Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Diocese of California General Convention

This is a summary of the 165th Convention of the Diocese of California. For a more detailed account, please see the DioCal website: http://bit.ly/1FKxzed

St. Mark’s was well represented at the convention. The Rev. Salying Wong served as chair of the Committee on Dispatch of Business, and also addressed the convention on the theme of the Asian American experience in the Diocese of California. Carla Bliss and Lorna Paisley staffed an informational table for the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Carla also served as a delegate, substituting in place of Kaye Crawford.

The theme of Asian experience comes from a progression of several years of exploring the concept of the Beloved Community. The history of Asian involvement goes back to early days in the Diocese of California, and includes times where cultural insensitivity caused misunderstanding and sorrow to Asian members. Thus, the convention theme sought to create a setting for conversation and reconciliation.

Key features of each annual convention are the resolutions passed each year. In addition to routine resolutions, the convention managed to consider and vote on eight resolutions. Several of these are to be forwarded to the national Episcopal Church (where they may be altered and combined with resolutions of other dioceses) for consideration by the 78th General Convention, to be held in Salt Lake City in 2015. With one exception, the following resolutions passed.

1. “Proposition 47: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014” is an endorsement of the California voter initiative.

2. “Laying the groundwork for an Episcopal state policy network in California” seeks to give the Episcopal church a presence in public policy discussions, as many other denominations already have.

3. “Liturgical marriage equality” is a resolution for the 78th General Convention to authorize liturgy for use in same-sex marriages. It remains the individual cleric’s discretion to decline to solemnize any marriage.

4. “Socially Responsible Investing in the Episcopal Diocese of California” is a follow-on to a previous directive that investments of the diocesan endowment fund should reflect the values of the church. While there is broad agreement that “SRI” is a worthy goal, how to achieve it remains a complicated discussion.

5. “Climate change” considers climate change as both an environmental and a social justice issue, to be submitted for the 78th General Convention. Since the people most adversely affected are often the poorest, the resolution calls for divestment from energy companies that supply environmentally damaging fuels, and a move to sustainable energy companies.

6. “Benefits cost-sharing” was a response to the rising cost of benefits, though historically, Episcopal employees in California have had excellent benefits because salaries are well below those in the private sector, compounded by the high cost of living here. One debater shared a concern about harming clergy wellness (and by inference, congregational wellness). This resolution was rejected by the convention.

7. “Promoting justice and peace in Israel/Palestine” is a resolution for the 78th General Convention to divest from corporations that support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Israeli companies that operate out of those places. Delegates on both sides of the question made impassioned statements. In the end, the resolution carried.

8. “Statement on General Theological Seminary.” Over the years that I have attended the DioCal convention, this was first time a resolution was submitted from the floor of the convention, rather than months in advance. The event that drove it was also most unusual, the irregular firing of eight (of ten) faculty members from the seminary in New York. Unlike other Episcopal seminaries, there is a direct line between the Episcopal Church and the institution, thus the perceived call to action for the Diocese of California. At the time of this writing, there appears to be a path opening for reinstatement and reconciliation.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thoughts on Stewardship From Parishioners Like You

From Brent Welch and the Vestry

The Vestry met earlier this year and discussed our goals for the next year. During our meeting, we discussed the book Growing an Engaged Church by Albert Winseman. We focused on a theme that explains why people like to belong to a wonderful place like St Marks. Winseman and Gallup surveys offer a “Get-Give-Belong-Grow” summary that reminds us that engagement, that is, a deeper connection with others, is a crucial part of a deeper connection to God and one’s faith. Hence people find friendship, spiritual support, fellowship, and a welcome respite from the daily grind in a healthy faith community. As a result they are willing to give of their talents, time and treasure.This engagement and sense of belonging leads to deeper spiritual growth. St. Mark’s, at its best, is such a community and as your Vestry we believe it can be a better and stronger faith community by increasing opportunities for engagement.

The focus on Get-Give-Belong-Grow highlights the following crucial questions (used in surveys) for members of the community:

 “What do I Get?”

