Notes from The Rev. Kirsten






Notes from Rev. Kirsten    4.4.17   Praying for Strangers

As I rode the BART train this morning, I clutched a strap above my head to make sure that I didn’t fall when the train lurched into each station and took off again.  Directly in front of me was a man in his bicycle outfit with his bike propped against the rail.  He had smiled at me when I entered and offered his hand when I stumbled before I had established my stable stance.  He took off his earbuds and so I asked whether he was biking for fun or work.  He said he would bike for ten miles up and down hills in San Francisco and then join some others for a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and out to the Marin Headlands.  He said, “Funny thing about biking—I bought the bike when I was drunk.  I woke up the next morning and discovered that I had a bike and then it changed my life—I started biking, I stopped drinking, I changed my job,  I lost a lot of weight.  I’m much happier now.”  I said,  “We call that grace.” 

We went quiet together as the noise of the BART got too loud to talk.  In the time under the Bay, I looked at all the other people I could see in the BART train and I prayed for each of them.   I prayed that they might feel God’s presence, know God’s promises, appreciate God’s gifts.  In those prayers, I felt God’s grace in my own life. 

My prayer for myself today is that I may be fully present to God, willing to hear God, attentive to God’s nudges and responsive—acting on God’s will for me. 

My prayer for our community is that as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week is that we will look with God’s eyes on the strangers who will join us for worship.  I pray that we will open ourselves to God’s grace expressed in the healing of Eucharist, renewal of Baptismal vows and love shown in service to our neighbors.  I pray that we will conclude our Holy Lent with a sense of readiness—patience and strength to walk towards the cross, with the absolute surety of the resurrection life that our faith Jesus promises.

I share this poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins that speaks to me about prayers for strangers—recognizing that we are that stranger to another.

To seem the stranger lies my lot, my life
Among strangers. Father and mother dear,
Brothers and sisters are in Christ not near
And he my peace my parting, sword and strife.
England, whose honour O all my heart woos, wife
To my creating thought, would neither hear
Me, were I pleading, plead nor do I: I wear-
y of idle a being but by where wars are rife.

I am in Ireland now; now I am at a thírd
Remove. Not but in all removes I can
Kind love both give and get. Only what word
Wisest my heart breeds dark heaven's baffling ban
Bars or hell's spell thwarts. This to hoard unheard,
Heard unheeded, leaves me a lonely began. 

3.28.217  Notes from Rev. Kirsten

Some Lenten seasons, I  have fasted—limiting my meals to one a day, or cutting out meat,.  I have brought to those practices different intentions—sometimes wanting to stand with those in this country who are constantly physically hungry, or those who have spiritual hungers that are not met.  I let the growling in my stomach be a reminder to pray.   Other seasons, my prayers have been about our environmental stewardship, thinking and acting daily to bring the issue of sustainable agriculture and sustainable food consumption to policymakers and consumers. 

This Lent,  my practice is focused on living into new life with Christ, as I walk with Jesus towards the cross.  My daily prayers have followed the stations of the cross. 

·      The First Station: Jesus is condemned to die.
·      The Second Station: Jesus Carries His Cross. 
·      The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time.
·      The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother.
·      The Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross.
·      The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.
·      The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time.
·      The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.
·      The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time.
·      The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped.
·      The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross.
·      The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross.
·      The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross.
·      The Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid In The Tomb.

Each day,  I bring to mind the image of Jesus.  I imagine myself a participant in his journey.  I pray for myself and the others around me.  I  sit in silence, asking to hear Jesus’ words to us as he travels.  These prayers bring to mind other people who suffer—people who are incarcerated, or those who fear police or military force.  I pray for people who live with violence in their homes or in their communities.  I pray with those who help to carry the cross, those who stand up for the ones who are being targeted.  I pray for those who mourn.  I pray with those who are dying and those who are caring for them. 

At each step, I hear Jesus’ words of healing and comfort.  I hear Jesus’ thankgivings and his promises that suffering is not the end.  I call on Jesus for comfort and renewal, seeking the strength to look towards the promise of Easter joy in the midst of the struggle.  The comfort that comes is different each day, but this meditation brings a wellspring of hope and vitality to the harsh realities of pain in the world.

I invite you to join me in these prayers this week.  Contemplate the stations of the cross on your own in silent prayer.  Have a conversation with a prayer partner about one of the stations.  Or join us on Wednesday night at 5:30 to walk the stations with us. 

Our Wednesday nights Lenten programs are structured to give us time for contemplation (5:30-6), then time of fellowship (soup supper from 6-6:30) and then time to move into action (discussion 6:30-8:00).  This week we will be discussing our Pastoral Care and Fellowship activities.  How do we as Nativity live as the loving community that Jesus’ resurrection promises us?   We welcome your thoughts and energy.

My collect for today:

We adore you, Oh Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world. Amen.

3.20.17 Notes from Rev. Kirsten

On Saturday, the Vestry met for a retreat to begin work on the next strategic plan for Nativity.  The vestries from St. Francis, Redeemer and St. Paul’s joined us at Nativity.  We gathered together in Morning Prayer and then we worked separately on the plans for our four congregations.  We joined together for lunch, shared highlights from our individual sessions and then began work on the next covenant between our four congregations. 

I came home from the day tired.  Our strategic planning work was too businesslike.  We hashed through plans for worship.  We talked about improvements to our building and grounds.  We discussed our outreach dollars, service activities, our bible study and our fellowship activities.   We voiced our frustrations about why more people don’t come to Nativity on Sunday mornings.  This kind of planning takes a lot of energy.  Your vestry worked really hard, giving their very best to making Nativity the Body of Christ we are meant to be.

We should have broken up our morning and had a bit more fun in the process.  We should have laughed more and celebrated a bit more.  We’ll do that at our next Vestry meeting, but I don’t want to wait until we’re together again in April to witness what is wonderful, alive and Spirit-filled at Nativity.  I heard the Vestry make plans that are so right for us all.  I want to highlight some of those now, so that you all know about their leadership.  If you haven’t already, I invite you to join in our Called to Serve Discussion Series every Wednesday night during Lent.  Emerging from the vestry retreat and these discussions, we will adopt a new plan for 2017.

In our conversations about worship, we talked about experimenting with a healing prayer service, about trying a quiet Taize service, about using our outdoor altar during the summer.  We talked about our music program and the excitement we feel about joining with St. Paul’s choir during the month of May (when St. Paul’s will be worshipping with us while their patio is being renovated).   We talked about reaching out with Eucharistic Visitors and offering rides to people who have trouble getting to Church.  We love the diversity of our services--the quiet of Evensong, the conversational homily of Thursday morning Eucharist, the richness of our 10 a.m. worship and the contemplation of our 8 a.m. service.  We want to try giving the altar guild more reverent space and quiet in the Sacristy on Sunday morning as they prepare us all for worship. 

In our conversations about fellowship, we dreamed about more opportunities to meet as friends in Christ.  Could we have “progressive Nativity dinners” in small groups?  Could we invite newcomers and old friends to join a lunch bunch—just informally going out together to IHOP or Applebees for lunch after church?   Should we have a church picnic (or camp out) at a park in the summer?  Should we have a late night champagne Easter feast again after the Easter Vigil?  We talked about our young people and families: How can we engage them in fun service activities with other congregations, doing more environmental projects, or providing friendship and welcome to immigrant families or people suffering economic hardship in our community?  We talked about being explicit when we need volunteers because it is part of being welcoming to everyone who seeks community with us.

We highlighted the depth of our Thursday morning bible study.  As we talked about shaping ourselves for ministry we highlighted the Cursillo movement and the Nativity leaders who make Cursillo weekends possible for all Christians here in Marin.  We talked about joining with other Episcopalians for study at the School for Deacons, in EfM (Education for Ministry), or on-line through the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership (CALL).  We  imagined new courses for Confirmation or preparation for Baptism, we began to talk about retreats or evening Bible Study opportunities.  We noticed the renewed energy for the Book Club and highlighted our participation (from afar) in Rev. Rebecca’s Attitudinal Healing group at San Quentin. 

When we gathered as four vestries on patio, I heard excitement about creating a “festival choir” with all four churches.  We talked about the potential to do more projects like the “Teen Success Breakfast” and the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy together.  We are looking forward to working together, supporting one another and doing God’s work in Northern Marin because we are stronger together.  We reiterated our commitment

As I recount these conversations, I get energized again.  I feel the Spirit moving among us. I know that when I’m tired and the work of Church feels hard, that I am probably trying to do too much and not leaving space for God to work.  God works as all of us come together.  I invite you to participate.  What do you think about these new ideas?  Call me, call your vestry, come to the Called to Serve Discussion series on Wednesday nights.  Bring new ideas.  Listen to God suggesting an experiment in your dreams or conversations.  Know that you can say yes.  God and all of us here will support you. 

My prayer for this week:


God our Creator,  you made all things in the beginning. You gave us your Son, Jesus Christ, the Created, who lived and died among us.  The ever Creative, Creating Holy Spirit lives in us and among us now.  Help us to feel your energy, your presence in our midst.  Help us to say yes, to the ideas born out of your will for us.  Help us to welcome newcomers and all our brothers and sisters in Christ from St. Paul’s (and St. Francis and Redeemer) by saying yes to their ideas and experiments.  Help us to know that we can change and grow without fear because you are always with us, working in us.  When we are tired, give us rest and show us the ways to create new life with you and the Holy Spirit here and now, relying not on our own power, but on yours.  In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

3.14.17  Notes from  Rev. Kirsten

Sunday night’s crab feed was so much fun.  Here’s the picture that Ian (one of our youngest Nativity members) took of me with his polaroid.  I ate so much crab that I  couldn’t hold another bite.  We danced and applauded for Grace and Caroline’s performance of You’ll Be Back from the Hamilton Show.  We all held our collective breath when the winning tickets were drawn at the raffle. 

Besides just glowing from the fun of it all, I’ve been reflecting on how crab feed is Church.  Here are four ways.

1)   It’s church because we gave of our best selves to make it happen. Philippians 2:5-8  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”  So many incredible volunteers—Bob Robertson and Nina Woods, our crab feed coordinators,  Ruth Baney and Susan Pick collecting prizes and running the raffle.  Jamie Betts and T’sa Hammond running the kitchen.   And Gail Sanfilipo who tracked the RSVPs and handled the money. Our set up teams, our shoppers, our servers and cleaners, those who contributed raffle prizes and those who bought the tickets.  Every person contributed in some way.

2)   It’s church because it was an expression of deep community—loving one another in our outreach and in our inclusion of everyone at Nativity in the invitation.  John 13:34-35 ESV A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   We invited friends and family, we picked people up and brought them home again.  We donated extra tickets so that everyone could come.  We were not like those disobedient Corinthians,  whom Paul admonished: “33 So then, my brothers and sisters,[l] when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come. (1 Cor. 11:33-35).

3)    It’s church because that crab was so delicious—it was a taste of the heavenly banquet.  Isaiah 25:6:  On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  In the taste and pleasure of eating our crab feast, we hope for a time and place (here on earth) when all God’s people will share in this bounty.

4)  It’s church because with the money we raised we will do God’s work—serving the poor, worshipping God, building up the Body of Christ in our place. Luke 6:35-36:  35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

If you didn’t make the crab feed, I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures.  Consider inviting a friend to join us on Wednesday night for Stations of the Cross and a bowl of soup.  Consider inviting a new neighbor to join us for worship on Sunday morning and a lovely coffee hour on the patio (Spring is here and coffee hour is back outside again!) 

Lent is a time of repentence and preparation. For many it is a time of fasting.  But last Sunday, we took a Lord’s Day break from our fast and celebrated the grace and bounty that God has given to us by sharing a spectacular meal with one another.

I offer this simple grace as our prayer for this week:


In a world where so many are hungry,
May we eat this food with humble hearts;
In a world where so many are lonely,
May we share this friendship with joyful hearts.
Amen.


3.7.17  Notes from Rev. Kirsten

It is International Women’s Day tomorrow and we celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March.   I thought we might begin our celebration with a look at some of the women in the bible and some of the women in our Episcopal Church tradition.    In the Hebrew Bible we have examples of powerful women of God who saved the people from oppressive rulers:  Miriam, the sister of Moses led the women out of Egypt in the exodus.   (Exodus 2:1-10, Exodus 15:19-21).   Queen Esther diplomatically negotiated freedom for the Jews from the wrath of Haman.  (Book of Esther 6:14, 7:1-10, 8:1-2).  We know the story of Sarah, the elderly (and barren) wife of Abraham who is told that she will bear a son in spite of her advanced age.  Isaac is born, proof of God’s favor on God’s people.  (Genesis 21). 

In the New Testament, Jesus interacts with women who tell him the truth and illustrate Jesus’ radical inclusion of all people in God’s grace.  The Samaritan woman at the well approaches Jesus boldly and knows him as the Messiah.  She becomes a key messenger to the people.  (John 4: 27-42)  The Syro-phoenician woman confronts Jesus as she seeks healing for her child, “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs. . . .” and Jesus’ mind is changed and he heals her daughter. (Matthew 15:21-28)

We know well the stories of Martha and her sister Mary, the friends of Jesus who implore him to raise their brother Lazarus from death (John 11:1-44).  Martha the sister who is busy working to prepare the house and the meal for Jesus and Mary who sits at his feet and listens to him, illustrate the paths to discipleship.  (Luke 10:38-42)   And then there is Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles (maybe Jesus’ wife) who conveys to the other disciples Jesus’ teaching about life in the Spirit and conveys the message of resurrection (John 20:11-18, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-11, Matthew 28:1-10).  You undoubtedly have other favorites—Mary the mother of Jesus,  Anna, Delilah, and Elizabeth.    A great resource remembering biblical women is  www.womeninthebible.net

In our tradition, we celebrate Holy Women as part of the weekday Eucharistic readings of Holy Women, Holy Men.  Some of my favorite saints are Blandina and her companions, the Martyrs of Lyon who were executed for their faith in the second century (HWHM, p. 403),  Julian of Norwich, a recluse and mystic of the fifteenth century (HWHM, p 363) and  Harriet Tubman who, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer and Sojourner Truth, is remembered as a prophet and liberator, the “Moses” of her people.  (HWHM, 477).  

The first women ordained in the Episcopal Church are known as the Philadelphia Eleven.  General Convention of the Episcopal Church debated the issue of women’s ordination for six years.  The Philadelphia Eleven were “irregularly” ordained in 1974 before the General Convention passed a resolution declaring that “no one shall be denied access to ordination into the three orders of ministry: as deacons, priests or bishops, on the basis of their sex” in 1976.  The first woman Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris was ordained in Boston in 1989 and the The Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, was elected the 26th Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church, USA on June 18, 2006.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us remember the women who prepared and shown the way for our discipleship.  My prayer for today is this beautiful poem commemorating the Philadelphia Eleven by Alla Renee Bozarth.

Call

   Inspired by “Mountain Moving Day,” 1911,

    by the Japanese Feminist Poet, Yosano Akiko.

There is a new sound
of roaring voices
in the deep
and light-shattered
rushes in the heavens.

The mountains are coming alive,
the fire-kindled mountains,
moving again to reshape the earth.

It is we sleeping women,
waking up in a darkened world,
cutting the chains from off our bodies
with our teeth, stretching our lives
over the slow earth—

Seeing, moving, breathing in
the vigor that commands us
to make all things new.

It has been said that while the women sleep,
the earth shall sleep—
But listen! We are waking up and rising,
and soon our sisters will know their strength.

The earth-moving day is here.
We women wake to move in fire.
The earth shall be remade.

Alla Renée Bozarth 




2.22.17  Notes from Rev. Kirsten

When I was in seminary I read a commentary on the Book of Common Prayer (our prayer book) called  Praying Shapes Believing by Leonel L. Mitchell.  The book talks about how our postures, our collective prayers, our sacraments all shape our theology.  We come to know God as we pray individually and collectively.  We have an experience of God working in us as a community through our worship experiences, our service to the community and our care for one another.

As I begin to prepare for our Lenten worship services, I am thinking about our worship experiments over the past two years, and our current liturgy choices at 8 and 10.  Here are a few observations. 

Our Eucharistic Prayers:  We have been using Eucharistic prayer B for the Epiphany season at the 8 and Eucharistic Prayer 2 (from Enriching our Worship) at the 10.  Both prayers emphasize the incarnate presence of God,  Christ in our midst.  During Lent, I am going to use Rite 1 from the Book of Common Prayer for both services.  This “old” language (from the 1928 Prayer Book) has a much more penitential tone.  For some of us, this will be a return to the language of our childhood.  For others, it may seem problematic as it uses more gendered language for God.  It is my hope that we will speak these words and be challenged by them.  If you used these prayers as a child, your understanding of these words may have changed as what you know about God has developed over the course of your life. 

The Communion:  We have been worshiping around the small altar at 8.  This circle helps us to know ourselves as celebrants of the Eucharist, sharing with one another God’s heavenly feast.  In the next few weeks we will get 30 chairs to make this circle easier.  But in this circle, it is hard to kneel.  The kneeling posture can change our orientation towards our collective repentance for the sins of the world and God’s continual forgiveness.  I am thinking about how we might move back to the altar rail for the confession during Lent to give us this new experience. 

At 10, throughout Epiphany we have been singing during communion for Epiphany.  This experience of sharing the bread and wine and then praying as we sing a Taize chant helps us to remain connected to one another throughout the process of receiving communion.  Grace and I are planning our communion hymns to continue to deepen this experience.

The Inclusion of Children:  Over the past few months we have not been having a children’s sermon before the adult sermon.  There are several reasons for this.  Some of our children felt uncomfortable being called up front, and for the preacher it is difficult to incorporate children on the spur of the moment if we don’t know who will be present.    Instead, over the past year, we decided to have special intergenerational services with an emphasis on our families and grandchildren.  We have found this a very successful model with great participation of our young people at Pentecost, Easter, Back to Church Sunday (in the fall), and Christmas Pageant.  

We attempted a more family focused service at 5 p.m. on Sundays in collaboration with Redeemer and St. Paul’s, but this service has not developed a consistent worshipping congregation, so we are suspending it for the next few months.  We may try it again in the summer at the outdoor altar.  We are continuing to work on ways to help our youngest members worship fully with us.  It is my hope that our teens may return to worship with us in preparation for Easter and that they may be fully incorporated into our worship leadership as readers, crucifers and acolytes with special roles at our Holy Week and Easter services.

The Daily Office and other weekday prayers:    Our first Wednesday evensong has developed a consistent following.  Grace, our music director now joins us to lead the congregational singing of prayers and hymns.  It is a contemplative and beautiful service and time of fellowship as we share soup after worship. 

We will have an Ash Wednesday service in place of Evensong on March 1 with imposition of ashes at two services--6:30 and 12 noon.  On March 8 and every Wednesday throughout Lent, we’ll meet at 5:30 for Stations of the Cross, followed by soup and then weekly discussions about our ministry work.  We’ll use different prayers each week for this walking meditation on Jesus’ walk to the crucifixion.  Some of the versions we have prayed in the past are powerful prayers from the perspective of Mary, mother of Christ, or written in first person, as we journey with him.

For our Thursday morning Eucharist, we use Holy Women, Holy Men as our lectionary and have lively conversations about scripture and the lives of the saints.  As we talk, we share our personal stories and bring our lives into conversation with the lives of faithful believers from our tradition.  During Lent, we’ll continue this service, and then continue our meetings in the kitchen for Bible Study on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month. 

I hope that you will experience the change of season, from Epiphany into Lent as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with God and one another.  Through our discussion groups, our worship, and our shared service, we will prepare ourselves for a new experience of resurrection.  If you have thoughts about worship changes that you’d like to try, feel free to send me a note, or plan to participate in our Wednesday night Lenten discussion about worship (the Vestry will put together a calendar of topics for the Wednesday night discussions).

In place of a prayer this week, I suggest we meditate on this passage from 1 Chronicles 16:23-31:

23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. 
24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 
25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 
26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 
27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place. 
28 Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 
29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. 
30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 
31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”

How can our worship at Nativity declare God’s glory and help us to be in right relationship with him?

