Saint Nicholas Day, December 6

Saint Nicholas died on this day in 343 A.D. His biography is told here. There are many legends surrounding the saint. If you leave your shoes outside your bedroom door you'll a find treat in them in the morning.

Saint Nicholas, AKA Rev. Canon James M. Rosenthal II, long-time director of communication for the Anglican Communion, made an appearance in New York City yesterday. He said,

It is important to bring St. Nicholas' Christmas cheer to New York because of the saint's historic significance in the city -- the first church in Fort Washington was called St. Nicholas and St. Nicholas Avenue is a main thoroughfare. "One of New York's great hotels was St. Nicholas on Broadway and the Russian Orthodox has its glorious St Nicholas Cathedral on 97th," he said. "St. Nicholas, of course, is the name of the church destroyed at 9/11, and whose return as a church many eagerly await."
JIm's book (co-authored with Joe Wheeler ) "St. Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas" is available here.

Good reads

Two items, plucked from the blogosphere to help you contemplate the Christmas season: At Telling Secrets, Elizabeth Kaeton has written about a deeply moving moment in her ministry, and from our own back pages, comes a clear-eyed poem on the Incarnation from the late Denise Levertov.

Kitsch? Cute? Blasphemous?

This four-piece S'mores nativity set includes S'more Mary wearing a blue head piece with her arms outstretched welcoming the new S'more King lying in the manger. Joseph stands back observing the scene before him traditionally dressed in a green head piece and holding his staff. The 5.5” S'mores nativity crèche makes a magnificent backdrop for this display.

Have a look. Then, visit some truly creative creche figures at Washington National Cathedral's annual creche exhibit. There's a magi made of cornhusks from Nepal, a shepherdess made of bread dough from Ecuador, a Christ Child carved from the root of a Costa Rican coffee plant, and a sheep made of a discarded soda can from Kenya.

All this and more, right here.

Preparing a Christmas sermon

So you thought American Idol contestants were under a lot of pressure. How would you like to be in the pulpit on Christmas Eve?

Hundreds of ministers in the Washington region will face packed churches tonight when they preach one of their most important, and challenging, sermons of the year as Christians gather to celebrate Christmas.

"I think it's one of the hardest services to preach," said Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who will face a standing-room-only crowd of 3,800 -- many of whom rarely step into a church except at Christmastime -- at the 6 p.m. Christmas Eve service at Washington National Cathedral.

Read it all in The Washington Post.

Christmas wishes from around the Anglican Communion

The leaders of the Anglican Communion are releasing Christmas messages, and you can read them here.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church writes:

In what form will you find the Christ child this year? The fact of the Incarnation in a weak and helpless babe says something significant about where we focus our search. I am convinced that it is part of our call to exercise a "preferential option" on behalf of the poor, weak, sick, and marginalized. The long arc of biblical thinking and theologizing has to do with seeing God's care for those who have no other helper. Indeed, Jesus is understood as that helper for all who fail, by the world's terms, to save themselves. More accurately, we understand that Jesus is that helper for all.

One of the great gifts of the way in which those in our cultural surroundings celebrate Christmas is the focus on children and on those who have few human helpers. We delight in the wonder of children as Christmas approaches, and many of us make an extra effort to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and care for the needy. The challenge is to let our seasonal "seeing" transform the way we meet our neighbours through the rest of the year, and through all the coming years. How might we begin to see that child in those around us: strangers and aliens (both Immanuel and Immigrants); wanderers (Homeless, like Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room); widows and orphans (Social Outcasts); babe born in Bethlehem (Palestinian and Israeli alike; or the boy babies whom both Pharaoh and Herod sought to kill); divine feeder of thousands (Soup Kitchen worker); and savior of the world (Peacemaker, Bringer of Justice for All, Reconciler, Just and Gracious Lawgiver...). If God comes among us as a helpless child, then the divine presence is truly all around us. Where will you meet Jesus this Christmas?

The original St. Nick

Canon Jim Rosenthal's alter ego is the star of this You Tube video filmed on Saint Nicholas Day in Canterbury. Rowan Williams has a supporting role.

When St. Nick isn't crawling down chimneys, he is director of communications for the Anglican Communion.

You can learn more about the St. Nicholas Center here. Children's activities are here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Sermon

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Sermon can be found by clicking: Read more.

