Sermon, July 14

Before the first lesson, from Amos 7: 

Our first Scripture today comes from the time of the prophets, about 750 years before Jesus was born. And I want to explain something about it before we hear it. This Scripture talks about a plumb line. And not everybody knows what that is; but it’s an interesting thing to know about. This is a plumb line: [show]

It’s very simple and very ancient. It’s a heavy weight at the end of a string. The weight would usually be lead, because that’s a heavy metal. It’s called a “plumb” line  – “Plumb” with a b on the end – because that’s the ancient name for lead. (Same with the word “plumber”!)

A plumb line is a tool for builders. It tells you if something is straight up and down, using gravity, that force built into the universe that pulls us towards the center of the earth. “Up” and “Down” are based on gravity. Knowing whether something is plumb when you’re building is important because that’s how you build something strong. Let’s feel that in our bodies. Stand straight, with your hips and shoulders and head all in line with your feet… Feel how strong and stable you are? Gravity is pulling you down but your whole body is in a nice straight line so you’re not tippy. You’re plumb – straight up and down. 

What if you lean backwards or forwards? Try it…. Okay, stop trying it! Did you notice that it was harder to keep standing? When you lean forward, or backward, you get tippy! You’re not stable anymore! You’re askew – out of alignment. Well, if you were the wall of a building, it would be the same. A leaning wall is less stable. A straight-up-and-down wall is most stable and steady and safe. 

So in the story we’re about to hear about the prophet Amos, a plumb line becomes a metaphor. A metaphor is when we say something is like something else, in a way that helps us see the something else in a new way. God says to Amos, My people have turned from Me, and from My ways of justice and mercy. And so they have become like a crooked wall, a wall that isn’t plumb. It’s weak and it’s likely to fall. 

SERMON following the Gospel

The story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel is an important story. Some of us have probably heard it a lot of times; but I find that every time I read or hear it, it’s still challenging me. My guess is that none of us are finished with what this story has to say to us. So let’s go through it again, and make sure we hear and understand it – because some of us probably haven’t heard it before! Kids, listen up too, because this is a story for everybody, and in a minute you might help me tell some of it. 

Today’s Gospel begins with a man who studies the Scriptures of the Jewish people, what we call the Old Testament, to find out how best to live in God’s ways. And he wants to know what Jesus thinks about that. Teacher, he says, how can I enter into the Life of the Age that you talk about so much? And Jesus says, Well, you study the Scriptures; what do you find there? And the man says: “You shall love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

What’s a neighbor? …. Somebody you live close to, sure. Or maybe people in your school community or workplace, or the cashier you see at the grocery store every week. If you go back to the roots of the word, “neighbor” just means a near person. And the original Greek word here, plesion, means the same thing: Somebody near. Somebody close. Somebody whose life touches your life. 

Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. We think of that as Jesus’ teaching but it’s actually a summary of Jewish law. It’s something Jesus endorsed, not something Jesus invented. So Jesus tells the law scholar, Yep. You got it. Do that. Love God, and love your neighbor! And the scholar says, Wait a minute. I have one more question. Who is my neighbor? If living in God’s ways means loving my neighbor as myself: Who counts as my neighbor? Who is near enough that I have to love them? 

And Jesus tells him a story. Listen! A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. This was a really dangerous mountain road, with hills and caves all around – lots of places for robbers and bandits to hide. And what happened to the man?…

Right! Bandits, robbers, attacked him. They took everything he had, even his clothes; And they beat him up and left him there, lying on the side of the road, bloody, probably unconscious. It says he was “half-dead”. 

And then what happened?… Some other people come along the road. The first one is a priest, somebody who works at the great temple of God in Jerusalem. 

This is somebody whose whole life is to serve God. So what does he do? …

And then another person comes along the road. This person is a Levite. That means he belongs to a family whose job it is to work in the Temple. They weren’t priests, but they might work at the gates, or play music, or clean the floors. So this is another person whose life is to serve God. And what does he do? ….

Okay, let’s pause the story for a minute to talk about these guys, the priest and the Levite. Why do you think they didn’t stop and help that man? ….  They might have been afraid of an ambush. That’s legit. 

They might have ben afraid of becoming unclean. Let’s talk about that one. This is a little tricky to explain because we don’t think of clean and dirty in the same way they did. But let me say it this way: Have you ever seen a picture of a surgeon, all dressed up in that blue stuff, with gloves on her hands and a mask over her face? A surgeon has to be REALLY clean to do her job well. Otherwise germs will contaminate the patient. Being a priest in the Great Temple was kind of like that.  There were things you could do or touch that would make you dirty, impure; and then you wouldn’t be able to do your job. Worse, you’d bring that contamination with you into a place that was supposed to be perfectly clean and pure and holy. And touching a dead body was one of those things. So the priest and the Levite both might have been worried about becoming unclean, which would make it hard for them to do their jobs.

They might just not have wanted to. I mean, it’s upsetting to see somebody hurt, maybe dead. It’s really easy to think, “There’s nothing I can do. Just keep walking.” I can’t judge these men, because I have done what they did. There is a lot of suffering in the world, and I have absolutely walked past people visibly in pain. Because I was tired, or afraid, or busy; because I didn’t know how to help, or how much it would cost me.

But then, in the story, somebody else comes along – right? Who is the next person? …. What does it mean that this person was a Samaritan?… (Because of this story, we use the phrase “good Samaritan” to mean somebody who helps a stranger; but we need to understand that the people listening to Jesus did not like Samaritans at all. They did not think Samaritans were good.) 

But this Samaritan sees the man who has been beaten – and he is moved with pity.  He feels compassion. What does he do? …[bandages wounds; oil and wine; puts him on his donkey; takes him to an inn; gives the innkeeper money to care for him.] Did he have to do any of that? … Why do you think he did it? … 

So that’s the story that Jesus tells the scholar of the law. And then he asks him a question: Which of these three – the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan – was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? What do you say?… 

Right! The Samaritan. The one who showed him mercy. And Jesus says, Go and do likewise.

You don’t have to say a lot about a story like this. It tells you what you’re supposed to walk away thinking about. But I’m going to say a little bit about it anyway. 

Parked out front of our church this morning is a truck that is a teaching tool for learning about solitary confinement. Sometimes people get arrested and they go to prison. Maybe because they made a bad choice; they hurt somebody. Maybe because they have a mental illness that’s out of control and nobody knew how to help them, so they put them in jail. Maybe because they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol and got into a bad situation because of their addiction. Maybe because they’re very poor and couldn’t pay a fine, or they stole something they needed. There are lots of reasons people end up in prison. 

And sometimes people who are in prison are shut up in very small cells all by themselves – to punish them, or for other reasons. That’s what solitary confinement is. It’s really hard and awful. The truck is here to help us start thinking together about who is in prison in America, and why, and whether we think that’s OK. 

If this is the part of the sermon where you tune out because this isn’t your issue, I hope you’ll listen a little longer. A couple of weeks ago, Elvice McAlpine – who’s part of the group that arranged to have Talib and the truck visit us, and that will be inviting us to read the book “Just Mercy” together in August – Elvice stood up here and talked about how she was raised by good, law-abiding people 

to think of folks in prison as a Them, not an Us. As a different kind of people who probably got what they had coming to them. A lot of us were raised to think like that, consciously or unconsciously. We trusted the system to protect the good people and lock up the bad people. That’s what it’s supposed to do, right?

But there are lots of reasons to re-examine our assumptions. One reason is that if you are older than 40, criminal justice and incarceration in America have really changed within your lifetime. And not for the better. Crime has dropped since the 1990s, but prison populations have skyrocketed, due to “tough on crime” policies and harsh sentencing laws. The graph of the prison population from 1925 to 2017 goes like this: … with a sharp increase in the mid-1980s. Today the United States has the largest prison population in the world – by far the largest in the developed world. And of course that’s an increase is in dollars as well as bodies: the cost of keeping people in prison soared from $19 billion in 1980 to $87 billion in 2015. Of the over two million Americans in prison right now, a disproportionate number are African-American; there’s a lot of data showing that racism is built into the fabric of this system. It’s very clear that something about the criminal justice system in America is askew. Out of alignment. Not plumb.

Facts like these and so many more are the reason why politicians on both the right and the left are increasingly finding common cause to call for reform. Because it’s obvious how broken – how expensively, cruelly broken – this system is. 

And because there are Christians on both the left and the right, and Jesus told us to care about prisoners. Jesus himself was arrested, incarcerated, and executed by the government. When Jesus is on trial for his life, in John’s Gospel, the Roman governor asks, What has he done? And his enemies answer,  

“If he weren’t a criminal, we wouldn’t have handed him over to you.” The fact that he has been arrested becomes proof that he is a criminal. The wrong kind of person. That same logic destroys people’s lives on a daily basis, now. 

