Category Archives: Kid-friendly

Homily, May 21

Saint Dunstan was a Benedictine monk, and a big part of his life’s work was establishing Benedictine monastic communities. Let me explain what all that means! 

A monk or a nun  is a person who has chosen to devote their life to God by living in a special place called a monastery or convent, with a group of other monks or nuns, and following a very set pattern of prayer and work in daily life. 

Usually, monks and nuns don’t have families of their own, and they live at least somewhat apart from the community around them. They usually have a special way of dressing – like the brown robe that Benedictines wear.

Each monastery has a specific schedule of daily prayer times, meals, and work times. The work depends on the season, on what each monk is good at, and on what they do at that particular monastery. At monasteries and convents, people would usually grow their own food, care for livestock and bees, weave cloth, make candles, beer, or wine, make Bibles and books of prayer and spiritual readings, and much more. 

About 500 years after the time of Jesus, a man named Benedict started a monastery in Italy. The way of life that developed there became a movement that spread all over Europe and, eventually, all over the world. 

To become a Benedictine monk or nun, you had to make three vows. A vow is like a great big promise that you plan to keep for your whole life!

The vows were: Poverty – you had to give away everything you owned, and have nothing of your own. 

Chastity – which meant that you wouldn’t seek out romantic relationships or get married and start a family. 

And obedience – you had to vow that you would obey the leaders of the church and of your monastery. 

But those vows were just the beginning. Once you joined the Benedictine order, you had to live under the Benedictine Rule.  

That’s Rule with a capital R and it’s actually lots of rules all bundled together, to describe how these Benedictine monks were supposed to try to live. 

A monastic Rule of Life is a set of guidelines that cover everything from prayer to meals to sleep to work to prayer again. It lays out how to live in community and how to focus your life on God. The Benedictine Rule is only one Rule of Life; there are other monastic traditions with their own Rules that have developed through history, and still follow their patterns of prayer and work together. 

The Benedictine Rule is long – more than seventy chapters! It covers a lot of things. 

Some parts of the Rule have to do with helping people keep their focus on God. 

For example: There could be as many as SEVEN daily prayer times, depending on the community. Some of them were named after the hour, using the Latin names for numbers – like Terce, recited at 9 a.m. or “the third hour”; sext, read at noon or “the sixth hour”, and None (nohn), read at 3PM or the ninth hour. The Benedictine Rule says that those times of shared prayer are to reverent, pure of heart, full of honest feeling, and SHORT. Otherwise how would all the work get done? 

There’s a rule about not talking after Compline, the prayers late in the evening before bedtime, so that after Compline everybody can just wind down for rest. 

There’s a whole chapter on the practice of humility – how to focus on God, not your own will or desires, and not setting yourself above others. 

And monks weren’t supposed to have their own possessions, to help them not get too attached to objects instead of God. Each monk should have their own robe and shoes, that are comfortable and fit them well, and a mat, blanket and pillow for sleeping. But that’s about it! 

Some other parts of the Rule have to do with the strains of living in community with other people! 

There are rules about “restraint of speech” – not talking a lot in daily life – talking gets us into trouble sometimes, doesn’t it?

Instead of conversation at mealtimes, somebody reads out loud and everybody is silent and listens. 

Monks are discouraged from drinking more than half a bottle of wine per day.

Monks are supposed to be obedient to the abbot, the head monk, but the abbot is also supposed to lead with patience and understanding, not by bossing everyone around. 

Everyone’s needs should be provided for within the community, respecting that some have different needs and capacities. 

If a rich family sends their child to become a monk or nun, they have to understand that they can’t secretly send their kid extra clothes or other luxuries. He has to live like all the other monks.

What do you think of all that? 

Would you be interested in living like that?… 

There are some things about it that I like and some things that I think would be really hard! 

Dunstan lived in a difficult time. Most people were very poor and there was a lot of illness around that nobody knew how to treat. There were bandits who would raid and steal, and there wasn’t really a stable government to look out for people and make things better. Ordinary people’s lives were pretty hard and uncertain. 

Dunstan wanted to help make things better. He did that partly by being an advisor for a lot of different kings, encouraging them to do things that would improve life for the people.

But he also believed that founding more Benedictine monastic houses could be a tool for making things better. 

Even though monasteries and convents keep some separation from the community around them, they can have a big influence. People who were sick or starving, or in trouble in other ways, could come to the monks or nuns for help. Monastic houses were like hospitals, in Dunstan’s time. Most people couldn’t read, so they might come to the monastery to learn and study, or for help with a legal document. 

Hospitality is an important value for Benedictines and other monastic traditions too. All guests are to be received with prayer and generosity, and with special care for the poor and for pilgrims making a holy journey. 

The monasteries also trained monks who went out to be priests in local churches. Before that, a lot of the priests were just somebody who was picked out for the job by the local rich family. The monk-priests were better trained and more committed to God, and they could do more to teach, help, and guide the people of their congregation. 

The changes Dunstan worked for did help things get better for ordinary people. That’s why people started honoring Dunstan as a saint, not long after his death. 

Now, a church like our church is really different from a monastic community. We don’t live together all the time. We don’t have a Rule of Life that tells us how to spend each hour of our days. 