Read more »

Lent online

If you are looking for Lenten experiences online, please visit our multimedia meditations and scroll down to the Stations of the Cross. Anglicans Online has a robust listing of resources, and our old friend Raspberry Rabbit calls your attention to this moving little video.

Meanwhile, the inimitable Phyllis Tickle is blogging about Lent on Beliefnet.

Voices from the Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral is compiling an excellect collection of videotaped Lenten reflections. The Cathedral's Sunday Forum collection is also worth a listen if you've got the time.

The meaning of maundy

News permitting, today will be a quiet day on The Lead. To help cultivate contemplation, pay a visit to the Holy Week online offerings of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, or read the essay on Daily Episcopalian by Luiz Coelho.

For the meaning of maundy, have a look here.

A shoe shine from the bishop

From the BBC:

Bishops are getting down on their knees this Maundy Thursday to shine the shoes of office workers and shoppers in towns and cities across the country. The free act is inspired by the night of the Last Supper when Jesus washed his disciples' feet before his trial and crucifixion on Good Friday.

Bishop of Birmingham the Rt Revd David Urquhart said it showed the clergy were prepared to serve their communities.

Church figures in Northampton, Coventry and Leicester are also taking part.

Read it all.

Generally we are in favor of innovative means of taking the church's message and practices into the streets. But physical intimacy is an essential ingredient in the the foot-washing ceremony, and that's lost here.

Music of the season on the Web

Saint Thomas' Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City is Web casting audio files of its Holy Week services.

Hat tip to bls at Topmost Apple, who also found some other wonderful music.

The PB writes at Pentecost

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to the Church in advance of Pentecost. The letter is available on Episcope. This passage may stir some discussion among those who parse her every utterance for evidence of heresy.

Jesus is Lord. In the same sense that early Christians proclaimed that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord, remember that no one else - not any hierarch, not any ecclesiastical official, not any one of you - is Lord. We belong to God, whom we know in Jesus, and there is no other place where we find the ground of our identity.

Dia de los muertos

Many Episcopal churches around the country celebrated Dia de Los Muertos - the Day of the Dead, on All Souls or sometime during the past 4 days. The Skagit Valley Herald in Washington state reports on one in Mt Vernon, WA.

Moises Ibañez and his wife, Teresa Santos, cupped their hands to protect two tiny white candles as they carried them from the back of the church and down the aisle to the altar.

Read more »

The Advent Conspiracy

A new site is out to change the way we understand the Christmas holiday by recasting it so that it is viewed through the lens of the Season of Advent.

From the front page of the site:

"The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.

So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.

And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy."

You can find the site here.

Advent, being the season in which we look for the in-breaking of the fullness of the Kingdom of God often gets ignored as we rush to the Celebration of Christmas. This site's particularly provocative in that is uses the preparation for Christmas as a call to make the present world begin to more fully anticipate the reign of Christ the King.

The true meaning of Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving was November 26, 1789, and it was created by proclamation of George Washington in thanksgiving for the establishment of the new government of the United States of America. That day was to be devoted "to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be."

The Continental Congress and its president were thankful for the new nation, but beyond that they also sought forgiveness.

Washington's proclamation said the nation was to "beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions." These are the words of a general who led troops in battle. He knew the price of the peace enjoyed by the new nation.
...
We did not get a national day of thanksgiving as an annual event until the country was in the midst of the Civil War. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the national holiday. It was this document that inaugurated Thanksgiving, though not as we know it now. That proclamation, written by Secretary of State William Seward and signed by Lincoln, called for prayers for forgiveness as well as thanks.
....
Beyond the myth of the first Thanksgiving being a noble feast, we find a nation whose great leaders acknowledge both God's gifts and our own shortcomings.

The author is The Rev. Frank Logue is the vicar of King of Peace, Kingsland, Georgia. Read it all in ELO.

Remember, too, it took the Pilgrims a while to adopt an institution that harnessed their self interest and served each other.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

October 3, 1863


The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Some thoughts on Thanksgiving

Lelanda Lee writes:

A natural consequence of regularly saying "Thanks be to God" is that one begins to notice all the people in everyday encounters who are to be thanked for what they do. Saying "Thank you" to the checkout clerk at the store becomes specific, thanking her for the care she has taken to wrap my breakable items carefully. I find myself adding, "I hope you're having a good day, too," in response to her parting "Have a good day."

