About Heavy Doors and Small Bricks – by Giorah Bour

So here it is. The month to end the year. To this year, a part of me wants to shout: “Good bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out”, and I suspect many would join me. And yet I remember The Rev. Meghan Mullarkey’s sermon during Advent a couple years ago. She saw this time, this month, Advent as a perfect time to rest, to reflect and to prepare. And her words still resonate with me, especially now. 
I would have forgotten that not so long ago, at a time when people were more in tune with the agrarian calendar, this period, right after the harvest, was relatively quiet. There was not that much left to do and there was not that much light left to do it in. Hunkering down inside with closed doors, in the warmth of a bright fire, huddled together in a big ball of family, was possibly considered bliss. So back then it used to a perfect time to practice Meghan’s wise words. Nowadays, and certainly during my grown-up life, this period seems to be even more rushed than the rest of the year. Worrying about the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, fretting about which gifts to get for whom, racing the crowds in the stores and the streets to get that one perfect item. Trying to finish whatever needs finishing, like this article, so we can finally rest. Which we never really do. Because there is no time. And yet here we are. Hunkering down, alone or huddled together in our respective bubbles, looking for a warm light at the end of the tunnel. Brought on not by seasonal and occupational pragmatism, but by very valid health and safety considerations. Maybe we lack the necessary pragmatism to really come to rest when we all are so afraid. Maybe now more than ever we really have to try our hardest to find peace while we stare past our own brick fireplace, as our eyes unwittingly follow the little flames playfully jumping from log to log. And yet, maybe, there is nothing more peaceful and reassuring than a warm fire contained by stone this year, with us being close enough and sufficiently far away to be perfectly at ease. Ok, let the glow of this fire tick the first
box (to rest). 
Still, it is a year to forget. And at the same time, it is a year worth reflecting upon. Without doubt it was an interesting one. Interesting like hitting a brick wall at high speed. It started out with the Church doors wide open and it seems it will end with them being closed shut. Almost immediately, we found new ways to open them. Admittedly, they require a phone, a tablet or a computer. And they can’t make up for the warm personal touch while we wish each other the peace. But they allow us to acknowledge our existence, visual proof that others are alive and well outside our sometimes scarily tiny cocoons, and the gift of a compassionate voice and familiar face in the rolling waves of loneliness which we all are engulfed in. A life buoy on dry land so to speak. Thinking about opening doors, I for one have found renewed appreciation for our beautiful coastline close to where we live. Walking down a sloping hill, seeing the warm sun reflected in the calm sea in spring and summer, or better yet, smelling the white foam on the playful waves whipped up by a strong breeze in fall and winter. They always leave me in awe. And yes, I am too much of a coward to go out and risk being blown over during a gale storm or hit by falling branches or whole trees. So, I cannot reflect on the wild sea during that type of weather, but I can imagine the sheer power of the elements as I lie in bed covered in warm blankets. Thanks to hitting that brick wall, I have also gotten in contact with old friends across this continent and across the globe, and I have checked up by phone on people close by. Thankfully they are OK, in a physical sense and, to a lesser extent, in a mental sense. I heard stories from France, from Germany and from here, in the Pacific Northwest. Some of them sharing stories of all of our failures to fight the inevitable exhaustion, both economically and mentally. Most of them with the hope of weathering this awful storm, both personally as well as globally. And all of them with the resilience to get up every morning despite being constantly battered by the bricks of Covid-19. We all keep going in the knowledge that there is a guiding light somewhere. For some, this is closer than for others. Upon reflection, as Christians, we might all be blessed in that way. Maybe second box (to reflect) is thus ticked. 
During this Advent, it might be easy to forget that it also is supposed to be a time for joy and anticipation, preparing for the arrival of the baby Jesus, and in a more mundane, more secular sense preparing for the year to come. Not in a rushed way, but thoughtfully. Thinking about the plans we will all need in the future. Of course, last year around this time, such thoughts would become a perfect example of what happens to best laid plans. And yet it is always coldest just before dawn, especially going back into lockdown. I can’t help but look at my son going through the catalogue of a well-known producer of little plastic bricks. I see his mind dreaming of putting together the various creations, planning the different stages of a build, thinking what else he might make with all those beautiful bricks. Of course, he will never receive all those boxed sets, nor will he build everything in the catalogue with his remaining collection. But he surprises me with his ingenuity to create spectacular contraptions with somewhat limited means. Contemplating where to put that next hypothetical brick can be a joy in its own right, I suppose. And even if we can’t attach that particular, knobby piece of colored plastic in the desired spot right away, maybe we can place it there later. 
Best laid plans are never wasted. They always help us grow. Ultimately, can we really heal without growing? Growing as individuals and healing as society? We will still have to deal with the disconnected anxiety that Covid bequeaths upon is. Maybe we will put those lost little bricks back in place to complete our build. We must learn to heal. And we will still have to deal with the newfound, albeit retrospectively unsurprising, knowledge that our almost perfectly controlled lives can be derailed so substantially by the tiniest of tiny pathogens. Maybe because of all of our joint experiences, we will see a new way—new little bricks waiting to be combined into a giant soothing wall. We must learn to grow. I suspect I will also have to shrink though. I may want to reduce the ever-expanding circumference of my already impressive waistline, which I am afraid will be growing even more over the Holidays. Do I anticipate life to return to how it was? No, I do not. Certainly not for my waist, let’s face it. But I fully expect our Sunday service to continue to be streamed, even after gathering in person again at some point. A small step to keep those doors open for more people. Maybe we don’t always need big ideas for the long road ahead. Perhaps it is enough to simply grow our own universe one brick at a time. There you have it. Box three (to prepare). Bricks to build opening doors. 
Thank you Meghan. Merry Christmas. 