But I think even in the few hours we spend together, week by week, we are training ourselves and each other to be people who can make a difference in our communities too. Sharing worship and learning, and the ways we practice generosity and kindness and caring for one another here –  and the ways we play together and create and celebrate and share our gifts too – I hope, I believe, that all of that helps shape us into people who can do good for our neighbors and in the world around us. 

And I’m sure that it makes Saint Dunstan proud! 



A website with some info about medieval monasticism for interested kids:

A nice abbreviated overview of the Rule of Benedict:

All-Ages Worship Homily, February 26

Let’s talk about a character in this story – the Tempter. Jesus calls this figure Satan. The Hebrew word is the “shatan”, meaning adversary or accuser. Somebody who tests or tempts someone else. 

The word Devil comes from the Greek word used to translate satan. So it’s another name for the same figure or being. 

The Devil is a supernatural being, less powerful than God, whose job is to test people’s faith. That’s the role the Satan plays in both the Old and New Testaments. They are NOT the ruler of Hell – again, those are later ideas. The Satan or the Tempter doesn’t really have much to do with Hell or an underworld or afterlife. In fact, in a couple of places in the New Testament, Satan is referred to as the ruler of THIS world. 

Is the Satan, or the Devil, real? … 

I realized that this is probably our kids’ first question, and I found that it’s not that simple for me to answer. 

I can tell you that I don’t believe that there’s a supernatural being sneaking around trying to trick or trap me.

And I also don’t believe humans need much help to do evil or bad or cruel or hurtful things. Unfortunately we don’t seem to need much help with that. Nobody should be using Satan as an excuse for bad choices. “The Devil made me do it!” 

But I’m also not a person who only believes in what we can see and touch and measure and prove. 

I believe in mysteries, and things beyond what we can understand. I know that Goodness and Holiness sometimes work in mysterious ways.  Sometimes Evil does too. 

Let’s talk about evil for just a minute. Evil means much more than just ordinary bad. And everything that is hard or sad isn’t necessarily evil.

Doing without something you really wish you had can be hard, but isn’t necessarily evil. It depends!

Dealing wiht a big change or a loss … the end of a friendship, or having to move and start over … can be really hard and really sad. But those things aren’t necessarily evil.

The death of a pet or a person you love can be VERY hard and VERY sad. But again, it’s not necessarily evil. 

Evil hurts on purpose. 

Evil delights in breaking and ruining. 

Evil wants all the things, and doesn’t care what it costs. 

Evil wants to control and dominate and take, take, take. 

Evil hates healing and reconciling, redemption and mending. 

There’s a big, old debate about Good and Evil: 

Is there an active force of Evil? A power of evil, trying to make more evil in the world? Or is Evil just where there isn’t Good yet? Just the hole where there isn’t any Good right now? I don’t feel qualified to answer that question!

So I don’t know if the Devil exists. But I don’t worry about them. 

Because the Christian witness is very strong, going all the way back, that Jesus and God are stronger than the Devil. 

I belong to Jesus, and that means I can tell the Devil to go away, any time I want. 

Anytime I feel like there might be some evil lurking around, I can remember that I belong to Jesus, and I can say: 

Go away! You have no power over me!

That’s fun to say. Want to try it? …. 

Let’s look at the story of the Temptations of Jesus again. 

Temptation means when you want something, but you know it’s not right for you, so you say No. Or you try really hard to say No! 

So Jesus goes into the wilderness for some time away to really focus and pray and be in the big emptiness of nature and prepare for how hard his work and his ministry are going to be.

And after he’s been doing that for a while, the Tempter comes to him and says, Hey, Jesus, you’ve been alone in the wilderness for a long time. You seem pretty hungry. 

Why should you be hungry, Jesus? Aren’t you really God? 

I know you want to share life with human beings, and have the experiences they have, but you’re not just an ordinary person. Hunger and deprivation and discomfort are for chumps.

You’re special. You shouldn’t have to be hungry. 

Look at all these rocks. You could just turn them into bread – nice, warm, fragrant, freshly-baked bread! What do you say?…

Let’s say it together again: 


Then the Satan brings Jesus to the highest point of the biggest building in Jerusalem and says to him, 

Listen, I know you’ve got some big plans ahead. 

But if you dot he things you plan to do, it’s going to get harder and harder and worse and worse for you. Eventually you’ll be betrayed by your friends, arrested, condemned to death, nailed to a cross – and then you’ll DIE. It’s going to be awful. 

You don’t want that, do you? Suffering is for ordinary people and you are special. So to prove that you’r especial and don’t have to suffer, throw yourself off this building! God will send some angels to catch you and protected you. Probably. 

What does Jesus say? ….


THEN the Satan, the Devil shows Jesus all the nations of the world, all the peoples… all the finery, all the land, all the wealth, all the great armies with their power and their weapons… 

And the Devil says, Right now everyone thinks you’re a poor, powerless guy from a poor, powerless part of the world. 

Look, if you were in command of all this, you could do so much good! You could use all that wealth and power to make things better for everybody. Who would be a better Emperor of the World than you?

You can have it all – if you’ll just promise to worship me and do what I say, instead of God. 

What does Jesus say? … .


And the Devil left… and angels came and tended Jesus. I hope they gave him a snack! 

Thank you, actors! Thank you, everyone, for wondering about the story together! …. 

