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Drawn homeward: A Christmas message from Bishop Gates 

My parishioner, Ed, was an electrical engineer. During World War II he worked on a highly secret project involving long-wave radio technology. Later he learned the purpose of the technology he'd helped to perfect. It was used to construct navigational beacons placed throughout the Pacific theater, enabling naval air pilots to find their way back home.


Imagine. Hundreds of miles from home base, alone, vulnerable, high above a vast expanse of featureless sea. Then to be reached by a beacon that said, "Come this way.  Come to safety.  Come to your place of renewal and reorientation." 


The frightened pilot set course, eagerly responding to the homing signal which said, "Come!"

When we buried Ed he was well into his 90s, having lived a long and fulfilling life. I imagined him, as he died, catching hold of the eternal version of that radio signal he had once helped to invent a beacon to draw him to a place of security and rest, a deep homing instinct that said, "Come!"


These past weeks I've been watching Canada geese wing their way south. They head someplace warm, I imagine, to sunbathe and sip tropical smoothies while you and I remain behind to catch cold and shovel snow. But one fine day something will strike those geese deep within and, right on cue, they will fly back north, against all odds of weather and distance. Like those pilots over the Pacific, they'll respond to an unseen homing signal which says, "Come!"


Two thousand years ago, on a quiet night in the hills, a group of poor and forgotten shepherds were drawn to a stable to see a child. Why did they come? Socially unacceptable to many, they were not likely to be welcomed in the crowded town. The message of the angels was unlikely at best, frightening at worst. Yet still, they came. Against all common sense and social convention, some deep homing instinct said, "Come!"


That same week, hundreds of miles to the east, a group of scholars set out to discover the meaning of a new star. They would travel to Bethlehem--but why? The journey would be long, perhaps a fool's errand. Of what consequence was the birth of a new king for a people not their own? Yet across lines of race and creed and many a mile, some deep homing instinct said, "Come!"



Bishop Harris reflects on Holy Land pilgrimage 

Bishop Gayle Harris led her annual mission pilgrimage to the Holy Land Nov. 24-Dec. 6, along with the Rev. Debbie Phillips of Grace Church, Salem. The trip combined visits to holy sites, in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Jordan 

The 2017 pilgrims. Courtesy photo. 

Valley, Nazareth, Galilee, Nablus and Ramallah, with opportunities to learn about active mission in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem through its ministries of education, healthcare and peacemaking.


The trip coincided with President Trump's controversial statement that the United States would begin recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which was announced near the end of the trip. Harris said that for people of all faiths who have hoped and worked for peace, the announcement was a crushing blow.


Against this backdrop, Harris found herself asked to offer some words of hope. The group spent the first Sunday of Advent at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Ramallah, where the priest, Father Fadi, invited Harris to speak in lieu of his sermon. Read the reflection she offered here. 


Vigil to #EndGunViolence

Bishop Alan M. Gates was among the leaders participating in a Dec. 14 vigil honoring victims of gun violence, hosted by First Church in Boston and co-sponsored by the diocese's B-PEACE for Jorge antiviolence campaign and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.  It was an occasion to join in remembrance and prayer, and a call to action.


Lighting candles in remembrance of gun violence victims. Photo: Adnan Onart 

Candles were lit in remembrance of 2017 Boston victims of gun violence, with the vigil as a whole intended as a memorial to all victims and as a call for further commitment to work to reduce gun violence in all communities.


"We are gathered tonight, on the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre.  We remember the 20 children aged six to seven, and the six adults, who were gunned down that day.  And remember we should," Gates said.  "Yet it bears noting that on a quiet Sunday in December, five years later, as we all went about our business reading the Sunday paper, Christmas shopping, watching a football game--on that quiet Sunday 38 people were shot and killed.  That's 12 more than died at Sandy Hook.  Not that it's a contest!  Death statistics are not a competition.  Grief is not a contest.  But it is constant.  It is constant, and to our shame as a nation, we seem barely to notice."  Read in full here.





20 years of administrative ministry marked as Steve Pierce takes leave: 

Bishop Gates awards Steve Pierce with the Consultant of the Year award. Courtesy photo. 

Longtime diocesan staff member Steve Pierce ended his tenure on Dec. 14 after 20 years of serving congregations in various capacities, first as chief financial officer, later as a deputy chief of staff and most recently as coordinator for congregations.


His position was eliminated as part of the diocesan staff reorganization announced in October. In January Pierce will move on to become the new administrative director of the Church Home Society, succeeding Roberta Tripp upon her retirement from that position.


"The Church Home Society is a wonderful organization that makes grants for programs for youth at risk.  For me, at age 69, what could be better than to be a part of that?  It's a wonderful opportunity, and I feel really great about it," Pierce said in an interview.


His new part-time position will allow him to continue his training in spiritual direction and to explore consulting opportunities as time allows, he said.


