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The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin,
rector of St. Columba's Episcopal Church
Your Generosity is a Joy to Behold!
Thurs., Dec. 1
You came seeking God, community or a deeper faith. By your presence and prayers, you've created a community of faith for others. Thank you for your trust and faithfulness.
Your generosity and commitment is a joy to behold. The financial pledges we've received to date put us within $400,000 of our current level of giving; with $600,000 or more, we'll grow our ministry deep and wide. What a great start; thank you!
A deep bow of gratitude to all 400+ households who have pledged thus far, including 45 of you giving for the first time and 185 who increased your pledge over last year.
If you've not yet pledged, now is the time. As a sign of our gratitude to God and commitment to the ministry of St. Columba's, we're looking for 100% participation. Your pledge is essential.
Truly, the Holy Spirit is stirring hearts and minds among us. Your ministry and witness to the world is vital: children nourished, homeless fed, prayers offered, faith deepened, justice proclaimed and lives transformed by the grace of God. Join this grateful, generous congregation with your pledge today.
With deep gratitude,
Beloved, we live in a country that does not yet exist.
Wed., Nov. 16
Historian, civil rights leader, and faithful Mennonite, perhaps best known for writing Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech protesting the Vietnam War - “A Time to Break Silence,” Professor Vincent Harding frequently began his public talks by asserting, “I live in a country that does not yet exist.” Inspired and convicted by the biblical narrative that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, east nor west, male nor female (Galatians 3:28), Harding knew that the present hardship is a work in progress.
Then-Senator Obama affirmed this in his 2008 speech on race, citing the preamble of the United States Constitution, and affirming that our national project is not complete. We shall continue to strive toward “a more perfect union.” For my own life, it is the biblical vision of the beloved community which I need to inhabit in these days. I need to take hold, embrace and embody that vision so that I can live from a place of love. I need to remember that in Christ God has reconciled all people to God’s self, that in a manner not yet known God has already accomplished this greatest gift of love. How, then, will we live in a country that does not yet exist?
With so many others, I’m trying to make sense of recent events. I’m trying to see, interpret and respond in a way that coheres with my Christian faith. To that end, I’ve been trying on, if you will, an assortment of different lenses – much as we might experience getting our eyesight tested – as the doctor inquires “can you see more clearly through this lens? How about this one?”
A lens of disorientation ~
Disorientation is the best word I can find to describe what I am feeling and what I am seeing in the world about me at this point in time. Disorientation – because I continue to be surprised by the outcome of the election – and because I find it disconcerting that I am surprised; clearly, I have not been paying attention. Disorientation – because many Christian values and principles that are fundamental to our common life – human dignity and respect of difference, love of neighbor and love of enemy – are being tested. Disorientation – because predictable patterns of political life have proven unpredictable and the future feels tenuous. So what do we do now?
A time to stand with the most vulnerable ~
As followers of Jesus, who consistently sought out and stood with the most vulnerable, our first calling is to do likewise. Many people are afraid right now – immigrants, Muslims, people of color, those who are LGBT, those of all color who are unemployed or undereducated – in our cities, towns and rural communities. Many have and are giving their lives to ensure human rights or to protect the environment. The single most important thing for us today is that we find ways to stand in solidarity with those who are vulnerable and afraid.
A lens of personal and national introspection ~
As a nation, this election reflects who we are. A couple of my clergy colleagues who are people of color have said that, while they may be hurt, angry, and afraid, they are not surprised by the election. Said one, “I’m just wondering why folks are so shocked? Maybe I’ve been living in a different America…” This is not the America they hope for, but it is the America they know. Said another, “This is who we are. We are not surprised. Now let’s get to work.”
Franciscan Richard Rohr observes, “I suspect that we get the leaders who mirror what we have become as a nation. They are our shadow self for all to see.” I think he’s right. With occasional exception in moments of grace, we fear those whom we do not know, we fear the other. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Let’s acknowledge our fear. Let’s sit with the fact that our society is divided in countless ways. Let’s acknowledge that we participate in and, sadly, often perpetuate these divisions – through action or inaction. But let us not be stopped by shame or fear. Let’s remember that God loves each of us and all of us, even those parts of our selves which we do not know how to love.
A lens of confession and repentance ~
Thus, this is a time to take stock in our own lives and confess the ways we are blind and deaf, or arrogant and self-serving. With confession comes repentance; i.e., to turn from our former patterns of behavior and act differently in the future. Where we were blind and deaf, let us look and truly see, let us hear and truly listen – to the other. If we’ve been willfully blind or deaf to others, lulled to sleep by the comforts and patterns of our daily lives, then is it not time to willfully change those patterns, to willfully put ourselves in the company of others, to willfully look, see, hear, listen? Let’s act, with love.