Epiphany Pageant 2023 Gallery


Annual Reports 2023

Our Annual Reports are an overview of many of our ministries and their recent projects and priorities. It’s a good way to know what we’re up to. Note that not all ministry groups send in an annual report! NOTE: We don’t post email addresses on the website, but use our Contact Us form or talk to Rev. Miranda to get connected with any of these ministries. 



Children’s Formation

Sunday school

Sunday school is back to our pre-pandemic schedule of meeting twice a month during 10AM in-person worship. (Most of our kids are participating in church in person, though StoryChurch is one online kid-centered offering, and we are open to others as needed!) We have two Sunday school classes, one for ages 3 through first grade and one for second grade through fifth or sixth (whenever kids decide they’d prefer to stay in church). In the younger classroom they are working through a set of core holy stories, using materials from the Godly Play and Diddy Disciples books. In the older classroom we are patching together our own curriculum from various sources, based on the Sunday lectionary. In the new year we may start integrating some of our Scripture drama work as part of the schedule for that class. Interested folks welcome as teachers and helpers – talk with Rev. Miranda!

Drama Camp

Our summer kids’ camp in 2022 was a Drama Camp, focused on building kids’ skills and engagement with various aspects of drama and theater. About 25 kids participated over the course of the week, including some guests from the wider community. The younger group worked on using their bodies, faces, and voices to express different feelings, played with costumes, and developed a performance of the story of Jonah. The older group explored lights and tech, makeup, props and set design, voice and expression, and much more, while preparing a performance of the Biblical story of Tobit. It was a great week and we are carrying some of those skills into our Scripture drama and pageant work during the year!

Youth Ministry

The Youth Ministry Program has undergone one significant change this year: hiring a dedicated staff person. Isabelle had a number of big goals coming into this position, but there are three in particular that have seen marked improvement.

First, expanding communication regarding youth activities with the wider parish has been successful by the utilization of monthly “wrap-up” emails and increasing day-to-day visibility through frequent Facebook posts. The parish has been able to receive updates on the annual Treinen Farm visit, the Halloween and Christmas parties, Friday night craft projects, and other service events.

Second, youth ownership of the youth program has been strengthened by seeking input on Friday night activities, monthly events, and service opportunities. The GSAFE bake sale was requested, priced, and staffed by the youth themselves, resulting in a $593 donation. Coming up at the end of January is an almost entirely youth-organized overnight retreat (Holy Creations: Self Love & Care) where the youth will get to explore topics they’ve expressed both and interest and need for. A similar approach is being taken for spring programming and summer service trips.

Lastly, youth programming has made only as many adjustments as befits the wants and needs of the youth themselves. To maintain tradition and smooth the transition process, Fall and Spring bonfire days are still going strong! To make space for the artistically inclined, one Friday a month has had a dedicated seasonal craft. In upcoming months, the youth hope to have multiple Lent Madness get-togethers, movie nights, a murder mystery dinner party, and an open house art gallery in the Parish Center.

As far as need goes, Isabelle is still trying to find/establish a best practice for Friday night second-adult volunteers. You could help greatly in that process by signing your name & volunteer preferences to this link: Finally, if you have ideas for events, crafts, games, demonstrations, or destinations, please contact Isabelle to initiate some collaboration! Thanks much for reading, and the kids hope to see YOU on an upcoming Friday night.

Building & rebuilding community

Moving into the fall of 2022, parish leadership heard and perceived a need to focus on building and rebuilding community.  One endeavor in that direction this fall is the new Aging Together group, which meets about once a month on Friday mornings on Zoom.  We’ve had some meetings focused on particular topics, like loneliness and the disorienting effects of grief; others have been focused just on sharing and mutual support. Some people have started meeting on Zoom most Fridays because connection feels good!

Another new endeavor was a small group that met on Zoom for four sessions focused on practical tools for raising faithful kids. Out of that work came a plan to have monthly evening Zoom meetings for parents, for check in and mutual support, similar to our previous Spirituality of Parenting group.

We’re also working on returning to some of our pre-pandemic fellowship opportunities, like regular young adult meetups and crafting gatherings. If you’re interested in any of this, talk with Rev. Miranda to learn more – and in some cases, perhaps help make it happen!

Saturday Book Club 

The Saturday Book Group meets on Saturday mornings every 6-8 weeks, though less frequently during the summer. We generally alternate between fiction and non-fiction books. In 2022 most meetings were remote on Zoom. In 2023, we plan to hold hybrid meetings – in person combined with Zoom.

Books we read in 2021 were:

  • The Luckiest Boy in the World by Patrick McBride
  • The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny
  • The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story created by Nikole Hannah-Jones 
  • Contributed Poems in memory of Dan Hanson
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison 
  • The Road to Character by David Brooks

Speak to Peter if you’d like to know more. Please do join us.