Do I know what is expected of me?
Are my spiritual needs being met?

“What do I Give?”

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best?
Have I received recognition or praise for what I do?
Do the community leaders care about me as a person?
Is someone checking in/encouraging my spiritual growth?

“Do I Belong?”

Do my opinions count?
Does the mission and purpose of the community make me feel my participation is important?
Are other members of the community committed to spiritual growth?
Aside from my family do I have a friend in the community?

“How can I Grow?”

Has someone checked in (during the last 6 months) on my spiritual growth?
Do I have opportunities to learn and grow?

We think this is a great theme for St. Mark’s because too often “membership” seems to get distilled down to just the Give, and we forget why people seek to Belong. By putting Get first, we acknowledge how important it is that St Marks continue to provide, with hopeful expectation, opportunities for faithful spiritual growth for its members. Our wonderful campus with its new landscape and meeting spaces, the deep and talented pastors, our sacred worship, the music, the good work of commissions and ministry teams and the many programs, are all wonderful gifts that we share with our members  With this perspective, Give almost goes without saying. Members are more than willing to give to our community.  Spiritual Growth and giving go together. It is so easy in this rich world we live in to forget the spiritual aspects of humanity. Without it we are doomed to an unsatisfying life, no matter our riches. Finally, when we create a community like St Marks, it is easy for people to want to Belong to it. Our growing membership is a testimony to the way that our community benefits from the many great things we provide.

The Get-Give-Belong-Grow theme can be applied to all of our different ministries, missions and groups. How does it apply to your ministry?

As we do our planning for the next year, let’s be intentional in deepening both our faith and our community with this focus as a unifying theme. Let’s grow in faith together and make a difference in our homes, our workplaces and in the wider world.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gospel of Luke -- NEW Scripture Discussion

Please join us as we begin a NEW Discussion of the Gospel of Luke in September.

We will read aloud from Luke, share our responses with the group, and discuss application to our community following a guided study (Kerygma Program - http://www.kerygma.com/ ).

Our meetings are twice per month on Tuesday evenings. Interested in joining the discussions? Do you wish to know more about the discussion group? By Monday August 11, please contact Ken Bencala.

Good News for All: the Gospel of Luke

Luke's Gospel is uniquely inclusive, involving all people.  The Good News is for the outcast and the establishment, for the religious and those searching.  Luke speaks to women, to men, to the strong and healthy, to the weak and dispossessed.  Its relevance today inspires faith, spirituality and action.

  • Getting Started With Luke
  • God's Covenant Kept:  Annunciations and Births
  • Preparations for Ministry
  • Jesus Inaugurates the Kingdom of God
  • Ministry in Galilee Continues
  • Ministry in Galilee: Teaching
  • The Journey to Jerusalem Begins
  • Warnings on the Journey
  • Life in the Kingdom of God
  • The Journey to Jerusalem Concludes
  • Jesus' Ministry in Jerusalem
  • The Passion Narrative (1)
  • The Passion Narrative (2)
  • The Resurrection

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer Forum Series 2014 and Instructed Eucharists

Instructed Eucharist and Baptism

July 6: Liturgy of the Word at the Eucharist
July 13: Liturgy at the Table at the Eucharist
August 10: Instructed Baptism

On these Sundays, in lieu of a sermon, there will be instruction on these parts of our liturgy.  This year, we will focus on the sacramental theology of liturgy.

Summer Forum Series

Human Sexuality as Divine Gift with Amber Belldene
July 20
Amber Belldene is the pen name of an Episcopal priest and author of contemporary and paranormal romance novels. Amber’s passionate interest in the relationship between spirituality and sexuality fuels her writing, directs her reading, and inspires her preaching. Join her for a forum exploring the roots of Christian sexual ethics and discuss how the church might reclaim human sexuality as divine gift and sacramental experience. Bring your open heart and your sense of humor!

For more information about Amber and her books, visit her website:  www.amberbelldene.com

Christian Theologies of War with Jay Watan
July 27
Jay is chaplain to the 445th Civils Affairs Battalion.  He will guest preach and give a forum on the some Christian theologies of war.