Notes from Rev. Kirsten 2.14.17


I thought that I would write about St. Valentine today.  So I began doing research about this Saint and I found many conflicting histories.  The Roman Catholic Church eventually removed him from the list of saints because his history is unverifiable.  He is purported to have converted a judge to Christianity by curing the judge’s daughter of blindness.  He is purported to have been executed by Claudius (sometime in the 3rd century) when Claudius refused to be converted to Christianity.  There is no doubt that Valentine (or maybe multiple people who became known as Valentine) was a faithful follower, but the connection to romantic or courtly love may have been an attempt by later Christians to co-opt a pagan holiday devoted to engaged or married couples.

But even if this holiday does not have a historical grounding in St. Valentine’s life or legend, we can celebrate the loving relationships in our lives and reflect on how these relationships reflect God’s love for us.   John the Evangelist’s letters focus on this theme:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.  We love[b] because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters,[c] are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister[d] whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters[e] also.”  (1 John 4:7-21)
And so today,  my prayers are in thanksgiving for my husband and the love that we share.  I give thanks for the many couples I know who have weathered hard times, who love one beyond death, the couples who are passionately in love, and those who are patiently faithful.  I give thanks for the examples of loving relationships that prevail in spite of danger, in spite of adversity or social condemnation.  I give thanks for couples whose marriages have dissolved but who continue to love, honor and respect one another in spite of their differences.  I celebrate the love of friends.   And I give thanks for the ways that love—the love of God-- continues to triumph over fear.

As you reach out to friends and family today, express your love from its deepest place, the place where God loves us perfectly.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten 2.7.17

This past weekend, Everil Robertson, Susan Pick and I went to the Living Stones Conference with our Diocesan representative, the Rev. Eric Metoyer and the Rev. Ruth Meyers from CDSP.  We presented the work that we have been doing at Nativity as a “case study” and other churches—Bishops, priests, vestry members, ministry developers-- from around the country (and Canada) gave us feedback.  (Thanks also to Nancy Barnes who helped us write the case study.)  pIt was an amazing conversation; so affirming of the work that we have been doing.  We learned some new vocabulary and have new ideas about how to continue our work.  Here are some highlights.

The focus of the Living Stones conference was on engaging every member in Baptismal Ministry.  Bishop Prior (Episcopal Church in Minnesota) talked about this work as a continuous process of discerning the needs of our community and God’s gifts in our midst and then developing the gifts to meet the needs through continuous formation.    When we presented the outline of our ministry work both in the congregation and out in the world, the group noticed how alive and active we are.   They offered some suggestions about how to measure that vitality and communicate it to our parishioners and our Diocese.  One idea for the Nativity vestry is to take on a “benchmarking” project.  Other ideas emerged about more intentional continuous discernment and formation.

We learned the term “Total Ministry” as a way to describe new church formations where the gifts of every member of the congregation are utilized.  In total ministry congregations, the role of the priest is different—the priest isn’t expected to know the answers or lead all of the programs or projects.  The priest brings unique gifts around the sacraments, but other members may be called to lead worship, formation, outreach and pastoral care in new ways.  Because I am a part-time priest, we are already sharing leadership in new ways, but maybe we haven’t been explicit about this as a change in the culture at Nativity. Maybe there is an opportunity for a mutual ministry review that looks at the work we are doing together and more explicitly lays out new expectations for me as your rector and for our active committees, our volunteer “staff” and our vestry over the next year.   We’re on the cutting edge and our work led to great conference discussions about the skills that priests need to learn in seminary and the formation work that we need to do for all of our lay leaders and deacons.

As we have begun sharing resources with St. Paul’s, Redeemer and St. Francis, we are far along in a path towards “area ministry”.  The group that read our case study was very excited about this holy experiment of a cluster of congregations coming together around outreach projects, youth group and worship.  They encouraged continuous evaluation and experimentation and suggested that our vestry retreat (planned with the other four Northern Marin churches in March) might be the perfect opportunity to deepen this work.

We look forward to talking more with you all about what we learned and thinking with you about how to focus our work for the next year.  I can hardly wait for our first vestry meeting of the new year (not something that priests say every day).  If you’d like to read our case study,  I’m putting it up on our website:  www. Nativityonthehill.org.    Take a moment to think about the “discernment” piece that Bishop Prior recommended.  Do you hear, feel or see a need in our community that Nativity could be meeting? (In other words, are we being called into ministry in some new way?)  And let’s think together about your gifts?  Do you feel yourself being called into new ministry at Nativity or with some other group in our community? When do you feel most that you are living into God’s plan for you?

Here is a discernment prayer from the Catholic University of America:
God our Father,
You have a plan for each one of us,
You hold out to us a future full of hope.
Give us the wisdom of your Spirit
so that we can see the shape
of your plan in the gifts
you have given us,
and in the circumstances
of our daily lives.
Give us the freedom of your Spirit,
to seek you with all our hearts,
and to choose Your Will above all else.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

http://service.cua.edu/longtermservice/prayersfordiscernment.cfm


Notes from Rev. Kirsten 1.31.17

I was thinking about this season of Epiphany. We use the term Epiphany (with a capital E) to refer to the commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. But we also use epiphany in common speech to mean a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something. Merriam Webster Dictionary adds to the definition: “an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking, an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure or a revealing scene or moment.“

I was thinking that in this season, we might be more aware, more attentive, more open to “epiphanies” (with a small e) about God’s work in our lives and in our community. Are there manifestations of Christ Jesus in our daily interactions? You might not be used to naming God’s work in your life as a daily practice. I invite you to take just a moment and welcome an epiphany. Is there something that you appreciate, but generally take for granted that might be a manifestation of God working in your life? Is there a shift in a relationship, a change in your mood, a new focus in your thoughts that might be God working in you? Do you notice anything new happening in your community, in the news, in your family or circle of friends that seems like it might be God’s work? Have you met someone who might be Christ in our midst?

I notice a tendency among my friends and colleagues to focus on difficult things that are happening in the world. Certainly, we can’t ignore hard issues. But we have an opportunity to look for God’s promises, God’s work, and name those.

Sometimes when we give thanks at dinner, my boys say, "I’m thankful for the movie we saw," or "I’m thankful for my dance teacher." I have an opportunity to encourage them to notice these things as God’s work. We notice that the movie offered a hopeful view of the world, or showed the danger of corrupted power—this vision that comes to us through movies or other art might be divinely inspired. When they name a person whom they love, we can notice that this love, at its best is an expression of God’s love working in us. When we see someone doing wonderful work, we might notice that this is the work that God has called them to do.

Looking for epiphanies is not very trendy in our very secular society. We have a tendency to look for big miracles or to attribute everything else to human success. But try it; maybe you can have an epiphany this week.

My prayer for this week comes from the Presbyterian Church, USA:

Shepherd of Israel,
you sent a star to enlighten the wise
and a child to topple the tyrant.
Make us wise enough to seek you
among the least of your children,
wise enough to trade our treasure
for the gift of overwhelming joy. Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten January 24

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  In this celebration, we remember the battles for Civil Rights in the 1950s and 60s.  We remember his words that inspired a generation to work for rights of African American brothers and sisters.  Talking to our elders, we remember the marches in the south, the freedom riders, the sit-ins at lunch counters and the protests in every community.  

I am preparing to go to Washington for the Women’s March this coming weekend.   The example of Dr. King is very much on my mind.  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 brought together many different civil rights organizations.  While initially President Kennedy opposed the march, ultimately he worked for its success.  The march demanded an end to racial segregation in schools, racial discrimination in employment, protections against police brutality, a $2 minimum wage and self government for Washington DC (which at the time was governed by a congressional committee.    Martin Luther King, Jr.  gave his “I have a dream” speech at that march.   He understood that he was preaching to the American people.  The foundation of his civil rights activism was his faith in Jesus Christ.  Martin Luther King was living the Gospel—organizing, preaching, making policy demands, witnessing injustice and standing with the oppressed as Jesus called his disciples to do.

This coming weekend, the Women’s March will include many different agendas.  Some of the messages coming out of the march may be ones that I disagree with, so I want to explain why I am going and what I hope to say by my presence there.  I believe that is a moment for women to stand together to express to our government our hope that women of every race and nationality will have their basic needs met and equal access to the opportunities that this prosperous country offers.    I am marching to witness women throughout the world who are more likely than men to suffer poverty, lack of education, hunger, poor health, violence and housing insecurity.  I am marching to demand that the new administration focus on ensuring that civil rights, human rights, gender rights and economic rights are protected and expanded so that all women may fully participate in creating the Kingdom that God hopes for God’s people.   For me this is not just about preserving the equal rights protections that we have achieved here in the US, because freedom from discrimination is not the same as ensuring that all people share in God’s bounty.  I hope to say by my presence that women’s voices must be heard and that our hopes and dreams for our nation and all people who live here matter.

I will be marching with St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC.  St. Stephen’s is led by my friend the Rev. Sam Dessordi Liete.  It is a congregation with a rich history of work towards inclusivity, civil rights and women’s rights.  (See their history page.)  I will participate in their Nonviolence & Active Bystander Intervention Training the day before the march.

I ask for your prayers as I head to Washington on Thursday.  For all of you who will participate in local Women’s marches, know that I am praying with you.  I will post pictures and updates on our Nativity Facebook page throughout my trip.  

Our Sunday services will be led by Rev. Rebecca and Rev. Scott at 8 and 10 and by Rev. Daniel at 5 p.m.  I look forward to hearing about your work on the Stop Hunger Now project (see the registration link below) and to seeing you all at our annual meeting on Sunday the 29th.  

This collect for International Women’s Day from Christian Aid in the UK seems appropriate:

Oh Lord, we pray that you may strengthen us with power and revelation, 
so that Christ may live in our hearts through faith. 
Make us firm in love. 
Help us understand your will, audaciousness and wisdom in order to fight for your justice. 
We pray that you may make our hands strong and our voices heard.
Grant us humility firmly, and discernment passionately, 
so that we may fight, not to conquer, but to liberate. 
To liberate the women silenced by the violence, 
from inequality and abuse, from unjust and discriminatory cultural or religious practices.
This we ask, in the name of Jesus Christ who, 
with You and with the Holy Spirit, 
lives and reigns, one only God, now and forever. 
Amen.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten January 10

Come on Sunday for Celebration of our Music Ministry!  "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!" [Psalm 95:1]Music has always been important to Nativity--over the years we've had children's choir, special instrumental ensembles, soloists and our longstanding adult choir.  Years ago, Craig Bonds wrote a setting of the Mass just for us.  Our congregation sings well, especially when we are inspired by upbeat hymns and anthems.  


On Sunday, we will celebrate the return of Grace Renaud as our Music Director.  Grace was with us in 2015, but left to pursue another opportunity closer to her home in SF.  But she missed us and when we advertised again for a Director this fall, she came back on a temporary basis.  Just before Christmas, Grace and I began discussions about whether she would consider staying.  We can't meet her salary needs fully, but the Vestry is making best efforts to honor her talents, experience and work while keeping our budget in balance.  She decided to accept our offer when (a moment of grace) a baby grand piano arrived on her birthday.  Through a generous donation from a neighbor (secured by Dick Heine) the piano has taken its place in the front of the sanctuary and our lovely upright has taken its place in then upper room where it can be used for youth worship or for rehearsals when the sanctuary is occupied.  


Grace and I have some big plans for the music program.  We'd like to have "festival choir" days when we expand the choir with new members from the congregation and the community to do bigger music than is possible every Sunday.  We'd like to host concerts with professional singers or chamber music or make our sanctuary available to music teachers for student recitals.  We want to encourage you all to join the choir.  Even if you can't come every week, we'll work to make rehearsals accessible and teach anyone who wants to learn how to use their voice (or how to read music).  We encourage our children and teens to sing with us, or contribute as instrumentalists.  We're open to exploring all styles of music and welcome your ideas about special music programs we might offer (one person suggested an "Alleluia" concert with many different styles of alleluias sung by our choir).


This Sunday, we will dedicate the new piano, we'll offer a blessing to Grace as our Music Director and we'll have an extended postlude to feature Grace's talent and the new instrument.  At the offering, we'll pass a second basket to gather donations for the new Nativity Music Fund (started this week with a generous donation from a parishioner) to help us support Grace and build a budget for special musical events.  


Come and sing joyfully with us.  My prayer for everyone this week:  


God, we seek always to praise you.  Help us to know you in the music that we hear on the radio, in concerts and on Sunday in worship.  Help us to express our sorrows and our thanksgivings in the hymns that we sing.  Help us to know the Holy Spirit in the breath that we take in together, the rhythms, melodies and harmonies that we make with our voices, our instruments, our bodies.  Let music be a part of us, an expression of your love, a reflection on your Word, a ministry that we give to our community.  Through Jesus Christ who in the parable of the Prodigal Son, called the lost home with music and dancing, we pray.  Amen. 



(And as an aside, this beautiful Sonnet 128 by William Shakespeare)


How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st,Upon that blessèd wood whose motion soundsWith thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'stThe wiry concord that mine ear confounds,Do I envy those jacks that nimble leapTo kiss the tender inward of thy hand,Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!To be so tickled, they would change their stateAnd situation with those dancing chipsO'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,Making dead wood more blest than living lips.Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

Epiphany Notes from Rev. Kirsten

Glorious Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services were made possible by the work of the altar guild and those who helped with the "greening" of the sanctuary, the choir who sang so beautifully with Grace and Tyler, the expanded altar party with Crucifer and experienced readers and ushers.  We welcomed people we haven't seen in awhile and new neighbors and celebrated with the Nativity family.  I came home full of the miracle--as we reach toward God, seeking God's presence in our midst, God comes to us to live with us as a member of our family.  Thank you all for participating, praying and making this Christmas so meaningful.


I had a lovely week of vacation with my boys, culminating yesterday with a gorgeous Pt. Reyes beach walk on New Years' Day.   I am refreshed and energized and this coming month will be busy!


This week on Tuesday night, we'll be with the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy at the Wellness Circle at 4:30 and dinner following at the First Presbyterian Church in Downtown San Rafael.  


On Wednesday January 4th, we'll celebrate Epiphany on the 10th day of Christmas (2 days early) with Epiphany Evensong at 6:30 and soup supper in the kitchen at 7.  Grace will play for us, so we will be sure to sing "We Three Kings" in perfect harmony.  Join us for this quiet service and time of fellowship. 


On Saturday,  I'm going to participate in the St. Dorothy's Rest tree planting project.  It's a two day service project--planting a thousand seedlings betweenFriday and Saturday.  Here's the registration link:   https://stdorothysrest.wufoo.com/forms/mokykqo0o3rgbq/   I think it will be lovely to be in the redwoods, consider joining me.  If you can't come, consider making a donation to the project.


Next Sunday, we'll be back to our usual three services--8, 10, and 5, celebrating the Baptism of Jesus and renewing our own Baptismal covenant. 


Later in the month on January 22, we're invited to join Redeemer and St. Paul's for "Stop Hunger Now"--a project to package meals for hungry people around the world.  We'll gather at 12:30 and work together for an hour or two.  We'll have more details about registering for that over the next few weeks.


And then on the 29th, we'll have our annual meeting.  There will be a vote to affirm my call as your Rector, a vote for new vestry members and an invitation to commit to new ministries or continue the work that you love.  Consider serving a term as a vestry member, joining the altar guild, the choir, the alternative high school breakfast program, the outreach committee, the usher guild, the lay ministers and readers.  If you aren't sure what you'd like to do, come meet with me or with one of the current vestry members.  We can help with your discernment.


The season of Epiphany is one in which we celebrate the incarnation.  We know God's presence among us and we recommit ourselves to fulfilling our Baptismal vows.  It is a time to bring our gifts, like the wise people of old brought their gifts to the Christ child.  What will you bring?



Here is my prayer from Luke 6:38:  "[G]ive, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”  Jesus Christ, help us to give our very best to you, in our prayers, in our works, and by our presence with all of your creation.  Let us feel your love, and know your grace as we stretch ourselves to serve you.  Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten
December 20, 2016

The anticipation builds.  We are in Advent 4 preparing for Christmas.  I wonder how to keep centered on the coming of Christ in this flurry of activity. 

There is a sweetness about looking forward to the celebration.  I am excited about the candles and the pointsettias, I am working on sermons and thinking about hymns.  I am looking forward to the children who will come on Christmas Eve just for the excitement of holding the candle during Silent Night.  I am thinking about the friends and members who we don't see every week who will be back for Christmas.  The anticipation contributes to my joy.  But maybe it's also a bit distracting. I can get caught up in the celebration details and miss the opportunity to be present for the miracle of Christ's birth. 

I want to be ready to know God in a new way on Christmas.  I want to be ready to share the light and love of Christ with the world.  I want to be moved and I want to be part of the Jesus Movement (as our Bishop calls us).  So my prayer today is about listening and noticing the small, humble, weak beginning that is coming.  Jesus was born in a manager.  Like all babies, he was tiny and helpless.  But he was also the fulfillment of the prophesies of old. Not everyone noticed immediately that he had been born.  But a few attentive ones--the shepherds, his parents, the wise people . . . they knew the Messiah had come.  Can I be attentive to the places where hope is being born?  Are there places where God is working that I might not have noticed?  When I talk to friends is there something wonderful beginning in their lives?  When I meet with parishioners, are there examples of new life, new hope, new light in places where there has been darkness?  When I think about my contributions to the Christmas miracle, I need to think about how I can nurture and extend that love that God shows to all of us.  What can I do to help my friends, neighbors, and the people who are on the margins of our community to share in this miracle?

Join me in praying:  Holy Spirit, help me over the next few days to listen for and appreciate the birth of hope.  And where I find darkness, help me to bring the light of Christ.  Jesus, as I prepare for Christmas, let me be present to your coming into the world everywhere.  Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten, December 13
Last Sunday, the four Northern Marin Churches did a pulpit exchange. I preached at Redeemer. What a wonderful experience it was for me! One of the core principles about preaching is that we try and have a dialogue between the preacher, the hearers, Scripture and God. As we explore the readings for the day, we are listening for how God is speaking to us in our context through Scripture--our congregations, our city, our ministry. We listen to the stories of God's work in the world over time and wonder how those stories teach, lead and interpret our times. When the preacher tells a story about a current event or a personal circumstance, we imagine or actually see God's working in new ways in our lives. So the experience of preaching at a new congregation helps us to expand our sense of who "we" are. We are God's faithful--in the Episcopal Church. Not just at Nativity, but all across the globe. We are united with other Christians of other denominations. We know God in conversation with people of other faiths. 

In last Sunday's Gospel reading, we heard Jesus respond to John the Baptist's followers question: "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." Jesus tells John's followers to look and listen for his healing work in the world. And so as I preached to the faithful people of Redeemer, I listened and looked for God working in their midst. Stories about their ministries--"Stop Hunger Now," their pre-school, their labyrinth walks--all examples of God healing. All a pointer towards the promise that with Christmas, Jesus will come in new, fresh ways into our world.  He is the one who is coming.

Let us pray this week that we might recognize the in-breaking of God in new ways. Here is a Mary Oliver poem.  Making the House Ready for the Lord
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
Still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an uproar of mice—it is the season of their many children. What shall I do?  And under the eaves and through the walls the squirrels have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season when they need shelter, so what shall I do?  And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow; what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,as I do all morning and afternoon:  Come in, Come in.


Notes from the Rev. Kirsten  December 6,  A Focus on Mary
This coming Sunday, Rev. Daniel London will be preaching at Nativity's 10 a.m. service (I'll be preaching at 8 a.m. and likely at 5 p.m.).  The Third Sunday of Advent is "Gaudete Sunday." While the season of Advent is a penitential season -- a season of fasting, almsgiving and preparation for Christmas --   Gaudete Sunday is a joyful break reminding us of the coming joy and gladness of the promised in-breaking of God into our world.  We will light the pink Advent candle and our readings include Canticle 15, the Magnificat or the Song of Mary (BCP p.91). 