So that’s another reason to re-examine our thinking about incarceration and about people who are or have been involved with the criminal justice system: Because of Jesus, who says, When you show mercy to those in prison, You’re showing mercy to Me. If that challenges you or stretches you, beloved ones – I sympathize! But I am not the one you need to take it up with. It really is one of the things He is clearest about.  

This parable, this story Jesus tells, about neighboring and extending mercy, comes to us through a calendar of readings shared by many churches and denominations. We did not plan to receive this parable on the same day the solitary confinement truck was here. That’s just the calendar and the Holy Spirit. 

As I was studying the story this week, I learned something new that I think is important. What Jesus actually asks at the end of the story is, Which one of the three passers-by became a neighbor to the man beaten by bandits? Not just, which one was a neighbor. Which one became a neighbor. It’s a verb of process, change, choice. 

None of the others on the road started out as neighbors to the man beaten by bandits. They didn’t know each other or live near to each other. Their kids didn’t go to the same school. They didn’t root for the same football team. Their lives did not touch. And the priest and the Levite kept it that way. They kept their distance. 

But the Samaritan chooses to go to him. To get close. To come near. To become a neighbor.

Go and do likewise. 

Some initial reading:

Trends in U.S. Corrections

https://sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Trends-in-US-Corrections.pdf

Digital Jail: How Electronic Monitoring Drives Defendants Into Debt

https://www.propublica.org/article/digital-jail-how-electronic-monitoring-drives-defendants-into-debt

Sermon, July 7

Listen: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. A man is working in the field as a hired laborer. He’s digging, turning over the soil, preparing the field for planting. And he finds the treasure. He’s overwhelmed with joy! These riches could free him from bondage, give him a whole new life, and his family too. But how can he claim the treasure? It belongs to the owner of the field, the rich man who hired him. So he covers the treasure with dirt, finishes his day’s work, and goes home, and tells his wife about it. They scrape together all their meager possessions – yes, even their tiny house – and sell them. The next day he takes the money to the landlord: Sir, I’ve decided I’d like to start farming myself. Can I buy this field? It’s small but I think I can make a go of it. The landlord sells him the field, and the treasure with it.

What does it mean to proclaim the Kingdom of God? That’s the work Jesus gives the disciples he sends forth here, the message with which he charges them. He’s inviting them to join his own mission – back in Luke chapter 4, at the beginning of his public ministry, his disciples find him praying and want him to come back to the town of Capernaum and do more wonders there. He tells them, “It is necessary for me to announce the good tidings of the Kingdom to the other cities as well, because for this I was sent forth.” In Matthew and Mark, too, Jesus begins his ministry with this core message: “Change your hearts, for the Kingdom of heaven has drawn near!” (Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are both used; they seem to be more or less interchangeable.) 

What do Christians think is our core message? For some of us, it might be: God loves you as you are. Love wins. For others: Christ died for you. Repent and be saved. 

But this is what Jesus names as the core message: The Kingdom of God has come near. A message of such urgency that the seventy sent forth are called to proclaim it whether or not they find a receptive audience. Whether those around them are curious, or hostile. Eager or indignant. Ready or unready. The Kingdom of God has come near. 

Listen: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field. Mustard seeds are so tiny, the smallest of all the seeds. But when the plant grows, it becomes larger than all the other garden plants; it grows into a tree, and the birds of the heavens come and make nests in its great branches. 

Listen: The Kingdom of God is like this – A gardener casts seed upon the prepared ground. And then she goes on about her life; she sleeps at night, wakes in the morning, and days and weeks pass. And meanwhile the seeds do what seeds do: they sprout, first growing roots down, then a tiny shoot up towards the sun. In time the seeds grow to maturity and produce fruit, and the gardener enjoys her harvest. 

What does it mean to proclaim the Kingdom? 

When I am speaking to someone brand-new to this God stuff, and curious about it, it’s a lot easier to explain the story of Jesus as I understand it – or to talk about God’s fierce redemptive love – than it is to explain the Kingdom and what it means that it has come near. 

Part of what’s hard for us about Kingdom language is that it lacks the context and resonance for us that it had for Jesus’ original audience. 

For one thing, Kingdom language made them think about the kingdom they used to have. For first-century Judeans, the glory days of their people were the long-ago time when King David ruled a free and united Israel. Making Israel great again meant making Israel a kingdom again. So in naming God’s reality as a kingdom, Jesus is working with an image that’s familiar and meaningful, even as he tries to break it open and help them imagine a different kind of kingdom. For us, in contrast, a kingdom is something from a fairy tale; we are not nostalgic for the good old days of George the Third. 

For another thing, Kingdom language made Jesus’ first hearers think about the kingdom they have now. The Greek word translated as “kingdom” in the New Testament is basileia. The Roman Empire, the outside power that ruled Judea in Jesus’ time, would have been called by the same term: Basileia Rhomaion. So in Jesus’ time people would have heard a direct contrast here: the Kingdom of God over against the Kingdom of Rome. 

But even with that context and resonance, Jesus’ friends and followers didn’t really understand what he meant by the Kingdom of God. The Gospels show us that those closest to Jesus, those who had the opportunity to ask clarification questions, didn’t really get it; and the Gospel writers likewise struggled to put down on paper what they thought he meant with all those stories and sayings. A treasure in a field – a seed in the ground – what do those things have in common with any kind of kingdom? And why does he insist on telling all these stories, instead of just explaining things? 

The paradox and perplexity surrounding Jesus’ kingdom talk, for me, is our best proof that there’s something here that isn’t easily captured in human language, or grasped by human intellect. Something mysterious and ineffable. 

In Luke chapter 17, somebody comes right out and asks Jesus: “When is the Kingdom of God coming?” And he says, “The Kingdom doesn’t come as something you can see; people aren’t going to say, ‘Look, here it is!’ Or ‘There it is!’ Rather: the Kingdom of God is within you.” 

The Gospel of Thomas is a non-canonical gnostic text written about a century later than the Gospels of the Bible. I believe the early church leaders were correct in excluding it from the canon of Scripture – but at the same time it may preserve some sayings of Jesus that aren’t in our four Gospels. Perhaps including these sayings about the Kingdom: “If those who lead you say to you: ‘Look, the kingdom is in the sky!’ then the birds of the sky will get there first. If they say to you: ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fishes will get there first. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you and outside of you.” And, “The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.” That definitely clears things right up, Jesus. 

In addition to talking about the Kingdom, Jesus talked a lot about the life of the Age, or the Age to Come, which is almost certainly another way of talking about the same thing – about some other reality or way of being that’s just beyond our perception but that tugs on us, invites us, troubles us. Our translations tend to obscure Jesus’ talk about the Age by translating the Greek word “aion” as “eternal.” But often that’s the opposite of what Jesus is saying. “Eternal” sounds like the same thing is going to last forever. Jesus is taking about a different Age or aeon. So where our translations make it sound like Jesus is promising that his followers will never die (manifestly untrue), he’s actually talking about a different order of reality that we can enter through transformation of heart and mind. David Bentley Hart’s wonderful translation of the New Testament holds the ambiguity of the original Greek much better than our usual translation, the NRSV. For example, the famous verse John 3:16 is usually rendered as “whoever believes in Jesus may have everlasting life.” Hart translates this way: “For God so loved the cosmos as to give the Son, the only one, so that everyone having faith in him might not perish, but have the life of the Age.” 

The life of the Age. The Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus uses the metaphors of time and place to talk about something that is neither a time nor a place. 

I guess where I’m going here is that this other, divine reality that’s just at the periphery of our vision, as near and as far as our next breath –  this is a really central part of what Jesus teaches, and what he calls his followers to proclaim. And yet: his followers, then, now, and in between, find it confusing and elusive. 

Listen: The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast. Yeast looks like a powder, but it’s actually a microorganism, a tiny tiny creature. When you use it to make bread, the creature eats the sugars in the bread and emits gases that make the bread light and fluffy. There are holes in bread because of yeast. But you only need a tiny bit of yeast for each batch of bread. There’s a wonderful word for that process: leavening – meaning, to add yeast to a dough to make it rise; or, by extension: to permeate and transform something. So this is what the Kingdom is like: A woman is making bread and she mixes just a tablespoon of yeast into three cups of flour. And it’s enough: that little bit of yeast leavens all that dough. 

The Kingdom of God has come near to you! 