A time for new connections and building relationships ~
If introspection is a needed lens, so too is connection – new connections. Making new connections is something we can do as a community in partnership with others; it is also something we can do each day on our own. Parishioner Andrew Trotter recently shared this story:
“Muslim-Americans must be on edge. Yesterday, I passed by a middle-aged woman in hijab at Rodman's; I came back to her and introduced myself, asked if she was Muslim (yes) and went to a mosque nearby (no, doesn't attend). I told her about St. C's interfaith ministry and that many in this neighborhood support Muslims' right to coexist and worship as they wish. That brought tears to her eyes, and after we shook hands she said, ‘You made my day.’ That, of course, made my day.”
A lens of justice – through reconciliation and resistance ~
Since the election, many of us are facing a dilemma. Reconciliation with those with whom we disagree is a faithful biblical response. So, too, is resistance.
On one hand, I choose to give every person the benefit of the doubt, to be open to the possibility that “the other” will do something good. To do otherwise is to shut down any prospect of reconciliation or future work together, and to freeze-in-place the position of the other in a way that I would find offensive if done to me. So, I will be open, ready to reconcile.
On the other hand, words matter. Much of the rhetoric, prior actions, and stated intentions of the president-elect and those who he appears to be working with, put me on notice. Some of what I believe to be our nations cherished beliefs and rights, are in jeopardy. Some of the most vulnerable in our country are in jeopardy. As Bishop Mariann Budde has written, “Things have been said in this election that cannot be easily unsaid or forgotten. The president-elect made promises that if fulfilled would be devastating to our country.” So, I will be vigilant, ready to resist.
Can we be open-minded and vigilant at the same time, ready to reconcile and ready to resist? Yes, our vigilance should be directed toward protecting the principals of our faith and the rights of others; our open-mindedness should be directed toward restoring relationship with those from whom we are divided.
A time for hope and a time to proclaim the reign of God ~
Am I troubled? Am I fearful? Yes, I am. But I live with an abiding hope. I live in a country that both does and does not yet exist: the kingdom of God. Now is the time for each of us to share our hope, to act with faith, to share the love of God, through our words and actions. The apostle Paul encourages us:
“Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God…. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord ...
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” II Corinthians 4:1-10
Beloved, your witness is needed now more than ever; the witness of our church is needed now more than ever. Let us not be held back by our fears; let us share our love; let our light, your light – the light of Christ – shine bright through our lives.
These are lens through which I am seeking a faithful response. I am still trying to find which ones are most fitting. I would be grateful to hear from you if you will share those lenses through which you see the way forward.
With abiding faith, Ledlie
Join me at this week's Sunday Forum ... Last Sunday, we heard from parishioners Ben Bradburn, Mike Davis, Miles Graham, Betsy Hawkings (ably rendered by her husband David), Gregg Petersmeyer and Peggy Treadwell. We’ll continue the conversation this Sunday – with thoughts from each of you.
Come Pray Tonight at St. Columba’s
Wed., Nov. 9
“Pray,” said I. This past Sunday, I invited our congregation to pray before and after the election: “Pray for healing and reconciliation in our hearts and in our nation.” In the wee hours of this morning, I whispered a personal confession, as I realized that my invitation came from a place of privileged and generous largesse. Surely, I would be among those graciously offering a word of comfort to those who voted for Donald Trump. How very foolish or arrogant.
At times of bewilderment, when the path is not clear, I return to the basics, to remember that we are all children of God, in the hands of God - called at our core to love God, love neighbor, love self.
The world feels different this morning. Yet, as a Christian, the role I have to play in it is much the same as it was yesterday. With God’s help, yesterday, today and tomorrow, I shall seek to: Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; Persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord; Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as yourself; Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being (from the baptismal covenant). Given the painful divisions of our society, it is time, now more than ever, for all Americans to reach out to those who differ from us, and to protect and care for the most vulnerable.
Today, I need to be silent and pray. Kate has gathered readings, hymns and prayers. Bring your fears and hopes, your tears and joy, your hungry heart. Come pray tonight at St. Columba’s at 6:00 pm.