In this beautiful song from the Gospel of Luke, Mary voices her joy: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, for he has looked with favor upon his willing servant." (Lk 1:46-55)  Mary knows that she has been chosen by God to bear the Christ child. And she is awed by this gift from God. How extraordinary that she heard the message from the Angel Gabriel as a gift. She could have heard his message with terror or dismay.  

I think about difficult tasks that we are called to, and how often these calls feel like an obligation or mandate rather than a gift. We know that God calls us to serve the poor, but it is hard to be with people who are suffering poverty -- they are sometimes dirty, sometimes suffering mental illness or addiction. They are not easy to be with. God calls us to speak out against oppression, but it is hard to challenge voices of authority or popular sentiment. Sometimes it is hard to see where the source of oppression is and how to focus our attention on changing the systems so that justice and peace will reign. God calls us to co-create with God, preserving and restoring our planet. The task of controlling global warming, or preserving land in the face of industrial pressures can feel so overwhelming that it might seem that our part is too small to make any difference. And the personal sacrifices that real change requires may seem just too burdensome.

This week, I invite us to contemplate Mary's joy. How might we hear God's call to difficult ministry as a gift? Jesus is coming into the world anew on Christmas. Our Advent preparation engages us in God's hope that this birth will matter to all of us, it will change us -- by healing and reconciling us, inspiring and comforting us and by calling us to service. Let us hear the call with joy.

As our prayer for today, I have posted a poem about Mary's yes from the Angel Gabriel's perspective on our website: http://www.nativityonthehill.org/.  (Thanks to The Rev. Canon Stefanie Schatz for sharing it with us.)

I look forward to seeing you at our Advent Evensong on Wednesday (December 7) at 6:30 or at our 8 or 5 p.m. services on Sunday.  If you come to the 10, please welcome Rev. Daniel. It is our hope that this pulpit exchange will continue to knit our congregations here in Northern Marin closer together helping us all to build up the Body of Christ in this place.  

 

Notes from the Rev. Kirsten, November 29, 2016

 The O Antiphons
Have you ever heard of them? Maybe you don't know them by that name, but you might know them from our hymnal. My favorite Advent hymn--O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The hymn has seven verses. These are traditionally sung at Evening Prayer in the seven days before Christmas. Here are the verses:
1 O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Refrain:  Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.
2 O come, O Wisdom from on high, who ordered all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show and teach us in its ways to go.
Refrain
3 O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to your tribes on Sinai's height in ancient times did give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.
Refrain
4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem, unto your own and rescue them! From depths of hell your people save, and give them victory o'er the grave.
Refrain
5 O come, O Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home. Make safe for us the heavenward road and bar the way to death's abode.
Refrain
6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star, and bring us comfort from afar! Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light.
Refrain
7 O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind. Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.
Refrain
The Roman Church has been singing the O Antiphons since at least the eighth century. In the context of Evening prayer, these antiphons come before the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary. Theologically, these antiphons invoke the ancient hope that God will reign among the people. The O Antiphons prepare us to recognize the birth of Christ as the fulfillment of these hopes. On Sunday I talked about living into these hopes as the work of our Advent preparation. We bring ourselves into dialogue with the Hebrew Scriptures, the letters of Paul and his followers and the Gospels praying in anticipation of the coming of the Son of Man. We have our own visions of what Christ's coming among us will mean. I suggest that if you are not in the habit of Evening prayer, you might use these Antiphons throughout Advent, praying two antiphons each week. Each verse gives us a different name for Christ: O Wisdom, O Immanuel, O great Lord of might, O Branch of Jesse's stem, O Key of David, O bright and Morning Star, O King of nations. With each name comes the promise of what the coming of Christ will mean for God's people.

Beginning this week, we might pray the first two: O Immanuel and O Wisdom. In the first, we long for a return from exile, and freedom for the captives. How does that prayer speak to us? We might ask how we have been estranged or exiled from family or friends, from our true selves or from our country of origin.  We might pray for all who are incarcerated, and lift up those refugees who cannot return to their homelands. Praying the second antiphon, we long for wisdom, knowledge and a clear path to show us the way forward. When the way forward is not clear, how do we make space in our imaginations, in our lives for Christ to help us and light our way?

We had such a lovely project on Sunday making our Advent wreaths.

Using prayer beads tonight, my prayer is simple. O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I long for you to come.




Notes from Rev. Kirsten

November 22, 2016

This week many are gathering for traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. While I'm looking forward to a turkey dinner, I am praying that we might all know the joy of God's love and presence in our lives and give thanks for God's blessings. It's a subtle shift. Instead of giving thanks for what our friends and family mean to us, we give thanks for what God has given us. The love of family and friends is so important, but the love of God is deeper. Instead of giving thanks for the food prepared for us by loving hands, let us expand our thanks -- praising God's creative work in making all living things--plants, animals, water, earth, sun and sky and all of us.

When family members say the wrong thing, hurt us or ignore us, God is forgiving, loving and speaking with generosity to us. When we find ourselves struggling with money, or health or loneliness, God is offering hope, healing and constant witness to our lives. When we find ourselves sad or disappointed with a holiday celebration, remember that God gives us every day the promise of new life, something wonderful offered to us. Seeing the Thanksgiving holiday through God's eyes gives us the opportunity to know that real bounty is available to every single person. God never leaves anyone out, never says the wrong thing, always wants the very best for each of us.

It is my prayer that, however you spend your Thanksgiving day, you might experience God's blessings. See the sky, hear the wind, catch a smile, smell the sunset. As you know God's blessings, focus on sharing them fully with the people you meet. If you are cooking, make your meal a gift. If you are taking a walk, invite a companion. If you are staying at home reading a book, call a friend and tell them about it. Let Thanksgiving not be a big chore; let it be a nourishing practice that builds up the love of God in the world.

Join us as we give thanks and share God's love at our Thanksgiving Eve service with the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy at 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in San Rafael tomorrow night (Wednesday). Or join us for our Eucharist on Thursday (Thanksgiving) morning at 9:30 at Nativity.

The International Business Times printed this Muslim Thanksgiving Prayer today.

"Thank You, Allah T’aala is all that I can say. For who knows whether we’ll make it, with grit, come what may, and without Allah’s Mercy we may try all night and day forgetting what we’re worth, a clot of blood, just clay. However, with His Mercy a mountain can we move with ease and no great effort, just hope in Him, just love. So, Thank You Allah T’aala is all that I can say. Just help me share this blessing with all who come my way. Bless Muhammad and his sacred Household inconsequential me."

Notes from Rev. Kirsten November 15, 2016


Post-election, we find ourselves in the midst of a national shift. We don’t know what the new national government will mean in terms of policy changes. We don’t know how the divisive campaign rhetoric will settle into new public discourse. But in the midst of this shift, we must pray and listen for God’s call to us. We must listen for who and what God wants us and our elected leaders to be and do. As I pray this week, I hear God calling us to love one another as God loves us. Love those who think differently. And loving is about listening and understanding. Come to know one another as God’s people—every one, made by God to thrive.

With that call in mind, I want to celebrate the ways that we express that love at Nativity. We welcome people into our community—our worship, our fellowship, our Bible Study, our Church building. And we reach out to people who may never come to Nativity, but who are our brothers and sisters. We reach out through our Cursillo ministry, our presence with the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, our prison ministries, our alternative high school breakfasts, our senior ministry, our caregiver support group and our missionary work—in Haiti, Borneo (you’ll hear more about this) and in Bosnia. As we participate in our community, we live the Gospel, loving the people we meet—seeking to understand, knowing them. By this work, we are changed and we change the world around us. The national shift may change the context in which we work, but our work remains clear. We are called to build up the Body of Christ and work with God to bring the Kingdom here.

This coming Sunday we will have a visitor at our 10 a.m. service from the Diocese. Denise Obando will worship with us and then meet with the Vestry to do a “mutual ministry review.” This is an opportunity for the Vestry to talk with one another, with me and with the Diocese about the work that we have done over the past two years since I became priest in charge. Ms. Obando will hear about our progress on our strategic plan and our plans for the future. We will have an honest conversation about areas where we must continue to work to build our Church. At the conclusion of the mutual ministry review, the Vestry will consider my contract and will make a recommendation to Bishop Marc. I am looking forward to our conversation because I am proud of what we have done together, and I am looking forward to constructive suggestions about new directions and ongoing work. If you have thoughts about the mutual ministry review—progress that we should celebrate or areas that need continued work--the Vestry welcomes your input. Send Everil Robertson, Senior Warden, a note or give her a call.

On Sunday, we will also be doing our in-gathering for our fall stewardship campaign. I invite you to pray about your pledge as a “celebration of abundance.” This community is a gift to each of us in different ways. When we pledge, let our contribution reflect our gratitude and commitment to building up what we have here. I am thinking about the pleasure of exchanging gifts—when we are recipients of gifts, we know ourselves to be loved. When it is the perfect gift, we know that the person who gave it to us knows us well and cares about us. And when we give the perfect gift, we feel the pleasure of thinking about the other person, making them feel good, and knowing our best selves as loving and generous people. Try thinking about your pledge as the perfect gift to this community—this community that you are a part of.

My prayer for this week is a prayer for loving community from the Book of Common Prayer, “For All Sorts and Conditions of People” (814).

O God, the creator and preserver of all, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of people; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are in any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [especially those for whom our prayers are desired]; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.



October 18, 2016


For those of you who missed it, last Sunday’s 10 a.m. service was especially energetic.  Our former music director,  Grace Renaud returned to lead the choir and all us in hymns that  rocked our worship.  Her energy and joy are so infectious.  As we sang,  "It’s me, It’s me, It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer”, Sybil’s granddaughter Gracie and I danced in front of the altar.  Somehow with that music, confessing that we need God wasn’t a somber request;  it was  a joyous call for God to lift us up, make us better, heal us, help us to grow.  That song reminded us that we can’t flourish alone,  God’s help, and the help of our neighbors, our friends, family and congregation are where we find our strength.  Sometimes we lament, cry out, ask for God through tears.  But Sunday we called for help with dancing.


At our all parish retreat, we spent a few precious hours together, sharing a lovely lunch and telling stories about God’s work in our personal lives and in our church.  We mentioned the joy of worship, the intimacy of our care for one another and our vision for a Church in which newcomers and old-timers, kids and parents, single visitors, and college students would all feel God’s love.  We concluded the meeting with a meditation on what each of us could do to bring that vision into our life together.  Ruth and Jean Heine led us in a Cursillo song before we left—"It’s me, It’s me, It’s me who builds community.”  


Funny how that happened, two joyful songs--It’s me standing in the need of prayer.  It’s me who builds community.  God at the center of our life together, but every one of us contributing to God’s work here.  Good themes for this week.  


Join us this week as we seek God’s help, worship together and serve as God’s hands in the world.  We’re planning several fun projects.  This Sunday we’ll have a vestry meeting at 11:30, and we’ll also do an ingathering of cookies for our students and parishioners who will appreciate a package.  On the 30th we’ll carve pumpkins together and on the 31st (Monday) we’ll open the Church for trick-or-treating—join us to hand out candy or prepare our decorations.  


On another note,  we are looking for volunteers to do some “parishioner seeding” at Redeemer.  This is an exciting opportunity to help support our sister congregation in Peacock gap by attending their Sunday worship once a month.  I believe that it will knit our congregations closer together, it will help them build and it will give us new ideas about ways to enrich our own worship and partner with them in ministry.  Let me know if you are willing.  


Let our prayer for this week be the lyrics of our Sunday hymn:


It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not my mother, not my father
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not my brother, not my sister
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not my elder, not my leader
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not the preacher, not the sinner
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
"It's Me, O Lord, Standing In The Need Of Prayer" is a traditional Black Gospel song. The author is unknown.

October 12, 2016

For those of you who missed it, last Sunday’s 10 a.m. service was especially energetic. Our former music director Grace Renaud returned to lead the choir and all of us in hymns that  rocked our worship. Her energy and joy are so infectious.  As we sang, "it's me, it's me, it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer,"  Sybil’s granddaughter Gracie and I danced in front of the altar. Somehow with that music, confessing that we need God wasn’t a somber request; it was a joyous call for God to lift us up, make us better, heal us, help us to grow. That song reminded us that we can’t flourish alone; God’s help and the help of our neighbors, our friends, family and congregation are where we find our strength. Sometimes, we lament, cry out, ask for God through tears. But Sunday we called for help with dancing.

At our all parish retreat, we spent a few precious hours together, sharing a lovely lunch and telling stories about God’s work in our personal lives and in our church. We mentioned the joy of worship, the intimacy of our care for one another and our vision for a Church in which newcomers and old-timers, kids and parents, single visitors, and college students would all feel God’s love. We concluded the meeting with a meditation on what each of us could do to bring that vision into our life together. Ruth and Jean Heine led us in a Cursillo song before we left—"It’s me, It’s me, It’s me who builds community.  

Funny how that happened, those two joyful songs--It’s me standing in the need of prayer. It’s me who builds community. God at the center of our life together, but every one of us contributing to God’s work here. Good themes for this week.  

Join us this week as we seek God’s help, worship together and serve as God’s hands in the world. We’re planning several fun projects.  This Sunday, we’ll have a vestry meeting at 11:30, and we’ll also do an ingathering of cookies for our students and parishioners who will appreciate a package. On the 30th, we’ll carve pumpkins together and on the 31st (Monday) we’ll open the Church for trick-or-treating—join us to hand out candy or prepare our decorations.  

On another note, we are looking for volunteers to do some “parishioner seeding” at Redeemer. This is an exciting opportunity to help support our sister congregation in Peacock gap by attending their Sunday worship once a month. I believe that it will knit our congregations closer together, it will help them build, and it will give us new ideas about ways to enrich our own worship and partner with them in ministry. Let me know if you are willing.  

Let our prayer for this week be the lyrics of our Sunday hymn:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not my mother, not my father
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not my brother, not my sister
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not my elder, not my leader
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Not the preacher, not the sinner
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.
Chorus:
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.


"It's Me, O Lord, Standing In The Need Of Prayer" is a traditional Black Gospel song. The author is unknown.



Rest in Peace, Abb Scarborough

Abb Scarborough died peacefully at home this morning. He and his beloved wife of 72 years, Ruth Scarborough, joined Nativity two years ago when they moved to Hamilton to be with their daughter and grandchildren. Abb was 96 when he died. He and Ruth are lifelong Episcopalians who met in the Church. They loved the beautiful language of the Rite 1 service. Abb taught Sunday school, served on Vestry and participated in every aspect of Church life. Until his last day, he and Ruth prayed together every night before he went to sleep.

We pray today in thanksgiving for Abb’s faithful service, for the love that he and Ruth share, and for his new life in Christ. We pray for their family and friends who mourn. We lift up Ruth, who in the midst of tears, remains one of Jesus' flock, a lamb who is known by Jesus Christ and who knows Jesus Christ as her savior.
Cards for Ruth may be sent to Nativity.  Memorial plans will be announced when they are settled.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten  October 11, 2016

New Life and Wow! Prayers


This is a picture of Sandra, Tony and new baby Benjamin.  If you were at our 10 a.m. service on Sunday, you heard me say at announcements that I couldn’t stay for coffee hour because I was dashing to be with Sandra and Tony at the hospital. Benjamin was born at 12:17 p.m. and I got there 15 minutes later. It was so wonderful. We just kept crying with joy—Benjamin is perfect. Sandra is tired but will be fine. Tony is so full of love for them both. I spent time with them again yesterday and they expect to come home from the hospital today.

I have been praying constantly since I got the call on Sunday morning asking me to come.  My prayers are full of thanksgiving for this new life, this little perfect human. I am praying with hope that his life will be rich with experiences, that he will grow to be a happy person and that he will know how much he is loved. I am thanking God for the love that Sandra and Tony share. I am awed by God’s creativity and the blessing of this family in my life. These prayers are all in Annie Lamott’s category of “Wow!” prayers. Prayers of wonder are moments for us to appreciate God working in our lives.    

As I thought about all of you and how these prayers relate to our life as a community, I ask where we are experiencing the “wow” of God’s creativity in our lives. Where is God creating something awesome, something new? We can think about the “wow” of God’s work in our families, our individual lives, our neighborhood.  I also think that God is creating something wonderful and new here among us at Nativity.  On Sunday we had three full services—more folks than usual worshiping with us. We were praying together with Jean Heine and Ruth Baney because they were participating in the Kairos Inside weekend at the women’s federal prison in Dublin—powerful ministry work in our community. We reflected on the Scriptural stories of healing and prayed for healing for ourselves and reconciliation with people who are isolated from us. Some of the healing stories that I hear from you all are in the “wow” category.

This appreciation of the “Wow!” of God working in our lives will be the core of our time together at the all parish retreat next Sunday. We will meet from 12-3 p.m. on Sunday at the Contempo Marin Community Center, 400 Yosemite Road, San Rafael. We’ll talk about where we feel the Spirit moving and set in motion some discipleship plans—plans for how we will participate in God’s work. It will be fun, energizing, affirming, and important to our future together. Plan on participating if you can.

My prayer for this week:

God, I’m blown away by the perfection of Benjamin, Sandra and Tony’s new baby. I am full of wonder and awe at the ways that you create new beings, new possibilities, new beginnings. I am so appreciative of all the ways that when things seem impossible, you breathe new life and something shifts--creating openings and light where I saw endings and shadows.  God, your creation, the sun, the moon, the oceans and rivers, the mountains, the desserts, the animals and the plants, all remind me that I am a speck of dust in your universe. I am humbled and honored to be one of your creatures, loved and supported by you.  You put my human troubles into perspective and show me how to be part of your creativity, making new life in your image.

Wow, God, you are the only God—Creator, Created and always Creating.  We praise you and give you thanks, today and always. Amen.

Special NNO 10.7.16


Ways to Help Communities Affected by Hurricane Matthew (From Episcopal Relief & Development)

Hurricane Matthew, a massive Category 4 storm, is heading to the U.S. and is expected to make landfall in Florida, then head up the southeast coast. 

Those affected by Matthew urgently need our help.

This powerful hurricane hit Haiti Tuesday morning, bringing 145 mph winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges, then headed to Cuba and the Bahamas roaring through with devastating destruction. 

Since making landfall, the Category 4 storm has already wreaked havoc. Entire communities are under water…buildings have been stripped of their roofs…and thousands of people are being evacuated.

And this unrelenting hurricane shows no signs of stopping, either. After sweeping through Haiti, Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean, Matthew is expected to hit the U.S. on Friday. In fact, several states along the southeast coast have already declared states of emergency. 

We have reached out to our local partners—and stand ready to assist wherever possible. 


Please make an urgent gift to our Hurricane Matthew Response Fund—and help us provide our church partners in Haiti, Caribbean and the U.S. with essential supplies and resources right away.
 
10.4.16


Notes from Rev. Kirsten:   We Are Stronger Together!

St. Paul told the people of Corinth, "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." You know this passage—about the members of the body, the eye, the head, the nose. "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-30) 

Today, we rejoice as we share the news that the Rev. Dr. Daniel London has been named the long-term supply priest for
Church of the Redeemer, our sister congregation in Peacock Gap. He replaces their beloved Priest Molly Hawes, who has left to pursue new opportunities in the Diocese.

Rev. Daniel starts this coming Sunday. Daniel has been the leader of the
Marin Episcopal Youth Group for the past four years. He has developed a wonderful formation program for our teens. MEYG teens are engaged in scripture, focused on ministry and praying together in their weekly compline service.  They have raucous fun together, and they are a model for multi-congregation collaboration. Daniel’s appointment as priest for Redeemer ensures the continuation of this collaboration with our youth and opens up new possibilities for shared ministry with the adults of Redeemer.