Street Prophets offers a meditation on the first Thanksgiving.

Bishop George Packard also has thoughts on Thanksgiving. And Father Tim at Clergy Family Confidential has an amusing sketch on another aspect of the season.

However, the Faith in Public Life bloggers remind us that:

Just days before most of us sit down to eye-popping amounts of turkey, stuffing and pie, we read that nearly 1 in 8 Americans "struggled to feed themselves adequately last year."

Returner's euphoria

The Friday after is known in retailing a Black Friday, the day that symbolizes the effect that Christmas shopping has on retailers' profits. The current economic downturn makes it less likely that a retailer will end the year in the black, but it has magnified a trend amongst shoppers; circle shopping, buying and returning merchandise. It's no longer known as "buyer's remorse," because in the brain chemistry of these shoppers euphoria comes with the purchase and the return.

The Boston Globe reports:

Gabrielle Mancuso, a nursing student and certified nursing assistant, adores shopping. American Eagle, TJ Maxx, H&M, those are her haunts. But with bad economic news bombarding her daily, there's something that brings the stylish Mancuso more pleasure than buying jeans and tops: returning those jeans and tops -- unworn.

"I get cash back," Mancuso, 19, of Franklin, explained as she browsed at the Prudential Center recently. "It's instant gratification."
...
"There's a weird euphoria when you return something," said Michelle Foss, 33, as she shopped. "You're relieved that it's coming off your credit card."

Unlike "wardrobers" - crooked shoppers who buy with the intention of using their purchases before returning them - returnistas are guilty of nothing more than a bad case of buyer's remorse. Some have lost jobs and know they shouldn't be shopping at all, others haven't seen a decrease in income, but worry they should be saving for an uncertain future. Some feel guilty about spending when others can't.

Most of us know the thrill of the buy, and perhaps both empathize and at the same time see the spiritual poverty in this behavior. There is sin here, and it includes the costs the behavior imposes on retailers and other buyers. At the same time, retailers know the thrill of the purchase, and have long used it in marketing.

Where is the church?

Breaking: Stock clerk dies in stampede at a Long Island Wal-Mart this morning.

Christmas, 1963

By Joseph Enzweiler

Because we wanted much that year

and had little. Because the winter phone

for days stayed silent that would call

our father back to work, and he

kept silent too with our mother,

fearfully proud before us.

(Read the rest --and listen, too!--at The Writer's Almanac.)

Richard Coles on Advent

Richard Coles, curate at St Paul's, Knightsbridge, comments on how Advent is getting lost in our culture:

Christianity often produces in its adherents a feeling of exile. We are called to live in the world while not being of the world, or not quite, and for most of the year the sense of being out of step with others is acute. The feeling grows - having stood for centuries at the centre of communities, today we can feel as quaint as wool shops.

. . .

I suspect even the jolliest vicar at Christmas feels like an accountant at the end of the tax year. This is not simply fatigue, but frustration with the gap between what we think we are doing and what those unwonted full houses think they are doing. The last verse of O Come All Ye Faithful, which begins: "Yea Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning", is meant to be sung on the morning of Christmas Day. This year, I sang it at tea time on Thanksgiving Day, which is not only premature, but completely out of synch with the mood of the season, not Christmas, but Advent.

Advent is traditionally a period of self-examination, reflection and repentance and even in our present economic circumstances, when many have had self-examination, reflection and repentance thrust upon them, that character of feast following fast is lost in the hysterical merriment which now seems to start just after Wimbledon. Advent's mood persists in carols that are nevertheless belted out with cheerful gusto, telling of berries red as blood and the bleak midwinter and Herod the king in his raging; cognitive dissonance, surely?

I hope so. How can Christianity be anything other than an experience of cognitive dissonance, construing meaning from the seeming randomness of existence, insisting we can only live fully when we renounce any hope of fulfilment, and focusing our attention, year after year, on a newborn child, helpless in a manger, in whom the power which lit the stars and formed us out of dust is fully present, a child born to die so we may live.