Contemplative Prayer

The contemplative prayer group finished its year in May 2022 (after starting in October 2021). We continued to meet online throughout the spring and experimented with several types of prayer together, including the examen, welcoming prayer, Ignatian contemplation, and lectio divina. In July, we gathered in person for a potluck lunch hosted by Susan Franks.  Overall, we gained insight into new ways to connect with God and are grateful for the friendships we made with one another along the way! – Submitted by Jamie Smet

Music Ministries 

St. Dunstan’s music ministries is a loose conglomeration of musicians (both vocalists and instrumentalists) who do help us sing, listen to, and play music for service; write special hymn lyrics; compose, transcribe, and engrave psalms, hymns, choral arrangements, and original music; provide special music on- and off-site in collaboration with wider church events; handle music library, technological, and licensing logistics; provide second-adult presences for children’s choir rehearsals; organize fellowship events; publicize off-site music events; and provide financial and material support.

2022 required continued adaptation of our musical activities to meet the challenges of the season, including Deanna’s reduced hours. Some highlights of what we accomplished include:

  • offering musical offerings of a range of difficulties and configurations at 9am and 10am services
  • developing and refining routines for an intentionally hybrid, eclectic music ministry that’s sustainable long-term
  • continuing to experiment with a come-as-you-are, all-ages Orff bell ensemble

To all ensemble participants; guest musicians of all stripes; folks who manage the library and technology behind-the-scenes; donors; and the congregation: thank you for your continued support!


Outreach Annual Report 2022

St. Dunstan’s Outreach Ministries are many and varied, including gifts of time, service, and monetary donations.  We gratefully acknowledge the many gifts of human and financial resources in support of Outreach from other individuals and ministries within the St. Dunstan’s family.

In 2022, the Outreach Committee used monetary donations and in person volunteer hours to address the following concerns: disaster relief, food insecurity, lack of shelter and housing, eviction prevention, refugee resettlement, LGBTQ+ rights/safety, and criminal justice reform.

The Outreach Ministries Committee holds meetings on the last Saturday of the Month.  The meetings are currently held at 9:30am, via zoom. We welcome new voices and new concerns; please consider joining us! Contact Evy  if you would like to be added to the Outreach e-mail distribution list we use to keep members informed about upcoming Outreach meetings and related activities.   If you have issues you would like us to address or organizations you would like to support you can either email them directly to Evy or fill out the outreach input form at this link

St. Dunstan’s Outreach Allocations in 2022

Every year, St. Dunstan’s sets aside a percentage of the budgeted pledged income to be allocated to organizations locally and internationality that serve those in need.  In 2022St. Dunstan’s Outreach Committee allocated  $17997 to the following organizations and projects:

Middleton Outreach Ministry, Bread for World, MOSES, Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee-Newala, GSAFE (creating safer schools for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin), East H.S. Food Pantry, Jewish Social Services/ refugee resettlement program, Second Harvest, The Beacon, Just Dane for Healing House, Mr. Bob’s Under the Bridge, Briarpatch Youth Services, Badger Needs Network, Grace Food Pantry, Tenant Resource Center, Mennonite Central Committee/Ukraine, Bstrong/Ukraine, and the Diocesan Haiti Partnership.

St. Dunstan’s Outreach Endowment Fund

This year the outreach committee sought congregational input on the distribution of grants from the outreach endowment fund.  The fund was established in 1995, by the vestry and is managed by Diocese of Milwaukee Trustees of Funds and Endowments.   Annually the outreach committee makes recommendations to the vestry for spending a percentage (aprx. 5%) of the fund to provide donations to organizations addressing basic human needs.   50 people participated in the voting process and the votes were very close.   The organizations that received the most votes were The Road Home and Allied Food Pantry.  Both organizations received $2,500 from the outreach fund.

Outreach Core Ministries and Volunteer Opportunities 

There are several core ministries that St. Dunstan’s invests volunteer time and resources in on a continual basis.  These are just a few of them.

 Outreach MOSES Ministry

Since 2018, St. Dunstan’s has been a Member of MOSES – “Madison Organizing in Strength, Equity and Solidarity for Criminal Legal System Reform” – a non-partisan interfaith organization that works to promote social justice with a focus on ending mass incarceration. In doing so, MOSES seeks to deliver a message of hope, healing, and unity that reaches beyond the divisions of race, creed, and socioeconomic status. MOSES provides many opportunities for volunteer participation at various levels, such as helping at a MOSES-sponsored event; serving on a MOSES task force or committee; or making a tax-deductible financial donation to MOSES. In 2021 and 2022, St. Dunstan’s served as the host location for an annual rummage sale to raise funds for MOSES – over $2,700 was raised for MOSES at the 2022 rummage sale, thanks in part to members of St. Dunstan’s who supported this event by donating items and being present to help as needed. For more information about MOSES, visit their website at 


Middleton Outreach Ministry has been able to navigate many transitions during this past year. They have continued to provide food and housing assistance in a number of ways. At the end of August, MOM expanded to in-person shopping four days a week and continued the drive-thru, delivery and mobile services. This past November saw 100,000 pounds of food distributed along with 8600 pounds of clothing. They supported more families in the Connections housing program so they could move out of doubled-up living arrangements and into homes of their own. Currently 15 families involved in this program have received housing, and will continue to have one year of support from MOM. Also, MOM special events have provided needed assistance during the year—600 students received backpacks and school supplies through the Back to School Program; 432 Thanksgiving meals were distributed; and the Winter Wishes program provided over 500 households with gift cards. St. Dunstan’s Outreach

Committee has continued its support of these very important community services with monetary donations, volunteers, as well as participation in the past year’s Winter Wishes program. Thank you, St.Dunstan’s for helping us contribute in so many ways to provide the assistance needed to sustain the good works of Middleton Outreach Ministry.