Welcome The Rev. Amy Molina-Moore
Thurs., Oct. 13
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
With joy and eager anticipation, I write to tell you that the Rev. Amanda (Amy) Molina-Moore has accepted my invitation to join us as associate rector for formation and pastoral care. Amy is a dynamic enthusiast for the Gospel, with infectious energy and passion. Bright, thoughtful and direct, she readily integrates faith in daily life.
Hello St. Columba's,
I am so excited to be invited to partner in ministry with all of you! Throughout the many conversations and observations shared, one thing became abundantly clear--the Holy Spirit is hard at work stoking the flames of imagination and purpose within the hearts and minds of those here at St. Columba's. As one who feels particularly called to fetch wood and stoke embers,* I am honored to soon join the St. Columba's community.
One quickly learns, as I did, that the people are definitely the heart of St. Columba's. I kept hearing over and over again that St. Columba's isn't just a place where people go to church; St. Columba's is a place where people are the church. As a Christian and as one of your associate rectors, I look forward to being the church with you!
(*My prowess in gathering wood and stoking embers is purely metaphorical--when it comes to real life camp fires, I excel most at roasting marshmallows.)
As associate rector for formation and pastoral care, Amy will lead and support our adult education and spiritual formation. In addition to Sunday Forums, Wednesday evening classes and assorted gatherings for prayer and Bible study, Amy will work with us to design and implement opportunities for all of us to grow in faith and discipleship. With the heart of a pastor eager to be with our youngest, oldest and everyone in between, Amy will lead and support our varied lay pastoral ministries and will share in the priestly leadership of the parish.
Amy's first Sunday at St. Columba's will be December 11; she and her husband John, an ordained Presbyterian pastor, will be moving from Wilmington, Delaware.
While the roles will be different, this will not be the first time Amy and I share ministry. While at Princeton Theological Seminary, Amy spent an intern year at St. Peter's Philadelphia (my former parish)--during which she discerned her call to the priesthood. With graduate degrees in education and divinity, Amy spent two years as an Americorp teaching fellow in East Harlem and, for the past two years, as curate at Christ Church Christiana Hundred in Wilmington, DE.
"A New Season Begins"
Thurs., Sept. 8, 2016
A new season begins in the life of St. Columba’s–a time to welcome and make new friends, and to greet those who’ve been apart.
This Sunday, Sept. 11, mark your calendar as we resume our “regular” schedule of services.
Our choirs will be leading us in song, and we’ll celebrate with ice cream after each service!
“Meet Kate!” Come to a special forum this Sunday to welcome our new Associate Rector for Worship and Outreach.
Next week, Sun., Sept. 18, Junior Warden Elizabeth Taylor and I will host the “Rector’s Forum” to share dreams and plans for St. Columba’s for the year ahead.
And stay tuned for news of our extraordinary fall forum series, “Faith, Values and the Common Good” with guest speakers addressing a host of important topics in anticipation of the coming elections.
Wed., July 13, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Several years ago, when St. Peter's, Philadelphia, was preparing to call a new choir director, the senior warden reported that his children, both of whom sang in our choir, were feeling anxious about this unknown person. "How will this person compare to the one who was with us before?" He assured them, "It will not be the same, but I am confident the new choir director will be differently great."
At St. Columba's we are not searching for a new choir director, but we are about to welcome one new associate rector and have begun the process to find another new associate rector. I am confident that each will be differently great.
The Rev. Kate Heichler, our new Associate Rector for Worship and Outreach, has rented a small house in Tenleytown. She is very excited to move here in the first week of August and begin her ministry here shortly thereafter. She is eager to meet each and every one of us and will be making a special point to meet with leaders and participants in our worship and outreach ministries.
Our position announcement for a new Associate Rector for Formation and Pastoral Care has been posted and letters of interest are coming in. Please spread the word. As before, I am convening a small task force to help in my discernment. If possible, I will extend an invitation to the ideal candidate by early October with hopes s/he can start in Advent.
As the body of Christ, our relationships with one another are the lifeblood of St. Columba's. With the departure of two vital members of our clergy, some may feel they have lost an important relationship and connection to this congregation. Others are looking eagerly toward a new chapter. During this season of transition, please join me in redoubling our efforts to connect with and look out for one another. First and foremost, hold St. Columba's in your prayers. If you sense someone may feel adrift, please reach out to her or him. If you are eager to connect more fully, please reach out to me or another member of the staff.
I am excited about the seasons ahead and the extraordinary possibilities God may have in store for us. In his own life, Jesus sought out those in need, embodied compassion and justice, and offered life abundant. As the differently great body of Christ today, let us seek to do likewise.