Jesus calls his followers to share this news – and to share it with urgency. Tell the people who want to hear it – and those who don’t. We heard some of that urgency in last week’s Gospel, too, as Jesus tells a would-be follower that if he hesitates and looks back before following Jesus, then maybe he isn’t as ready for the Kingdom as he thinks he is.  

Today’s Gospel is a really familiar text for me; I’ve read it with many groups over the past few years. I’ve found that people often take issue with the part about how to respond when the messengers are unwelcome. It feels harsh to us. We can get stuck there, unable to receive the text. 

So I want to say a couple of things about that. First: We reflected on this text together at Vestry a couple of weeks ago. Now, our junior warden, Mike Krause, is a traveler. He’s done amazing road trips all across our nation, taking back roads and camping out along the way. And while we were talking about this passage, Mike said that in his experience, when you pull into a town, you really can feel whether you’re welcome or unwelcome. Whether strangers and guests are seen as a blessing or a threat. Not every place is glad to see you. I thought that was fascinating. 

I wonder, too, whether we get stuck with this text because deep down we identify more with the people closing their doors to these grifter evangelists, than with those experiencing unwelcome. I am a nice middle-class educated neurotypical straight cisgender white lady with a credit card. There are not very many places where I am unwelcome. I wonder if folks whose lives encompass a lot more experiences of unwelcome – because of the color of their skin, or their gender presentation, or their accent, or their size, or the way they dress, or the way they engage socially – I wonder if folks who have spent their lives walking into a room and feeling the walls go up, read this text differently. If the harshness, the calling-out, the public naming of unwelcome, might feel less less petty and more prophetic to them. 

It is intended to be prophetic.The “wipe your dust off our feet” business is not privately cleansing yourself of the soil of people you don’t like; it’s a public act, trying to get the attention of people whose minds and hearts are closed. And when you have their attention, what do you do? – You proclaim the Kingdom. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near. This isn’t slamming the door in ultimate judgment. This is trying to get through to people who believe they don’t need what you have to offer. 

This is HARD. A lot of us are hesitant to talk about our faith even with a friendly audience, let alone a hostile one. It feels so vulnerable – like Jesus says: lambs among wolves! But this is what Jesus names as our good news: The Kingdom of God is so close to you right now. God’s Age is coming. Get ready. Open your heart. Free your mind. Change your life. 

Okay. But. And. Still. If I walked into Willy Street Market and started telling people, The Kingdom of God has come near! – well, not only would I probably be invited to leave the store, but folks would have no idea what I was talking about. “Kingdom” is an obscure concept for us; “God” perhaps even more so. So what words do we find to proclaim the Kingdom in our time and place? If Jesus couldn’t explain it in plain language, I sure as heck can’t. I know it’s like a treasure that can change someone’s life, hidden just out of sight. I know it’s something that grows – permeates – transforms. I know it’s hospitable and fruitful. And I know that it needs or wants just that little bit of help from us: Plant the seed. Work in the yeast. Then stand back and watch things unfold. 

How can we proclaim the Kingdom of God in our time and place? I think there are lots of ways to do it – and that we maybe are doing it already, more than we realize. I think we proclaim the Kingdom every time we point ourselves and one another up and out and away. Every time we step back and look around for the bigger picture and the greater good. Every time we remember that the world is not as it could be. That the powers and principalities of this present age, of the kingdoms of this world, do not define our worth or own our souls. Every time we say, simply, in these words or others: It doesn’t have to be like this. And then – act accordingly. 

I heard Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, back when he was just Bishop Curry, preach this message: God loves you just the way you are, but God isn’t going to leave you that way. That’s proclaiming the Kingdom: The possibility of change, of healing, of liberation.  

In Francis Spufford’s book Unapologetic, the risen Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: More can be mended than you know. That’s proclaiming the Kingdom, beloveds: More can be mended than you know. 

Walt Whitman, the poet, born 200 years ago this spring, wrote: All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, and to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. That’s proclaiming the Kingdom, friends: Death has no dominion over us. Which means: we don’t have to be afraid. 

This past week a few folks gathered in a noisy bar to read Wendell Berry poems to each other. Berry is a writer and a farmer who invites us to slow down and pay attention. So with soccer on the big screen over our heads and rock and roll playing over the sound system, we leaned in close to listen to poems about thewonder of a turtle, or what our souls can learn from the deaths of trees. And our friend Jonathan read one of Berry’s poems that I’ve often read here on Ash Wednesday – a poem that invites playful yet profound resistance to the logic of the kingdoms of this world. A poem that proclaims the Kingdom. 

Listen: 

So, friends, every day do something 

that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 

Love the world. Work for nothing. 

Take all that you have and be poor. 

Love someone who does not deserve it. … 

Ask the questions that have no answers. 

Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. 

Say that your main crop is the forest 

that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. … 

Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful 

though you have considered all the facts.   

Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, 

some in the wrong direction. 

Practice resurrection.

(Wendell Barry, The Mad Farmer Liberation Front)

Announcements, July 5

THIS WEEK….

Spirituality in Nature, 9:15AM, Sunday, July 7: Meet just outside the front doors at 9:15 for a half-hour shared exercise in abiding with God’s Creation. Future tentative dates are July 21, August 4, and September 1. (Attending one or more of these events counts as one activity towards our Green Habits Challenge Badge!)

Empty the Nave, 11:30AM, Sunday, July 7: Next week the Nave floor will be re-polished, so we need to take out the seating and other items. This should go quickly as it’s mostly just the seating (we haven’t put everything back yet from the first Nave Emptying party). If you can stay for a few minutes and help move benches, it will be very welcome! Thanks!

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given this Sunday, July 7, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, July 7: This Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Here are the current top-ten, most needed items: canned chicken, shelf-stable milk, whole grains; salt, pepper, spices; laundry detergent; vanilla or other extracts; low sugar dried/canned fruits; cooking oil; honey; nuts. Thank you for your generous support!

Cookie Church Returns! 6 – 7pm, Wednesdays in July: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Wednesdays in July. If you’re away for a weekend but still want to come to church, come try it out! Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled so they don’t get eaten at Coffee Hour).

Farewell Party for the Rev. Jonathan Melton & Family: Father Jonathan, the Episcopal chaplain at UW-Madison and friend of St. Dunstan’s, and his family are moving to Texas for a new ministry position. There will be a farewell party for the family at St. Francis House (1011 University Ave.) on Tuesday, July 9, from 5 – 8pm. Please RSVP to Sharon Henes if you plan to attend!

Green Habits Challenge Badge, July – September 2019: Part of our parish Creation Care Mission Statement invites us to pattern our daily lives as caretakers of Creation. Many of us are trying to make our daily habits “greener”, so let’s try together! Pick up a green leaflet under the big calendar in the Gathering Area or go to stdunstans.com/faith-practices/green-challenge-badge-summer-2019/ to see a list of eleven changes and challenges you could undertake. Complete five by the end of September to earn a badge!

Seeking Sponsors for Middle School Mission Trip: St. Dunstan’s Youth Group is headed out on a mission trip from July 29 to August 1! They will visit other churches around the Diocese of Milwaukee and help out with service projects. We’re sending a big, lively group of kids this year! Would you like to help sponsor the trip? Your $25 sponsorship helps cover trip expenses. Each sponsor will receive a postcard from one of our youth, during or after the trip.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com . Thank you!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Kitchen and Bathroom Renovations Begin: Renovation of the main floor restrooms and kitchen is scheduled to begin on July 12. The lower level bathrooms will be available (down the central staircase and to the right). During the kitchen renovation, there will be NO refrigerator or prep space availlable. If you’d like to bring something for coffee hour, please bring it ready to put directly on the table in the Gathering Area.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, July 10, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: During a time of great turmoil in England and Europe, Julian came to believe unshakably that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  Please join us for contemplative prayer and discussion of Julian’s optimistic theology! For more information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Learning about Solitary Confinement:  THOUSANDS OF IMMIGRANTS SUFFER IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN U.S. DETENTION CENTERS. A May 20, 2019 investigative report, produced by five news organizations, documented that over a five-year period one out of every 200 detention center detainees spend time in solitary cell isolation for at least two weeks, according to ICE data.  Many spent weeks or months in solitary cell confinement.  ICE’s own directives say that placing detainees in solitary— or “segregated housing” as the agency calls it—should be used as a last resort.  Thousands of pages of documents, however, detail a disturbing portrait of a system where, instead, detainees are too often forced into extended periods of isolation as a first response for reasons that have nothing to do with violating any rules.  Not infrequently those sent to confinement included disabled immigrants in need of a wheelchair or cane, those who identify as gay, or those who report abuse from guards or other detainees.  In nearly a third of the cases, segregated detainees were determined by ICE to have a mental illness, a population especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation.  Furthermore, detainees had lawyers in only 11 percent of the solitary reports.  Even for those with lawyers, in more than 270 instances ICE did not notify the attorneys that their clients were placed in solitary.  This included six times when detainees were in isolation for more than half a year.  “We have created and continue to support a system that involves widespread abuse of human beings,” said Ellen Gallagher, a policy adviser at the Department of Homeland Security, who first spoke publicly for the investigative report.  Next Sunday, July 14, we will have the opportunity to look at and/or go inside a Solitary Confinement Cell on our way into or out of both the 8:00am and 10:00am services.  And during the weeks of August 11-31, we will have multiple opportunities to join in reading and discussing the New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy,”

Saturday Book Club, August 3rd at 10am: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Getting a hard copy of the book: The Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – The Ocean at the End of the Lane – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it. Don’t worry if via your online account you are put on a lengthy hold list; the Book Club copies aren’t included in the online catalog

Announcements, June 27

THIS WEEK….