Healing House

Healing House, located at 303 Lathrop Street in Madison, is an 8 bed facility, providing 24/7 recuperative care for homeless families who have been released from the hospital or who need care to prepare for a surgery or medical procedure.   Families are cared for by medically trained staff and volunteers and can stay for up to 28 days. The Healing House provides clients with three meals a day, child care assistance, and case management to end the cycle of homelessness.  St. Dunstan’s is a part of group of organizations brought together by The Road Home to provide meals to families staying at the Healing House.   The next week St. Dunstan’s will be supplying food for Healing House is February 19 -25, 2023.

Grocery Shopping for Refugees/ Jewish Social Services

Humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and elsewhere have displaced millions of people. Some of these people and families who have been arriving to the United States under UN humanitarian parolee status are being resettled in Madison under the management of  Jewish Social Services. We wanted to support them in a tangible way, something more than simply writing a check. To that end, beginning in August of 2022, the St. Dunstan’s Outreach Committee and a team of volunteers has been helping JSS with their important work by shopping for and delivering groceries for new households who are arriving in Madison. This fills an important gap between the time of their arrival and when their food benefits can be applied for and processed. The shopping list reflects the cuisine of their country of origin. So when they are going through so much stress as they settle into their new home, they have familiar foods waiting for them, in the fridge. The Committee allocated $1500 in 2022 to reimburse congregation members for buying groceries.  Funds not spent on grocery shopping were sent to Second Harvest Food Bank. Since last August, we have had the privilege to assist 7 households from Congo, Afghanistan, and Syria as they have settled into our community.

Diaper Drive – Pantries are almost always looking for large-sized diapers. We held a diaper drive again this year, and were able to donate over 5900 diapers to pantries. A child needs approximately 6500 diapers between birth and potty training. Many families in our area are struggling financially, and they have to make tough decisions about whether to buy much-needed diapers or groceries or pay their rent. The Wisconsin FoodShare program (food stamps) does not cover diapers, other personal care items, or household cleaners. Decisions must be made all the time about how to spend the small amount of money coming in. Imagine wanting and needing to change your baby’s diaper because you know it’s dirty, but you only have a couple diapers left and no money with which to buy more diapers. Furthermore, families often don’t have the money to buy economy-sized boxes or the time to watch for sales. 

This year, we donated diapers and wipes to the following organizations: Allied Drive Food Pantry, Karen’s Essential Center (a pantry in the Elver Park area), Healing House, and Reach Out Lodi (a pantry in Lodi). Thank you very much for your incredible generosity!

Creation Care Annual Report

St. Dunstan’s as a parish has carried a commitment to creation care since its earliest years, when the first rector Bob Childs planted exotic conifers around the grounds. In 2016 we gathered a Creation Care Task Force and created our Creation Care Mission Statement: . Here are some ways we are living it out this year…. 

This area of ministry currently has more energy than organization! We could really use a facilitator or co-facilitators for a Creation Care team, to gather us every couple of months to share ideas and updates, identify and move along various projects, and so on. 

Installing Solar Panels

Installing solar panels on the main building (spring/summer 2023). Thanks to two major gifts and a small Solar for Good grant from RENEW Wisconsin, we are moving forward with this project, which should cover about 75% of our usual electricity use at the main building. (There will be additional costs, though how Inflation Reduction Act provisions apply to us is still to be determined so we don’t have exact numbers yet.) We’re really excited to be able to generate our own energy (and reduce our utility bills!) In this way. 

The Walnut Syrup Project

Last year, starting in early February, we placed 8 taps into 4 trees at three different locations on the church grounds.  It took a while before they started actually dripping sap, but over the full season weeks, we collected somewhere around 50 gallons of sap. We did some preliminary boiling indoors on a stove along the way to help in preserving the sap and reducing the volume we were storing, and on March 26, 2022 we had our first ever sap boil using a stove constructed from cinder blocks, a few bricks, a stove pipe and a steam tray pan. We ended up doing a second boil as well, and ultimately ended up with a little shy of 1 gallon of Black Walnut Syrup. 2 pints of the syrup went home with the makers. A small amount was offered as tasting samples at the church, some of it was used in some tartlets for the pie brunch this last fall,  and a quart was given as a  gift alongside the check that St. Dunstans made to the Wisconsin Inter-Tribal Repatriation Committee. The remainder of last year’s syrup will be available to have on pancakes at the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper.

– Submitted by Phil. Talk to Phil or Carrie about this project! 

The Grounds Mapping Project

For years we have needed an up to date digital map of the property that shows particular features, including things like our permaculture plot and other useful plants. After getting conversant with the appropriate software in 2022, John L. plans to work on some mapping this year, including at least a basic map and a map that notes memorials on the property, such as trees and benches. If you have other mapping ideas, talk with Rev. Miranda or John! 


Sermon, Christmas Eve, 3PM

This is a story about big and small. 

God is big. 

Not big like a whale or a tall building or the ocean. 

Big like you can’t even find the edges, where God begins and ends. 

Big like you can’t find the beginning when God wasn’t yet. 

Big like everywhere, like always. 

God is so big that nobody is more or less important to God.

