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News & Resources: Spiritual Spot

Welcome! 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

You'll find here occasional writings, a few rants, and hopefully some insights too, about Christian discipleship, the Episcopal Church, and on faith community's life at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, Massachusetts. At the Epiphany we understand ourselves to be "a welcoming Episcopal community, united in God, called to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to transform the world with love and generosity."


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  • February 22, 2024 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A hand watering a small plantWe’re a week deep into Lent, and we can hear, see, and feel it in our worship together. Our service was book-ended by changes this past Sunday. We started with the Great Litany – the choir, cross, acolytes and ministers weaving up and down and around the sanctuary while Rev Nick cantored and we responded. And we ended worship with “Thanks be to God.” Full stop. No alleluia, alleluia, to be heard.

    Over in the Chapel the children thought about these strange, somber alterations. Why the new ritual? What’s wrong with “alleluia”? What do we make of it all?  

    We got literal, and got our hands dirty by “burying the alleluias.” Bury, like a grave? Bury, like a hidden treasure? Bury, like a seed? 

    The season of Lent can be waiting, frozen, for a miracle resurrection; or searching diligently for something amazing; or watering and encouraging slow workings of growth. I look forward to walking beside you all this Lent, and learning what preparing for the great mystery of Easter means to you. 

    Bryn Hollenbeck 

  • February 08, 2024 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Young adults at Epiphany's 20s, 30s, and Early 40s Group gathering in January 2024few weeks ago, we had one of our Epiphany Young Adult Gatherings (20s, 30s, early 40s). It was a wonderful evening gathering together and growing in community. Many thanks to our seminarian, Clayton, and his partner Jonathan for hosting us! We got to know each other better, we went around sharing small snippets of our faith journeys, and we ended the evening praying Compline together.

    There are three things that especially stood out to me from our time together:

    1. A majority of us did not grow up in The Episcopal Church. I’m so glad Epiphany is a place that people who did not grow up in this tradition can find a welcome.
    2. I was called “the old timer” because I had been at Epiphany for 1.5 years — which was longer than everyone else there! We have been talking about how Epiphany is growing and we are entering a new chapter, and this is an example.
    3. Many from this group are also involved in Faith Circles, The Discover Course, Midweek, and Word & Table.

    To expand on point #3, I found it quite profound that we are now in a season as a church community that parishioners can find home and connection beyond attending Sunday morning services. In fact, some of our young adults do not attend Sunday mornings, but are actively involved at Epiphany in other ways. This is a reminder that Church has many forms. Yes, we love our Sunday mornings here, but church is also sharing a meal together at Midweek, sharing our lives in a Faith Circle, serving together in the community, and journeying with one another through all that life brings. We don’t live just a Sunday morning faith, but one that encompasses every day and every moment of our week. God is always doing new things, and it is our responsibly to attune to that new life and to continue to cultivate it. Our new young adult community is just one example of new life here at Epiphany. Do you have others? Continue to share where you are seeing new life and continue to cultivate it — that is what it means to be church.

    With gratitude,
    Rev. Janelle

  • February 01, 2024 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jonathan Ortloff leading Organ 101 lecture in January 2024It’s wonderful to live and work in a large city with such an array of both pipe organs and folks who are interested in these complex instruments! The planets seemed to line up spectacularly this past month, with several interesting events featuring the King of Instruments.

    We at Epiphany are very fortunate indeed to have organist and organ builder Jonathan Ortloff in the pews, or even occasionally in the loft playing or singing! He is here with us for a time, along with our Seminarian Clayton McCleskey (also an organist and singer— we’re getting five for the price of one it seems). Clayton organized the ongoing Epiphany forum series, which included an Organ 101 lecture demonstration by Jonathan on Sunday, January 21. What a fun and informative session, which was also very well attended by folks of all ages. And who knew that Jonathan could blow into two pipes simultaneously (with his mouth, not using two nostrils). The level of interest in and commitment to music here at Epiphany was evident in the attention the participants gave, as well as in their thoughtful and provoking questions. It is clear that an Organ 102 session is in order. If you are interested in knowing more about what resources would be needed for minor upkeep and/or more major enhancements to our Fisk gallery instrument, or if you are perhaps curious about what it would take to see a new organ installed once again in our chancel, please do not hesitate to reach out to me for a conversation.