Read it all here.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Episcopal Café

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And thanks to the Rev. Peter Pearson for this Christmas icon. Peter is priest in charge at Saint Philip’s Church in New Hope, Pa. He is a former Benedictine monk, an icon painter (and our editor in chief's former roommate when they worked at Camp Saint Andrew in Tunkhannock, Pa.)

A Christmas pageant in Poolesville

Jacqueline Salmon on the front page of The Washington Post:

Mary and Joseph were heading for the stage, along with a beatific baby Jesus. Crowding in were shepherds, their flocks, wise men, a gaggle of giggling angels -- and a traffic report.

"Oh, dear, we're just getting word that a cart has overturned at Main Street and Palestine Avenue," said Mikala, a "traffic reporter" played on stage at St. Peter's Episcopal Church's Christmas pageant by 9-year-old Brooke Hamm. "So beware of a backup in that area."

It was a Christmas pageant with a modern twist -- a morning talk show with anchors who interview the angel Gabriel and the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem. The wise men give weather reports, and commercial breaks offer a Donkey Wash and a Find It Fast navigating halter for camels.

One last Christmas column

Jim Rosenthal, who leaves his job as director of communications for the Anglican Communion has written one last Christmas column. It begins:

It was Christmas Eve and they kept coming, a steady flow, mostly young and obviously many were from far away places. There was no room for me, well, not in the inn, but rather, no room in the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, known lovingly as Westminster Abbey. They were standing everywhere. It was a stupendous vision of humanity -incarnation!

Saint Valentine's Day

At Religion Dispatches, Louis A. Reprecht asks, "How have we gone from a beheaded priest to a giddy worldwide day of romantic love? In a word: the widespread conviction that love is a dizzying sacrifice."

Cyberpilgrimage for Lent

Christian Aid is taking people on a virtual pilgrimage through the Holy Land. From the blog

During Lent 2009, in the run up to Easter, this blog will take you on a virtual journey through the Holy Land.

We will meet people who live in the region today - hearing how the region’s troubles touch their lives, but also hearing stories of hope and peace.

But this isn’t about simply watching a story being told. We want you to take part.

This journey is also about challenging ourselves to think, to reflect, to pray, and to take action.

Just as Jesus took 40 days to prepare for his ministry, we’ll be using this time to consider the practical challenges of faith in a world of poverty and violence.


Join the journey here. It begins on the Mount of Temptation.

See video trailer below



A Lenten e-fast

Terri Jo Rayn in the Waco Tribune:

They say the first step toward recovery is admitting there’s a problem.

And Greg Garrett, Episcopal lay preacher and Baylor University professor, admits he has an addiction that threatens his walk with his God: Facebook.

The ubiquitous five-year-old social networking site, with an estimated 175 million users, “is the biggest distraction to my observance of a holy Lent,” he said. “It’s turned into an excuse to do anything other than what I ought to be doing.”

So as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, he’s reclaiming his low-tech spiritual life by going on an “e-fast” for the 40-day penitential season of Lent.

One can acknowledge that Professor Garrett has made a wise personal choice, while still wondering whether the numerous people who loudly proclaim that they are going off-line for Lent aren't blaming technology for personal failings. No?

Giving up technology for Lent

Several bishops of the Roman Catholic Church are putting a modern twist on Lenten discipline:

Read more »

Lord, not my shoes only, but my dry cleaning as well

From Ekklesia in the UK:

Maundy Thursday is a foot-washing day for Christians, emphasizing mutual service. But a bishop has given the tradition a new twist by shining boots at St Pancras station to raise funds for Zimbabwe.

The shoe shining stall was set out on the main concourse of the international train station, which acts as a gateway to Europe, between 8am - 10am and 3pm - 6pm today (9 April 2009), to coincide with rush-hour.

Keeping Advent online

Online Advent calendars have become extremely popular since the Episcopal Diocese of Washington produced its first one six years ago. This year, our calendar, (visible at edow.org/advent) is a bit of puzzle, literally. The image of the Nativity is a brilliantly-colored children's puzzle produced by a Sri Lankan cooperative working with SERRV International.

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Who was Saint Valentine?

Good question.

While our chatty friends at Wikipedia and the Catholic Dictionary have a host of theories, we prefer the logic of James Kiefer, whose hagiography on the Daily Office web site generally tries to follow Occam's Razor.