God can know and love each star and every dog. 

God knows how many hairs are on your head, and still has time to be present with a parent grieving in Ukraine and an elephant giving birth in Botswana. 

God is big. 

But a baby is small. 

Who’s seen a newborn baby?

Who has held one? … 

They’re pretty small, right? 

Small and floppy and helpless. 

The heart of this story, the story we tell today, the reason it’s important, is this:

God who is big, SO big, became as small as a newborn baby. And why? To come close to us. 

It’s a big mystery, a strange thing to think about! 

It’s the kind of thing that is easier to talk about with poems and music and art, than to explain it like a lesson at school.

Let’s talk a little more about big and little. Let’s do a quiz.

Is an elephant big or little?

Is a chipmunk big or little? 

Is an ocean big or little?

Is a puddle big or little? 

Is ice cream big or little? 

Is a star big or little?

Is dawn big or little?

Is a sprouting seed big or little?… 

Has anybody ever grown a seed & watched it sprout? 

I learned something interesting a couple of weeks ago. 

The Bible wasn’t written in English. English didn’t exist yet! 

Parts of it were written in a language called Hebrew, and parts of it were written in a language called Greek.

And in Greek, there’s a word that can mean two things: 

It can mean dawn, sunrise. When the sun comes over the horizon and starts to light up the whole sky and everything under the sky.

Did we decide dawn is little or big? 

That Greek word can also mean a seed sprouting, breaking through the ground to stick up a tiny green sprout.

Did we decide that a sprouting seed is little or big? …

It says in the Bible that Jesus’ birth is like a kind of dawn.

Like the sun rising on people who have been sitting and waiting in the dark for so, so long.

And maybe Jesus’ birth is also like a sprouting seed. Like life springing up where you couldn’t see anything alive, before…

Dawn is big and a sprouting seed is tiny, but they can both be held in the same word. Pretty cool! 

The thing about dawn and a sprouting seed is that they both make you think things are going to keep happening, right?

Dawn is just the very very beginning of morning, of a new day.

And a sprouting seed is the very, very beginning of a plant. Maybe of a field, or a garden, or a forest. Who knows? 

There are so many things a sprouting seed could become.

You have to keep watching and pay attention and find out. 

In the Christmas story, when God is born as a human baby, God comes to us as something very small. 

But that’s not the only way God shows up in the little things. 

When we read the Bible and listen to the Spirit and learn from the saints and wise ones of the faith, we learn about God’s purposes, God’s intentions, how God means things to be.

Things like kindness and peace, justice and making things right, healing what hurts, building better ways and worlds, helping people have enough, helping people be their real true selves. 

When we watch and pay attention, we might notice the small ways God is nudging those things along.

And we might notice the little ways we have a chance to join in and help move the world towards kindness and justice. 

Like putting out food for the birds when it’s snowy. 

Or listening to someone who’s struggling. 

Or sharing with people who don’t have enough.

Or writing a letter to a leader to ask them to do the right thing. 

We need some big changes, too; we all now that.

But it’s important to tend to the little things.

Little things can be beginnings. 

Little things can add up.

Little things can matter in big ways. 

I like to give people a gift on Christmas Eve. My gift this year is to help you remember to tend to little things. 

It’s a little box, and inside is an even littler baby Jesus. … 

Advent Song Cycle, Week 0 – PREPARE

As our home-grown Advent resource this season we are offering a Song Cycle – with a song each week, a keyword, and some activity and prayer suggestions. This post is for Week 0, the week BEFORE Advent begins – November 20th through 26th.

This Week’s Word: PREPARE

This Week’s Song: “People, Look East!”

1. People, look East! The time is near of the crowning of the year. 

Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.

People, look East and sing today: Love the Guest is on the way!

Read the whole poem at this link:

Listen and learn the tune here:

People, Look East was written by Eleanor Farjeon, who lived from 1881 to 1965, and published in 1928. Farjeon was a British children’s author and poet. She wrote wonderful short stories and poems, and her Christian faith was often part of her work. She also wrote another well-known hymn, “Morning has Broken” (#8 in our Hymnal). 

In this song, Farjeon uses different images to help us think about preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus at Christmas: Guest, Rose, Bird, Star, Lord. 

Why look East? East is the direction of the rising sun. In the Bible, many texts describe God’s salvation as coming from the East. Many churches face towards the East for this reason. 


How to say “Prepare” in ASL:  Hold your hands in front of you, a little to one side, palms facing each other, with some space between them. 

Now, keeping your hands in the same position with facing palms, move them across in front of your body, making a small loop-the-loop as you go. 

Watch the sign here at this link:


Which way is East, at your house? Which was is East, at church? 

Try finding East in other places you often go. 

Notice the sunrise! 

PRAYER PRACTICE for this week…

Clean, tidy, or decorate, prayerfully. Prayer doesn’t have to involve sitting still, or reading the words of a prayer from a book. Washing dishes, clearing a table to make room for your Advent wreath, unboxing seasonal decorations, preparing food for yourself or people you love – all of these can be prayerful acts.

Just turn your heart towards God before you begin, and try to do what you are doing with your full attention, focused on the task and what it means to you. 

HANDS-ON PROJECT: Prepare your Advent wreath!