From the December Tartan

The Hidden Meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas

During the next few weeks you’ll be hearing it over and over, perhaps to the point of saying, “Enough already”! But you might be interested to know the origin of the familiar “secular” holiday song; it has roots as a teaching tool to instruct young people in England in the content of the Christian faith! From 1558 to 1829, Roman Catholics were not able to practice their faith openly in  Protestant England, so they devised ways of passing on their beliefs to their children.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one example of how they did it. Each of the gifts mentioned represents something of religious significance:

1. On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  The “true love ” represents God, and the “me” is the believer who receives the gifts.  The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ who died on a “tree” as a gift from God.

2.Two turtle doves are the Old and the New Testaments – another gift from God.

3.The three French hens are faith, hope, and love –the three gifts of the Spirit that abide. (I Corinthians 13)

4.The four colley* birds are the four gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ. (Although most modern versions say “ calling ” birds, the proper word is “ colley,” which is a type of blackbird common in England.)

5. The five gold rings are the first five books of the Bible, also called the “Books of Moses” or the “Pentateuch”.

6. The six geese-a-laying are the six days of creation. (On the seventh day, God rested.)

7.The seven swans–a–swimming are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:8-10)

8.The eight maids–a –milking are the beatitudes. (There appear to be Nine in Matthew 5: 3 -11, but the first eight are the ones directed at others; the ninth refers only to Jesus’ listeners on the mountain.)

9. The nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5: 22 -23)

10. The ten lords–a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

11. The eleven pipers piping are the eleven faithful disciples.

12. The twelve drummers drumming are the twelve major points of the Apostles’ Creed.

So the next time you hear “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, consider how this otherwise secular sounding song was a tool to instruct the young. Remember, it’s still Christmas for 12 days . . . until the Feast of the Epiphany!

Fr. Rod Caulkins

Still time to join our special Advent outreach project by Judy Nelson

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but in our community not everyone is able to celebrate this Advent season with joy. Each year the St. Andrew’s Outreach Committee adopts a family, organizes the filling of stockings for the food bank, or finds other opportunities for our congregation to provide direct support to members of our community in need. This year, because of COVID 19 restrictions the Outreach Committee has chosen three organizations to support in a non-contact manner: the YWCA Pierce County’s domestic violence program, two families with children through the Family Housing Network and AIDNW (Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest). The Outreach Committee has completed shopping for the YWCA and the Family Housing Network. That leaves AIDNW, which provides phone cards for detainees to use to call home, something that is especially important during the Advent season. The Outreach Committee will collect donations to purchase phone cards for AIDNW during the month of December. Each card costs $21.90. Donations may be made online at St. Andrew’s website or sent to the church office and designated for Community Outreach – AIDNW. 
Thank you for supporting our annual drive. 