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Lent begins

Via the Daily Scan from The Episcopal Church, the following is a sampling of the many articles about Lent and Ash Wednesday in our churches.

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Peep madness

For the last four years, The Washington Post has invited its readers to create dioramas featuring Peeps, those little brightly-colored marshmallow chicks and bunnies as an Easter promotion. This year, a couple from Washington National Cathedral's worshipping congregation took up the challenge and submitted one using the Cathedral as a backdrop.

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The art of devotion

The Peninsula (Washington) Daily News:

The Rev. Gail Wheatley took a leap of faith when she asked the parishioners at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Port Angeles last summer to submit artwork portraying the 14 Stations of the Cross.

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Why is Easter on April 4th?

When we ask "When is Christmas?" we mean what day of the week it falls on. When we ask "When is Easter?" we mean a specific numeric day in March (never before the 22nd) or April (never after the 25th).

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Feast of the Annunciation: the Magnificat

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington has a multimedia presentation on the Magnificat today, in honor of the Feast of the Annunciation.

Check it out.

Meet Christ in your dorm this Holy Week

The Episcopal Church's Committee for Young Adult Ministry (for the Young Adult and Campus Ministries program) has prepared an online Stations of the Cross that's worth clicking through. It features "original artwork and meditations by young adults from around the church," and includes this sensitive preamble

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Online devotions: Stations of the Cross

Courtesy of the Diocese of Washington, we present these three sets of Stations of the Cross for your Holy Week devotions:

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Is Easter culture-proof?

Worth noting on a day in which we recall both the appearance of the risen Christ to his disciples and the doubt one of them expressed: James Martin writes that Easter has a staying power that withstands our efforts to tame it.

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Tweetecost Continued: Shorter definitions of Pentecost

With #Pentecost trending on Twitter, it seems appropriate to ask Christian writers to define this momentous event in the life of the church.

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Entanglements: Feast of the Transfiguration and Hiroshima Day

The Feast of the Transfiguration, which falls on this day, reminds us that even in the oddest of moments, in the toughest of times, the veil may be drawn aside and we may be permitted a glimpse of something glorious.

Scott Cairns opines:

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St. Francis and Vida Scudder: tenacity and poverty

The appearance of the commemoration of Vida Dutton Scudder ("Educator and Witness for Peace") on our calendar today may occasion the recent memory of Francis of Assisi, who appeared on the calendar last Monday.

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Giving thanks in hard times

Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.—Psalm 126

When Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national observance of Thanksgiving in 1863, our country was torn by war, threatened by foreign powers and struggling with “needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry.”

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Missing the point, Advent style

Now on offer at Harrods of London, with design assistance from Porsche:

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A few Advent resources to last the season

Here are some Advent-length resources that have come into view the past few days. Add yours at the bottom of this story, or investigate what's already there and add your thoughts.

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On not hearting the Advent Conspiracy

What is the opposite of a guilty pleasure? I feel as though I should admire the Advent Conspiracy, but my appreciation is highly qualified. If you haven’t heard of the Advent Conspiracy, it is an extremely well-intentioned, not to mention net savvy attempt to get Christians to: worship fully, give more, spend less and love all. Seems as though it should be right up a lefty Christian’s alley, no?

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St. Andrew's Day

Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes with scenes from Scotland.

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Jesus vs. Santa ... go!

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite (former Chicago Theological Seminary president and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress) writes in The Washington Post's "On Faith" blog that there are notable distinctions between Jesus and Santa Claus.

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Kids tell the Christmas story

The children of St. Paul's in Auckland, New Zealand, tell the Christmas story.

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Connecting Jesus’ conception and death

Which came first? The Annunciation or Christmas? Given a nine month gestation, was March 25th chosen first as the date of the Annunciation, or was December 25th chosen first as the date of Christ's birth?

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5 bulletins for 5 services

Got all your bulletins proofread and printed? Two services on Christmas Eve? One on Christmas Day? The usual number the Sunday after? I hope so. This year it all happens Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

So you're ready. Right?

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The Nativity through 21st century eyes

Becky Garrison illustrates a reading of the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke with images from her travels in the USA, the UK, and Israel

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Fun with a chorus

The people of Quinhagak, Alaska, have fun with the Hallelujah chorus.

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Is 12th Night tonight or tomorrow?