    On Saturday, January 27, the Young Organist Initiative of the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists hosted a masterclass at Harvard’s Memorial Church with Associate Organist/Choirmaster Dr. David von Behren. Two of this year’s scholarship students (including our own 6th-grader Ilario Faienza), along with one of the scholarship winners from last season, performed on the chancel organ. Then all were treated to the opportunity to play and climb inside the back gallery 2012 Fisk organ (seen in the picture below). A good time was had by all. Incidentally, Savannah Curro is a former YOI scholarship student; she was invited to speak to the group for a few minutes. You may recall her, as she spent her high school senior year as a music intern at Parish of the Epiphany (she sends her greetings!). Savannah has recently begun a divinity course of study at Yale University. She is also pictured below, next to Ilario.

    Jeremy Bruns


  • January 25, 2024 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parish of the Epiphany parishioners attending a screening of documentary The Philadelphia Eleven in Hadley HallFifty years ago, the Anglican Church ordained its first female priest, Florence Li Tim-Oi. On January 25, 1944, with the occupation of Hong Kong and parts of China, and as Anglican priests were not able to reach parishes and particular communities, the local bishop ordained Tim-Oi to the priesthood. She was the first female priest in the Anglican tradition. After the war, she would resign her license to function as a priest to appease the majority anti-women’s ordination voice in the church. It would not be for 30 years that women’s ordination was regularized in the Episcopal Church.

    This past Sunday, we hosted a viewing of the documentary, The Philadelphia Eleven. It tells the intimate and vital story of women being ordained in the Episcopal Church. Facing patriarchy, bigotry, threat, and dehumanization, eleven women, with the support of three Episcopal bishops, were ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974. This event would go on to catalyze the regularization of women’s ordination and help transform our church into a more inclusive and just institution. Notice I say “more” just.

    This beautiful and powerful documentary reminded me of our continued need to make a church for all people, so that all people might be of the church. The work of inclusion and representation is critical to the life of the church. This is no political stratagem, but the heartbeat of a living and breathing and vibrant community. Either the good news of Jesus is for all people, or it is for none; either all people are inherently worthy or none are. Following the teaching and example of Jesus, we must stand clearly for the inherent dignity and equality of all people. It is an ache for which there is no balm, not in this world of ours so divided and so divisive, so violent and so violated. 

    As we gather this Sunday for our Annual Meeting, we will celebrate the past year, our current capital campaign, and give thanks for a future to which God calls us. At the heart of our life together as Epiphany beats a common call to the way of love made known to us in Christ. It sustains us, redeems us, and leads us more deeply into the pain, suffering, and audacious beauty of our world. A world for which God gives all, so that we might too.


    See you Sunday,
    Nick 

  • January 18, 2024 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2024 Burning of the Greens in Parish of the Epiphany's Cloister GardenIn the first week of January, we gathered together for The Burning of the Greens, one of my all-time favorite traditions. Parishioners brought clippings from their trees or their wreathes and we stacked them all together and then… we set them on fire! What a way to say goodbye to the Christmas season. This comes from the idea that we don’t just throw away the items we use for worship, but burn them in a sacred embodied ritual. This ritual symbolizes Christ as the light of the world. Watching the flames helped us to prepare for the new year and the season of Epiphany — our namesake. I love the name of our parish. I love the story of the wise people and the star and the baby. I’ve also been thinking about the meaning of the word Epiphany as in, “I had an epiphany!” This idea that comes to mind that brings us to a new place, a new understanding, or a new sense of meaning. Often accompanied by a holy clarity. This too is our legacy. We gather together to have new epiphanies that move us closer to God, to each other, and to our neighbors. I pray you have new epiphanies during this Epiphany season while following that guiding star. May those epiphanies fill you with hope this day.