At our vestry meeting two Sundays ago, the Nativity vestry resolved to support Rev. Daniel and Redeemer and formally continue and expand the collaborative ministry of the four Northern Marin Episcopal Churches. We are hopeful that
St. Paul’s, St. Francis and Redeemer will also adopt this resolution, which includes our financial commitment to continuing the youth group, ongoing pulpit exchanges with Redeemer and St. Paul’s (at least once a quarter), joint vestry meetings, our new 5 p.m. Eucharist and Colloquium, shared advertisements for holiday services and a new program of “parishioner seeding” for Redeemer. "Parishioner seeding" is the proposal that we send two parishioners to worship with Redeemer every month, thereby getting to know one another individually, building up the Redeemer congregation, and sharing new ideas with one another about worship, outreach and pastoral care. I’ll talk more about this on Sunday, but it seems to me a wonderful way to support Redeemer and continue to knit our communities together.

This week we have two other opportunities for shared ministry--Rev. Christopher has invited us to contribute to St. Paul’s annual book sale (run by the St. Anne’s Guild). If you have books to contribute, please drop them off at St. Paul’s on Thursday. We can also support the Marin Episcopal Youth Group and Rev. Daniel in their monthly service with the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy. Join them next Tuesday at the Wellness Circle at 4:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, downtown San Rafael, or 5:30 p.m. for the dinner.

Let our prayers be in thanks for the gift of our brothers and sisters in Christ at the four Northern Marin Episcopal Churches. This beautiful prayer comes from Living Word River Valley:

Lord, we pray that we would be unified, just like You and Jesus are one. Thank You for the privilege we have of representing You to a world that needs to know You and is always watching to see how our relationship with You affects our relationships with others. Lord, help us to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Lord, give us eyes that see and care more about building up Your church in unity than about pushing our own agenda. Show us practically what steps we need to establish and maintain unity, especially in forgiving others, reconciling relationships, and moving towards one another. We are praying for the destruction of walls between us and others,
between the wealthy and the poor, between different races, between the old and young. We want to reflect You as the body of Christ. Holy Spirit be our help, conviction, guidance, encouragement, and power. We invite You to do the work in us that only You can do in Jesus' name. Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten 9.28.16

The Blessing of our Animals

Next Sunday, we will celebrate St. Francis Day with a Blessing of the Animals at 9 a.m. Meet at the Outside Altar between the 8 and 10 o'clock services. We bless our animals in recognition of their belovedness—they are God’s creatures. In caring for our pets and feeling their love and appreciation for our care,  we express our gratitude for God’s creation and can know in a new way God’s love for us. Our interconnectedness is such a powerful and precious gift. Consider inviting friends, neighbors and family to this simple worship service our prayers will be welcoming to people of all faiths. You may bring your pet (on leash or in carrier) or bring a photo of your pet to share with us. We will bless them and give thanks for their presence in our lives.

The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

 

You can never be sure who will show up for the Blessing of the Animals!

Notes from Rev. Kirsten 9.20.16

Worship that Feeds Us, Study that Engages Us, Community that Brings Us Closer to God
We had a first  Sunday evening worship yesterday. It got hot in the afternoon.  By five o’clock, our sanctuary was oppressive. But just before the service, we opened the doors on either side of the choir. After a few welcomes and announcements, Rev. Rebecca rang the gong and we sat in silence. The breeze blew through, and I took some deep breaths, watching our altar candles flicker. My worries about this new worship receded and when I stood for our opening dialogue, I felt the Spirit breathing over us all, comforting us, and opening us to the presence of the Holy.

Eleven of us heard the lessons. I preached and then Rev. Daniel London  presided at the liturgy of the Table. We shared communion—members of Nativity and St. Paul’s. We are one Body. As we prayed our post-communion prayer together, I heard new voices in the congregation and I knew that this is the community we are called to be.  

Then we met in the kitchen, and while we shared cheese and crackers, hummus and carrots, we met parents who were coming to drop off teens for youth group and adults who were joining us for the Colloquium. Some who had come for Eucharist went home for dinner or other evening plans, but with the new arrivals, we began Colloquium in the Owl Room with 12 people. Rev. Christopher led us in Bible Study, contemplating passages that speak to “fear” (1John 4:16b-18, Ps. 111). We contemplated the root of fear about change in our Church, fears for ourselves and our families. We talked about how hard it is for love of God to really push fear out. And what does it mean that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” What a powerful, faithful conversation. We shared in a deep way, asking hard questions and listening with deep attention.

By 7 p.m., we were finished. Rowdy noises and music from the teens upstairs. Tired but happy clergy. Smiles from participants who were first time visitors to Nativity, hugs for people we are eager to see again.

It was a great first Evening Worship, Colloquium and Youth Group. I am looking forward to seeing people again next Sunday.

My prayer for our times of worship and study this week:
Thursday morning 9:30 Eucharist and 10:30 Bible Study,
Sunday morning worship at 8 and 10,
Sunday evening Eucharist at 5 with Colloquium at 6:

God, you have made the heavens and the earth.
You have revealed your beauty in creation.
You have given us your sacraments as outward signs of your grace
and inspired the scripture that we study.
Help us as we worship together, share a snack and read together.
Take us deeper into understanding more about you
and your love for us.
Amen.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten 9.13.16

The Bureaucracy of Church
This week, your Deanery Delegates—Ruth Baney, Phil Sandahl, Rev. Scott, Rev. Rebecca and I will be going to our pre-Diocesan Convention Deanery meeting. This meeting is preparation for the Diocesan Convention on October 15th. We’ll be talking about resolutions, candidates, and committees and creating forums for more input from the deaneries around the diocese. Does it really matter? Is there anything going to happen there that affects you? On some level, our life as a congregation will not be dramatically affected by the resolutions or elections that happen at Convention—we’ll continue to worship as we worship; we’ll fulfill our Baptismal call to ministry as we discern with the Holy Spirit; and we’ll care for one another, building up the Body of Christ on our hill in San Rafael.  

But on another level, the Convention resolutions and votes will articulate and shape our vision for what the Kingdom of God looks like here in the Bay Area now. The Convention resolutions cover such pressing topics as gun control, the Israel/Palestine conflict, energy efficiency, the death penalty, trafficking and slavery, and support for ministry in the Holy Land. The resolutions will be shared with General Convention; some will inform policy makers in Sacramento and Washington, DC; and some will directly affect our Diocesan budget and our ministry priorities. While they do not change the Gospel, they shape the context in which we hear the message as part of the Episcopal Church. We hope that our resolutions will shine a light on what we believe is the Way and allow us to evangelize effectively as God’s Church here. 

By next Sunday, we will have discussed the resolutions at our Deanery meeting. We will have heard from proponents and considered arguments against the resolutions. I encourage you to look at them online  or get a copy from me on Sunday so that we can discuss them as a community. We seek your input as we think and pray about these resolutions.  

My prayer for today from the Book of Common Prayer (816):
Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel the 167th Diocesan Convention for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten  September 6, 2016

Gathering is my theme for today. Coming together. I’m thinking about our Evensong on Wednesday night, our Back to Church Sunday celebration next Sunday (with auction and special brunch), our new 5 p.m. service that begins on September 18th, our Deanery meeting (14th), our Diocesan Convention (October 15th), a parish retreat (October 16th).  And our gatherings around ministry, with the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy (Tuesday at 4:30), with the Kairos Inside Ministry (Columbus Day weekend), with the Alternative High School.

Why is being together so important?

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. " (Hebrews 10:24-25)

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

"What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)

Our Scripture reminds us that we come to know God more fully when we come together. We are stirred to live the Gospel by our interactions with one another. And when we share our individual gifts with others, we are richer as a Body of Christ, living as disciples, doing God’s work in the world. I wonder how the Spirit will move in us as a community when we share our brunch next Sunday? I know for sure that our quiet sung prayers and soup in the kitchen at our Wednesday Evensong will be a moment of renewal and encouragement for me this week. Maybe sometimes it feels that coming to Church or showing up for ministry work is one too many things in an already busy week, but there is also a chance that these gatherings are the places for sustenance, energy and joy — moments that we need to counteract the exhausting busy-ness of our lives.

Join us when you can, and find the food your souls needs in our gatherings.

My prayer for today is for all who gather, modifying the "Prayer for Friendship” by Vienna Cobb Anderson.

You have blessed us, O God,
with the gift of gatherings,
the bonding of persons
in a circle of love.
We thank you for such a blessing:
for our brother and sister disciples who love us,
who share our sorrows,
who laugh with us in celebration,
who bear our pain,
who need us as we need them,
who weep as we weep,
who hold us when words fail,
and who give us the freedom
to be ourselves.
Bless all who gather with us with health,
wholeness, life, and love.
Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten, August 30, 2016

This past weekend, Nativity’s senior warden, Everil Robertson, and I attended an Equipping the Beloved Community workshop hosted by the Diocese. We chose a session on “Appreciative Inquiry” run by church consultant Caroline McCall. Caroline presented a model for congregational change that focusers on building on the strengths of the congregation and exploring new ways to “do more” or “be more” of what is best about a congregation. I sat in the workshop overwhelmed with gratitude. I felt so strongly that we have already begun this process. We are building on our strengths in so many ways. We will talk more about this process (and may have an all congregation workshop on this in the fall), but I wanted to just share my first thoughts about how we are doing this today.
  • We are deeply engaged in pastoral care—looking after one another through a formal pastoral care group and a myriad of informal caring efforts.  These efforts continue to grow.
  • We are committed to care for the poor, the sick, the elderly,the marginalized, the imprisoned—giving to Ritter House, the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, Kairos, Bosnian Workers University, UTO, Buckelew—so many examples of ministry that we are engaged in together and as individuals. All of these ministries are expanding as we invite our neighbors to join with us, and we contribute new volunteers and new finances to these efforts.
  • We are building on the strength of the Episcopal Church in Marin. Our joint youth group, our shared ministry to the Alternative High School, and now our new joint Sunday night service.
  • We are committed to sharing the gift of our place on the hill with others. Our gardening projects and landscaping, our patio renovation, our Owl Room clean up—all designed to make our space more usable by outside groups. We’ve added another weekly meeting—The Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting —and there are other community partners considering both short term and long term programs with us.  
  • We are committed to beautiful and prayerful worship—Our 8 and 10 a.m.Sunday and 9:30 Thursday services continue. We have added the first Wednesday Evensong and we’re now adding a weekly Sunday evening service
  • And finally, we are actively living as disciples of Christ. Caroline gave a statistic that in most congregations, 80% of the members come to Sunday worship and don’t do anything else with the Church (leaving 20% with all the work).  My quick calculation is that Nativity has the opposite statistic—at least 80% of our members are engaged in ministry of some sort.  This is so so important to who we are and how we are Church. We know ourselves as a congregation that lives our faith—not just on Sundays but every day.  
I invite you all to begin this process of appreciative inquiry with us. Let us look for and name where we feel God moving most powerfully at Nativity. Let’s ask the question, “Name a moment when you felt most engaged, energized or empowered by the Spirit at Nativity.” Write down the answer, send it to me in an email, tell us about it at coffee hour.

I am appreciating you all and God’s work in our midst. My prayer for today:

“God help me to see what is best about our congregation, our church building, our deanery and our diocese. When I feel areas of tension or negativity, let me name the fears that underlie these criticisms and overcome the fears with your love. Knit us together into the Body of Christ, helping us to do your will everywhere we go, in every aspect of our lives. Let us live with thankful hearts and willing hands, glorifying you. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.”  Amen.  


Notes from Rev. Kirsten on August 23, 2016

RIP Katie Mullowney
Beloved friend and sister in Christ, Katie Mullowney died this morning with her daughters at her side. Katie died as she lived, fiercely private and independent, and yet full of love and care for her friends and family. Katie was a long time member of Nativity, leading in nearly every aspect of our community life from altar guild, to outreach work with the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, from Sunday School teacher, Bible Study and Thursday morning worship. When we decided to begin senior ministry work, Katie was the first to step forward, she sponsored and participated in the Senior Fitness class, modeling by her active participation, the possibility for us to serve one another in fellowship and shared care. For all who knew her, Katie was a support—she was reluctant to accept care or even concern, determined always to care for others.  

We mourn Katie’s passing, and celebrate her faithful life, her generous spirit and her resurrection with Jesus Christ. Katie’s ashes will be interned at Grace Cathedral in a private service. Her family has asked that friends not visit or call at this time. We will pray together in thanksgiving for Katie’s life with us and for Katie’s new life in Christ at one of our Thursday morning Eucharists in the next few weeks.  

Rest in peace, Katie. Rise with Christ to that heavenly Kingdom where pain and suffering are no more.  


Notes from Rev. Kirsten

Last Sunday we heard the wonderful sermon of Rev. Paul Gaffney, from the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy. Rev. Paul spoke about healing as the movement of marginalized people to the inner core. As Jesus recognized the crippled woman and called her to himself, she was healed and the community around them was changed. The rules that kept this woman nearly invisible were challenged and changed so that she and all others like her were healed as naturally as bringing a thirsty animal to water. Luke13:10-17 We could not miss the image of Jesus enlarging the circle, just as the Tuesday night, Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy Wellness Circle is enlarged to include all who come, those seeking sustenance, care, companionship. The Wellness Circle’s healing is for those who carry hidden hurts and illnesses, and those who wear their needs on their faces and bodies. Consider joining the Nativity ministry team or the Marin Episcopal Youth Group in this wonderful work on Tuesday nights.

This coming Sunday we will have a guest preacher and presider, Rev. Christopher Martin, rector of St. Paul’s in San Rafael. Rev. Christopher and I are doing a “Pulpit Swap,” and I will preach and preside on Sunday at his Church. Christopher is a remarkable priest with a passion for small group discipleship. He is the author of 
The Restoration Project  and the founder of a national organization by the same name that promotes restoration of ourselves and our communities through seven core Christian Practices:  prayer, worship, service, giving, learning, listening and joining. It is our hope that through our pulpit exchange, our joint ministries and our new joint Sunday evening Eucharist and colloquium (starting on September 18th) we will all grow stronger as a northern Marin community of Episcopalians. I am sure that you will enjoy meeting Rev. Christopher if you don’t know him already.

My prayer for this week is rooted in Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians:

"You are no longer strangers or foreigners, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of the household of God." —Ephesians 2:19

God, bring us together with our brothers and sisters from other Episcopal Churches in Marin and around the Diocese through shared worship and ministry. Help us to know you as we minister together with people from other faiths in the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, the Kairos and Cursillo ministries, and in our daily encounters with your people in every aspect of our lives. Help us to overcome the voices of divisiveness in US politics today. Show us the best ways to live into the shared realm of your grace, knowing that each of us is loved, cherished as blessed as members of your household. Bring us with all of your creation into new relationships with one another and with you as we heal and are healed by your love.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten August 16, 2016

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  Matthew 25:40.  

Our backpack ministry was an outpouring of love to the families in our community for whom providing the necessary back to school backpacks and supplies would be a hardship.  We gathered supplies to fill 19 backpacks. We also contributed reams of paper, pens, pencils, calculators, notebooks, crayons. We made lovely pencil cases and filled them with new writing supplies. The things were a expression of our care and commitment to sharing what we have. Once again, I am moved by the ways that we live the Gospel.

This coming Sunday, the 21st, we will welcome Rev. Paul Gaffney, who leads the Wellness Circle and the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy to our 8 and 10 a.m. services. He will preach and we will take up a second offering to continue to support this wonderful ministry. If you have been working with the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, come to celebrate and be celebrated. If you have never participated in this ministry, come hear about it.   

My prayer for today:

Creator,  you who know us from before our births, hear the pleas of your people who are without means in Marin today.  Sustain them with your love and bring them access to affordable housing,  health care, food and necessary social services.  When they have the capacity to work, help them to find good jobs.  When they live in the shadow of the criminal justice system, help them to come into the light of shared and upright community values.   

Jesus help us to serve you by serving the poor among us. Break open our hearts to feel the pain of poverty, the anxiety of trying to pay the rent, buy gas and food, care for our children. Help us to know that people without money want to prosper, they want make choices, live freely and fully, they want to serve you and care for one another. Help us to share what we have with those who need and help us to accept the gifts that they give us, so that we may truly be brothers and sisters in your name. Forgive us our judgments, banish from us our self-righteousness, and humble us to know you in the least among us. 

Spirit, guide us in ministry, helping us to discern where our gifts are most needed and give of ourselves fully.  
With thanksgivings for all we have and especially the blessing of this wonderful community at Nativity, we pray.  Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten August 9,  2016

New Beginnings
I have been praying this week with people who are in transition. There are people who are moving house, and making homes in new places. People who are starting new jobs, or retiring and entering a new phase of activities that may not be “work.” There are people who have lost someone they loved and now have to begin a new phase of life without that person. There are young people returning to school or starting new educational programs. There are people who are learning to live with physical constraints that they didn’t have in younger years. These transitions can be painful.  There is often a time of grieving for what the old life was. But there is also an opportunity to begin something new. I wonder, what is the new life on the other side of these transitions? We can think about practicalities -- new routines, new places, new friends, or new projects. Before we get caught up in the human answers to the question “what next,” maybe there is an opportunity to listen for God’s answer.  

Our Scriptures talk a lot about new life in God. In the Gospel of John we hear:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  (John 1:1-5)

I love the image of "life that is the light of all people.” I can see in my mind, Jesus, lighting up dark places, showing all people a new path, the Way to be with God. As I pray with so many people in transition, I imagine them, each one, a light in a dark place. God banishing the darkness of fear, the tears of loss, the anxiety of facing a new unknown.  I imagine them living as a beacon of God’s love. I see them living new life, not just for themselves but for all people who seek to live as God would have them live. My prayer today is that people might feel God’s presence lighting their way as they make transitions into a new life.

Here is the third verse of
Hymn 692:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all your day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I'll walk
till traveling days are done.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten August 2, 2016

Today, I woke up feeling grumpy -- for no particular reason, just a little unfocused, not sure about what I’m feeling or doing. So I got up and prayed. Today, I wasn’t in the mood for morning prayer, I just wanted to be in conversation with God. So I began with thanksgivings. I made a list of all the people I am thankful for. I listed the blessings in my life. I prayed about God’s work in our Church and the places at Nativity where the Spirit is bringing energy for change and growth. I prayed with thanksgiving for the creative work that is happening in our Marin community, people and initiatives that help people and bring justice and freedom to everyone. I prayed about people I don’t know, giving thanks for the communities that are moving forward in good ways.

In the midst of my thanksgivings, I began to pray for God’s attention and guidance in places where there is suffering. I shifted my focus to people who don’t have housing, who live with violence around them, for children who are neglected or abused, for families who struggle to make ends meet. Then I focused on the people I know who have troubles. I named them and prayed that God would be with them and guide them.

I concluded with prayers for myself: “Show me, God, what I am supposed to do, who I am supposed to be." In the quiet that followed, I heard God’s response. You have done the right thing by praying. You are and have always been who you are supposed to be.

And sure enough, I continue my day less grumpy.

O God of peace, who taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten July 26, 2016

"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’" (Matthew 25:34-40)

I hear in this passage an invitation to ministry. This is a passage that is very familiar to us at Nativity; I can point to so many examples of us living into this invitation. Today, I want us to think about this passage as an invitation to all people. We must step into the role of evangelists, and tell our friends and neighbors that this invitation from Jesus is for them, too.  There are many ways that we invite people to join us in ministry to the poor. First, there are our Nativity ministries—our support of the
Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy (financial, the recycling project and work on the wellness dinner), our work with Ritter Center (at Christmas, Back to School backpacks and outreach financial contributions), our work with the Alternative High School (Friday morning breakfasts), our support of United Thank Offering, our work with the Hospice Thrift Store, our Kairos Inside and Outside ministries. Our first open invitation to ministry with us will be a "hands-on” ministry with families on August 13th—making fancy pencil bags for San Rafael students whose families will struggle to provide school supplies for their kids. Join us at 10 a.m. for the craft project and help assembling the Back to School backpacks and supplies.

But there are other ministries that we are doing that we might evangelize about—many of us are working with the
Marin Humane Society. Maybe it’s time to dedicate a coffee hour/bake sale to raise money for them? What other charities do we support outside of the church? Are there opportunities for partnership and support that Natiivity could offer if we had our neighbors helping with us? Let us know about the ministry work that you are doing and let’s think together about how to evangelize and provide support to one another as we respond to Jesus’ invitation to all of us. I would love to spotlight one or more of our parishioner’s ministries in our announcements or on our bulletin boards. When there are opportunities for people to join in these activities, we can share them with our network through Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership Marin-Napa and through our social media outreach.