Ever been confused about when we should celebrate 12th Night, and how to count the 12 days of Christmas? Maggie Dawn reflects on this question today, the 12th Day of Christmas.

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Happy Groundhog Day & Candlemas

Did you know the Christian roots of Groundhog Day and its connection to Candlemas?

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Ash Wednesday is today

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer. Amen. The Book of Common Prayer, page 265

Ash Wednesday is today. How are you observing Lent?

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Filled out your saint-bracket yet?

Blogger and priest Rev. Timothy Schenck instigated 2010's Lent Madness and had enough fun that he decided to do it again this year.

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Palm Sunday: three perspectives

Pope Benedict XVI, celebrating the Mass at the Vatican today:

"From the beginning men and women have been filled -- and this is as true today as ever -- with a desire to 'be like God', to attain the heights of God by their own powers," he said, wearing resplendent red and gold vestments.

Read more »

Were you there?

Allan%20Crite%20Crucixion.jpg

More about Allan Crite here. Image from here.

Happy Easter from Episcopal Café

We pause from our usual routine today to honor the reason we ever came together in the first place: Christ is risen indeed! A blessed and happy Easter to all.

We intend to spend the day doing Easter-y things, and encourage you to do the same. Unless something significant develops, we don't plan to do reporting today.

Episcopal Café

Lessons and hymns, Independence Day edition

Telling Secrets blogger Elizabeth Kaeton offers a service of Lessons & Hymns for Independence Day.

You can see the full readings and prayers on her page, but here are the readings on offer.

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At the turn of the year, a call for somber reflection

In the Huffington Post, Dr. Cindi Love reflects on the changeover into a new Christian year. She compares what Christians are supposed to do and be in the world with how they are perceived, and she laments the difference.

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Advent 2011: stopping in the midst of shopping

The Advent Chapel in the Diocese of Montreal writes:

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Assorted links: Advent inspiration edition

Some wonderful Advent calendars have been web-published from Trinity Wall Street ("light breaks") and Episcopal Relief and Development (which takes the narrative approach).

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More Advent inspiration

Some more links for your Advent inspiration:

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Presents are kind of the point

Sarah Ditum hits the nail on the head in an essay about Christmas on the Guardian website:

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How was your Christmas?

Merry Day After Christmas. We'd like to hear about your churchgoing experience this past weekend. Or your church viewing experience, if you were among those who had a chance to watch the Christmas Eve broadcast from General Seminary during with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached. Did you hear a good sermon? Did you give a good sermon? How was the music? Feel free to share links to text, podcast or videos.

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"Journey of the Magi"

For Epiphany, we bring you T.S. Eliot reading his poem:

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Did your church celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., today?

Did your church celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., today? If so, tell us how. (The post originally asked if you celebrated the feast of Dr. King. But his feast is April 4.)

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Sabotage in CoE nominations committee

Colin Coward of Changing Attitude speculates that the person who leaked the information about a possible nomination of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Southwark is a member of the Crown Nominations Committee. Someone who feels he can violate the oath of confidentiality to keep gay men from becoming bishops:

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Gearing up for Ashes to Go

The Diocese of Chicago will once again offer Ashes to Go, the exceedingly popular, and at least slightly controversial initiative in which congregations take to the streets and subway stations on Ash Wednesday to offer ashes to passers-by.

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What are you doing for Lent?

Neva Rae Fox of The Office of Public Affairs of The Episcopal Church reports on a variety of Lenten programs, resources and meditations:

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Ashes to Go: how'd it go?

On the Christian Century's blog, Amy Frykholm muses about Ashes to Go.

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Egging them on: or, The yolk's on us

File under cracked up: nzherald reports Christian students at Auckland University are lining up to become targets:

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Denise Levertov on Julian and Good Friday

Excerpt from On a Theme from Julian's Chapter XX by Denise Levertov:

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The Stations of the Cross for families

Children narrate the stations.

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Observing Good Friday

How are you observing Good Friday? Tell us in the comments.

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The Grand Miracle by Mary Karr

From The Grand Miracle by Mary Karr:

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Four stations, video meditations by Canon Frank Logue

From The Rev. Canon Frank Logue in the Diocese of Georgia:

Human suffering is ubiquitous. What makes Jesus' death on the cross is not what humans did to Jesus, but that God responded with love to hate and with life to death. These video Stations of the Cross use film of more recent examples of needless suffering alongside images of Christ's passion to challenge viewers to see how Jesus' death and resurrection can redeem all of the many times and ways the innocent have endured pain even to death.