Tues., June 21, 2016
It gives me great pleasure to let you know that the Rev. Dr. Katherine Anne Heichler has accepted my invitation to join us as Associate Rector for Worship and Outreach.
With a deep commitment to sharing the love of Christ, Kate brings abundant gifts to this new role. She is a creative liturgist passionate about designing traditional worship and new expressions. While serving as Priest-in-Charge of Church of Christ the Healer in Stamford, CT, Kate has been the Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut. In that role she fostered collaborative efforts among faith communities to address justice issues and social needs. She conceived and organized Community Catalyst Conversations which bring citizens and nonprofit leaders together monthly in strategic conversations about big challenges facing our communities, such as homelessness, addiction and immigration. In her ministry among those who are homeless, Kate has integrated prayer, worship and tangible expressions of care and support. Her experience will be a great asset as we seek to strengthen and further our current ministries, and discern new opportunities.
Kate is someone who pays attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit, open to the ways in which God may be beckoning us forward, exploring new possibilities for mission and ministry. A caring pastor of young and old who listens deeply, laughs easily and communicates effectively, I believe Kate will be a gift to our congregation, staff and wider community. Kate will be moving from Connecticut and joining us at St. Columba's in early August.
I received forty applications from all over the country, many from extraordinarily gifted priests. I extend my thanks to the many people who assisted in this discernment process, including members of the discernment committee - Karen Abrams, Jane Dana, Margaret Griffin, Bob Leland and Schroeder Stribling; members of the vestry, the staff and parishioners who met with our three finalists.
To the Saints at St. Columba's ~
I cannot express how full my heart is with gratitude, anticipation and joy at the prospect of joining you in ministry. Your reputation as a wonderful church is far-reaching, and my experience with those whom I met when I visited in May confirmed how well justified is that regard.
The giftedness, faithfulness, vitality and vision of this congregation is staggering. I am counting the days until I can settle in with you and participate fully in what God is up to among you, and through you to the wider community. I have experienced extraordinary blessing during this discernment process, and take that as a sign that the Holy Spirit has great things in store for us as I join Ledlie and the many ministry teams, children and adults who comprise the beautiful part of Christ's body called St. Columba's. See you in August!
Please join me in welcoming Kate Heichler.
Fri., May 6, 2016
Beloved in Christ,
It gives me great joy to tell you that Jennifer Turner has accepted my invitation to join the staff of St. Columba's as part-time Minister for Member Engagement, effective May 9th.
Jennifer's charge: to help each member of St. Columba's connect with the whole. To be successful, Jennifer cannot do it alone. This will require a team effort from one and all in support of the rector and vestry's strategic initiative: "to generate a culture of engagement within this congregation; to connect parishioners with one another, with opportunities for service that match their gifts, and with ministries that will support them as they grow in faith."
Jennifer will be working collaboratively with clergy, congregational leaders, and the welcome and hospitality teams to ensure that each person is invited to participate as fully as they desire and is invited to be part of a particular small group, ministry or activity.
Jennifer's credentials for this role are impeccable. She is a lifelong member of St. Columba's and recently served as senior warden. Most importantly, she has a heart brimming with enthusiasm, joy, and a love of Christ. She embodies a warmth and interest in each person that says, "you are welcome, you are precious, and you are known."
The apostle Paul gives us an image of the church as the body of Christ; each part of the body is vital to the health of the whole. I believe God is calling this community anew to bold and faithful action and ministry in the world. Are we ready? As we prepare to run the race of faith that is set before us, let us tend in every way to nurture health and vitality within, calling forth the gifts of one and all.
Jennifer writes: "I am filled with gratitude and joy as this new chapter in my life at St. Columba's begins. Accepting Ledlie's invitation to join the staff was not a difficult decision. It offers me the opportunity to serve the parish family I love in a new capacity, working with Ledlie and the wonderful staff at this auspicious time.
"Please know that along with energy, enthusiasm, and experience in this parish, I also bring an awareness that I still have much to learn and so many of you to get to know. As you have done throughout my journey here, I hope you will bear with me as I learn, try new things, and stumble along the way. My sense is we are all on a new path, one that promises challenging climbs, old and new travel companions, beautiful vistas, occasional detours, interesting conversation, and plentiful picnics. We must trust that our common destination, including important stops along the way, will be revealed in good time, while we grow together in strength and love as the body of Christ."
Please rejoice with me and welcome Jennifer into this new leadership role.