If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”
~Philippians 2: 1–5
Beloved St. Andrew Community:
Hopefully you know already we have multiple, interrelated behavioral policies that help us to ensure health and well- being in our communion—especially those we consider most vulnerable among us. Our priority of care for our children and vulnerable adults is a sacred trust. It grows from the sacraments; from the promises we make in baptism and the insights we gain at the communion table.
Beloved St. Andrew Siblings:
As my sabbatical leave draws near, I thought it would be helpful to provide an overview of what I’ll be up to (and what you’ll be up to!) in my absence.
In this sabbatical I am looking to puzzle together the many pieces of my life into a more coherent, unified story of self that I trust will fund my teaching, preaching, and leadership going forward. A trip backwards will, I believe, enrich my journey forward.
We began to prepare for a 2022 sabbatical (July 25-November 13, 2022) in March of 2021. St. Andrew developed and approved a sabbatical policy in 2010 and fundraising protocols, in time for my first sabbatical leave in 2013, nine years into my ministry here. Pastor Julie Kae was able to draw on our policy for her sabbatical in 2019.
We developed these policies recognizing the value of sabbatical time away for both pastor and congregation. You can read a little about the rationale and the work I was up to for my 2013 sabbatical in a blog post here.
In our March 2021 meeting, the church session approved the following motion:
Moved and passed to affirm and endorse in principle the proposed sabbatical plan for Scott Anderson and authorize the pursuit of external grant funds. Further we covenant to collaborate with him in a process of preparation, co-reflection, and learning integration.
In April of 2021, we applied for but were unsuccessful in receiving a grant through the Lilly Clergy Renewal Program. Our intent from the beginning was to pursue this sabbatical course regardless, understanding the value of the process in our discernment and preparation.
What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.
—John W. Gardner, 1965
Wait a minute! We’ve come to know Year A, Year B, and Year C over the years. As we’ve cycled through these cycles of readings, they have become familiar and perhaps even welcome guides to our faith practices. But Year W?
For the season of Lent and Easter—beginning with Ash Wednesday and through Pentecost Sunday—we will interrupt our regular practice of following the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) to take on a modified set of scripture readings instead. The occasion gives us a good opportunity to remember what a lectionary is and what it is for.
What is a Lectionary?
Simply put, a lectionary is an order of readings practiced by faith communities. The RCL is a three-year cycle of Sunday readings: (1) a first reading (usually from the First Testament), with a song, a psalm or canticle, that offers a response to it, (2) a second reading (usually from a New Testament letter or epistle), and (3) a Gospel reading. Year A generally follows Matthew, Year B centers Mark. We are currently in Year C, which centers Luke. The Gospel of John shows up in all three lectionary cycles, usually during the festival seasons (Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter and the festival Sundays that surround each).
It has been our common practice at St. Andrew to follow the RCL for numerous reasons. Among them:
So, back to the initial question:
The 1939 Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musical “Babes in Arms” is pure fluff and should be forgettable entertainment from the dusty past, but it survives in the collective memories of some of us because of a trope, or cliché. If I say to you, “Let’s put on a show!” and you reply, “My dad has a barn!” then you understand me completely. That’s where it’s from. Someone make the costumes.
It became cultural shorthand for ambitious types who decide to do it themselves, and that would be us, as it turned out. Or at least it’s the phrase that ran through my mind a lot back in the second week of March, when a constant in our lives disappeared. Church was closed.
And some of us began looking for a barn, if you follow.
Beloved St Andrew siblings,
I have come to a difficult decision that is born out of deep and unending love for you and for the church. For a while now I have been offering professional skills to St Andrew on a volunteer basis as a Parish Associate. Throughout my presence at St Andrew, in every role I have had, I have engaged in processes of discernment with outstanding colleagues and companions, including Scott and Julie Kae, around what is reasonable and sustainable, and I have felt called to be present in the ways I have been. It is now the case however, as I try to keep my heart and mind open for what the Spirit wants of me, that I realize I am being called to step out of this Parish Associate role at the end of this fiscal year: June 30th.
We understand as a community that healthy boundaries are essential to our own well-being and to the work to which we are called. These boundaries insist that when one who is in pastoral leadership steps out of that role, they cannot remain at the church they have served. This means I will not be present at St Andrew after June 30th, expect maybe to preach if you need pulpit supply. This is a heartbreaking decision because I love you. It is a decision that emerges from a long and difficult process of discernment and, even as it breaks my heart, I am trusting it is the right thing to do at this time. Scott and Julie Kae are my dearest professional colleagues and you are my dearest teachers and so I am also trusting that the care and call which binds us to each other will continue even as our roles and the ways we connect will change. We still have work to do together as we serve God, God’s church, and God’s beloved world.