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Oh Sacred Head/American Tune

From St. Matthew Passion by J. S. Bach.

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Why did Jesus have to die?

Mark Harris shares his sermon from the Easter Vigil. How would you answer Lily's question?

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Anne Lamott on getting beyond bunnies

Michele Norris of National Public Radio sat down to talk about Easter with Anne Lamott.

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What we talk about when we talk about Easter

We would like to try a little experiment this morning. We are celebrating the holiest season of the Christian year, a season we enter after seven weeks of preparation. We’d like to ask you to do three things here. 1) Describe what this experience, or some piece of this experience, has been like for you. 2) Think about how you would alter this description if you were speaking to someone who wasn’t currently attending a church, but might want to. 3) Think about under what circumstances you might feel comfortable offering such a description to such a person.

Do you feel comfortable taking it from here, or no?

The unifying power of Pentecost

Rhonda Mawhood Lee draws from memories of growing up in Montreal, a world of two languages, to reflect on the power of Pentecost:

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Holiday survival guide

The Rev. Victoria Weinstein, aka Peace Bang offers a guide for church leaders during Advent and Christmas.

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Advent opportunities

UPDATED: see below

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Call me Mary

Call me Mary. Youth group tells the story of the Annunciation.

Brought to you by the youth group of First United Methodist Church of Smithville, TX. Happy Advent! Check out the rest of the story in the gospel of Luke, chapters 1-2.

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Advent: the importance of waiting and doing nothing

Former Episcopal Café editor and current seeker of news for the Café, the Rev. Torey Lightcap, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Sioux City, Iowa, writes in Huffington Post
The Importance of Waiting and Doing Nothing: an Advent reflection:

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A monk in the midst

A new video feature A Monk in the Midst from the Diocese of Massachusetts features Bishop Tom Shaw, a brother of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, which has its monastery on Harvard Square. In this one, he speaks of how the church "wrecks" Christmas.

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A Blessing Station: out in the midst of the Advent crowds

Here on the Cafe a while back, we had a conversation about how the church should make itself present on Black Friday. I suggested that the church needed to do more than bemoan commercialism, and wondered whether we might develop an Advent counterpart to the extremely successful Ashes to Go initiative that was coordinated in February by the Rev. Emily Mellott of Calvary Church in Lombard, Ill.

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Evangelism on Christmas Eve: #nativityvigil

Christmas and Easter are perhaps the only two times of the year when people who generally ignore the church take at least a momentary interest in it. They are, therefore the two times of the year when it is most helpful to post the times--and perhaps the nature--of your services not only on your website, but on social media as well.

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On not heart-ing Clement Moore

Nineteen years ago, the Rev. Roger Ferlo, who is now president of Seabury and Bexley Hall Seminaries, was rector of St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village, a church where Clement Moore, author of A Visit from St. Nicholas, otherwise known by its first line: "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was once senior warden.

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The Christmas Story by kids

An oldy-but-a-goody from St. Paul's in Auckland, New Zealand: The Christmas Story as told by kids.

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The Rebel Jesus

A Christmas wish from "a heathen and a pagan."

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Epiphanies for The Epiphany

The feast of the Epiphany always leads me in a free-associtive sort of way to James Joyce's definition of the word epiphany offered in Stephen Hero, one of his early works:

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Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

The Anglican Church of Canada is producing videos of the Stations of the Cross. Below, the Rev. Scott McLeod reflects on the eighth Station of the Cross: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. He shares a story of how God worked through a chance encounter with a suffering woman.

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Palm Sunday in the street

Episcopalians continue to draw attention by taking church services into the streets. Last night, Channel 6 in Philadelphia was one of a number of stations around the country that carried stories on Palm Sunday processions.

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Jesus dies on the cross

Do you own a Guatemalan stole? Perhaps this story will make it even more holy.

The Rev. Scott McLeod reflects on the twelfth Station of the Cross: Jesus dies on the cross. He tells a story of a brave priest who ministered—and was ultimately murdered—among the people of Guatemala.