There is joy in this work—when we serve, we enter into the Body of Christ as participants in God’s work. It can be hard, but it can also be the way that we truly experience God’s grace in our lives. Let us share this joy with one another and with everyone we meet.

My prayer for today is like that of the Prophet Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:1-9):
God of heaven, we look around at our community and see that some of our neighbors are suffering. They are poor, they are oppressed, they are suffering illness and isolation, imprisonment and violence. If it pleases you and if we have found favor with you, please send us to these neighbors so that we may ease their suffering, rebuild relationships with them, and bring them with us into the light of your grace. We want to serve you by serving them. Show us their needs and fortify us to meet them. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who taught us to love the least in our families, we pray.  Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten on July 19, 2016

On Sunday we had a vestry meeting and there was so much good energy, faithful leadership and ministry commitment, I wanted to share some of it with all of you.

We opened our meeting with a spiritual reflection on what we are hearing from friends and neighbors and media about the violence around the world this past week. It was a prayerful discussion with reflections on voices that offer us hope and places where people are feeling overwhelmed. Many expressed that friends are trying to "get on with their lives," not ignoring the events, but also not dwelling on them in daily conversation. We talked about our role as faithful listeners—our ministry of presence, not trying to “fix" or “do,” but being open to opinions and perspectives that are other than our own. We concluded with a reflection on how violence can be motivated by fear and overcome by love. When we hear fears, we can respond with radical love—a trust in our God who loves all people and an openness to loving every person as one of God’s own. We can hold people’s fears with them, and yet not succumb to them, so that our world may move beyond fear into peace.

We are very excited about two new possibilities for shared ministry with
St. Paul’s in San Rafael. First, we agreed that we will open our doors to St. Paul’s next summer and fall (2017) when they will be disrupted by their major patio reconstruction. It is likely that St. Paul’s will move its weekday activities to Nativity—committee meetings, Bible Study, 12-Step groups, or other functions.  The pre-school will stay at St. Paul’s, and they will keep their Sunday services in the Church, but we would share our space during the week. While it may create some inconvenience for us, it seems that with proper planning, it could also be a wonderful opportunity to get to know St. Paul’s better and share with them in their ministries.

A second proposal is open for discussion. Our vestry has been considering how to expand our family ministry and continue our
Marin Episcopal Youth Group in the fall.  Rev. Christopher Martin has suggested that we might host (at Nativity) a Sunday evening family Eucharist and then jointly lead two groups—one focused on our teens and another open to adults and young families.  The potential advantages to this would be: 1) Sunday evenings might be easier than Sunday mornings for busy families, 2) a short Eucharist service (5-5:45) could be jointly led by me, Rev. Christopher and possibly the other Northern Marin clergy, 3) youth formation and/or family formation groups could be a good opportunity to do Bible study, outreach ministries, study groups deepening our discipleship with our sister churches. This work would build on the seven working assumptions that emerged from the Marin Priests in Charge discussion, reminding us that we are stronger as we work together and that we are always oriented towards our Christian discipleship in ministry with the poor. Over the course of the next month, I’ll be asking what you think about a Sunday night service (in addition to our two Sunday morning services), and I’ll be looking for people who are interested in working with me, the Vestry and the other Northern Marin churches to shape a Sunday night program for youth, families and adults.

There was so much more in our Vestry meeting—conversations about our outreach to other non-profit organizations in Marin, work with
the Diocese, focus on our invitation and welcome, deepening our work with seniors and our own pastoral care. As always, I came away from the meeting full of hope and love, aware that we are blessed by God with so many gifts and energized by the Holy Spirit to use them to God’s purpose.

My prayer for today, is
Psalm 25, 1-5, 12-15,
David’s Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance:

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
   do not let me be put to shame;
   do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
   let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long.

Who are they that fear the Lord?
   He will teach them the way that they should choose.
They will abide in prosperity,
   and their children shall possess the land.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
   and he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
   for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten on July 11, 2016

If you heard my sermon on Sunday the 10th, you know that I focused on the promise of prosperity that we heard in our Scripture (if you missed it, you can read the sermon at www.nativityonthehill.org). I pointed out that God is not promising to give us some thing in response to our following the commandments. Instead, the process of loving our neighbor as ourselves is the new life that God promises. I invited us to follow Jesus’ instruction to the lawyer after telling him the story of the good Samaritan, “Go and do likewise.” As we mourn the violence and death of the past week, we can rely on God’s presence with us as we work to change our world and build up God’s Kingdom, by loving our neighbor.  

But, as I communicated with other priests today, I heard many other messages. I have some preacher’s regret about one of the themes that I didn’t follow. In the story of the good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite walk by the victim of violence. It is the Samaritan who heals the man by bandaging him, carrying him on his animal, and paying for the innkeeper to continue his care. The parable answers an important question for us—who is my neighbor?  The priest had his heart hardened against one of his own people, but the Samaritan had his opened towards one of another people. We are called to open our hearts to those who are not like us—people of different races, ethnicities, social classes, education, languages, ages and religions. While we are always quick to help our own parish members, we must remind ourselves to reach out beyond our circle of friends and closest neighbors and offer our witness and aid to the victims of violence, oppression, racism and economic injustice who are outsiders.   

What can we do to identify our neighbor today? How can we serve and invite others to join in our service? How will being the Good Samaritan and acting likewise help us to know the eternal life, the true prosperity that God promises?

Heavenly Father,
we know that You have made us for Yourself,
to love You and to love our neighbors.
Yet still we cannot help but live for ourselves,
and every day we justify ourselves by our own standards, not Yours.

But Lord, you have found us in the ditch,
and You have rescued us.

Now soften our hearts to Your will,
and make us to love others as You have loved us; especially those who are most in need, whom we pass by every day.
In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

~ written by Ross Byrd, and posted on Christ Community Church blog

Notes from Rev. Kirsten on July 4, 2016

This weekend, I have been preparing longstanding Nativity member, Doug Abel’s funeral and simultaneously reflecting on Independence Day. It might seem that these two thoughts are completely unrelated, but as I have been praying, I found a theological connection that I’d like to share.  Scripture tells us that God wants us to be free.  "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)  The Apostle Paul is explaining to the Galatians that  true freedom comes in the love of Christ as we live it in the love of one another.   "For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another." (Gal. 5:13)  Paul tells us that God hopes that we will be freed and that we will express that freedom by loving one another.

As I celebrated the 4th of July with a barbecue with friends, I thought about how we at Nativity might extend the freedoms that have been won for us in the United States by loving one another and our neighbors. Freedom is both a theological concept (what does it mean to be free in God’s eyes) and a legal concept (how do we protect our freedoms here).  We have an opportunity to extend both kinds of freedom as we seek new ways to reach out and love our neighbors,  as we tell the Good News of Christ,  and as serve Christ in one another.

This brings me to Doug Abel’s funeral.  His Committal service will be at the Mt. Tampalpais Cemetery at 10 a.m. on July 8th.  His Burial service (with Eucharist) will be at 12 p.m. at Nativity (followed by a lunch prepared by his daughter Allison).   I will preside at the service and his priest, Lyn Morlan will preach.  In this Burial service we will celebrate his new life in Christ.  And with his family and friends from Stockton, we will mourn his passing.  Our burial service is primarily a resurrection service.  We know that Doug is now freed from all human frailties; he is united with Christ and with the whole communion of saints.  In this service we will celebrate Doug’s love for us and our love for him, alongside our faith and our love for God.   

Our prayers for freedom today:

God, help us to know your love more deeply.  Help us to experience the freedom that you promise us as we love one another—extending your love throughout the world.  Remind us of those whose liberties are threatened, who have suffered imprisonment, enslavement, or those who are economically oppressed.  Show us how to serve our neighbors, loving them as you love us.  God as we pray for those we love who have died (especially our brother Doug Abel), help us to know their new life and freedom as they now live with you.  Support our faith as we seek freedom in loving you and one another. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ who gave us freedom through his death on the cross, we pray.  Amen.

6.28.16
Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have written the following letter to the Episcopal Church.

June 28, 2016

Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:
We all know that some things in holy Scripture can be confusing, hard to understand, or open to various ways of understanding. But some essential teachings are clear and incontrovertible. Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, and he tells us over and over again not to be afraid (Matthew 10:31, Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50, John 14:27).

There’s no confusion about what Jesus is telling us, but it often requires courage to embody it in the real world. Again and again, we become afraid, and mired in that fear, we turn against Jesus and one another.

This age-old cycle of fear and hatred plays out again and again in our broken world, in sickening and shocking events like the massacre targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Orlando, but also in the rules we make and the laws we pass. Most recently, we’ve seen fear at work in North Carolina, a state dear to both of our hearts, where a law called the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act” has decimated the civil rights and God-given dignity of transgender people and, by extension, drastically curtailed protections against discrimination for women, people of color, and many others. We are thankful for the prayerful and pastoral public leadership of the North Carolina bishops on this law, which is known as House Bill 2.

North Carolina is not the only place where fear has gotten the better of us. Lawmakers in other jurisdictions have also threatened to introduce legislation that would have us believe that protecting the rights of transgender people—even a right as basic as going to the bathroom—somehow puts the rest of us at risk.

This is not the first time that the segregation of bathrooms and public facilities has been used to discriminate unjustly against minority groups. And just as in our painful racial past, it is even being claimed that the “bathroom bills,” as they are sometimes called, ensure the safety of women and children—the same reason so often given to justify Jim Crow racial segregation.
But we believe that, as the New Testament says, “perfect love casts out fear.” On June 10, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church stood against fear and for God’s love by passing a resolution that reaffirms the Episcopal Church’s support of local, state and federal laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression and voices our opposition to all legislation that seeks to deny the God-given dignity, the legal equality, and the civil rights of transgender people.

The need is urgent, because laws like the one in North Carolina prey on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities—some of the very same people who were targeted in the Orlando attack. In a 2011 survey, 78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed in childhood; 41 percent said they had attempted suicide; 35 percent had been assaulted, and 12 percent had suffered a sexual assault. Almost half of transgender people who responded to the survey said they had suffered job discrimination, and almost a fifth had lost housing or been denied health care due to their gender identity or expression.

In keeping with Executive Council’s resolution, we are sending a letter to the governor and members of the North Carolina General Assembly calling on them to repeal the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.” When legislation that discriminates against transgender people arises in other places, we will also voice our opposition and ask Episcopalians to join us. We will also support legislation, like a bill recently passed in the Massachusetts state legislature, that prevents discrimination of all kinds based on gender identity or gender expression.

As Christians, we bear a particular responsibility to speak out in these situations, because attempts to deny transgender people their dignity and humanity as children of God are too often being made in the name of God. This way of fear is not the way of Jesus Christ, and at these times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our belief that Christianity is not a way of judgment, but a way of following Jesus in casting out fear.

In the face of the violence and injustice we see all around us, what can we do? We can start by choosing to get to know one another. TransEpiscopal, an organization of transgender Episcopalians and their allies, has posted on their website a video called “Voices of Witness:  Out of the Box” that can help you get to know some transgender Episcopalians and hear their stories. Integrity USA, which produced the video, and the Chicago Consultation are two other organizations working for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. Their websites also have online materials that you can use to learn more about the stories of transgender Christians and our church’s long journey to understand that they are children of God and created in God’s image.
When we are born anew through baptism, we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Today, transgender people and, indeed, the entire LGBT community, need us to keep that promise. By doing so, we can bear witness to the world that Jesus has shown us another way—the way of love.

Faithfully,

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry                              The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
Presiding Bishop and Primate                                 President, House of Deputies




6.22.16
Notes from Rev. Kirsten  on works and justification by faith.

Today (Wednesday) we are meeting for our Bible Study on the Apostle Paul (3 p.m. in the kitchen).  We’ll be talking about the first three chapters of Paul Was Not A Christian a very interesting book written by a renown biblical scholar Pamela Eisenbaum.  As I’ve been preparing for our discussion, I’ve been pondering one of the questions she raises,  “Did Paul think that the law  was superseded by faith in Christ Jesus?”  Eisenbaum will challenge the idea Paul preached a gospel of “justification by faith” contrasting works (as the Jewish law) and faith (as the Christian paradigm).  This idea, leads me to think again about the relationship between faith and works.  I invite you to think with me.   

Our catechism tells us (BCP 858) that, "Grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and underserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.”  If God’s grace is freely given, then how do our “works” relate to our faith in God?  I haven’t finished Eisenbaum’s book, so I don’t yet know if she answers this question.  But I think that there are several possible answers, all supported by Scripture..  Here are some that occur to me.  1) We do good works because we are disciples, following Jesus’ example.  2) We do good works as a way to glorify God—essentially this is a gift exchange.  God gives us grace and forgiveness, we respond with gifts of praise and obedience (good works).  3) Good works are part of building up our faith; as we live into our baptismal covenant we come to know God and God’s will for us more deeply.  I won’t settle on one of these, I invite you to think about other ways that faith and works might relate to one another.  

Here at Nativity, I feel us deeply engaged in good work, God’s work—individually and collectively.  Our prayer lives, our faith formation, our common worship all reflect and inform the ways that we live in the world.  We are a nourished by our sacraments, baptism and Eucharist, to be the Body of Christ.  When we work with the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, the Buckelew project, Ritter House, Prison Ministry, the Alternative High School, the Kairos Outside Ministry, the Grace Cathedral Senior Lunch, and so many other projects, we are sharing God’s love by doing God’s work.    Individually, when we reach out to someone who is alone, when we offer a prayer, a meal, a ride, a visit, a kind word—we are acting as God called us to act.  When we make choices about what work to do, where to volunteer, how to spend our days—we are discerning God’s call for us.

I don’t think that God is judging us—holding back love if we make the wrong choice about what to do or giving love only if we do the right things.  But I do think that God is encouraging us, hoping with us, and calling us into covenant as we live and work in the world.

Today my prayer is rooted in the letter of James (James 2:14-17). 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters,[a] if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.


God,  help us to see our brothers or sisters in need.  Help us to live into our faith by offering clothing and food, companionship and witness to those who have needs.  Help us to know you more deeply as we do your work in the world.  Give us an awareness of your grace and your everlasting love for us.  Encourage us when we are downtrodden or overwhelmed and in the end, unite us with you and all your saints on heaven and on earth.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

6.15.16

GRIEVE. SHOW COMPASSION. BE PROUD. ACT.
The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of California, has issued the following statement concerning the massacre in Orlando on his blog


“It was with great sadness yesterday morning that I learned of the massacre at Pulse night club in Orlando. Omar Mateen, the gunman, took the lives of 49 people and has wounded another 53. He is also dead now. As with attacks in this country in schools and theaters this deadly attack — in a place where people have gone expecting to be safe, to celebrate life itself — is especially grievous.  

“As the United Nations was developing its eight goals to eliminate extreme poverty, Archbishop  Njongonkulu Ndungane, who succeeded Desmond Tutu as Archbishop of Capetown, suggested to me that there should be a ninth goal, one that is spiritual: the goal of reconciliation. He said that if humanity is not reconciled to one another, none of the other goals was possible. I think he was on to something, and over the intervening years I have come to believe that all the great spiritual goals, developed by the world’s religions, are essential for humanity to reach its pragmatic development goals. At the least, I think there are three other spiritual goals for humanity, whether working for climate justice, against terror, for LGBT* inclusion, or for an end to gun violence: forgiveness, compassion, and reverence. 

“While I have mostly engaged the spiritual goals in working to alter climate change, they are applicable for all situations. My diocese is centered in San Francisco, a long-time sanctuary for LGBT* people and really all people seeking to be themselves, encounter compassion, and give and receive respect. June is Pride month, a rainbow flag hangs from my office‘s building, many of my congregations have special services on Pride Sunday, and this attack has been a shock to many in the LGBT* community.  

“The LGBT* community is resilient, though. It has faced terror for decades, still faces terror today in many parts of our country, and faces legalized terror in numbers of countries around the world. The LGBT* community here is loved and should continue to be proud. Being out, acting up, and refusing to be or go back into the closet is an act of courage (another spiritual quality) and defiance against hatred and terror.  

“Whether the attack in Orlando was an organized international terror attack, a lone person exercising fanaticism, or simply someone so hate-filled that two men kissing led him to shoot wildly in a crowded night club, all of us impacted — all who seek sanctuary and who have known it defiled — must show reverence for human life, compassion to the grieving, forgiveness (even if time is necessary), and work for reconciliation of our differences and hatreds.  

“In my tradition, we believe that in his resurrection Jesus defeated death and ended the power of death. Jesus also commanded Christians to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost someone close to them, as are the thoughts and prayers of spiritual leaders, politicians, and every day people from around the world. We must also extend our thoughts and prayers into advocacy.  

“In the United States we have the privilege of choosing our government officials — and this year is an election year. I pray that thoughts and prayers will change us, change our behaviors and prompt us to contact our elected officials and demand better gun restrictions from universal background checks to closing gun show and online sales loopholes to limiting access to assault rifles and high-volume magazines. 

“I grieve with the people of Orlando, and I grieve with the LGBT* people of my diocese — whether they are Christians or Episcopalians or not. I pray that we show one another compassion and care in our grief. I am proud of the LGBT* people who continue to stand in defiance of fear tactics and hate, and I look forward to celebrating Pride in San Francisco later this month. Finally I pray that this mass shooting motivate us all to act for better, common sense, gun laws in our country. 


6.6.16
Notes from Rev. Kirsten

Call for prayers for City Council meeting tonight!

The theme of this week (and next’s) readings is healing for all.  Tonight the San Rafael City Council will consider the issue of homelessness and services to our unhoused neighbors in San Rafael.  What is Jesus’ message of healing in this context?  What is God’s hope for new life for our downtown community? How is the Spirit moving in us, individually and collectively, as we participate in God’s work?   I think that Jesus would say that we must offer comfort, medical care and shelter to the poorest among us. But how to do this in downtown San Rafael is a prayerful question.  For those of us who have worked with the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy over many years—we know that our unhoused neighbors are people with needs and also with gifts.  If we recognize that all of us are God’s people-- loved by God and called into community with God and one another, our solutions to “the homelessness problem” may be more nuanced than if we take a distanced policy position. 

The Marin Organizing Committee (a coalition of churches, temples and synagogues committed to Social Justice work in Marin) is organizing residents to appear at City Council tonight to raise again the issue of a permanent shelter in San Rafael.  The Council will consider the use permit of Ritter House and may direct the City staff to continue negotiations about the number of people and types of services that Ritter House offers.  While I don’t know what the outcomes of these discussions should be, I believe that God calls us to approach the discussions with open hearts and minds, praying for justice and healing for all.   Join me in praying for the Council, the City staff, the Ritter House staff, and all of our neighbors who live, work, shop and play in downtown San Rafael.  If you could attend the Council meeting, you would be a welcome presence;  a witness to God’s work here.  Join the Marin Organizing Committee at the Council Meeting (at 7 p.m.), or meet in advance of the City Council meeting at First Presbyterian Church at 6 p.m.

Here is a prayer of witness:

Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who do not have a place to call “home" this day. 

For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.

For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime.

For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.

For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.

For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.

For those who are afraid and hopeless.

For those who are afflicted by mental illness or addiction, those who suffer physical or mental disabilities and those who are too sick to work.

For those who have been denied health care, pensions, welfare checks, or disability payments.

For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope.

We pray in thanksgiving for the caregivers of our unhoused neighbors, the counselors, chaplains, cooks, coordinators, and organizers.  They are Jesus’ hands here today.

We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.  Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through the political means we have, to bring healing, justice and peace to those who are homeless.  Amen.



(Prayer modified from Roman Catholic blogsite:  Keenforgood.com.)Special Event on June 5 

Please join us for some special events at the church this Sunday, June 5.