    With gratitude,
    Rev. Janelle

  • January 11, 2024 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Rev. Nick Myers and the Rt. Rev. Robert O'NeiillI didn't get far in my advent devotional this year. I chose All Creation Waits, which is a beautiful book I've been looking forward to for months. But the first devotion was about painted turtles and how they hibernate—their bodies nearly stopped—underwater through the winter. Just resting and waiting. I read this one chapter, this short Painted Turtle meditation, over and over and never turned to the next animal (sorry muskrats, maybe next year). That turtle and I understood each other. December is not a month of rest for me. I bet it isn't for you either, even if you don't work at a church. But that painted turtle called to me all of December. 

    And now here's January, dark and cold. Culture asks us what we'll do this January. How will we improve ourselves—diet, exercise, resolutions, goals—new year, new me.

    But God's creation does not ask us to overhaul ourselves right now. If January in New England asks anything of us, it is to care for ourselves. January's creation says Stay warm. Eat your stores. Light a fire. Snuggle up with a book and bake cookies. (Ok, that last one might not be creation speaking.) 

    January says look to home

    This past Sunday, the word home was spoken again and again here at Epiphany. As we entered into our capital campaign, Building for the Ages, Rev Nick reminded us that this place, built of crumbly bricks and slate tiles, houses our life together. The Rt. Rev. Rob O'Neill spoke of what a gift it was for him to be home, some 20 years after he was our rector. 

    Epiphany is our home. It is where we are all welcomed, cherished, accepted; where many of our most meaningful relationships lay. We journey through our lives together here. This January, I pray you will feel the warmth and love of this place of faith, and root yourself in this home.

    Bryn Hollenbeck 

  • January 04, 2024 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parish of the Epiphany's Building for the Ages capital campaign logoThere are few greater gifts in this life than friends. As I get older, I realize this truth more and more. And, as I get older, I realize how challenging it can be to make new friends. The simple truth is this: To have a friend is to find a deep well of joy, love, support, and encouragement. 

    It has always struck me that one of the last things Jesus does is to make sure that the disciples know that they are friends. He says, “I no longer call you servants…but I call you friends.” Friendship is that special human relationship that is all about mutuality, encouragement, and enjoyment. There is no quid pro quo, no power hierarchy—it is a freedom of relationship that is, in many ways, unique. This might be why Christianity has often noted that friendship is the highest form of human relationship.

    This may be why I am so excited to welcome my friend, Rob O’Neill, to join us this Sunday at Epiphany. Now, I know that many here consider Rob a friend too—that Rob has been a part of the lives of many people from Epiphany. And that’s because Rob was the eighth rector here (1991-2003). Rob was also my bishop when I served in Colorado. And, as time went on and Rob retired, he became a friend—someone who offered me nothing but love, encouragement, wisdom, and support. What I do know is that Rob is a friend of Epiphany because it is this same love that he offers to us. You’ll see this clearly when he and his wife, Ginger, join us for this coming celebration on Sunday.

    Our life together here at Epiphany is to be shaped by this friendship that Jesus invites us into. A community of love, support, encouragement, and joy. We offer this to one another simply because we are, here, now, together. This is the beautiful gift of being church together. 

    On Sunday we will welcome Rob and Ginger, and celebrate the launch of our Building for the Ages capital campaign. I hear there is to be some snow finally—of course, on a Sunday morning. This will not dampen our joy or celebration. I hope you will make every effort to be present for our festive luncheon after the 10:00 am service, or join that celebration via Zoom (link is here
    ). This campaign is unlike any we have undertaken in our history as a parish. It will take all of our support to reach our goals, and I am thrilled to share with you this Sunday about this faithful, bold, and inspiring campaign that is being led by our lay leadership and vestry. We have every right to be joyful, hopeful, and proud of this effort. I hope you’ll join us Sunday for lunch and our launch and discover the beautiful community of friends that is our beloved Epiphany.