Clergy Presence during Rev. Miranda’s Travel:  Rev. Miranda will be away from June 22 through 29. Father Tom McAlpine will celebrate and preach on Sunday, June 23. If you need the care or counsel of a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence, you may reach Father Tom at 608-208-3793 or Father John Rasmus at (608) 345-4110.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, June 28, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Tanner’s bar & Grill, 1611 Deming Wai, Middleton (Greenway Station). For more information please contact Debra Martinez.

Seeking Sponsors for Middle School Mission Trip: St. Dunstan’s Youth Group is headed out on a mission trip from July 29 to August 1! They will visit other churches around the Diocese of Milwaukee and help out with service projects. We’re sending a big, lively group of kids this year! Would you like to help sponsor the trip? Your $25 sponsorship helps cover trip expenses. Each sponsor will receive a postcard from one of our youth, during or after the trip.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com . Thank you!

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, June 30, 10am: Our last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given [next] Sunday, July 7, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

AA Meeting:  A Beginner’s group of Alcoholics Anonymous meets every Tuesday evening from 7-8 pm at St. Dunstan’s.  For more information, contact Joe W. at 608-338-5359.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Cookie Church Returns! 6 – 7pm, Wednesdays in July: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Wednesdays in July. If you’re away for a weekend but still want to come to church, come try it out! Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled so they don’t get eaten at Coffee Hour).

Farewell Party for the Rev. Jonathan Melton & Family: Father Jonathan, the Episcopal chaplain at UW-Madison and friend of St. Dunstan’s, and his family are moving to Texas for a new ministry position. There will be a farewell party for the family at St. Francis House (1011 University Ave.) on Tuesday, July 9, from 5 – 8pm. Please RSVP to Sharon Henes if you plan to attend!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, July 10, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: During a time of great turmoil in England and Europe, Julian came to believe unshakably that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  Please join us for contemplative prayer and discussion of Julian’s optimistic theology! For more information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Learning about Solitary Confinement, Sunday, July 14: WHAT IS SOLITARY CELL CONFINEMENT? As the name suggests, solitary cell confinement in the U.S. criminal justice system separates individuals from the general prison/jail/detention center population, housing them alone in a concrete cell the size of a walk-in closet, where their movements and privileges are highly restricted.  In solitary, you get your meals through a slot, you do not see other inmates, and you never touch or get near another human being.  You get a couple showers a week and are allowed less than an hour for exercise in a small caged area a few times a week.  Otherwise you are alone, hidden away in your confinement cell, week after week, and too often month after month or year after year.  If you respond to the extreme sensory deprivation by shouting or screaming, your time in solitary is extended; if you hurt yourself by refusing to eat or mutilating your body, your time in solitary is extended; if you complain to officers or say anything menacing or inappropriate, your time in solitary is extended.  The sensory deprivation frequently produces night terrors, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, and insomnia – psychological trauma that lasts long after release from custody.  Not infrequently the isolation drives inmates to attempt suicide or commit other acts of self-harm.  The United Nations advocates for banning solitary cell confinement that exceeds more than 15 days except in rare exceptional circumstances.

On Sunday, July 14, we will have the opportunity to go inside a Solitary Confinement Cell on our way into or out of the morning services. And during the weeks of August 11 – 31, we will have multiple opportunities to join in reading and discussing the New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy.”  Stay tuned!

Saturday Book Club, August 3rd at 10am: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Getting a hard copy of the book: I recently discovered that the Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – The Ocean at the End of the Lane – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it. Don’t worry if via your online account you are put on a lengthy hold list; the Book Club copies aren’t included in the online catalog

Creation Care Ideas, Summer 2019: Our open Creation Care meeting in May generated some great ideas. Plans already in the works include a Creation-focused all-ages Vacation Bible School on the evenings of August 4 – 8; and some opportunities to seek God in Nature on summer Sundays. With some ideas, we’re seeking a group of interested folks who can move it forward. Are you interested in contributing to an Idea Fair to share green practices you’ve taken on or things you’ve learned about caring for the world? Do you have a green crafting or “upcycling” project to share? Would you like to help care for the nearby Heim Fox Mound with some seasonal weeding? Is there a “green” product you find really useful that you’d like us to explore bulk buying? If you have thoughts on any of these fronts, sign up at church in the Gathering Area or email our office coordinator Ann at  .

It’s Time to Update our Parish Directory! If you are new to St. Dunstan’s and would like your address and contact information to be in our church directory, or if you have a change of address or contact information, please let our Office Coordinator Ann know at 608-238-2781 or . Our church directory is shared with members; it is not posted publicly.

Update on our Church Neighbors Foundry414: For several years we’ve shared space with Foundry414, a friendly and open-minded non-denominational church. Foundry meets in the Parish Center, which will be renovated this summer for use as youth group space (lower level) and meeting and community space (upper level). Starting on June 2, over the summer, Foundry will be meeting in our nave and Meeting Room on Sundays at 4:30pm. Please help leave the church tidy for them, and if you have a reason to stop by on a Sunday evening, be respectful of their space. Thank you!

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Announcements, June 23

THIS WEEK….

St. Dunstan’s LGBTQIA+ & Allies Campfire, June 21, 6:30pm: As part of our continuing intergenerational exploration, we will be having a potluck s’mores bonfire on June 21, at 6pm, for anyone who feels they are in the LGBTQIAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, and/or allies) community.  This is a safe space and time deliberately created to sit around a bonfire, eat soup and s’mores, and visit about your personal experiences within this community, as LGBT+ people, family of LGBT+ people, and friends of LGBT+ people.  All ages are not only welcome, but encouraged.  Feel no pressure to identify with any label at this event, but feel free to talk openly about your experience if you want to.  Dinner provided (soup and rolls), BYFSS (bring your favorite smores supply!). Questions? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Michelle Der Bedrosian.

Clergy Presence during Rev. Miranda’s Travel:  Rev. Miranda will be away from June 22 through 29. Father Tom McAlpine will celebrate and preach on Sunday, June 23. If you need the care or counsel of a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence, you may reach Father Tom  or Father John Rasmus.

Seeking Sponsors for Middle School Mission Trip: St. Dunstan’s Youth Group is headed out on a mission trip from July 29 to August 1! They will visit other churches around the Diocese of Milwaukee and help out with service projects. We’re sending a big, lively group of kids this year! Would you like to help sponsor the trip?  Your $25 sponsorship helps cover trip expenses. Each sponsor will receive a postcard from one of our youth, during or after the trip.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com . Thank you!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, June 28, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Tanner’s bar & Grill, 1611 Deming Wai, Middleton (Greenway Station). For more information please contact Debra Martinez.

Cookie Church Returns! 6 – 7pm, Wednesdays in July: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Wednesdays in July. If you’re away for a weekend but still want to come to church, come try it out! Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled so they don’t get eaten at Coffee Hour).

Farewell Party for the Rev. Jonathan Melton & Family: Father Jonathan, the Episcopal chaplain at UW-Madison and friend of St. Dunstan’s, and his family are moving to Texas for a new ministry position. There will be a farewell party for the family at St. Francis House (1011 University Ave.) on Tuesday, July 9, from 5 – 8pm. Please RSVP to Sharon Henes  if you plan to attend!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, July 10, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: During a time of great turmoil in England and Europe, Julian came to believe unshakably that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  Please join us for contemplative prayer and discussion of Julian’s optimistic theology! For more information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN .

Learning about Solitary Confinement, Sunday, July 14: One current area of agreement across the U.S. political landscape is the need for criminal justice reform. This is true in Wisconsin with diverse groups such as MOSES and the Tommy Thompson Center advocating for reform.  This summer at St Dunstan’s we will have two opportunities to learn more about what is driving this consensus, both sponsored by St Dunstan’s own Outreach Committee. On Sunday, July 14, we will have the opportunity to go inside a Solitary Confinement Cell on our way into or out of the morning services. And during the weeks of August 11 – 31, we will have multiple opportunities to join in reading and discussing the New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy.”  Stay tuned!