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The Way of the Cross, not the way of the gun: a video

A lovely video from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, capturing Monday's rainy Way of the Cross along Pennsylvania Avenue, where 20 bishops and nearly 400 lay people prayed for action to reduce gun violence.

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God is dead. Can God rise?

David Creech, a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the humanities at Loyola University Chicago, offers a challenging essay titled "Good Friday. God is Dead"on this blog Dying Sparrows.

He begins:

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The Obamas hear an Easter sermon

President Obama and his family celebrated Easter with the people of St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square. The Washington Post filed two stories, one about the Obamas, and one about the sermon by the Rev. Luis Leon. (Why the Post refers to Leon, who is a priest, as a minister, is a mystery.)

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Peeps, butterflies and resurrection

We are tipping our collective cap this Easter Monday afternoon to Bishop Dorsey McConnell and Andy Muhl of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. They did a great Ash Wednesday video, and now they are back with an Easter message.

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50 Days of Fabulous: reflections for Eastertide

So often the world thinks Easter ends with the last egg hunt on Easter Sunday. Fifty Days of Fab: reflections for Eastertide reminds us to celebrate Easter for the full 50 days. The Rev. Laurie Brock explains how the project started:

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Deck the church with airs of Advent

The Very Rev. John McGinty, canon for formation in the Diocese of Long Island, wonders how to make our churches stand out amidst during Advent when homes and businesses all around them are bedecked with Christmas decorations. He writes:

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An Advent Purist relents

We've been discussing how the church should respond to the shopping season for a couple of days. Now, thanks to the Rev. John Ohmer, we turn our attention to question of how the church should observe (dare we say celebrate?) Advent. Ohmer, of the Falls Church in the Diocese of Virginia says that once upon a time, he was what he calls an Advent Purist, by which he means someone who observed Advent as a "mini-Lent".

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Advent: avoiding repentance?

Marcus Borg explores the meaning of the season of Advent and critiques the use of it as a mini-Lent. Has he gone too far in rejecting repentance as a part of Advent or not? From Patheos:

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Finding solace during a Blue Christmas season

Six years ago, Ann Fontaine wrote an essay on Blue Christmas services that has become one of the most popular pieces in the Cafe's not-quite seven-year history.

It begins:

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Prayer and reconciliation at the mall

We're not saying that editors at The New York Times were listening in to our conversations about how the church should make itself visible during the Christmas shopping season, but they could have been. Here's the story:

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T. S. Eliot reads his poem, Ash Wednesday

From the poem:

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

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Ashes to Go puts the Episcopal Church in the news once again

Few things that Episcopal Churches do are noticed as widely as the now annual custom of offering ashes to people in public places such as transit stops and street corners on Ash Wednesday. This year #Ashestogo once again caught the media's eye.

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Holy Week prep

Quick question: as Palm Sunday looms, church staffs (be it a lone individual or a slew of people) have lots of prep work. We know about things like liturgies and bulletins, but what are the things you always do THIS week, before Holy Week begins?

Tune the organ?

Routine maintenance on the copier?

Shampoo the rugs?

(FINALLY) take down the rogue Christmas decorations?

How about outside the church: how do your communications change before Holy Week?

How to make a proper Palm cross

Gathering today to make Palm Sunday crosses? In this video, origami artist Leyla Torres has her mother-in-law, Yvonne Sutton, show us how it's done:

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Charles Wesley wins Lent Madness' Golden Halo

Charles Wesley has defeated Harriet Bedell to win Lent Madness' Golden Halo. Here's the official release.

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"Holy Thursday" by William Blake

"Holy Thursday" (Songs of Experience) by William Blake

Read by Toby Jones

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Debriefing Easter

Now that the annual liturgical endurance trial known as Holy Week and Easter is behind us, those of us who work in the church professionally have turned our attention to nice, long naps.

But a blogger over at A Church for Starving Artists asks how we, who spend so much time and energy planning these services, should evaluate them? Should we critique the placement of the flowers? How smoothly the processions went? Or should we dig deeper?

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Lent Madness 2015 bracket announced

Matchups for Lent Madness were announced Monday. The popular way to learn about our fore mothers and fathers in the faith through reading essays about them and voting for one of of the pair each day has published the bracket for Lent 2015:

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