Anti-Racism Reading Group kicks off at St. Andrew’s

St Andrew’s Anti-Racist Reading Group has started its work! Our goal will be to understand the roots and effects of systemic and personal racism. In this way, we will consciously participate in the Spirit’s work of cleansing this divisive and anti-Christian sin from our souls, our life in community, and the Body of Christ.
We will begin with Dr. Ibram X Kendi’s award-winning and foundational Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016 ‘Best Book of the Year’ WaPo and Boston Globe; 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction; National Book Critics Circle Finalist for Nonfiction; NAACP Image Award Finalist, Nonfiction). You can order it through this link. Main facilitators for the group are Reberta Skinner and Peach McDouall.
To be added to the forum listserv and receive more detailed information about readings and discussion questions, please send your name, phone #, and email address to Peach McDouall at this link.

Be a part of our 2020 St. Andrew’s Christmas video! By Naomi Shiga

Dear Family in Christ,
I hope you are doing as well as you could be. Perhaps, you are essential workers, thank you for all you do!!! Perhaps, you are home being patient, thank you for all you don’t do!!

Whether we like it or not, we have been learning so much about new ways of doing things. I try not to focus on what I miss these days, but sometimes I have to just imagine the moment of our worshiping together to remind me what is waiting for us at the end of this tunnel. And in the meantime, I’m so glad we can meet each other at a distance through streaming.

Over the course of the year, for each season of the church calendar I always learn new music. To be prepared, my organ practice is always one season ahead. I guess you could say I am living in the future as I am already playing Advent and Christmas music!

The other day when I was practicing I was thinking about how to connect people with music without being together for Christmas…then I had an idea!

I would like to put together a YouTube movie as Christmas greeting from
St. Andrew’s. To make this work I would like to come visit you outside of your door and video your Merry Christmas! in November. Once I’ve got everyone’s video messages I will put them together with a little Christmas music from the church. The movie will be posted on Christmas Eve. If you would like to be private, please no worries!

If you would like to be a part of this St. Andrew’s Christmas message, please let me know so that I can visit you in November. If you are fluent with technology, even better. Just make your message video and send it to me by email. Either way, if you would like to be a part of this project, please call me, text me, or e-mail me. Looking forward to this ministry opportunity as we share the joys of the holiday season, from a distance.

ZOOM in for our Tuesday Bible study

Fr. Martin offers our weekly Bible study on ZOOM every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 12 Noon.

Here are the instructions for connecting:
Click on this link on Tuesday at 11:00 to join the waiting room for the meeting.
Meeting ID: 914 5583 4386                                  Password: 970640

We have just started the second letter to  Peter.. No preparation or homework is required. Just click on the link above at 11:00 a.m. Then say yes to the audio option and turn up your volume so that everyone can hear you.


Coming closer to God for Thanksgiving

This year Thanksgiving Day may not include the gatherings with family and friends that we usually enjoy. But let us observe this whole week leading up to Thanksgiving Day by practicing gratitude. It will help us enjoy a wonderful, if different, thanksgiving holiday.

Here are six ways to practice gratitude and get ready for Thanksgiving. (TNT, 11/18/20)

1.      Daily gratitude practice. Take time every day to acknowledge one thing (or more) that you are grateful for. You night do this at a meal with others, or write in a journal. Acknowledging and sharing what you are thankful for, no matter how small, can help begin or end the day with a more thankful mindset. You can share some of your gratitude notes in person or on-line on Thanksgiving Day.

2.     Volunteer. While this is not as easy as it once was, find ways to donate your time or treasures to help others. How can you help make our environment and our community a better place?

3.     Thank you notes. Take some time, either individually or as a family, to write thank you notes to people who have helped you this year. Acknowledge friends and family members who have helped with child care or projects. Children could write to their teachers for doing their best to keep school in session. Notes to first responders are a great idea. Are there persons you appreciate whom you have not contacted for awhile? – maybe send them Thanksgiving greetings.

4.     Read books about gratitude. There are lots of good books available for all ages on gratitude. Articles and websites on gratitude also. Take a look at Gratefulness.org

5.     Do a good deed. Good deeds can be simple things to show someone else you care. Thanking employees at the grocery store, for example, or making a point of greeting your neighbors.