This is a good week to prepare your Advent wreath, so you are ready for Advent to begin on Sunday the 27th. Maybe you have a wreath already, and you just need to get it out and set it up. Maybe you don’t have one, and you need to get materials from church or shop for some candles you like. We have simple Advent candles, and booklets with Advent prayers to use, available at church. Reach out to Rev. Miranda if you need to pick something up, or have something dropped off! 

The Advent wreath has roots in pre-Christian Europe, when evergreens and candles were symbols of the persistence of life and light through the dark and frozen winter. In the Middle Ages, the custom was Christianized and became a way for families to observe Advent at home. 

An Advent wreath can be as simple as four candles – they don’t even have to match! Pillar, jar, or votive candles work well. Set up your candles/wreath somewhere central in your home, like the center of the table where you usually eat. You can decorate your wreath or candles however you like – evergreen cuttings, pine cones, ribbons, whatever feels pretty and special for the season. Purple and blue are traditional Advent colors, but you don’t have to use them. 

When you sit down for dinner, or at another quiet moment in your evening, light a candle (or two, or three, or four) and spend a moment praying or just enjoying the light. During the first week of Advent (after the first Sunday of Advent), light one candle; after the second Sunday, light two candles, and so on. You may add a fifth candle to light at Christmas. Adding lights week by week, as it grows darker and darker outside, helps us enter into the anticipation of the season. 


These texts offer some other ways to think about preparing for Christmas.  Click the links to read the poems and texts! 

What is the crying at Jordan? – by Carol Christopher Drake; Hymn #69 in our hymnal.

Making the House Ready for the Lord (Mary Oliver, 1935 – 2019)

The Guest House,  by Jalaluddin Rumi 

Yes, by William Stafford

Homily, All-Ages Worship, Feb. 27

Today we heard stories about two people who came so close to God that it made them GLOW. Like a light bulb! 

First was Moses. God chose Moses to be the great leader of God’s people. To lead them to freedom, after they had been enslaved in Egypt; though their long journey in the wilderness until they finally come to a land where they could settle. 

Who remembers how long that journey was? …  

During that wilderness time, Moses talks to God to learn how the people are supposed to live as God’s chosen people. And he teaches them. 

There’s a lot that happens in this story, isn’t there? Moses and God are talking up on the holy mountain, and I guess they lose track of time, and the people get impatient.  “Why are we just sitting here in the literal middle of nowhere? How do we know that there’s actually a god who is leading and protecting us? Maybe we should just make our own god…” 

That doesn’t work out so well, does it? … 

But at the end of the story, Moses comes down from the mountain after talking to God again, and his face SHINES.  So much that people feel afraid to go near him! So much that he wears a veil – a fabric covering – to hide the light. 

It seems like he’s been in God’s presence so much that a little of God’s divine glory has rubbed off on him. Or maybe it’s like glow in the dark stuff, where you have to hold it near a light source for a while to charge it before it will glow. Maybe Moses is a special kind of glow in the dark that is activated by being near God’s light. Maybe we all are!

And then we have a story about Jesus being up on a mountain, and coming close to God. Jesus’ friends, Peter and James and John, see him speaking to two men – Moses and Elijah, two great prophets and leaders of God’s people. 

When this story happens, Moses and Elijah had lived a long, long time ago, so I don’t know how Jesus’ friends knew who they were. They didn’t have photographs! Maybe Jesus told them. 

And God is there, too – God the Father, Creator, and Source. God is in the mysterious cloud, and in the Voice that says, “This is my Son, the chosen one; listen to him!” 

Now, Jesus is a human being, but Jesus is also God. So it seems like what happens here is that some of Jesus’ inner Godness shines out. And that made me think about a little project we did at my house recently. 

We found out that if you pour melted chocolate on something called a diffraction grating, then the chocolate becomes very special. 

Look, here’s the diffraction grating. And here’s some chocolate. It just looks like normal chocolate right now…. But when I tilt it so that a bright light is shining on it, you can see all these rainbows! It doesn’t look ordinary any more, does it? 

So maybe Jesus was a little like that. Most of the time when you looked at him you just saw an ordinary person. But when the light of God the Father and Creator shined directly on him, it made him shine too… 

So far we’ve been talking about special people: Moses and Jesus. 

But the apostle Paul says that these stories are about us, too. That coming close to God and shining with God’s light is for all of us. 

In one of his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul writes, “All of us with face unveiled are mirroring the Lord’s glory, and we are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Lord’s spirit.” (Hart) 

Paul is drawing together these two stories, here! He’s thinking about Moses’ veil. And he’s thinking about Jesus being transformed on the mountain top, so that he shines with holy light 

When Paul says “the Lord,” he means Jesus. So he’s saying, We can be mirrors that reflect Jesus’ glory, Jesus’ brightness, Jesus’ goodness. We can embrace that, without veiling our faces or hiding the light. And over time we might reflect Jesus better and better, as our lives and hearts match his life and his heart more and more. 

So, Paul says, Let God’s light shine through you! Reflect Jesus’ light! 

I wonder how we could do that? 

Maybe by trying to be patient, and kind, and understanding, like we heard in Paul’s letter about love, last week. 

Maybe by being generous to others without worrying about what will come back to us, and praying for our enemies, and loving people even when they’re kind of hard to love, like Jesus said in the part of his sermon that we heard last week. 