Saturday Book Club, August 3rd at 10am: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Getting a hard copy of the book: I recently discovered that the Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – The Ocean at the End of the Lane – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it. Don’t worry if via your online account you are put on a lengthy hold list; the Book Club copies aren’t included in the online catalog

Creation Care Ideas, Summer 2019: Our open Creation Care meeting in May generated some great ideas. Plans already in the works include a Creation-focused all-ages Vacation Bible School on the evenings of August 4 – 8; and some opportunities to seek God in Nature on summer Sundays. With some ideas, we’re seeking a group of interested folks who can move it forward. Are you interested in contributing to an Idea Fair to share green practices you’ve taken on or things you’ve learned about caring for the world? Do you have a green crafting or “upcycling” project to share? Would you like to help care for the nearby Heim Fox Mound with some seasonal weeding? Is there a “green” product you find really useful that you’d like us to explore bulk buying? If you have thoughts on any of these fronts, sign up at church in the Gathering Area or email our office coordinator Ann at  .

Healing Prayer Ministry: Do you like to pray for others? We are seeking a few people who feel drawn to praying for the healing of another’s body, mind, and spirit, as part of our parish’s monthly Sunday morning healing prayer ministry. We can train and support you! If you’re interested, talk with Rev. Miranda , Deacon Laura or Father John.

It’s Time to Update our Parish Directory! If you are new to St. Dunstan’s and would like your address and contact information to be in our church directory, or if you have a change of address or contact information, please let our Office Coordinator Ann know at 608-238-2781 or . Our church directory is shared with members; it is not posted publicly.

Update on our Church Neighbors Foundry414: For several years we’ve shared space with Foundry414, a friendly and open-minded non-denominational church. Foundry meets in the Parish Center, which will be renovated this summer for use as youth group space (lower level) and meeting and community space (upper level). Starting on June 2, over the summer, Foundry will be meeting in our nave and Meeting Room on Sundays at 4:30pm. Please help leave the church tidy for them, and if you have a reason to stop by on a Sunday evening, be respectful of their space. Thank you!

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Sermon, June 16

We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

The apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Romans in around the year 55, give or take – twenty years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. This letter is unlike Paul’s other letters in that Paul was a stranger to the Christian communities in Rome. He was writing to introduce himself and his understanding of the Gospel to churches that needed some guidance and encouragement. Around 50 or 51, just a few years earlier, the emperor Claudius had expelled all Jews from Rome. Some of those Jews were Christians. We know that, because the book of the Acts of the Apostles talks about some of them – Aquila and Priscilla, whom Paul met in Corinth, where they were making a new home after being forced to leave Rome. 

So Paul is writing to Christian communities confused and in distress, having lost some of their core members – the Jewish Christians who could explain the Scriptures and tradition that framed Jesus’ life and teachings.

Today’s short passage is part of a longer section in which Paul explains how being saved, belonging to God, in a new way that includes Gentiles – non-Jews – on equal terms with Jews. Through human faith and God’s grace, he says, we are all justified before God and can hope boldly. And, he says, our losses and longings aren’t challenges to faith: We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

I bet some of you have a love-hate relationship with this passage – whether you’ve heard it many times before or are taking it in right now for the first time. It’s the kind of thing where context REALLY matters. If you’re going through something hard, and somebody outside the situation, says, Hang in there! Your suffering will make you strong and build your character! – well, you might have some uncharitable thoughts towards that person. At the very least, their words would probably not bring comfort.

On the other hand, if somebody who’s really been there and knows what it’s like tells you, Listen, this is terrible, but you can endure it, and there is hope on the other side… that’s easier to hear. And it might even help.

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character… 

Character. It’s one of those hard-to-define words, in the way it’s used here. As in, She’s got a lot of character. Or when we tease our kids by telling them that something that annoys them “builds character.” Character, in this sense, means… strength, depth, integrity, uprightness, honor. 

This translation is making a choice. The Greek word here means, Something that’s been tested. That’s really straightforward. If you endure suffering, you become somebody who’s endured suffering. Clear. The King James Bible rendered the Greek word as “experience.” That’s actually a pretty literal translation. 

But somewhere along the line, many different Bible translations started using the word “character.” When a word that basically means “testedness” is brought into English as “character,” we’re changing the text. We are adding the moral weight of our belief that suffering is good for you. 

This is a complicated issue for Christians! The heart of our faith seems to be a story of redemptive suffering. And unpacking that is the work of many sermons, not just one. I’ll say just one thing about it right now: It’s also the heart of our faith that Jesus, who is God, chose to walk with humanity in our fragility. Chose to suffer with us, in order to heal and save us. 

Paul is talking here about the other kind of suffering, the unchosen kind. The kind that comes to you because of who or what you are, or where and when you live. 

And what he’s talking about is the best-case scenario: When suffering is a given, already baked in to your reality, then the best outcome available is that you survive, you endure; and you learn that you can endure; and you find some hope to lead you onward in spite of it all. 

I believe there is truth and grace and encouragement in these words of Paul’s. But it takes a little work to receive it. For one thing, we have to know Paul well enough to know that he’s not giving advice from the sidelines. The apostle Paul has been incarcerated, many times. He has been beaten, many times. He’s writing to communities who are struggling because they have chosen to follow Jesus; and he knows about suffering because you have chosen to follow Jesus. He is walking the talk. Everything he’s telling them, he’s lived.

We also have to know Paul well enough to understand that he is writing to communities. I think about this a lot. American Protestant individualism, our habit of thinking of health, responsibility, success, failure, everything, one human at a time, distorts our understanding of Scripture and faith. Aided and abetted by the English language itself, which doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural second person pronouns. Most of the “you”s in the New Testament are plural: guidance or encouragement or admonishment for a group of people, striving to follow Jesus together. But we are conditioned by our individualistic culture to hear them as singular. As guiding, admonishing, or encouraging me, not us. 

So to find the truth and grace in this passage, I think we have to read it against the grain of 21st century American culture.

Paul’s words here sound a lot like what we might call resilience. If you’re talking about a memory-foam pillow, resilience means that you can press on it and when you take your hand away, it bounces back to its original shape. And we mean something similar when we say it about people: that you can go through something difficult, some pressure or hardship, and bounce back. You may be changed by it, but you’re not broken, crumbled, diminished, destroyed. You’re able to withstand it. What does not kill you makes you stronger, right? Suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope. There you go. Resilience.

Resilience is a hot topic in a lot of settings these days: psychology and sociology, education research and policy, TED talks and self-help books. And we talk about it mostly as an individual characteristic. As if it’s something a person has – or ought to have. Something inside a person that helps them rise to their challenges, persist, persevere, overcome, succeed. 

Now, I’m not here to knock resilience! Resilience is a powerful and important quality. But it can also be twisted into a weapon against those who are struggling. People who’ve had the deck stacked against them since birth – by things like skin color, neurochemistry, sexual or gender identity, or the zip code in which they were born, which is a powerful predictor of “success” in 21st-century America. Or people who maybe got an OK start but then were hit hard by loss or trauma. 

For someone who’s really in pain or having a hard time, the idea of resilience may feel like yet another burden. “You should just be more resilient. Don’t let it get you down.” Great. Pick me up a pint of resilience next time you’re at the store, would you? It doesn’t work that way. Resilience, conceived of as something individuals have or don’t have, can become a tool for victim-blaming, a way for those on the sidelines to wash their hands of responsibility for the wellbeing of the person in the thick of the struggle. 

I attended an eighth grade promotion ceremony this week. And I noticed that the things the grownups said – the principal’s speech; the declarations that accompanied various awards – were full of talk about individual resilience. Follow your dreams. Don’t let any challenges stand in your way. Demonstrate the American virtues of grit, persistence, success. There was literally an award for showing “character.” 

But a couple of the kids gave speeches, too. And they both said to their class: We needed each other. We needed these relationships, this community. To handle the changes and confusions, the tensions with teachers, the drama with other kids, the core challenge of maturing from child to young adult: We needed each other to get through this. And we need each other for the new challenges ahead. 