Going Away Party for Music Director Daniel Chang. This Sunday, June 5, we will celebrate the wonderful ministry and talent of our Music Director Daniel Chang. It will be his last Sunday with us before he leaves for the east coast, where he will be furthering his education. Please join us after the 10 o'clock service to thank Daniel for all his work at Nativity. We wish him well. (Please note: this week's NNO gave the wrong date for this celebration; it is this Sunday, June 5.)



Notes from Rev. Kirsten 5.24.16

“Human beings are a part of the whole we call the universe:  they are a tiny fragment of time and space.  However, they regard themselves, their ideas and their feelings, as separate and apart from all the rest.  It is something like an optical illusion in their consciousness.  This illusion is a sort of prison; it restricts us to our personal aspirations and limits our affective life to a few people very close to us.  Our task should be to free ourselves from this prison, opening up our circle of compassion in order to embrace all living creatures and all of nature in its beauty.”   Albert Einstein

On Sunday, beginning with this quote, I preached about the Trinity.  I talked about God’s triune nature is a model for our hope (and our spiritual work) to be in intimate relationship with God, one another and all of creation. (See my sermon text on www.nativityonthehill.org )  Today, I’m reflecting on what this hope of intimate relationship with all of God’s creatures means for us as individuals and as community. 

As individuals, I think our discernment must lead us to ask questions about what loving the cosmos, our planet, and all of God’s people means for us.  Discernment is a prayer process of questioning and listening for God’s answers.  We may listen in prayer groups, in silent meditation (contemplative prayer) or in dinner conversations.  We may hear answers in the media, or in the encouragement of friends.  The key to discernment is asking hard questions of God (and not assuming that we already know the answers).  Today, my questions:  God, how can I better care for this cosmos that you have created?  How can I express my thanks for all that you have given me?  What can I do to share the blessings, the grace and the love you have given to me with others?

And our discernment must also continue as a community of God’s people.  God,  what can we do now to reach beyond our immediate circle of compassion (our Nativity parishioners)?  How can we extend your love into the broader world?  We have wonderful ministries that we support and participate in.  This past week, we submitted and won a grant proposal from the Marin Deanery to support the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy ($700).  We are very happy to amplify our ministry with this financial contribution. This week we also added a new 12 step group to our roster of support groups sharing our space.  The new Adult Children of Alcoholics Group, "Freedom From Dysfunction"  is meeting at the Nativity kitchen on Tuesday nights at 7.   We are doing a great job with our recycling program (Sybil is single-handedly collecting bottles and turning them in for deposit money that we contribute to the Street Chaplaincy).  We have repaired our sprinkler system to make sure we’re not wasting water.   What else can we do for God’s people and the planet?  Do you know of other groups that are working in the community who might need our space for meetings, or retreats?  Do you know of good community organizations who could use volunteers or financial support?  Let us listen carefully to hear what the needs around us are, and pray fully to imagine how we might begin to meet those needs.

As we move towards summer, my prayer:

Creator God,  who made all things, we give thanks for this beautiful place where we live and worship.  We praise you and seek to honor you by caring for your planet with compassion.  Help us to see the ways that our actions and omissions have hurt your creation.  Show us how we may contribute to repairing and protecting your earth and helping all parts of your creation to thrive.  We give thanks for the love you have show us through Christ.  Help us to live in that love and share it with all our neighbors as you have commanded us, remembering especially the least among us.  Spirit of Truth, answer our discernment prayers with signs of clear direction, showing us what ministries we are called to individually and as a community.  Call us into your creative work that we might participate in bringing your Kingdom here, fulfilling your hopes and promises for our new life in all eternity.  Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten 5.17.16

What does repairing the patio have to do with our mission and ministry?  

The Vestry and I have been thinking about where we put our time and treasure as we consider our list of ministry priorities and our plans for the future.    With Dick Heine (our Junior Warden)’s leadership, we have identified a list of  improvements to our facilities and grounds.  You’ve already seen some of the work-- sprinkler system repairs, getting the landscaping done.  This week lighting in the sacristy, the owl room and my office will be improved.  And now a big project is underway—repairing the concrete on our side patio.    It feels great to have the place looking fantastic.  But why do we do this work—especially given all of the other work that is a priority for us? 

Throughout the new testament, we have the idea of the Church being the faithful people who continue Jesus’ ministry with the Holy Spirit.   Paul’s explains this idea to the Corinthians:  
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?[ 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.  (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) (NRSV).

This doesn’t mean that the building isn’t important, but it does suggest the building should serve the Church--all of us (not the other way around).   And the church building is more than just a place where we meet.  It is also a place where we express our praise of God and thanksgivings for all that God has given us.   By making our church building and grounds beautiful, we are honoring God.  By giving our very best to this place, we show our neighbors and the world that we hold God above all else.    In 2 Chronicles 24:12, we hear a description of a temple building repair:   

 "The king and Jehoiada gave [the money collected] to those who had charge of the work of the house of the Lord, and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the Lord, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the Lord.  So those who were engaged in the work labored, and the repairing went forward at their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it."  

In our case, the church building (and grounds) is a place where we meet to worship, a place where we care for one another, a place where we serve our neighbors.  We have our Senior Fitness Class, our Caregiver Support Group, some Cursillo 4th Day Groups.  We currently have three 12 step meetings at the Church.  This week we add one more on Tuesday nights— a meeting for Adult Children of Alcoholics.  We are reaching out to other non-profit groups who might want to use our place for retreats or meetings.  A few weeks ago we had two (simultaneous) vestry retreats for our sister congregations St. Paul’s and St. Francis’.  Please help us reach out to community groups you think might use the sanctuary, the kitchen, the Owl Room or the youth rooms upstairs.  We can’t use the building for “for profit” activities, but many other non-profit activities could be consistent with our ministry.

We will use the repaired patio for coffee hour and receptions after special services and offer it to other groups that might enjoy having outdoor space.  As soon as it is finished and furnished, we’ll have a special blessing for the patio.  When the vestry decided to do the patio repair work, they decided that we would fundraise to make sure that we don’t go beyond our budget for repairs.  Dick Heine got a very reasonable quote—just over $6000 to do the work.  Dick and Nancy Chapman have started the patio campaign fund with a generous gift towards the repairs in memory of Margaret Jackson.  We invite others to join them in making our place on the hill the best it can be.  If you’d like to contribute, send a check to Church of the Nativity and put “Patio Repair Fund” in the memo line.

The Spirit is moving through us.  We are continuing to do more  than we thought possible to extend our ministries to our community and to build up our faith through our worship and formation activities.  It is wonderful to be a part of this energizing work—whether we contribute our cooking, our presence, our time, our thoughtful calls and notes, our prayers and our financial contributions.  All of it contributes to our work as God’s Church in this place.


We pray with David, the Psalmist:  “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon them; may He establish the work of their hands.” (Psalm 90:17) 

Father, bless those who serve our ministry as staff, volunteers and donors— Bless us with Your favor in the work of our hands in ministry and service. Remember us with favor for what we have done for Your people (Hebrews 6:10). May we grow in favor with You and with men (Luke 2:52). We thank You for all You have allowed us to give to others who serve in the kingdom of God.  Amen.




Notes from Rev. Kirsten 5.10.16

I’m preparing for our Pentecost worship this coming Sunday (15th).  Our Scriptural passages are:
Genesis 11:1-9
Acts 2:1-21
John 14:8-17, (25-27)
Psalm 104:25-35, 37




Such rich images.  The tower of Babel, the descent of the Holy Spirit, tongues of fire, ability to speak in many languages. The birth of the Church. And then Jesus’ reassurance to us:  "Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  I invite you to prepare with me.  What images from these passages speak to you?  Why does this day feel especially joyful?  How was God touching the characters in these Bible stories?  How is God touching you today?  Consider celebrating by wearing red—the color of Pentecost.  Consider singing with the family choir (rehearsal at 9 a.m.).  Join in the craft project (making red hats or dying your hair red like flames)?  We’ll all say together the Lord’s Prayer in languages other than English—creating our own Babel and reminding ourselves that God speaks in every language on earth.  Here’s a website with many versions of the Lord’s Prayer if you’d like to prepare  http://www.krassotkin.ru/sites/prayer.su/other/all-languages.html. 

This would be a great day to invite a friend to join you at Church.  We will celebrate in true Nativity style (with CAKE and balloons).  Looking forward to seeing you. 

My prayer of preparation is attributed to Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)
As the wind is your symbol, so forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenwards.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge out our dross. Amen.

kss@well.comNotes from Rev. Kirsten  5.2.16

It was a beautiful day yesterday with Bishop Marc.  If you were there, I’m sure you felt the energy of having the Bishop preside and preach at our Holy Eucharist.  The Rev. Canon Stefani Schatz and Amanda Martin, the Diocese’ Planned Giving Officer were both happy to meet us and share their work and plans for the Diocese in the Q and A session.   The Bishop’s visit connects us and our work to the larger Church in important ways.  We shared with him our Nativity welcome, with beautiful breakfast and coffee hour.  We shared our ministry work.  The vestry talked about our senior ministries, our plans for family services, our outreach to our unhoused neighbors and the teens at the Alternative High School, and our plans for reaching out to community organizations who might want to share our space during the week.  We talked about our  collaborative work with our sister congregations in Marin.  Canon Stefani and Amanda talked about their plans for growing the Diocesan endowment and enlivening the Diocesan ministries with Episcopal Charities and expanded congregational resources. We were invited to join the Diocesan Expanding Horizons capital campaign (more about this later).   Bishop Marc talked about his work for the Presiding Bishop on addressing Climate Change—both with our congregations and by adding our voice to advocacy efforts through the United Nations negotiations. 

There was so much to talk about, but if there was a theme for our day with the Bishop, I would say it was a theme of, “We are stronger when we work together.”  Or put another way,  “We are called to help one another.”  Bishop Marc preached about our passage from John 5. In the story, Jesus heals the man who has been sick and cannot make his way into the pool, after asking him, “Do you want to be made well?”  Bishop Marc talked about need for all of us to ask for help, and to offer help freely to one another.   Jesus shows us how to be healed and how to be disciples.  In working together, we find God’s healing and new life.   We at Nativity know this way of being with our neighbors, with our sister congregations in northern Marin, with our Diocese, and the Episcopal Church. 

Over the next two weeks we will conclude our Easter season and prepare for a Pentecost Celebration (May 15th).  Consider Pentecost an opportunity to offer to help build up our Church in new ways, offering your help and healing to this part of the Body of Christ.

 Opportunities for families include:
an intergenerational family choir (rehearsal at 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. service)
Instrumental musical offerings (a solo or ensemble piece)
teen lectors
acolytes
crucifer.
assisting ushers
assisting altar guild,
the “red hat” project (an art project before and after service)
special coffee hour
multi-lingual Lord’s Prayer (help lead the Lord’s Prayer in all of the languages that we know in our congregation).

Send me a note if you would like to help lead or participate in any part of our Pentecost worship (nativityonthehill@gmail.com).  Also consider inviting other families to join us for this special service.  It will be wonderful to be together.

My prayer for us this week:

God, you know our weaknesses, even those that we do not readily acknowledge.  Help us to humbly name our needs, seek and accept the help of others.  Give us clarity to see our strengths and the gifts that you have given us.  Encourage us to offer help and healing to one another, our neighbors and all of your creation through all our ministry activities and in our daily lives.  As we prepare for Pentecost and the celebration of the birth of your Church, show us how you want us to live as your Church today.  In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.


Note from Rev. Kirsten   4.26.16    Feeling God’s Presence

This past weekend I made my Cursillo in San Francisco with the Marin Women’s Cursillo.  It was a wonderful retreat.  Led by an ecumenical group of Marin lay women (including Nativity leaders Penny Poteet and Jean Heine) , it was a three day immersion in faith.  Every aspect of the weekend was designed to bring us into a heart-filled experience of God working in the assembled group of women and reminding us of how God is working in our broader community in Marin.  Much of the weekend focused on a personal experiences of Christ, but it consistently reminded us of Christ’s call to service in the world.  There is a core group of men and women at Nativity who have been part of the cursillo movement for many years and I now understand how the cursillo experience shapes our congregation in wonderful ways.  

Over the weekend, I was reminded again that there are so many ways to come to know God.  We can encounter the divine in nature.  We can know God’s healing power in the sacrament of Eucharist.  We can glimpse God’s love in the love of friends.  We can praise God in Sunday worship or private prayer.  We can explore God’s role in our lives in our most intimate relationships with spouses, parents, children and friends.  We can hear God as we make music together.  We can know more about God as we study Scripture.  Together, we make Church—expressing and building up our faith in a community of followers of Jesus Christ.  

God is close at hand, accessible to us all.  Sometimes it’s a matter of noticing, and other times, maybe we need a BIG experience (like this Cursillo weekend for me).  Consider exploring your relationship with Jesus in new ways as we approach Pentecost and the  Holy Spirit’s descent about the apostles.  If you are interested in Cursillo, talk to me or I can introduce you to others in the congregation who have made Cursillo in the past.

This coming Sunday (May 1st) Bishop Marc will preach and preside at our 10 a.m. service. There will be no 8 am. service.  At coffee hour, the Bishop will have a question and answer session with us in the sanctuary.  This is your chance to ask about what’s happening around the Diocese.  We can listen with the Bishop to where  the Holy Spirit is calling us. And we can get to know our Bishop as a faithful leader of God’s church here and as a deeply spiritual person on a continuing a journey of faith. 

Today my prayer is for an openness to what our time with Bishop will bring and I pray especially for Bishop Marc.

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide our minds to hear with openness your Word in the voice of our Diocesan Bishop Marc.  Through our prayers and love, build up the faith and effectiveness of your servant, Bishop Marc, who cares for us, your people, and equips us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Note from Rev. Kirsten 4.19.16

With our beautiful garden renovated and patio repaving underway we are preparing for Rogation Sunday, May 1st with Bishop Marc.  

Rogation Sunday is the day when the Church has traditionally offered prayer for God’s blessinsg on the fruits of the earth and the labors of those who produce our food. The word “rogation” is from the Latin rogare,“to ask.” Historically, the Rogation Days (the three days before Ascension Day) were a period of fasting and abstinence, beseeching God’s blessing on the crops for a bountiful harvest. Few of us today directly derive our livelihood from the production of food, yet it is good to be reminded of our dependence upon those who do and our responsibility for the environment. 

We are really looking forward to Bishop Marc and his wife Sheila being with us at the 10 a.m. service (only one service that day).  The Bishop will preach and preside.  We will have a festive coffee hour after the service and a chance to show him around and tell him about what is growing and thriving at Nativity.  Before the 10 a.m. service, the Vestry will have a breakfast meeting with the Bishop.  I hope you will all make an effort to attend that day, it will be a glorious celebration of God’s gifts to us on our beautiful hillside.  I am looking for teen lay ministers to serve as acolytes and crucifer.  We are also looking for cooks to help by providing baked goods for the Vestry breakfast and our special coffee hour. If you would like to take a role in the service or in our preparations for the Bishop’s visit please send me a note at nativityonthehill@gmail.com or call me at 510-207-6346.

A prayer for Rogation Day is found on page 258 in The Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly receiving good things from your hand, may always give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen


Notes from Rev. Kirsten  4.11.16

New life—our Easter theme.  I’ve been reflecting with our Senior Warden, Everil Robertson and our wonderful Vestry about what new life looks like at Nativity.  We have set ourselves some goals, seeking to explore various ways that Nativity can grow and deepen our ministries, care for one another, enliven our worship and formation activities.  Some exciting progress--we have ideas about sharing our space with other community groups, about starting new family ministry work and deepening our partnerships with our sister congregations.  At our next Vestry meeting on Sunday, we’ll shape these ideas into a strategic plan that we’ll share with you all over the next few weeks.   While we are working on these long term projects, we are also excited about short term projects.   

Our Junior Warden, Dick Heine has repaired our sprinkler system and has found a landscaper to put our grounds back in good shape.  We will need approximately $2400 for the landscapers or if you have time and talent with gardening, we’d welcome your manual help.  If this is a project that you have a passion for, donations would be welcome.  Make checks out to Nativity with a memo that says for landscaping and grounds project.  

The next big capital project will be repair of our side patio.  This will allow us to better serve our summer camp partners and will create nice coffee hour or reception space with shade and wind protection in our warmer/windier months.  We’ll let you know how much this will cost and will ask for your help as that project gets underway.

We are preparing for Bishop Marc’s visitation on May 1st.  It will be a wonderful opportunity to worship with him, hear about his vision for the Diocese and to share our long and short term work with him.  

These practical plans flow from our covenant to be the Nativity part of the Body of Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus and we are constantly working to hear what that means in our community today.  We have special gifts, and talents and we bring those to the service of all of God’s people and God’s creation.  I am so excited about the new life that is germinating in our garden, the new life that we are bringing to our worshipping community and the new life and hope that we are sharing with the poor, in San Rafael and around the world.  He is Risen, and he brings new life to us.

Our prayer this week comes from Godspace:

God build your community,

From brokenness and indifference,

Build love and caring,

For you, for each other, for your creation.

God build your community,

From self centredness and independence,

Build friendship and compassion,

For the marginalized, the abandoned and the despised.

God build your community,

From mistrust and misunderstanding,

Build unity and togetherness,

For other peoples, religions and nations.

God build your community,

May we build together your living community,

Bound together by love and joy,

Interrelated to all God’s people, to the earth and all creation.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten 4.4.16

Seeing is believing.  Last Sunday, we read the story of doubting Thomas. When Thomas insisted on putting his fingers in Jesus’ wounds, Jesus admonished him:  "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  This passage leads me to wonder about the signs of Jesus’ presence in our midst.  When do we truly believe that God is working in the world?  When do we insist on proof?  I think that there are times when the signs of our “blessedness” are all around us.  Maybe it is easier to feel God’s love and grace when things are going well for us—when we are healthy, when our children and grandchildren are thriving, when society gives us good things (money, food, housing).  But what about the times when we are lonely, sick or seemingly without support of friends or family?  Do we doubt because we cannot see?

In these moments when we, like Thomas, might have doubts, we have an opportunity to deepen our faith.  This passage suggests that reaching out to touch Christ as Thomas did is one way to vanquish doubt.  What if we reach out to touch Christ today?  Instead of asking “Where is God?” maybe we should ask, “How can I touch Christ here?”  Can I do something for another person who is lonely or persecuted, who is ill or tired?  Is there a way for me to see Christ in the people around me—those who teach me, love me and heal me or those who need my help?  In this story from the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon his disciples as he sends them out to forgive the people they meet.  This may be another way of deepening our belief.  When we reach out to forgive another—not as a matter of human judgment, but rather as an extension of the Holy Spirit’s movement within us--we deepen our faith.

I offer these reflections as we enter into this second week of our Easter season.  Let us look for opportunities to pray together, to serve one another and to feel the love of God in the healing hands of those around us.  Consider coming to Evensong at 6:30 on Wednesday (4/6) when we will focus our prayers on our thanksgivings  and Alleluias! for the Risen Christ.   Join Rev. Scott for his presentation on Healing Prayer on Sunday at 9 a.m. (between the 8 and 10).  Join us in our ongoing committee work—the Outreach committee, the Pastoral Care committee, the Community partnership committee.  Take the opportunity to Believe and feel the Holy Spirit moving in our community.

A Door to Discovery  (inspired by John 20: 24-29)


How strangely comforting, Lord,
That so many of your servants
Have doubted you.

So,
If I cannot always see the sense
Of your Word;
If I do not always feel confident
About my faith;
If I wonder where your love is
In the face of pain and death;
I am not the first.

A great company of saints and martyrs
Has felt this way before me.
Now, in your presence,
They see face to face
And know as they are known.

Teach me, like them,
Not so much to fear doubt
As to see it
As a sign of the mystery of life
And a door to discovery.

— from More than Words, copyright Saint Andrew Press 2008.  Posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website. 


March 29, 2016  Rev. Kirsten is on vacation. 