Conceptions of God in a Secular Age with Mary Greene
August 3
Recent studies show that about 20 percent of Americans (known as NONES) claim to have no affiliation with a spiritual group and yet, as unlikely as this may seem, 92 percent of Americans believe in God. How is God understood by the NONES? How do extra-religious influences like media and consumerism impact even so-called religious people’s understandings of God?  This forum will draw from a mix of evidence from the academic to popular culture to reveal some of the many-faceted understandings of God held by Americans today and the secular influences that undergird them.  

Pluralism: Christian Responses to Religious Diversity and its Implications for our Concepts of God with Jonathan Homrighausen and Salying Wong
August 10
We inhabitants of the Silicon Valley live in one of the top five areas in the country for religious diversity, with especially large populations of Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims.  How you see other religions speaks to your concept of God.  In this forum, you will learn about three basic approaches: exclusivism, inclusivism, and comparative theology.  While hammering out these ideas, we will discuss what this means about who we think God is.

Jonathan Homrighausen has never met a religion he didn’t like. A Christian tinged with Buddhism, he majors in religious studies and classics at Santa Clara University. He serves as Interfaith Intern in SCU’s Campus Ministry Department. After graduating he hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in religious studies or theology in the hopes of furthering interreligious dialogue.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Forum: Preparing Now for a Peaceful End of Life

Sunday, February 23
11:35 am in the Kennedy Room

Join  Rev. Jennifer Fargo Lathrop, M.Div., BCC, spiritual Care Counselor at Pathways Hospice, on Sunday, February 23 in the Kennedy Room for a 50-minute Forum on “Preparing Now for a Peaceful End of Life.”  Maggie Callahan, a hospice nurse for over three decades and the author of "Final Gifts" and "Final Journeys," calls those who care for the dying "midwives" for the end of life.

We are beginning, in this country, to talk about end of life and how to best care for those who are entering this phase of life and what choices are available for individuals approaching the end of their lives.  As you contemplate your end of life, what is the image that comes to your mind? Thinking about that now can allow you to make the choices so that - as much as possible - you have the end of life that you wish to have.

Forum: "There's No Place to Express Ourselves"

Sunday, February 16
11:35 am in the Kennedy Room

These words, recently spoken by a high school student in Chicago in response to why he and others are being charged with truancy,  that is, gathering in the park rather than attending high school. The number of truant students in the area reached almost 60% recently, the largest number ever recorded.  But as one politician thoughtfully responded:  “They will be heard.”  Correlations are being found between the large number of truant students and an increase in crime. 

This situation and the broader increase in violence in the United States and elsewhere, call for an in-depth exploration of factors underlying violence in the world and how we can at least begin to curtail such actions.  One approach, emerging on the threshold of the modern world, is grounded in intellectual, religious, and cultural history, namely, a pluralistic mindset that can help foster peace not only within our own country and personal lives, but also in our relationships with the world at large. We had a lively discussion in a December Forum about the situation, and hope to review some of the ideas about the role of pluralism in the pursuit of peace, but also to extend our discussion into other areas, such as education and student unrest.  

Come join Helen Brooks and other parishioners for what promises to be a lively discussion of this important issue and how we can work together to implement a pluralistic and peace-oriented perspective in a world marked by growing violence.

Forum: Experiencing Scripture in Small Groups

Sunday, February 9
11:35 am in the Kennedy Room

Small groups meet at St. Mark’s for a variety of purposes. Two of our small groups ( Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings) include the discussion and the experience of Scripture in their meetings.

Is your experience with Scripture personal? Have you previously participated in group study of Scripture? Considering how you might expand the role Scripture finds in your life? Would you be interested in a discussion with 4 small group members on the insights (and maybe challenges?) from reading Scripture in a group? 

Please join us for the 50-minute Forum Sunday February 9 in the Kennedy Room after the 10 o’clock worship service. Louise Gulda, Linda Dillon, Ken Bencala, and Terry Moore will each talk briefly about their own participation in small groups. After these remarks we will have an open forum for questions and discussion.