We get lots of guidance from the Bible about how to live as God’s people and as followers of Jesus. Today’s texts tell us that when we try to make those kinds of choices and live that kind of life,  it’s not JUST that we’re following God’s hopes for us. It’s not JUST that these choices help us be people who add to the amount of wholeness and love and joy in the world. 

It’s also that when we let ourselves reflect the light of Jesus, the light of God, we might shine a little light into somebody else’s life. That light might bless them or comfort them. 

And if they’re looking for God, that light, the light of God that you are reflecting, might help them start to find their way towards God. Like it says in the song we sometimes sing: Let your little light shine, shine, shine – there might be somebody down in the valley trying to get home! 

Today is the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany. We talk a lot about light in Epiphany! The light of the star that leads the Wise Ones to find the baby Jesus… the Light of God’s promises dawning on God’s people… the Light of God’s presence in the face of Jesus, shining on the mountaintop. 

Let’s end Epiphany by singing about letting our little lights shine, one more time… knowing that we don’t have to make the light; we just have to let God’s light shine through us… 

Fall Fellowship & Learning Opportunities, 2021

This fall and winter, our adult formation and fellowship offerings focus on forming small trusted networks – whether oriented around a shared journey like grief, parenting, or discernment, or simply a small group that meets often to share and pray.  Eighteen months of pandemic life have shown many of us that we need more trusted friends to help sustain us in difficult times – and one of the most important ways people grow in faith is in conversation with other faithful folks. So I’m excited to be able to offer the opportunities below.

Besides these new offerings, there are existing groups within the church that always welcome new members, including the Wednesday and Saturday book groups, and the Monday morning art group. (All are currently meeting online, but hope to return to in-person in time.) Our youth groups also function as holy communities for those who participate. New kids are always welcome, even if they’re not otherwise involved in church or attend another church.

If you feel a tug towards gathering with a smaller group of fellow Dunstanites, but don’t see something here that feels like the right fit – or even have an interest in convening your own group – let Rev. Miranda know!

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, talk to Rev. Miranda, call the office at 608-238-2781, or use the Contact Us form on this site.


Contemplative Prayer Group: Jamie S.  would like to convene a small group that will meet on Wednesday evenings (7:30 – 8:45) three times a month to explore and practice different approaches to contemplative prayer together. This group will get started in October. It will gather online at first, with the option to move to in-person when circumstances permit.

Weekly Fellowship Group: Marian and Chris B. will also be convening a small group to meet on Thursdays at 7pm, for regular conversation and shared prayer.

Bereavement Group: Grieving the loss of a loved one is the most difficult and painful of life’s experiences.  Maybe your grief is recent, or perhaps a long-ago grief still often comes to mind. Join a circle of companions who are going through similar experiences. Healing often begins when people are able to share their grief stories, their struggles, their questions, and what is helping them come to terms with their situation. The group will be facilitated by Gloria Alt, spiritual guide and Certified Bereavement Companion through the Grief Training Center of Wisconsin. We will meet over Zoom Thursday evenings from 6:30-8, or Saturday mornings from 9-10:30.  The groups will meet for 6 weeks beginning September 23/25.

Group Spiritual Direction: Do you ever feel you’d like to meet with others who are on a path to encounter the Holy more deeply?  Group Spiritual Direction is an opportunity for a small group (3-4 people plus facilitator) to meet on a regular basis to support one another in their spiritual lives. The unique process for Group Spiritual Direction incorporates times of silence, structured times for sharing for each individual, and group response arising out of reflection and intercessory prayer. The group would meet every other week for 4 sessions, with the possibility of going on after that if group members wish to do so. (There would be a nominal charge per session if the group continues; cost should never be a barrier to participation.)  The group will be facilitated by Gloria Alt, a trained spiritual guide. The group could be focused on Discernment and Transition, for those exploring a new season in life; on Grief and Loss; or on general reflection on life and where God is at work.


Spirituality of Parenting is a monthly gathering after the 10am service. People for whom parenting is part of your spiritual journey are invited to a time of sharing and mutual support. This offering will be hybrid, with the opportunity to join in person or online.

Drop-In Heart Check is a monthly opportunity for shared reflection on the week, using the tools of the Ignatian Examen. (You don’t have to be familiar with the Examen to participate!) We will gather after the 10am service. This offering will be hybrid, with the opportunity to join in person or online.

Younger Adult Gathering: There is interest in re-convening a monthly Younger Adult Gathering – for folks under 40, more or less. If you’re interested, let Rev. Miranda know! I’m especially looking for people to help plan and convene these gatherings.

FOR KIDS & YOUTH…  We’ll begin the year with outdoor Sunday school for all ages, during 10am in-person worship on Sept. 12 and 19, and continuing in October.  StoryChurch on Sunday evenings will continue as an online offering for younger children.
Take-home materials will be available for those who prefer to stay away from in-person gatherings for now.
A Scripture Drama Club will meet after 10AM church once a month to prepare a drama for the following Sunday. This gathering will be hybrid – you can join in person or online, and we welcome actors for both Zoom and in-person church.
Our Middle High Youth Group will continue to meet over Zoom this fall, while our High School Youth Group expects to start meeting in person soon.

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.