This week, she shares the 2016 Easter message from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

I actually love fairy tales and I used to enjoy reading them to our children when they were young and little. Now to be sure those were the more sanitized fairy tales but there was something good about them, a way of confronting what was tough in life with genuine hope. But they were fairy tales.
This week called Holy Week, the remembrance of Jesus entering Jerusalem and offering His life in the ultimate act of sacrificial love. Good Friday, the experience of betrayal, the experience of friends abandoning you, the experience of injustice and wrong, criminal self-centered conspiracies. And then beyond that Holy Week, the resurrection from the dead. This is not a fairy tale. 
The truth is even as we speak this Holy Week, we do so not only in the shadow of the cross but we do so in the shadow of those who have been killed in Brussels, of those who have been wounded and maimed, of those who weep and mourn. And of a world mourning, and not too sure how to move forward.  And this world does not need another fairy tale.  This week’s story of crucifixion and resurrection is not a fairy tale.

Some years ago in the last century George McLeod, the founder of the Iona Community, had fought in the First World War, a war that he came to realize was fought for no good reason. He eventually became ordained, and founded the Iona Community, and at one point he said this about this faith that we hold as followers of Jesus:
I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the centre of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage dump, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. It was the kind of place where cynics talk smut, thieves curse, soldiers gamble.  That’s where he died. And that’s where we as Christians ought to be and what we as Christians ought to be about.
This week called Holy, the season called Easter, the remembrance of death and the realization of resurrection, this is not a fairy tale, but the revelation of ultimate reality. Now the truth is it’s easy to dismiss or discount whether by conscious conviction or by unconscious resignation to dismiss this as naïve, nice, but naïve. It’s easy to dismiss it whether consciously or unconsciously as a great hope, a wonderful ideal, but not realistic in a world like this. Maybe, parts of us I suspect wonder, maybe the strong do survive, maybe might does make right, maybe you better look out for number one. I suspect we all share those feelings once in a while.  
But, I have to ask myself a question. It’s not my question, it’s Dr. Phil’s, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” How’s that workin’ out for the world? The truth is, the way the world very often operates is not working out. It’s not sustainable. It’s not the way to life. Jesus has shown us the way. He has shown us that unselfish, sacrificial love, love of God, and love of the other, is the way to life. That, my friends, is the ultimate reality. And that’s not a fairy tale. 
When Jesus was executed, He was tried and convicted of crimes He never committed. He willingly gave His life. Not for Himself, but for others. And in so doing, He showed us what love looks like. That’s what we call the Way of the Cross. And that Way is the way of life and hope. And when He died, His closest followers feared that maybe the strong do survive.  Maybe might does make right. And maybe we better look out for number one. ‘Cause maybe the world has won. 
But three days later, something happened.  Unexpected. Undreamed of. Unheralded.  Three days later their world turned upside-down, which is right-side up. God raised Him from the dead. And you could almost hear God thundering forth in that resurrection. Love, in the end, love wins! Love is the way!  Trust me! Follow me! Believe in me! This resurrection is real! This is not a fairy tale! 
So go forth into this world. Don’t be afraid.  And don’t be ashamed to be people of love.  And go forth into this world and help us to change it from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends. 
A blessed Holy Week, a blessed Easter, and go forth into the world.  Amen. 

I pray that we might see the Angels in dazzling white in our midst and know that new life has come. With God's love, and our faithful work as disciples, hope will prevail.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten March 22, 2016

What does preparing for new birth look like?  I think of this week as an opportunity to walk towards the place of the Skull, Golgotha, with Jesus as a preparation that we enter into with Christ, offering ourselves so that we might be part of the resurrected life that God offers us. Some images that come to mind:
  • carrying his cross, taking on the burden of Christ and being with others who suffer;
  • accepting things we cannot change, and moving forward without fear;
  • taking a moment in the midst of our own troubles to comfort those who care about us;
  • sharing our meals as though they might be our last, giving the best we have, appreciating the people who have always been with us.  

In our “Being Episcopalian” session this past week, we explored some Eco-feminist theology.  We talked about how our Scriptural images of God are generally anthropomorphic—focused on a human depiction of God.  But Sally McFague, Ivonne Gebara and other theologians offer us other images might also speak to this journey towards new life.  They speak of God and relationship, seeking the divine in connections rather than in dualities that project God onto some “other” separated from ourselves.

  • honoring the relationship between us and our planet as we conserve our resources, tend our gardens, choose sustainable food
  • speaking out for the planet—protesting environmental degradation and organizing others to act on the sacredness of all God’s creation
  • knowing intimately a pet or wild bird or animal and caring for them and about them with a love that honors their part in God’s Kingdom
  • preparing ourselves for reunion with the earth as our bodies will die and our relationships with God will continue

Our liturgies this week will give us opportunities to explore some of these images—Stations of the Cross tonight at 7 p.m. as an entrance into Christ’s walk towards crucifixion; Tenebrae on Wednesday at 7 offering us the opportunity to pray into night, slowly extinguishing candles as we come closer to the mystery of death and the potential for dawn; Maundy Thursday and foot washing offering ourselves in service to one another; Good Friday and the veneration of the cross on which Christ died; Holy Saturday, the day of sacred waiting; and Easter Vigil a complete journey from the beginning of creation through darkness into the water of baptism and new birth with Christ as we sing our first Alleluias. 

If your own journey will be primarily one of private devotion or if your piety focuses on Palm Sunday and Easter, then take a moment over the course of the week to ask, “How am I preparing for new life? What will Easter mean for me?”  Make space for Good Friday, since without death there cannot be new life.  Look forward to the celebration of the hot cross buns, the Easter egg hunt and the laughter of children, the family dinner, the walk among wildflowers.  Prepare to celebrate Easter rising in nature or with family, knowing that God’s promise is that it be glorious and our response must be to participate in the divine creative process.

Prayer of preparation:

    Jesus Christ, you are persecuted by the Imperial powers.  You die as one of us.  Help me to create with you a world in which no person or part of creation suffers oppression, degradation or pain.  Help me to know death as a transition to new life, not as an end.  Help me to join with you in the loving of all, serving with humility and generosity even as I suffer my own pain.  Prepare me for reconciliation, healing as I am healed, opening my heart and mind to your love.  Help me respond to your grace by bringing myself and all the gifts you have given me to your service.  Help me look forward to my Risen life in you with longing and commitment.  Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten March 15

I find myself in a strange position this (and I expect again next week).  I am deep in Holy Week preparations, but the rest of the world is going about their daily business as though nothing special is happening.  I am working with Daniel, our Music Director and with Rev. Corrie Lassen (who will join us as Assisting Priest for Holy Week).  We are preparing our worship services, thinking about how to prayerfully move through Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter.  I am preparing myself, contemplating where I have been in my spiritual journey over Lent and now where and how I am going through the Triduum service—Maundy Thursday to Easter Vigil.

One of my colleagues, the Rev. Canon Julia McCray Goldsmith, who teaches liturgy suggests that liturgy is an expression of our lives together, patterned after God’s self-giving love.  This is a powerful idea—liturgy is not something given for us, but it is something that we give to God. Liturgy is an expression of our lives with God, honoring God’s presence, grace and forgiveness with our thanksgivings, our penitence, our witness and our renewed commitment to ministry.  As I think about the progression of Holy Week liturgies, I wonder how I will experience Palm Sunday’s defiant walk with Jesus as he enters Jerusalem.  On Monday, we will pray the Stations of the Cross, uniting ourselves to Christ as he carries his cross to Golgotha.   On Wednesday, we will pray the beautiful monastic service of Tenebrae—extinguishing candles as we chant the psalms and hear the reading that prepare us for the last supper of Maundy Thursday.  Thursday night, we will wash one another’s feet and then strip the altar, humbly bringing ourselves and our service as a sacrifice to God.  On Good Friday, our noonday service will bring us to the cross.  The story of Christ’s passion expresses the finality of our death.  As we reverence the hard wood, we die to sin, preparing ourselves for the new life that is to come.  And then after passing through a Holy Saturday of waiting, we get to Easter Vigil.  Our Eucharist will celebrate God’s salvation history and our resurrected life in Jesus Christ.  With the lighting of the Holy Fire and the Paschal candle, the liturgy will bring us to the miracle of new life in Christ.  As we repeat our Baptismal Covenant, we will promise again to join God in God’s saving work.  The new life that we have been promised will be made manifest in our gift—our liturgies offered to God and one another.  

Please consider how you might bring yourself and our shared life to God through our Holy Week celebrations.  Would you like to offer your voice with the Choir for this week?  Could you offer to be an additional reader?  Could you help the altar guild?  Would you like to bake for one of the coffee hours?  Most importantly, could you bring your presence—your prayerful, thankful self to express your life in God through these liturgies?  They will be beautiful and more meaningful if we are together giving to God ourselves in liturgy.  I look forward to seeing you all and welcoming our visitors on Easter morning.


Holy Week  March 20-27

PALM SUNDAY 8 AND 10
MONDAY STATIONS OF THE CROSS AT 7 PM
WEDNESDAY TENEBRAE AT 7 PM
MAUNDY THURSDAY AT 7 PM 
GOOD FRIDAY AT 12 NOON
HOLY SATURDAY 10 AM 
SATURDAY, GREAT VIGIL 7:00 P.M
EASTER SUNDAY (WITH STRING QUARTET, EASTER EGG HUNT AND FESTIVE COFFEE HOUR, 10 AM)



Notes from Rev. Kirsten March 7.

What a glorious feast it was.  Our crab feed brought us together, expanded our community and fed us with joy.  Since Saturday I have been reflecting on how our Crab Feast, the Heavenly Banquet (that we know from Scripture) and the Eucharist are mutually constitutive.  The themes of hunger for companionship, community and recognition as beloved people of God; the experience of working together, sharing with one another, laughing and dancing; the grace that we know in the touch of another person, the food that nourishes our bodies and souls, the ritual that brings us into the presence of the divine—bigger than the plastic bowl of crab, more substantial than the morsel of communion bread, both mundane in their pleasures and sublime in their necessity.  We are covenanted people, a living Church, co-creating with God as we extend that fellowship to our neighbors and those we do not know outside our doors.  The practical examples of Saturday night—the people who set up tables, who served the food, who sold the raffle tickets, who contributed the raffle prizes, who brought friends, who cleaned up afterwards—all contributing to this work that we are called to here at Nativity.  It was beautiful and I am so happy to be a part.  Here are some beautiful pics.

My prayer (attributed to Thomas Aquinas):

   O Sacred Banquet,
   in which Christ is received,
   the memory of His Passion is recalled,
   the soul is filled with grace,
   and the pledge of future glory is given to us.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten, March 1, 2016

Excitement, energy, activity  AND contemplation, presence and joy.  This week I find myself praying about balance and centeredness.  This week, I seek to know God more deeply in contemplation.   It is my nature to be super energetic, with lots of activity.  But sometimes my activities block out the possibility of listening for God, being with God, allowing the joy of God to come in and fill me up.  There is a danger that I will substitute my willful sense of purpose for a more thoughtful following of God’s will for me.  As I pray about our life in God here at Nativity, I observe that we are called to both “do” and “be”.   It is our work to be God’s hands and know God as the Source of our being.

This week your new vestry is kicking off the next phase of our discernment with some important activities.  Dick Heine, our new Junior Warden is considering bids to repave our side patio so that we could use that space for receptions, camps and outdoor gatherings.  Our new “Community Partnerships” committee is brainstorming about groups who might need and want to share our space as we serve our neighbors.  They are meeting with a group that is looking for a home for a new pre-school.  We are starting a new Worship Committee which will meet on Sunday (March 6th) after the 10 a.m. service to talk about our Holy Week and Easter Season services.  Our pastoral care committee is active, providing support to members of the parish and now training to provide Eucharistic Visits to people who cannot make it to church for communion.  (If you would like to be part of the Eucharistic Visitor Training, let me know, we’ll schedule a two hour session in early April.)  All of these activities (as well as our joyful preparations for the Saturday night 3/5 crab feed) focus us on doing God’s work in the congregation and for our neighbors.  

Alongside this wonderful activity, we have opportunities for contemplation.  The Christian mystic, Thomas Merton defines contemplation as 

“the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life.  It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive.  It is spiritual wonder.  It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being.  It is gratitude for life, for awareness, for being.  It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source.  Contemplation is, above all awareness of the reality of that Source.  It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that  goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith.”  (New Seeds of Contemplation, 1962)

So as we go about our activities, let us take the opportunity to tune in to our blessedness, to know God’s presence and to experience God’s love in the world.  Last night I looked out at the sunset and was drawn into that mystery in which all things are perfectly created.   Let us make space for contemplation, and celebrate our spiritual growth at the same time as we engage in the doing of God’s work.

As Saint Paul prayed for the Colossians, let us pray:

"I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself.”  (Colossians 2:2).

______________________________________________________________________________




 


Notes from Rev. Kirsten 2.23.16

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-27)

What does it mean for us to devote ourselves to teaching and fellowship, to breaking bread and prayers? How might we celebrate the wonders and signs of God’s work in our midst? 

This passage from Luke’s Acts is wonderful because it ties together our work of formation (teaching ourselves and others), our worship and private prayers and our fellowship.The instruction to the Lukan community is that all of these practices come together producing an experience of awe, binding the community of believers together and adding more to their number. I hear in this passage an invitation to us to notice the connection between breaking bread in our Holy Eucharist, sharing bread in our homes (as the pastoral care committee does) and eating together in fellowship events like the Wednesday soup suppers and the Crab Feed.

Events like the Crab Feed are fun (and that’s reason enough to come), but they are also important for building up our common life as believers.  When we share this meal, we’ll be expressing our “glad and generous hearts.” We’ll be sharing goodwill as we invite friends and neighbors to join us. I am hoping that our teenagers will lead the raffle prize distribution (and there will be a special prize just for teen raffle tickets). I am sure that there will be great cracked crab, piles of spaghetti, good drinks and lots of laughter. God will be laughing with us, overjoyed that we are celebrating and praising God together. 

Have you invited someone who might enjoy the event?  We have a fund for guests and parish members who can’t afford the $45 ticket. Let me know if you need assistance, and we’ll make sure everyone can come. Here are the details:

Nativity's Famous Crab Feed! March 5, 2016,  Marinwood Community Center.

Come, and bring your friends. In addition to fellowship and fun and a chance to win raffle prizes, the price includes an ample helping of fresh cracked crab, spaghetti, salad, French bread, dessert, and coffee.

No-host wine/soft drink bar opens at 5 p.m.

Family-style dinner served at 6 p.m.

Raffle prizes awarded during dessert.

All at an incredible $45 per adult, $15 for kids 4-13. Free for children under 4. Make your reservation now. Send your payment to: Church of the Nativity, 333 Ellen Drive, San Rafael CA 94903. Or call the church office, 415-479-7023.


 Notes from Rev. Kirsten  2.16.16:

Yesterday, I preached about Jesus’ time in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13; www.nativityonthehill.org).  We talked about how the wilderness time was for Jesus a time of preparation for ministry.   The story of the temptations that Luke tells may help us to discern our own preparations.  Our discernment process as a congregation must continue—we must ask who we are called to be and what we are called to do here in this place.  I am so excited about the ministries that we have undertaken over the past year, but we must continue to deepen this work—God’s work--in the world and in our own lives.  I talked yesterday about a faith spiral—we move through the seasons of the year, building upon last year’s experience of Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter.  The ministries we have undertaken in the past year strengthen us for new and greater work.  Our worship and our private prayers build up our experience of God’s presence in us and in our community as we seek a deeper relationship with God. 

As we move through the first week of Lent, let us as together—"God, what would you have me do to serve you?"  Or on behalf of Nativity—"God, what would you have us do here with you to serve your people and your earth?"  You might try a short meditation to allow yourself to hear God’s answers.  Ask the questions silently or aloud, sit quietly, and allow whatever thoughts to come.  After a period of silent stillness, write down your thoughts.  Giving God your full attention for 10 or 20 minutes a day during Lent may help you to discern and prepare for your and our next phase of ministry. 

This week, we’ll be having a meeting of the Pastoral Care committee on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.  Join us if you have been working on the committee for the past year, or if you would like to join the committee for next year. This is one opportunity to reflect on ministry and contemplate new work with God.


I look forward to hearing what emerges in your prayers. 

My own meditation today,

God, you know me and my gifts and my weaknesses. 
Be with me today as I listen for your guidance.
Help me to hear the needs of individuals in our congregation, in our neighborhood, in our City, our County and our region.
Help me to extend my care and compassion beyond my own circle of family and friends, to others who have needs here and in other parts of the world.
Help me to see the needs of the planet—the animals, the plants, the earth.
Guide and motivate my compassion so that I will move beyond pity to actions that will contribute to your work.
Show me the part that I must play in bringing your Kingdom here. 
Do not let me be discouraged by what I cannot do; let me be strengthened to take on my part.
Help me to strengthen the faith of others around me so that they too may follow your Way.

God, I am so thankful for all that I have, all the gifts you have given me, all the bounty you have bestowed upon me and all of your creation. 
Let me offer myself to you from this place of overflowing joy and gratitude, following your Son, my savior, Jesus Christ.
Amen.




Shrove Tuesday February 9, 2016

We will celebrate Shrove Tuesday this evening with a pancake supper.  It will be fun with hats and beads, sausages and big fluffy pancakes with syrup.  A nice time for fellowship.  This is a wonderful time to bring grandchildren to church, teach kids and teens how to flip the perfect pancake, and introduce neighbors and friends to our welcoming community.  Feel free to take a team of pancake eaters out into the parking lot for a “pancake race” as is the tradition in England.  

But why do we do this?  (A good question for our “Being Episcopalian” class that begins Tuesday the 16th).  “Shrove” is the past tense of shrive which means to seek absolution.  Originally, it was likely a day of solemn observance, but as traditions developed, it became a festive day of preparation for the solemn liturgy of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent.  Some scholars think that the tradition of pancakes comes from clearing the cupboards of “pleasurable foods”  which won’t be eaten during the Lenten fast—meat, dairy, sugar and flour.  Others think that the pancakes come from a pagan tradition—round like the sun, giving warmth and power.    

I wonder if pancakes aren’t the perfect “absolution” food.  After we’ve confessed our sins, the sweet deliciousness might remind us that we forgiven, always loved and accepted, always welcomed and comforted by God.    Consider adding an intentional confession to your prayers at home today.  Our liturgy of Reconcilliation is in the prayer book at page 449.  This liturgy is used for private confession with a priest, but a priest is not necessary to seek God’s forgiveness and these prayers are meaningful.  (Anyone who desires the formal liturgy of Reconcilliation may also come to me or Rev. Rebecca at any time). Here are prayers of confession:

Haver mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; 
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.  
Wash me through and through from my wickedness, 
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions only too well, and my sin is ever before me.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One.
Have mercy upon us.  

Holy God, heavenly Father, you formed me from the dust in your image and likeness, and redeemed me from sin and death by the cross of your Son Jesus Christ.  Through the water of baptism you clothed me with the shining garment of his righteousness, and established me among your children in your kingdom.  But I have squandered the inheritance of your saints, and have wandered far in a land that is waste.  

Especially, I confess to you and to the Church . . . 

After the confession, hold a space of silence, listening for God’s word of comfort and counsel, knowing that if you truly desire to turn to Christ that you will always be absolved and reconciled to God and His Church.  

Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and are found; you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Abide in peace.  The Lord has put away all your sins.  Thanks be to God.  

Notes from Rev. Kirsten 1.25.16This week many of us at Nativity are preparing for the Annual Meeting next Sunday (1/31) after the 10 a.m. service.  We’ll have only one service (no 8 a.m.) and we’ll come together as one congregation to pray in thanksgiving for our Church life and all who make this congregation a place where God’s love is made manifest. We’ll reflect on how the Spirit is moving.  We’ll look forward with hope and commit ourselves again to discipleship, following Jesus Christ.  I hope you will join us for this time of celebration and fellowship.  We’ll provide a lasagne lunch, bring a salad or a dessert to share if you’d like. 