Pierce's work as coordinator for congregations over the past nine years focused on churches in the process of merging or closing.  He's comfortable talking about endings and beginnings.  

"We sometimes forget that between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we have Holy Saturday, which is a time to just be, to remember all that has happened and to grieve changes.  Having done that, when Easter resurrection happens, you are prepared to embrace it more wholly," he said. Read more. 


Acting dean concludes term at Cathedral Church of St. Paul:  The Rev. Nancy E. Gossling has announced her decision to conclude her term as acting dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston on Jan. 6.


The Rev. Nancy E. Gossling 

Bishop Alan M. Gates appointed Gossling to the position in February 2017 for an expected period of six to nine months while discernment and a search process got underway for a permanent successor to retired former dean Jep Streit.


"As the search has taken longer than I anticipated, Nancy has stayed on beyond our agreement and will have given us 11 months, for which I am deeply grateful," Gates said.


"Nancy has served tirelessly to use this interim period as a time for evaluating structural systems of organization at the cathedral.  She has advanced our experience of using the cathedral's renovated space for community and diocesan events, as a center for advocacy and in furtherance of the creative arts.  She has extended gracious and orderly hospitality for diocesan events.  Nancy has done all of these things during a time when she was also providing leadership as co-chair of the diocesan Mission Strategy Implementation Organizing Team," Gates said.


"I continue to discern the next right leader for the permanent position of cathedral dean, and will call upon other leadership as needed to bridge the period until that search is complete," he said.



Epiphany Lessons and Carols at the Cathedral: The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, in collaboration with St. James's Church in Cambridge, invites all to an "Anti-Oppression Lessons and Carols" service for the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6 at 1 PM.  Celebrating the meeting of diverse worlds at the manger, the service aims to acknowledge that diversity is always both a challenge to and an opportunity for the growth of the human spirit.  In readings from both Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament, the service will offer sacred stories of alienation, abuse, violence, denial and marginalization, as well as ones of loyalty, homage, reconciliation and courage, and the singing of freedom songs - some old, some new. 


In all that is heard, sung and embodied in this liturgy, participants will be invited to rededicate themselves to truth telling, healing and standing in solidarity with others who are subject to social prejudice and persecution, seeking to participate in Christ's merciful and creative love.  Finally, in the Eucharist, those gathered will be invited to give thanks to God for the reconciliation offered through Christ and pray for the spirit of justice and peace to dwell among and within each of us, and be sent forth into the Epiphany season.  Bishop Gayle Harris will celebrate the Eucharist. 


St. James's Minister of Music Pat Michaels will lead the music (and wrote several of the pieces). St. James's Choir invites any and all singers from anywhere in the diocese to join in the Offertory Anthem, The Storm Is Passing Over.  If you would like to join the choir, please email Pat Michaels at to get a copy of the music, then come early - at 11 AM - and join in rehearsing that piece. Sandwiches will be served afterward, before the service itself begins.


The Rev. Holly Antolini of St. James's, Cambridge invited all to join, writing: "Let this be for our encouragement to continue working and praying for the healing of the wounds of oppression in Christ's Body and the whole of God's people, and for God's wholeness and shalom to be realized at last!" 


Advent around our diocese: 

Labyrinth walk at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. 


The Christmas pageant at St. Paul's, Bedford. 


Decking the halls at Good Shepherd, Acton. 


Christingle service at St. John's, Newtonville (the Christingle story). 


Christmas pageant at St. Luke's, Fall River. 





Vineyard Gazette: Vineyard clergy hold vigil on anniversary of Sandy Hook shooting: A group of Martha's Vineyard clergy gathered Thursday morning, Dec. 14 in Owen Park, to march and stand in vigil on the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six school employees died in the shooting at the hands of a 20-year-old man who lived near the school.


The group marched silently carrying signs with Scripture verses through town to Five Corners, where about 20 other people joined the vigil. The clergy solemnly read the names of the teachers and the children who died on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012. After each group of names was read, the clergy offered a personal prayer.


"They were taken away," said the Rev. Vincent G. (Chip) Seadale of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. "Their cherished teachers loved and protected them to the end." Read more.


Dartmouth VillageSoup: The Bridge Center for Healing and Hope expanding youth programing: Four years ago and shortly after arriving in Dartmouth, the Rev. Scott Ciosek looked at empty space at St Peter's Church's 351 Elm Street location, and was determined to fill that void with something that made a difference in people's lives. 


That vision turned into The Bridge: A Center for Hope and Healing, which opened inside a house attached to the church in 2015. The nonprofit organization offers one-on-one counseling services, support groups, group programs, wellness programs and other services to help those in the community.


"It was a desire in our hearts to open our doors to anyone in the community in need of support and hope and healing," Ciosek said, adding that despite being housed in a church, all are welcome regardless of who they are or where they are in life.