So now my question. This crisis we are in has been exposing structures of inequality and hardship. My work has been, and will continue to be, centered on working with the church as we figure out how to be a voice and an agent of compassion, justice and peace. You are a church with deep experience, questions and insight about how we might grow together as a community that attends to the outsider and those who suffer. I would, therefore, love to spend some time in these next few months listening for what you see and what you are thinking about around the current crisis and what it has revealed. With CJP, I would love to host a conversation around this. You can expect me to be in touch soon with some opportunities to talk this through. My time with you and in this work of community building has taught me that the Spirit dwells in our thoughts and questions and in the pull we feel towards the needs of the other. I would love to hear what this Spirit has to say to you at this time. I think it might be helpful for our future work – together and apart.
Beloved St Andrew, you have been God-given teachers and partners to me these past 18 years, and I am grateful beyond anything I can express. My prayers are centered on faith in our loving God’s promise to hold you and me and everything we are being called into. You have my heart.
Rev. Maggie Breen
Beloved St. Andrew Community,
The Session met on Monday evening and, after prayerfully identifying and weighing the many values we hold together in tension as a church, made two important decisions.
The group is representative of the session, deacons, and personnel committee. In addition, we are consulting with many others, so that we can quickly coordinate our actions and communication as we determine the way forward according to the values we named together as a session:
These are challenging, anxious times, yet I am convinced there may be a potentially brilliant silver lining to this cloud. I believe the church is made for times just like this, and I look forward to the imaginative ways we will continue to hold one another as the Spirit of Life shows up in our midst. As the Samaritan woman is waiting to teach us this Sunday, with Jesus there is sustenance waiting for us we have yet to realize!
You will hear more in the next few days, but for now, we wanted to make you aware so you can plan accordingly.
Grace & Peace,
Note: You can download a copy of this letter here.
Beloved St. Andrew community,
We want you to be aware that St. Andrew is committed to being proactive, reasonable, and instructive as we respond to a complex and rapidly evolving situation around the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the resulting infection, COVID-19 (from Corona Virus Disease 2019). The health and safety of our community and all of our partners who share the facility is paramount. Yet we also recognize that at the heart of our faith is life that is shared. We need to be together, even as we need to protect one another, and honor the choices of others—especially those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 and other corona viruses. We trust we all will refrain from making judgment or taking offense in this time of anxiety.
Therefore, we do not anticipate “neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25), even as other organizations may choose to do so. At this point we plan to worship together weekly. We have and may cancel, reschedule or hold remotely other meetings. Exercising an abundance of caution, we have implemented additional preventative measures to reduce contamination and transmission, including these:
Note: You can download a pdf of this letter here.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” ~Philippians 2: 1–5
January 9, 2020
Beloved St. Andrew Community:
Did you know we have multiple, interrelated behavioral policies that help us to ensure health and well-being in our communion—especially those we consider most vulnerable among us? Our priority of care for our children and vulnerable adults is a sacred trust. It grows from the sacraments; from the promises we make in baptism and the insights we gain at the communion table.
First of all, there’s baptism. In this sacrament we intentionally and with self-awareness gather around promises. Foremost are the promises we understand God to be making to all God’s creation, to the church, and to individuals known in the stories of God’s fidelity throughout the scriptures, and particularly in the self-giving of Jesus who is our pattern for life and ministry. Our own promises to and for one another emanate from the God who acts first. In response, as a congregation, we promise to care for the baptized as if they are our own:
You can download a pdf copy of all the related letters here.
Beloved St. Andrew community,
We are pleased to let you know that at our December Session meeting, we made a unanimous decision to practice the celebration of communion on a weekly basis. As you know, this is the culmination of recent conversation at St. Andrew, and reflective of a long shift in Christian sacramental practices generally, in our own denomination, and at St. Andrew. This puts us in line with our Reformed theological tradition and Presbyterian polity, and with our current understanding of best practices for our formation as the people of God.
A few weeks ago, we asked for your prayers in our discernment around moving to weekly communion. Since then we have spoken with many of you and on November 3rd,we sought understanding together in Aftertalk. Session met this past Monday where we reflected, and prayerfully thought about next steps. We take our promises to God, and your trust as your current session very seriously, and we discerned that while the call to weekly communion is strong we, as a community, need more time to be with this question and all that it would mean to us and to our life together as a church body. So, we will be back in touch soon with some more ways for us to think and pray together about this, and as a session we will keep paying attention for God’s wisdom and call. The subject will stay on our session docket until the way forward is clear and we look forward to being in ongoing conversation with you.
Thank you for your prayers and your sense of where the Spirit is leading.