6.     Appreciate nature. Marvel at the beauty around us, with all the changing colors and weather. Thank God our Creator for the gift of where we live.

Your Vestry at work – by Judy Nelson

Greetings from your senior warden. I want to share some of the work your vestry has been doing these past few months. Two areas of focus have dominated our work; finances and the work of our church during these Covid times.
St. Andrews applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan (now a grant) to make sure salaries could be maintained during these non-gathering times. I’m happy to report they were! The vestry has been carefully watching and reviewing our financial statements to be sure we remain solvent, as the original budget (created and approved pre-Covid) was not created for the current climate. So far, we are doing well, with some areas slightly over budget (such as the postage line item) and some areas under spent (such as the cleaning service).
Unfortunately we had to cancel Celtic Faire, and the several organizations that used our building for their meetings were not able to do so. The food bank was closed (we hope only temporarily) and weekly plate offerings dropped off. But, through this all we continued to support Community Outreach and other community work all while we developed a robust live streaming program, which will now continue into the future, even when we re-gather in our sanctuary. Our new website has been such a boon and we invested in a new email service (Constant Contact) that has allowed Father Martin to easily send out twice weekly news and inspiration.
The second area the vestry has been working on involves thinking through and studying appropriate Covid related services, keeping in mind that our diocese has provided guidance for engagement. The vestry created the re-gathering committee, and they have worked diligently to create protocols, now approved by the diocese and the vestry, for in person services. Your vestry has reviewed every step of their work.
Finally the vestry has thought about appropriate communication in this time of social distancing. It’s so important that we are all as connected as possible. That includes outdoor social hours and even in person outdoor morning prayer services this summer, as well as a zoom “Talk with the vestry” opportunity.
This is just a snapshot of our work on your behalf. Please join us on Sunday Nov 15 after service at 11:30am when we host another “Talk with the vestry” session on Zoom (link to be sent out later). I hope you’ll join us and ask those questions that have been on your mind.

The Latest on Re-Gathering by Mary Boyce, Parish Nurse

The Re-Gathering Committee has finalized the diocesan approved plan to allow in-person church services, meetings, and other gatherings. The plan has now been approved by the Vestry.  Once we have all the necessary support folks in place, we will be ready to resume church services once a date has been selected. The plan will be added to our web page, and copies will be available in the church office. Per our plan, St. Andrew’s will start in-person indoor services when Father Martin and the Vestry deem it safe to proceed. When we regather, people will be asked to sign a release at the door as part of the protocol.

Many of us would like to see our Pierce County positive Covid-19 numbers decrease. Unfortunately, the virus is still with us, and people continue to become ill. There is some good news in that the younger people that account for much of the current positive cases are recovering. Personally, I suspect that we will continue to see a rise and fall of numbers until a vaccine is available, which could take many more months. In the meantime, masks will be required for everyone inside the church. Singing, when allowed at all, will be very limited. The evidence shows that a mask is not enough to prevent the virus being shared while people are singing.

On our survey taken this past summer many folks indicated that they would be willing to lend a hand towards in-person church. Now is the time to commit. We have Altar Guild and Greeter/Ushers that may not feel comfortable in attending quite yet. Can you help? We also have new needs – service cleaners (to wipe down frequently touched surfaces) and the audio/visual team (as we will continue to record the service for those at home and away). Would you be willing to pitch in? I’ve spoken with a few people that have offered to clean (thank you) and would be happy for more. Ken Rhodes, David Tinsley, and Jeffrey Boyce have had inquiries to help with the audio/visual team. Still a few more volunteers would allow better coverage for when people are out. Please contact me, or Fr. Martin, or anyone on our Re-Gathering committee (Judy Nelson, Pam Tinsley, Linda Brice, Patty Mannie) to give your name and phone number.

No date has as yet been determined. Opening is a complex decision. We all long to be back to something resembling normalcy, however we have a duty to look out for one another. This means staying safe. Whether or not to attend will be a very personal call and we want to respectful of each other’s views. A few possible dates were tossed around as a regathering goal, including the beginning of Advent (11/29) (St Andrews Day is November 30th) – but it’s not that simple. What is simple is that we all look forward to gathering again. Until we do, may God keep you in the palm of His hand.