The kids are onto something, friends. I read an article a couple of weeks ago that really made me think. It was about how our individualistic concept of resilience can become isolating and toxic. The author, Michael Ungar, a scientist who studies resilience, says that the self-help industry – broadly defined – offers many, many solutions fix your problems. And some of them are helpful to some people, to be clear! But, Ungar writes,  “Make no mistake: [In the self-help approach,] they are always your problems. You alone are responsible for them. It follows that failing to fix your problems will always be your failure, your lack of will, motivation or strength… We take upon ourselves the task of becoming motivated and subject ourselves to the heavy lifting of personal transformation. We mostly fail. We gain back the weight that we lost. Our next relationship is just as bad as the one we left. Our attitudes improve, but the boss is still a jerk…”

Ungar says the issue is that resilience is not a do-it-yourself endeavor. He writes, “The notion that your resilience is your problem alone is ideology, not science…. [We can] say with certainty that resilience depends more on what we receive than what we have within us.”

Another article I spotted recently explains that a massive meta-study of existing data shows that adults with a strong social network have 50% more longevity than those without. Like the kids said in their speeches: We need each other. A fitting theme for Trinity Sunday, when the church calendar invites us to celebrate that we know God as Three in One and One in Three. Relationship is the very nature of God – in whose image we are made.  

I really take all this to heart. Ungar’s article advises people to seek out communities and organizations and systems that will support and care for them. But as a church leader, I came away thinking, How can church become more of a community of resilience for our members? What would it look like to lean into that? To think of resilience as something we give each other? 

That is actually what Paul is talking about, friends. He’s telling the churches of Rome, these groups of believers who meet to sing and pray and share and seek and grieve and hope, he’s telling them that they have the strength to weather hard stuff together. 

I don’t think we’re terrible at that, here – at being that network of care for one another. But I think we could take it on with more intention. We step up with prayers, care, and practical help when a friend within the church or a well-known member gets a new diagnosis or suffers a loss or expands their family. But sometimes it’s hard to sustain that care over time; and sometimes when somebody is new to the community, or at the edges of the community, we don’t show up for them as well. Not from hard-heartedness but just because as humans we are wired to respond to familiarity. But what if we take seriously that church is not a place to make friends to care for each other through life’s ups and downs; but that church is a body that cares for each other through life’s ups and downs, because that’s just what we do for each other here? Friendship is great; I treasure the friendships within this parish. But looking after your friends is what everybody does. Looking after everybody should be what church does. 

A friend told me recently that while her husband was dying, people would often ask her how she was doing. And she would say, “What does not kill me… still beats the crap out of me.” She says people’s faces would fall as they realized she wasn’t going to tell them that she was fine, actually; that she was finding grace in every moment; that this gut-wrenching loss was really quite meaningful. 

We have to ask each other how we’re doing, and really want to know. We have to be ready to hold space for each other. And it’s not just the big losses and longings. My friend Craig has been really working with his church to understand their lives, and he says, Every single member of my congregation is lonely, weary, fearful and distracted. He says, That’s why they’re at church – consciously or not. They’re here because they’re looking for a community to alleviate the loneliness – to come alongside them in weariness – to bring hope and joy into conversation with fearfulness – to find common purpose amid our distractedness. 

What could it look like to be a church fundamentally organized for its members’ collective resilience? I recently heard about a new church plant that was founded in an affluent suburb … in 2008. Just before the market crash. The new congregation was full of people who had fast-paced, lucrative jobs, and were losing them; of people who had bought big, expensive new homes, and were losing those, too. And what that church became, through the insight and compassion of its members and the grace of the Holy Spirit, was a place to grieve together. People who had lost their jobs started meeting weekly to pray the psalms of lament together. When someone lost their home, church members would show up to help them move. A friend visited one Sunday and noticed a woman selling knitted goods at a table during coffee hour. She explained that the proceeds from her sales would go to fulfill her pledge to the parish. 

I want to be honest with you: That church closed. But while it existed, its members helped each other through an incredibly difficult season. Together, they defied the toxicity of shame. They told each other the truth about being broke and being unemployed and having your whole life shatter around you. They sanctified that awful season in their lives by holding it, together, up to God’s light. It takes my breath away. 

What we need, dear ones, for our individual and common wellbeing, are robust networks and infrastructure of support and care, oriented towards human safety and flourishing. I believe the Church – all churches – this church – is called to participate in and advocate for that future. Because collective resilience is at least as important as individual resilience. And so I say to you, friends: 

We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Some links – 

Endurance, hope, and resilience: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-put-down-the-self-help-books-resilience-is-not-a-diy-endeavour/?fbclid=IwAR0S0hJZRnKFE5wt_RwmoTUlR7JXEe-4C0KQ0J1tBCBSo8ri46MPDNlIjwA

Social networks and survival: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/relationships-boost-survival/?redirect=

Article on social networks and longevity: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/relationships-boost-survival/?redirect=1

Announcements, June 13

THIS WEEK….

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, June 16, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

Visioning Sunday School, Wednesday, June 19, 2pm: We are considering some changes to our Sunday school curriculum, to engage both kids and teachers more fully in reflecting on Scripture and faith together. If you’d like to help brainstorm, and perhaps get involved on an occasional or regular basis, come to this gathering – or contact Rev. Miranda.

St. Dunstan’s LGBTQIA+ & Allies Campfire, June 21, 6:30pm: As part of our continuing intergenerational exploration, we will be having a potluck s’mores bonfire on June 21, at 6pm, for anyone who feels they are in the LGBTQIAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, and/or allies) community.  This is a safe space and time deliberately created to sit around a bonfire, eat soup and s’mores, and visit about your personal experiences within this community, as LGBT+ people, family of LGBT+ people, and friends of LGBT+ people.  All ages are not only welcome, but encouraged.  Feel no pressure to identify with any label at this event, but feel free to talk openly about your experience if you want to.  Dinner provided (soup and rolls), BYFSS (bring your favorite smores supply!). Questions? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Michelle Der Bedrosian.

Clergy Presence during Rev. Miranda’s Travel:  Rev. Miranda will be away from June 22 through 29. Father Tom McAlpine will celebrate and preach on Sunday, June 23. If you need the care or counsel of a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence, contact Father Tom or Father John Rasmus.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Cookie Church Returns! 6 – 7pm, Wednesdays in July: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Wednesdays in July. If you’re away for a weekend but still want to come to church, come try it out! Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled so they don’t get eaten at Coffee Hour).

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, July 10, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: During a time of great turmoil in England and Europe, Julian came to believe unshakably that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  Please join us for contemplative prayer and discussion of Julian’s optimistic theology! For more information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Creation Care Ideas, Summer 2019: Our open Creation Care meeting in May generated some great ideas. Plans already in the works include a Creation-focused all-ages Vacation Bible School on the evenings of August 4 – 8; and some opportunities to seek God in Nature on summer Sundays. With some ideas, we’re seeking a group of interested folks who can move it forward. Are you interested in contributing to an Idea Fair to share green practices you’ve taken on or things you’ve learned about caring for the world? Do you have a green crafting or “upcycling” project to share? Would you like to help care for the nearby Heim Fox Mound with some seasonal weeding? Is there a “green” product you find really useful that you’d like us to explore bulk buying? If you have thoughts on any of these fronts, sign up at church in the Gathering Area or email our office coordinator Ann at  .

Healing Prayer Ministry: Do you like to pray for others? We are seeking a few people who feel drawn to praying for the healing of another’s body, mind, and spirit, as part of our parish’s monthly Sunday morning healing prayer ministry. We can train and support you! If you’re interested, talk with Rev. Miranda , Deacon Laura or Father John.

It’s Time to Update our Parish Directory! If you are new to St. Dunstan’s and would like your address and contact information to be in our church directory, or if you have a change of address or contact information, please let our Office Coordinator Ann know at 608-238-2781 or . Our church directory is shared with members; it is not posted publicly.

Update on our Church Neighbors Foundry414: For several years we’ve shared space with Foundry414, a friendly and open-minded non-denominational church. Foundry meets in the Parish Center, which will be renovated this summer for use as youth group space (lower level) and meeting and community space (upper level). Starting on June 2, over the summer, Foundry will be meeting in our nave and Meeting Room on Sundays at 4:30pm. Please help leave the church tidy for them, and if you have a reason to stop by on a Sunday evening, be respectful of their space. Thank you!

Practicing Holy Living POSTPONED: Rev. Miranda has discerned that maybe there is enough going on this summer already. We will explore saints who exemplify our practices of holy living in the fall, culminating with the Feast of All Saints on November 3. You are still invited to follow @stdunstansmadcity on Instagram – and to tag us in any church-related photos you may post!

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Homily, June 9

Today is the feast of Pentecost, when we celebrate that the Holy Spirit of God came to the first Christians to comfort and inspire and guide them. 

