where: St. John’s
THIS SATURDAY! Sara Warfield to become a priest!
|[Click the invitation to enlarge it.]
THIS SUNDAY! St. John’s to host openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson
On Sunday, December 3, Bishop Robinson helps us begin the Advent season. He will preach at our usual 10:15am Liturgy. His sermon topic: “Jesus Doesn’t Need Any More Admirers!”
After the Liturgy, he’ll lead us in an “Everything you’ve wanted to ask Bishop Robinson but never had the chance” forum.
Spread the word. Bring your friends.
This Advent: Alms for Cristosal
Advent begins this Sunday, December 3rd and, again this year, each week of Advent we’ll take up a second collection for Cristosal.
Cristosal is one of the foremost organizations seeking justice for the people of Central America. You don’t hear much in the news these days about Central America. If you did, your heart would break. As our friend, Kathy Veit, writes:
It is a crisis of violence and forced displacement on a scale seen otherwise only in official war zones. If you are unfamiliar with this crisis (it hasn’t made our front pages since 2015), this recent article provides good background: Trump Administration Suddenly Cancels Refugee Program That Saved Lives of Central American Children. This brief film also brings the story to life.
(See more of what Kathy writes about Cristosal’s work in Central America.)
Our parish has been honored to quietly accompany three young Central Americans–Allan, Mirza, and Isrrael–who fled Honduras and Guatemala for their lives. Each is here on their own, their families and loved ones far away. Allan, recently baptized, is now one of us. Mirza and Isrrael we see less often; their lives are jammed with school, more than one part-time job, soccer, and a little time to just be teenagers. But, in each case, we help as best we can: Safeway cards when the food starts to run out at the end of the month, an occasional hug, maybe a job lead.
But we also need to look at the root of the problem. What drove Allan and Mirza and Isrrael to flee for their lives in the first place? Their stories are part of a much larger one of the violence and oppression that afflicts their countries. It is this reality Cristosal robustly challenges.
You’ll hear more in the days ahead.
When we pass the hat a second time each Sunday of Advent, please give from your heart.
Wednesdays in Advent: Evening prayer at St. John’s
A candle-lit, quiet, prayerful way to end your work day, settle into the evening, and prepare for Christmas.
When: Each Wednesday of Advent, beginning December 6th, 6pm
Where: St. John’s, in the nave (unless otherwise specified)
12/4: St. John’s Book Club to read Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
At our next meeting, we will discuss Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: the Three Essential Prayers, a book which promises to “get us through tough times, everyday struggles, and the hard work of ordinary life.”
When: December 4, 7:30pm
Where: Leah and Cecil’s
12/15: An invitation from our friends at CARECEN
In our accompaniment of two of our refugees, Isrrael and Mirza, St. John’s is privileged to partner with CARECEN (Central American Resource Center). Here’s an invitation to their festive holiday party for the families and individuals they serve, including Isrrael and Mirza .
1/27: The Gubbio Project!
We are excited to have been at St. John the Evangelist for two years and to celebrate we are hosting a brunch for you and the guests!
Details: There will be 50 seats for supporters and 50 for guests.
Tickets are $40 and will buy you and a homeless guest a ticket.
Date: January 27 at 11 AM
Click here to request ticket informaiton
RESCHEDULING: St. John’s celebrates 160 years!
Our 160th Anniversary Celebration will be rescheduled to coincide with the Grand Opening of our new garden, sometime this Spring, date TBD.
A truly festive celebration with each other and our extended family to mark an amazing 160-year journey! Spread the word!
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
7:00pm – 9:00pm Mission Dharma (Nave)
Wednesday, November 29
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
1:00pm – 3:30pm Custodial Service, Entire Building
Thursday, November 30
9am – Morning prayer with the Gubbio Project
Friday, December 1
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
Saturday, December 2
5-11am Julian Pantry (food distribution at 10am)
10:00am – 1:00pm Custodial Service Entire Building
3pm – Sara Warfield’s ordination to priesthood, Grace Cathedral
Sunday, December 3
10:15am Choral Eucharist
Monday, December 4
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
6:00pm – 9:00pm Danzantes Xitlali (Nave)
7:00pm – 9:30pm Lone Rangers meeting (Library)See our entire calendar here.
Readings for next Sunday (Reading them in advance can make the Liturgy more powerful for you!)
The Right Rev’d Gene Robinson, preaching
The Rev’d Richard Smith, Ph.D., presiding