Now, less than two years after opening, Ciosek and his staff of 11 psychotherapists, office administrators, and spiritual and homeopathic experts are preparing to take that mission a step further: expand its services to kids and teens, amid an unprecedented demand for youth services. Read more.


Patriot Ledger: Plymouth group gets shelter started for another winter: 

With overnight temperatures starting to dip below freezing, a small but dedicated group of volunteers is mobilizing to ensure that the community's homeless population has a warm place to sleep.


In partnership with Father Bill's and MainSpring, the Plymouth Task Force to End Homelessness started its Overnights of Hospitality program for the season last weekend.

The program offers overnight shelter to homeless people from November to March at two local churches, Christ Church Episcopal and the First Baptist Church. In addition to a warm place to spent the night, those who take advantage of the program receive a warm meal. Read more


Boston Globe: Volunteers, homeless gather for Thanksgiving lunch: 

Kenneth Thopsen lived in Florida until Hurricane Irma forced him out. At 45 years old, he journeyed north to Massachusetts - losing his luggage in the process - to stay with family members in the Berkshires.


"I went out there and I didn't really connect with them," Thopsen said. Now, he is one of thousands of homeless individuals in Boston. As he began to set up his new life, trying to find housing and health care, he turned to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul on Tremont Street, across from Boston Common. "The church here has been a big part of helping me stay off the streets, away from drugs and alcohol," Thopsen said.


On Thanksgiving Day, Thopsen was one of at least 200 people who came to the church for a holiday lunch. In an e-mail to the Globe, Rev. Tina Rathbone called the event a "topsy-turvy beauty."  MANNA, a ministry focused on the homeless, hosted the event, in partnership with the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and monks from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. Read more. 




"The story behind the story"--Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry's Christmas message for 2017:  "In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul says, 'If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new is come.'  At a point in that passage, St. Paul says, 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself,' and he also says at another point in the same passage, 'and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.'


Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry 

"Have you ever gone to the movies or read a story or a novel, and the novel starts with the end, so you know where the story ends, but then the rest of the story or the novel is actually the story behind the story. We know about Christmas. We know about Mary.  We know about Joseph. We know about the angels singing Gloria in excelsis deo. We know from our childhood the animals in the stable. We know of the magi who come from afar, arriving around Epiphany, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know of the angels singing in the heavens, and the star that shown above them.  Therein is the story.


"But the story behind the story is what St. Paul was talking about."  Watch the video message here.


Live, work, pray around the world:  Young adults (21-30 years old) have an opportunity to transform their own lives while engaging mission and ministry in the Anglican Communion by joining the the Episcopal Church's Young Adult Service Corps, commonly known as YASC. 


Currently YASCers are serving throughout the Anglican Communion, working alongside partners in administration, agriculture, communication, development and education. They are serving in Brazil, Costa Rica, England, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania.


"The Young Adult Service Corps offers young adults the opportunity to live out their faith in new ways and different contexts," Elizabeth Boe, Episcopal Church Mission Personnel Officer, said in a news release from the church's Public Affairs Office. "They commit to spending a year learning from and working, living and praying with other Episcopal and Anglican communities around the world."


The application for a 2018-2019 placement, with additional information and instructions, is available here.  The application deadline is Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.




Coming Up 


Dec 20: Contemplative Eucharist, Bethany House of Prayer, Arlington, 7:00pm

Dec 24: Christmas Eve at the Cathedral, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 7:30pm

Dec 27: Sung Compline with Candlelight, St. John's Church, Sharon, 7:00pm

Jan 4: Priesthood Ordination: Amanda March, St. Paul's Church, Newton Highlands, 6:00pm

Jan 6: Budget Committee Meeting, Church of the Advent, Boston, 9:00am

Jan 6: Priesthood Ordination: Duncan Hilton, St. Michael's Church, Brattleboro, 10:30am

Jan 6: Anti-Oppression Lessons and Carols for Epiphany, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 1:00pm

Jan 7: Bishop Gates visits St. Anne's Church in North Billerica, 9:00am

Jan 7: Bishop Harris visits Church of Our Saviour in Arlington, 9:00am

Jan 12: Labyrinth Walk, Church of the Holy Spirit, Orleans, 10:00am

Jan 14: Bishop Gates visits St. Andrew's Church in Methuen, 9:00am

Jan 14: Bishop Harris visits Groton School in Groton, 9:00am

Jan 19-20: Diocesan Council Retreat, Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, Greenfield, NH 

Jan 21: Bishop Gates visits Trinity Church in Haverhill, 9:00am

Jan 21: Bishop Harris visits Christ Church & St. Peter in Waltham, 9:00am

Jan 21: Evensong at Groton School, Groton, 7:00pm

Jan 27: Boston Harbor Deanery Confirmation, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 10:30am

Jan 28: Bishop Gates visits Parish of St. Chrysostom in Quincy, 9:00am







January 17, 2018
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Walpole, MA  02081


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