What is the Holy Spirit? Well, over thousands of years, we have come to know God in different ways. We know God as Creator and Source, Father and Mother of all, the Ancient of Days, Beginning and End, the Silence at the center of things. We know God as Jesus Christ, the Word of God come to earth to dwell among us, Brother, Friend, Teacher, Redeemer and Liberator. And we know God as Holy Spirit, Breath of life, refining Fire, divine Wisdom. We call these the three Persons of the holy and undivided Trinity, the three in one and one in three. 

So the Holy Spirit is one of the ways we know God. We use names for the Spirit like Comforter, Advocate, Dove, Spirit of Truth, Holy Wisdom. We use symbols like wind, water, fire… things that are powerful and important, but that you can’t hold in your hand. 

Did you know you can pray to the different Persons of God? We pray to the Holy Spirit – we call on the Holy Spirit – often in church, when we ask the Spirit to make the water holy for a baptism, or to make the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood for us, at Eucharist. 

But in everyday life, I pray to the Holy Spirit – I call on the Holy Spirit – pretty often too. When I need strength and wisdom for a difficult conversation. When I need my heart to soften towards someone so I can respond to them as Jesus would. When I’m confused or stuck and need insight and direction. When I just need encouragement, in the face of hard stuff. 

We have a big word for asking the Holy Spirit to help us: Invocation. It means to call on something. It’s not like magic in a book; we don’t control the Spirit with our words. But she likes to be invited. We have to make room for her instead of trying to handle it all on our own. We have to open a door inside us, to let her come in and help us. So the Church has always taught God’s people to call on the Spirit… to invoke the Spirit. No magic words, it’s one of the simplest prayers there is: Come, Holy Spirit!

Now we’re going to sing a song that invites the Holy Spirit to come among us as we celebrate today…. 

After the Acts lesson: 

One of my favorite things to do is when I get to spend some time talking about the Bible with kids. I love it; I wish I could do it even more! And I’ve noticed that a question kids often have is: Is this story true? Do you believe this story?

So let’s talk about that for the story of the Tower of Babel. I don’t believe that this happened the way the story says it happened. This is not that kind of story. It’s the kind of story that tells the truth about something big, even though the events of the story might not have happened. 

One thing the story tells the truth about is technology, and the human relationship with technology. Notice that this story is talking about a technological change: People have taken the big step from making bricks out of mud and baking them in the sun, to making bricks out of mud and baking them in a hot oven, which makes them stronger and harder. And it makes new kinds of building possible! (This is a VERY old story, y’all.) 

And the humans in the story think this is their big break.They have it all figured out now; they can be truly great. “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” Even though this is a very old story, it sounds familiar. We develop new technologies and we think we can use them to make ourselves great; to come close to God. 

Technology is amazing. Medical and information technology, green technology, and so on, make incredible things possible. But we’re still prone to thinking our technological achievements can make us more than human. And we’re still wrong. That is one truth this story tells. 

Another truth this story tells is about the people who told the story. This is one of the kinds of stories that offers an explanation for why things are the way they are.In this case, the thing it’s explaining is why people speak many different languages (and also have different cultures, ways of dressing, kinds of music and food, and so on). 

The people who first told this story were wondering, Why aren’t we all the same?It must be something God did. God must have given us all these different languages – made it so we can’t understand each other. So in the story, God “confuses” people’s language so they won’t be able to talk to each other: “Therefore the tower was called Babel, because there GOD confused the language of all the earth; and from there GOD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”

Do you think the people who first told this story thought it was a good thing, that we have all different languages, or a bad thing? … 

So: This is not a true story about why we speak many languages. It’s more of a wondering story – people trying to explain something that puzzles them. And what it tells us about the people who first told the story is that they didn’t really like having all those different languages. It seemed like a problem, to them. 

We know now that language is one of the things our brains are best at. We are so good at learning language, creating and changing language, using language. It seems to me that the richness of language across humanity, the fact that as a species we are so good at generating and using words, means that this is something God wants for us. That God made us to be a people of many languages.

And the Pentecost story kind of affirms that. In this story, the Holy Spirit acts in a miraculous way to make it so that a whole group of people who speak many different languages, people from FIFTEEN different regions and countries, can all hear the good news of Jesus Christ. 

But pay attention to HOW the miracle happens. The Holy Spirit could have done it any way she wanted. She could have had the apostles preach the Gospel in their own language, and she could have reached into the ears of all those listeners from around the world, and tuned their ears so they miraculously understood the Galilean Aramaic that the apostles were speaking. 

But that’s NOT what she does. Instead, “All of the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” The miracle here is that people are suddenly able to talk to someone else in their language – to do in an instant what would otherwise take years to learn. The miracle, the divine gift, here is not that human language is reunited, all that inconvenient diversity brought back to unity. The divine gift is being able to understand each other within that rich diversity.

Our differences can be confusing and difficult and frustrating. We might still sometimes ask the question this story asks:  Why aren’t we all the same? The answer of the Babel story is, Because we’re broken. Because God punished us with human diversity. 

But the answer of the Pentecost story is, Because it’s beautiful.It doesn’t divide us; it gives us scope for a greater, a deeper togetherness, when we learn to listen and understand and share across our differences of language and culture and experience. May the Spirit of God empower us for that work, and help us delight in the wonder of our diversity. Amen. 

Announcements, June 6

Summer All-Ages Vacation Bible School Planning Meeting, Thursday, June 6, 6pm: Our evening camp this summer (5:30 – 7:30, August 4 – 8) will focus on finding God in Creation. We have some ideas taking shape, but there’s room for more – ideas and people to help! If you’d like to help plan or help prepare and lead an activity, please join us on Thursday the 6th. Kids & youth welcome too. Pizza will be provided. Talk with Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes  to learn more, or if you’d like to help out but can’t attend.

Pentecost Sunday Worship, June 9: On this feast day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and celebrate the Spirit’s continued action among us. Red is the church’s color for this holy day; consider wearing something red for church. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after each service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

Acolyte Refresher Training & Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 11:30AM: All St. Dunstan’s acolytes are invited! We’ll go over what we do in worship, to refresh our memories and give us a chance to ask any questions; then we’ll celebrate a great year with pizza and treats. We’ll wrap up by around 12:30, and rides home can be provided – talk with Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes if that would be helpful.

Outreach Offering: On Sunday you will see a basket with 23 hearts carried to the altar. Each heart represents $100 sent out into the world to help feed, support, and advocate.  At their May meeting, the Outreach Committee designated $500 from their portion of our parish budget to MOSES to support their criminal justice reform work; $1000 to the CILC immigration law clinic; and $800 to MOM for their fund to help with car repairs for those in need.

More about the organizations funded…

The Community Immigration Law Center, Inc. (CILC) provides a free legal clinic to assist low-income immigrants with their immigration related issues by providing information, support, and referrals to immigration attorneys or accredited representatives.

MOSES stands for Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality, and Solidarity. MOSES is  a non-partisan interfaith organization, affiliated with the larger WISDOM network, that works to promote criminal justice reform with a focus on ending mass incarceration, ending solitary confinement and offering post-release support.

MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry) maintain an emergency car repair fund because the loss of a functioning car has a devastating effect on a persons ability to continue working and maintain their housing.  MOM’s car repair fund prevents families from facing job loss and eviction due to loss of reliable transportation.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, June 12, 1:00 – 2:45 PM:  Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic and anchoress. Little is known about Julian’s life, but she wrote a book, as far as we know the first in English written by a woman, about a series of revelations which opened her to the depths of God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. Julian’s insights and gentle wisdom are becoming ever more widely known and appreciated. At a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality.  Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.   For additional information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, June 16, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

St. Dunstan’s LGBTQIA+ & Allies Campfire, June 21, 6:30pm: As part of our continuing intergenerational exploration, we will be having a potluck s’mores bonfire on June 21, at 6pm, for anyone who feels they are in the LGBTQIAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, and/or allies) community.  This is a safe space and time deliberately created to sit around a bonfire, eat soup and s’mores, and visit about your personal experiences within this community, as LGBT+ people, family of LGBT+ people, and friends of LGBT+ people.  All ages are not only welcome, but encouraged.  Feel no pressure to identify with any label at this event, but feel free to talk openly about your experience if you want to.  Dinner provided (soup and rolls), BYFSS (bring your favorite smores supply!). Questions? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Michelle Der Bedrosian.

Summer Flower Sign-Up: From June through August, we invite members to sign up to *bring* flowers, instead of ordering them through our florist as usual. During these months, local flowers are readily available, at the farmer’s market, in your own gardens, or on the church grounds. If you’d like to contribute flowers, simply sign up for your chosen Sunday. You can still make a dedication, and we will include it in the bulletin as usual. You may use your own vase, or one of the vases here at church. Please take your flowers home, or give them to a friend, after the 10am service. Questions? Talk with Gail Jordan-Jones or Rev. Miranda.