    I look forward to seeing you on Sunday,
    Nick

  • December 28, 2023 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A hand writing in an open journalConfession: I don’t write in my journal as much as I used to. These days, the only time I pick up my dusty old journal is at the very end of the year. This time of year, to be exact. In it, I reflect on the year that has almost passed. I will write down highlights, memories, movies watched, trips taken, any moments that I don’t want to be easily forgotten. The sad or difficult moments too. When I do this, I find that I am already starting to forget, even though the year isn’t officially over. Those regular, ordinary days, all strung together, make an entire year that can fit a lot in it.

    One time I was telling a friend about this practice, and he remarked that it sounds like a Prayer of Examen for the entire year. If you are familiar with the Prayer of Examen, it’s a prayer practice developed by St. Ignatius that invites you, at the end of the day, to reflect on your day. Moments of desolation and consolation — all the while reflecting on God’s presence with you and preparing for the new day.

    If you, like me, haven’t had a chance to reflect on this past year, I’d encourage you to take the time to do so. You might realize, like me, that there were more days filled with God’s grace than originally thought. More quiet moments of beauty and more moments of warmth surrounded by loved ones. Wherever you may find yourself today, it’s a gift to look back and to remember. May it also be your prayer today.


    With gratitude,
    Rev. Janelle

  • December 07, 2023 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Godly Play materials for AdventIn one of my first conversations with Janelle, she asked me, ‘What is your Epiphany story? It seems like everyone has an Epiphany story.’ That’s when I realized she really ‘gets’ us; one of our strengths as a community is that our stories weave together so many relationships and experiences on our journey together.

    One of my Epiphany stories is teaching Godly Play, which I have been doing off and on over the past 30 years. Much has changed and yet some of the stories have not. On the next two Sundays I will be sitting on the floor, rolling out a purple underlay and looking around the circle before we begin the story:

    The King who was coming is still coming. This is full of mystery. You know, a mystery is sometimes very hard to enter. That is why this time of Advent is so important. It helps us get ready to enter the Mystery of Christmas... During this time, we are all on the way to Bethlehem. We are all making the journey... so let’s go with the Prophets, the Holy Family, the shepherds, the angels, and the Magi to make the journey.

    And with that begin the story of the road to Bethlehem.

    As I sit looking at the materials for Sunday, my mind plays back through many Sunday mornings looking at the same cards and an ever-changing circle of children. The first three-year-olds in the circle are now 30-something-year-olds. Many of the parents who dropped them off are still here, and we are doing different things together, charting different Epiphany stories and journeys.

    I love telling the Road to Bethlehem because it is so familiar. Yet the story is never the same because the circle of children changes and the wondering questions at the end bring new surprises and new truths. Each year, we roll out the road and weave another generation into our Epiphany journey.


    Nelia Newell

  • November 30, 2023 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Children in Parish of the Epiphany's 2021 Christmas pageantI write this while sitting on the steps in the front of the sanctuary on a quiet weekday morning. I'm the only one in here — I may be the only one in the entire church — and it's cavernous and quiet. But the work I'm focusing on will be anything but quiet, as I get ready to start our Christmas pageant preparations with the children. 

    Contemplating one of the most chaotic-yet-beautiful worship experiences of the year while in the solitude of our empty sanctuary feels right for Advent. Think of Mary and Joseph, amid a crowd but all alone. A king in a barn. God's new relationship with all of creation bursting into life but entering so subtly. 

    For as long as I have the privilege of ministry with children, I'll repeat this: the Christmas Pageant is not a show, it is worship. It is not a play, it is a service in which the children offer you a rare window into the sacred scriptures. It is full of wiggles and stillness, laughs and whispers, distraction and rapt attention. Like the real thing, it is chaos and plan, art and nature, human and divine. 

    Welcome into the real, rich holiness of the season, and into the young and burgeoning life of this ancient faith and venerable Parish. You saw these steps on which I now sit full to overflowing with children last Sunday. In the coming weeks and months I hope you — yes, you — will get to know them better, in all their holy energy and sacred serenity.

    Joyous Advent,
    Bryn

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