Do you like to help bring Scripture to life? We often use various techniques to make our Sunday scriptures more understandable and engaging, ranging from simple costumed drama, to dramatic reading with different voices, to wordless pantomime to accompany spoken text. Would you like to help? Rev. Miranda plans to assemble an email list of people (all ages welcome!) who enjoy helping present Scripture dramatically, to facilitate planning and spread the fun around. Talk with Rev. Miranda to join the list. Thanks!

Practicing Holy Living, Summer 2019: A few years ago, St. Dunstan’s identified seven core practices by which we live out our faith in daily life: Welcoming, Abiding, Wondering, Proclaiming, Turning, Reconciling, and Making. (Read more by picking up a leaflet in the Gathering Area!) This summer we’re meeting some saints – those who loved and fought, lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew – who embodied each of these practices. We’ll begin on July 7 with Harriet Tubman, and the practice of Proclaiming. Follow @stdunstansmadcity on Instagram to participate in a word-a-week exploration of our practices!

It’s Time to Update our Parish Directory! If you are new to St. Dunstan’s and would like your address and contact information to be in our church directory, or if you have a change of address or contact information, please let our Office Coordinator Ann know at 608-238-2781 or . Our church directory is shared with members; it is not posted publicly.

Update on our Church Neighbors Foundry414: For several years we’ve shared space with Foundry414, a friendly and open-minded non-denominational church. Foundry meets in the Parish Center, which will be renovated this summer for use as youth group space (lower level) and meeting and community space (upper level). Starting on June 2, over the summer, Foundry will be meeting in our nave and Meeting Room on Sundays at 4:30pm. Please help leave the church tidy for them, and if you have a reason to stop by on a Sunday evening, be respectful of their space. Thank you!

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) is accepting applications now! Camp Webb is an outdoor ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, for children and youth grades 3 through senior high. It is held at a camp outside Elkhorn, WI. Camp tuition is $400, with a deposit of $100 due at the time of registration. St. Dunstan’s offers $150 in aid to all our campers, with additional assistance possible; contact Rev. Miranda for financial assistance. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Announcements, May 30

THIS WEEK….

Ascension Eucharist, Thursday, May 30, 7pm: We will hold a simple Eucharist for the Feast of the Ascension. If you choose, you can stay afterwards (or come around 8:30pm) to count bats, as our first Bat Count of the season. (St. Dunstan’s participates in statewide monitoring of bat populations by counting the bats that live on our property a couple of times per summer. We’ll also count bats on Friday evening the 31st at around 8:30; the bat monitoring project would like us to do two nights in a row this summer!)

Join the Saint Paint Studio mural project!!!  Before the St. Dunstan’s Church Foundry Building is under construction for renovation, we will create a mural of our chosen Saints on a wall in the Foundry Building. Trace your Saint on a wall. Paint your Saint. Celebrate our Saints! Saint Paint Studio activities will occur from May 30-July 7, 2019. Look for exact times of Saint Paint Studio activities in Sunday Church announcements.  It will be easy and fun! You are invited to imagine a Saint. If you asked a Saint for help what would she do for you?  What special costume would your Saint wear? Does he have a special skill? Do they use special tools to perform their helpful skill? Do they have a favorite animal? Questions about Saint Paint Studio activities? Email Deborah Sproule.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, May 31, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Oliva Restaurant, 751 N. High Point Rd. For more information please contact Kathy Whitt.

Parish Picnic & Nave-Clearing Bee, Sunday, June 2, 11:30AM: As part of our parish renovation, the floor in the Nave (worship space) will be refinished starting on June 3. So after church on June 2, we’re going to Empty the Nave! The floor of the nave & side rooms will need to be as clear as we can get it. Many hands make light work so we’re going to have fun with it, and combine it with our annual Parish Picnic! We’ll provide hot dogs, buns, and drinks. Bring a side dish or dessert to share – and a picnic blanket for those who are comfortable sitting on the ground or floor. (We’ll have some tables available as well.)

Summer All-Ages Vacation Bible School Planning Meeting, Thursday, June 6, 6pm: Our evening camp this summer (5:30 – 7:30, August 4 – 8) will focus on finding God in Creation. We have some ideas taking shape, but there’s room for more – ideas and people to help! If you’d like to help plan or help prepare and lead an activity, please join us on Thursday the 6th. Kids & youth welcome too. Pizza will be provided. Talk with Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Pentecost Sunday Worship, June 9: On this feast day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and celebrate the Spirit’s continued action among us. Red is the church’s color for this holy day; consider wearing something red for church. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after each service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

Do you like to help bring Scripture to life? We often use various techniques to make our Sunday scriptures more understandable and engaging, ranging from simple costumed drama, to dramatic reading with different voices, to wordless pantomime to accompany spoken text. Would you like to help? Rev. Miranda plans to assemble an email list of people (all ages welcome!) who enjoy helping present Scripture dramatically, to facilitate planning and spread the fun around. Talk with Rev. Miranda  to join the list. Thanks!

It’s Time to Update our Parish Directory! If you are new to St. Dunstan’s and would like your address and contact information to be in our church directory, or if you have a change of address or contact information, please let our Office Coordinator Ann know at 608-238-2781 or . Our church directory is shared with members; it is not posted publicly.

Annual Budget Update, May 2019

Last month, our first-quarter financial update showed a deficit of about $13,500 on the income side. We have good news: our income has recovered almost entirely, thanks to members’ and guests’ generous and faithful giving. As of the end of April, our total income is just $1300 under budget. That’s a tiny percentage of our income and well within the normal range.  So while we remain watchful with our parish finances, we are feeling confident and comfortable. Pick up a May Annual Budget Update sheet for more information, and watch for our parish-wide midyear financial update in July. And thanks to all who sustain the common life of this community of faith, with financial gifts, time, skill, resources, love and prayer!

Update on our Church Neighbors Foundry414: For several years we’ve shared space with Foundry414, a friendly and open-minded non-denominational church. Foundry meets in the Parish Center, which will be renovated this summer for use as youth group space (lower level) and meeting and community space (upper level). Starting on June 2, over the summer, Foundry will be meeting in our nave and Meeting Room on Sundays at 4:30pm. Please help leave the church tidy for them, and if you have a reason to stop by on a Sunday evening, be respectful of their space. Thank you!

Acolyte Refresher Training & Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 11:30AM: All St. Dunstan’s acolytes are invited! We’ll go over what we do in worship, to refresh our memories and give us a chance to ask any questions; then we’ll celebrate a great year with pizza and treats. We’ll wrap up by around 12:30, and rides home can be provided – talk with Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes if that would be helpful.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, June 12, 1:00 – 2:45 PM:  Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic and anchoress. Little is known about Julian’s life, but she wrote a book, as far as we know the first in English written by a woman, about a series of revelations which opened her to the depths of God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. Julian’s insights and gentle wisdom are becoming ever more widely known and appreciated. At a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality.  Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.   For additional information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, June 16, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

St. Dunstan’s LGBTQIA+ & Allies Campfire, June 21, 6:30pm: As part of our continuing intergenerational exploration, we will be having a potluck s’mores bonfire on June 21, at 6pm, for anyone who feels they are in the LGBTQIAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, and/or allies) community.  This is a safe space and time deliberately created to sit around a bonfire, eat soup and s’mores, and visit about your personal experiences within this community, as LGBT+ people, family of LGBT+ people, and friends of LGBT+ people.  All ages are not only welcome, but encouraged.  Feel no pressure to identify with any label at this event, but feel free to talk openly about your experience if you want to.  Dinner provided (soup and rolls), BYFSS (bring your favorite smores supply!). Questions? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Michelle Der Bedrosian.

Summer Flower Sign-Up: From June through August, we invite members to sign up to *bring* flowers, instead of ordering them through our florist as usual. During these months, local flowers are readily available, at the farmer’s market, in your own gardens, or on the church grounds. If you’d like to contribute flowers, simply sign up for your chosen Sunday. You can still make a dedication, and we will include it in the bulletin as usual. You may use your own vase, or one of the vases here at church. Please take your flowers home, or give them to a friend, after the 10am service. Questions? Talk with Gail Jordan-Jones or Rev. Miranda.

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) is accepting applications now! Camp Webb is an outdoor ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, for children and youth grades 3 through senior high. It is held at a camp outside Elkhorn, WI. Camp tuition is $400, with a deposit of $100 due at the time of registration. St. Dunstan’s offers $150 in aid to all our campers, with additional assistance possible; contact Rev. Miranda for financial assistance. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

6205 University Ave., Madison WI