On Saturday (before the annual meeting), I’ll be attending the Equipping the Beloved Community training at Grace Cathedral with Vestry and other members of the congregation.  It is always an exceptional opportunity to learn from others around the diocese.  I’m really looking forward to a workshop with Mary Parmer, called Invite-Welcome-Connect.  Mary is a consultant and coach who works with congregations to help them welcome newcomers.  There will also be Vestry 101 training, workshops for Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, finance, education and keeping a Holy Lent.  Consider whether this is an opportunity to listen and learn, share and expand, imagining new possibilities for your own ministry or for us as a congregation.  Call me if you’d like to join us.

As we approach our Annual Meeting, the election of a new Vestry and the approval of our budget, we are straining forward as a community.  We strain forward to live more fully as disciples, to follow God’s call more fully and to experience ever more God’s love and bounty in our lives.  As Paul said in his letter to the Philippians (3:13-14)

"Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[ call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

God our lamp and our guide, show us the Way into new life in you, in our individuals lives and in our collective life as the congregation of Nativity.  We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten  1.19.16

As most of you may have heard, the Anglican Primates, led by a group of African Bishops, voted to sanction the Episcopal Church in response to the change in our Canons, which now permits the blessing rites for the marriage of LGBTIQ people. This decision is very painful for all of us, and especially for our LGBTIQ members. It is important to hear our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's statement in response to this action:
"Before I say a word about our gathering here at the Primates Meeting, I just want to say a word of thank you to you for all of your prayers: your prayers for this meeting, your prayers for me personally, both here and in my earlier sickness. We are well, and God is God, and I thank you.
Let me say a word about the meeting.
This is not the outcome we expected, and while we are disappointed, it's important to remember that the Anglican Communion is really not a matter of structure and organization. The Anglican Communion is a network of relationships that have been built on mission partnerships; relationships that are grounded in a common faith; relationships in companion diocese relationships; relationships with parish to parish across the world; relationships that are profoundly committed to serving and following the way of Jesus of Nazareth by helping the poorest of the poor, and helping this world to be a place where no child goes to bed hungry ever. That's what the Anglican Communion is, and that Communion continues and moves forward. 
This has been a disappointing time for many, and there will be heartache and pain for many, but it's important to remember that we are still part of the Anglican Communion. We are the Episcopal Church, and we are part of the Jesus Movement, and that Movement goes on, and our work goes on. And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God's children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people. And maybe it's a part of our vocation to help that to happen. And so we must claim that high calling; claim the high calling of love and faith; love even for those with whom we disagree, and then continue, and that we will do, and we will do it together. 
We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of God's love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.
God love you. God bless you. And you keep the faith. And we move forward." 

The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church.

Here at Nativity, we will keep the faith and we will move forward.  Our vestry has agreed to begin a process of becoming a "Believe Out Loud, Integrity Congregation," which we hope will lead to our recognition as a welcoming community for all LGBTIQ people here in Marin. The process will involve committee work and congregational work, prayers and drafting of a mission statement. I anticipate that it will take us a good portion of next year to work through this process, but that it will help us to grow in faith and expand our work of invitation and welcome to our neighbors here. Please see me, Everil Robertson or DeeDee Nelson if you would like to participate in this important committee.  

Join me in a prayer with and for all who are re-injured by the action of the Primates.  

A Prayer for Openness

One: Blessed God, we give thanks for our many gifts: for the gifts of our race, gender and sexual orientation, and for the sacraments of relationship and community that grow from these gifts.

All: Holy God, we rejoice for the healing power of salvation.

One: Sanctify our hearts that our lives may glorify and show forth Your power of salvation.

All: We thank You for healing our ears to hear how racism attempts to silence a people by consensus. Open our ears to hear the silence and the language of our own racism.

One: God, we give You thanks because You give us the wisdom to discern injustice and the courage to stand for peace.

All: Give us the strength of a mountain to stand against the ignorance of sexism, the promotion of racism, and the condemnation and defamation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

One: Blessed God, thank You for delivering us out of the mire of injustice that pollutes, disrespects, and dismisses the needs and concerns of women throughout the world.

All: Holy God, we rejoice because You are healing the blindness of sexism. Open our eyes to see how we can support women in their struggles.

One: Holy Spirit, our teacher, teach us to be aware of when our own freedoms infringe on the freedoms of others.

All: Blessed God, forgive us for participating in attitudes and behaviors that cause repression and grief for others. Make us aware and give us the power to change.

One: Holy Spirit of life, thank You for the gift of those who give their hearts of empathy, who reach out with support and understanding to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, to those healing the injuries of racism, and to those who nurture the rights of women.

All: Be with us all in our struggles. Amen

By Rev. Pamela June Webb
Founder, Covenant of Inclusion, Open and Affirming Ministries of the GLAD Alliance, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)



Notes from Rev. Kirsten  1.12.16

This past Sunday, I talked about one of my favorite theologians, Jurgen Moltmann and his book, The Spirit of Life.  Since we heard the passage from Luke about Jesus’ baptism, we were contemplating the descent of the Spirit on Jesus and how the Spirit sanctifies all humans and all non-human creatures.  I offer this passage from Moltmann today for further reflection:

"In the gift and through the powers of the Holy Spirit a new divine presence is experienced in creation. God the Creator takes up his dwelling in his creation and makes it his home. The experience of the Spirit is the experience of the Shekinah, the indwelling of God: men and women become in their bodies 'the temple of the Holy Spirit' (I Cor. 6.13-20). The new Jerusalem will become God's tabernacle or dwelling among human beings (Rev.21.3).”
(Jurgen Moltmann, The Gifford Lectures:  God in Creation, An ecological doctrine of creation. (SCM Press Ltd., 1985).

What does it mean to “experience a divine presence in creation”?  As I noted on Sunday, we talk more often about recognizing Christ in one another.  But what if we recognize Christ in all of God’s creation?  How does this change our care for our world?  How must we consider our use of resources, our food choices, our transportation and housing?  I offer these questions for our ongoing discussion.  As I began this conversation around my dinner table last night, one guest said,  “Kirsten, this doesn’t seem like Christianity to me.”  What do you think, is this wild theology?  Looking forward to talking more with all of you.

Here’s is an ecological confession.  Pray with me in the constant knowledge that we have been absolved, forgiven and reconciled to God. 


God of compassion, have mercy upon us.
Bring healing to our relationship with all your creation.
Forgive us for our mistreatment and neglect
of the creatures with whom we share your earth:
for what we have done to harm them,
and for what we have not done to help them.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
We ask you to fill us with your Spirit,
that we may care for one another and for all your creatures,
according to your will and in the fullness of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten 1.6.16January 6th, Twelfth Day, is  Epiphany--an ancient church festival celebrating the magi’s visit to the Christ Child (Matthew 2:1-12).  The word epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation.” Thus, the holiday celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the magi (see Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:32). For some, Epiphany also commemorates the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:21-22) and His turning water into wine (John 2:1-11)—manifestations of Christ’s divinity to the world.  Many traditions surround Epiphany celebrations, which vary from culture to culture. Customs include the Star Singers (children dressed as kings and holding up a large star, singing carols from house to house); collecting money for charity; and the “plundering” and burning of Christmas trees. In the French Catholic culture, Epiphany marks the beginning of Mardi Gras, as “king cakes” are baked and served.  When I and my family were in Bosnia, we took at trip to Croatia during the Epiphany season and we found ourselves in the midst of wild street festivals that went on every weekend during Epiphany.  These festivals seemed to be a combination of carnivale and Christian ritual—exorcising evil spirits and indulging in those pleasures that will be given up during Lent.  (Here’s a picture we took of the street fair and a link to my March 4, 2014 blogpost:  http://newconsensus.org/KirstensBosniaJournalSP/2014/03/) 

But here, during the Epiphany Season we will focus more on the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the presence of Christ in our lives.  I am looking forward to celebrating the first day of Epiphany tomorrow with you at our First Wednesday Evensong (6:30 p.m.).  We’ll sing the Evening Prayers,  a few of our favorite Epiphany hymns and then have a soup supper in the kitchen.   The Epiphany Season will continue for the next five weeks.  I invite you to live into this season, noticing how Jesus shows up, is revealed to us all here.  Experience the Body of Christ as we come together in worship, our ministries, and our fellowship.

O God, by the leading of a star Thou didst manifest Thine only begotten Son to the Gentiles on this day; mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith, may be brought to contemplate the beauty of Thy majesty. Through the same Jesus Christ Thy Son.  Alleluia.  Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten 12.29.15

In this week between Christmas and New Years Day,  I am wondering what Mary and Joseph would have been thinking as they contemplated the birth of Jesus.  Would they have had a sense of expectation, something new was happening in their lives?  Would they have been overwhelmed and tired with the exhaustion of caring for a new baby?  Would they have been filled with thankfulness, overjoyed with the sense of completeness in their new family?  How would they have responded to the adoration of the people who heard of the birth and came to see the child?  Would they have heard about the journey of the kings, coming to see the new baby, and would they be worried about what this might mean for their future?  Or maybe they would have been unaware of how this child would change the world. 

As I think about what Mary and Joseph might have felt, I am aware of my own sense of expectation and thanksgiving.  I am thankful for our community of Christians here in Marin and all over the world who celebrate this birth of hope and peace with us.  I am full of expectation about what Christ’s presence in the world will mean and how it is we may work together to realize the promise of our Savior. 


Dear Savior,  Help us to feel your presence in our lives, healing, strengthening, guiding us to be a new people, redeemed and reconciled.  Help us to bring your peace into the world.   We give thanks for your grace and comfort, and all the gifts of your creation.  Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten 12.22.15

It is our Feast Week.   Christmas is coming. Christmas will come whether I am ready or not.  We will remember Jesus Christ’s birth, and with celebrations, we will hope again for God’s presence in our midst. 

I remember the anticipation of the births of my sons—waiting with anxiety and joy, wondering who they would be, how I would be.  I wondered how my life would be different, I wondered whether I was ready.  I made preparations, but could not truly see what a difference my boys would make in my life and the world around us. 

And maybe this is how I look forward to Christmas this year.  It is my first Christmas as priest in charge at Nativity.  I am excited, joyous about our worship services.  I am full of prayers as I think about our members, our ministries, our neighbors.  I am hopeful that this holiday will be meaningful to all who participate with us.  I know that the carols will be wonderful and our sanctuary will be beautiful.  I am praying that this holiday will stir us to love God more deeply, to care for one another in new ways, to feel God’s healing power and comfort, to look forward to the ways that we will be different and new because of Christ’s presence in our lives.  I cannot know how we will be changed, but I pray with anticipation the experience of Christmas, the birth of the Christ-child again.

Today, as you join in the preparations, in your homes, at Nativity or wherever you will worship, I hope that you will reach out to family, friends and neighbors. Share the anticipation of Christmas, proclaim the blessedness of those who give themselves to God’s service,  give thanks for all we have been given.  Invite people you love to join us in worship.  And take in God’s love which is always there for you.

A prayer from www.catholic.org:

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.   Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wisemen. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten  December 15, 2015,

Today I offer prayers of preparation.  I pray that in this next week you will feel the anticipation of the Word becoming flesh, the Messiah being born in our midst.  May we know again the wonder and awe at this birth so long ago.  As we see mothers everywhere, may we remember Mary, the willing servant who bore the child of God.   I pray that we might all participate in God’s creative and hope filled work, bringing God’s Kingdom here, now.  I pray that we will be watchful and open to the gift of God’s love.  I pray that we will feel God’s peace and presence in our midst in the many ways that we love and support one another.  I pray that as we meet people in our travels around town, we might see Christ in everyone.  When we give thoughtful gifts to family, friends, strangers in need, and charities, I pray that we will know that we are giving out of God’s bounty given to us.  

I look forward to seeing many of you at the Blue Christmas Service at Our Savior in Mill Valley tomorrow (Wednesday the 16th), our Christmas Pageant (this coming Sunday), the Christmas Eve service (at 5 p.m.), the Christmas Morning service (at 10), the Lessons and Carols Service (December 27) and the Epiphany Evensong (January 6th at 6:30).  Wherever you will spend this holiday, I pray that you will be know joy, peace and God’s love.

Incline Thine ear to our prayers, O Lord, we beseech Thee; and make bright the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.Notes from Rev. Kirsten  December 8, 2015




Notes from Rev. Kirsten  Decmeber 8, 2015

"The power of prayer." This was the theme of my sermon on Sunday. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians notes that he knows that God is working in the community because of their prayers with him (in his imprisonment) and because of their defense and confirmation of the gospel. I hear in that line of Paul's letter three things - first that God works in us when we pray; second, that we must pray with those who are imprisoned (behind bars, or imprisoned by infirmity, oppression, poverty or other circumstance); and third, that our prayers must focus on the hope of the Gospel - that resurrection hope that promises that suffering will end and new life is possible. If you missed my sermon, it's available on the Nativity website.But today, I am noticing how those prayers of Sunday are working today.  

After the 8 a.m. service, Rev. Rebecca invited us all to pray throughout Advent for our brothers at San Quentin, and she put their names on stars on our Christmas tree. Almost all of the names were taken. Yesterday, we got a note from one of the prisoners sending us Christmas stamps because he wants to contribute to the costs of us sending Christmas cards to prisoners. It was such a heartfelt expression of appreciation for our ministry. And it is clear that this is a two way ministry - it's not just that we put out prayers of love and hope, but our own hope is built up through this process. This gift from a prisoner to our community is an example of grace - a sign of God working in our midst.  

In another example, I was talking with a member of the pastoral care committee who told me about how the process of reaching out to members of the congregation feels like a small thing that she can do to support our community. She is nourished and supported by her pastoral care work. Even when people respond by saying, "I don't need anything," the love that these gestures convey to all of us matter. This work is a form of prayer.  We can need prayer ourselves and we can pray for others - simultaneously.  We are defending and confirming the gospel when we say to one another, "I see Christ in you and I love you as my brother or sister in Christ."  We are confronting the societal norms that suggest that individuals get what they deserve or that each individual can pull themselves up (from whatever hardships they face) by their bootstraps when we pray for one another and when we serve on another. The Gospel tells us that God wants what is best for every person and that God works in us collectively through our Church community at the same time as God works in us individually. Our Prayers of the People name all our parish members in a cycle of prayer. We pray especially for members who need special grace and healing. We pray for family and friends and for those who have died. Whether it's a phone call, or a visit, a card or a silent prayer - these connections between us change us and build us up as Christians.

On Sunday, another member of the congregation told me how the breakfast ministry with the Alternative High School was such a good experience. He said, "these kids just loved my pancakes. The teachers were so great and the kids need so much. Maybe they just need someone like a dad to be there and support them." Just being there is the prayer. Just recognizing that kids who are on the margins of the education system might need sustenance is "being with the imprisoned." Holding out hope that they might have the support of a father figure even for an hour or two a week is confirming the gospel.   Feeling that call to be with these teens is a sign of God working in us.  

As we move through this Advent season, I invite us all to pray together. Make your lists of who you are praying for. Say the names out loud when you pray at dinner or before bed. Tell one another when we recognize suffering, imprisonment, weakness in our community. Tell God what help is needed right now. Listen for God's call to us, hear what we can do. Feel God's presence in our midst, sustaining us and and helping us to grow into who God wants us to be. As we approach the celebration of Christ's birth, let us prepare ourselves with joyful thanksgiving for all that God is doing today.  

Following St. Paul's prayer for the Philippians, let us pray:

God of compassion, hear our prayers and  grant them as you see fit, enabling our love of you and one another to overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help us to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ we may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through your son, Jesus Christ for your glory and praise.  Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten  December 1, 2015

Mostly, I am feeling great joy about our lives together at Nativity. As I've said to many of you -- I am happier than I have ever been. I feel like together we are doing just what we are called to do at this time. But occasionally, I have a moment of anxiety about something. When I do, I try not to share those anxieties with all of you. I know that I feel anxious about things that I feel inadequately prepared for. I have my own work to do, quelling these fears with prayer and discernment - not putting them out into the world. I find great support in this work from my spiritual director, from clergy colleagues or from the Vestry.  

But today, I decided to share an anxiety, because I am sure that together we can address it as is best for our community. I am feel anxious about the Vestry selection process. We have an absolutely splendid vestry today and I don't know who will replace the members who are leaving in January. I feel uncomfortable about not knowing who will come forward. I am worrying about who will lead us over the next year. I have been praying about it and talking to a lot of different people. I am aware that sometimes the priest in a congregation hand picks the Vestry, but I think that our vitality (vivacity!) and long-term success depends on lay leadership that is partnered with, but independent of the priest in charge. I know that we are a community of followers of Christ, and I trust that every one of you has something to offer as we move forward on our shared path.

Here are some of my thoughts:

First,  I shouldn't be anxious, because the Holy Spirit is moving and we have all we need from God. (I know that I can trust God in all things, but I'm still a little anxious.)  

Second, I hear Jesus speaking about what real leadership is. The Gospels tell us that Christ's leadership is different than the kinds of leaders we know in the world - the one who wants to be first must be a servant to all. I take from this lesson that maybe there are servant leaders here at Nativity who are the ones we need - unlikely members who will lead by caring for all, not by being powerful or efficient or "good at meetings".  

And then third, I found a wealth of articles about Vestry selection process. Some Vestries are selected by a nominating committee (formed of the previous Vestry) and then elected.  Some are chosen by a "selection" process with self-nominations and then selection by the sitting Vestry.  One resource suggested selecting a vestry by lot -- choosing names from a hat with the assumption that all members have gifts that the congregation needs and whatever gifts we lack on the Vestry will be supplemented by other members as they are needed. Our by-laws specify that we will have an election for Vestry, but we could change the by-laws if we wanted to. Here's a wonderful set of articles on Vestry selection and the role of the Vestry. There are many different models, and we should be open to considering alternatives.

I know that the current Vestry has been soliciting nominees. I encourage you to continue your discernment, and if you feel called to serve as a vestry member or as a support, I encourage you to reach out to Susan Pick (our senior warden) or another vestry member (Kristen Huang, Dick Heine, DeeDee Nelson, Nina Woods, or Jeanette Hill). We have agreed to try a new meeting time for vestry-once a month on Sunday after the 10 a.m. church service. This will make it possible for people who don't like to go out at night to consider serving. Our annual meeting will be January 31st.  On this day we will settle the new Vestry question (by election or some other process). 

Today, I renew my commitment to trusting in God to provide everything that we need here at Nativity with this prayer,


Almighty God, giver of every good gift:  Look graciously on your Church, and so guide our minds as we choose a vestry for this parish, that we may receive faithful servant leaders, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten 11.22.15

Once again, I am thankful for all of the gifts that we have in the people in our community.  Truly remarkable what has emerged over the last month.  One new person has joined the altar guild.  One new person has agreed to join the Lay Assistant rota, Two new people have offered to usher.  A new committee is forming to look for community partners to share our space.  The Christmas Pageant planning has begun (this time in a new staged reading format with roles for the youngest members and the oldest).  New people are coming to our first Thursday caregiver support group.  One new person joined our Senior Fitness Class.  Members we haven’t seen in awhile showed up on Sunday to worship with us again.  The finance committee is expanding and beginning to think creatively about next year’s budget.  A beautiful newly made altar cloth showed up to cover our small altar (thank you Wendy Anderson).  Bob Robertson is putting together his crab feed team (with or without local crab!)  We are forming a committee to explore becoming an Integrity member (the Episcopal Church organization supporting LGBTQ people in our congregations and community).  One member, who can only rarely get to Sunday services, came by on a weekday afternoon with a trunk full of recycling to support our outreach ministries.  One person agreed to join the choir for our candlelight Christmas Eve.    The Pastoral Care committee expanded to include a new member and took on last month's student cookie extravaganza.  Several new people have joined the Friday breakfast cooking for the Alternative High School   We are joining St. Stephen’s in their "Raingear for the Homeless” ministry.  Eleanor Huang is  leading the Ritter House Christmas gift project.  We are giving support to Deacon Rebecca’s bee ministry in the South Pacific.  Our youth and our regular teams are supporting the Interfaith Chaplaincy to the Homeless dinners.  Our food barrel is nearly full for the MarinFood Bank.  Add it up—that’s at least twenty people who have made new commitments to our shared life here at Nativity.  We committed ourselves to one outreach project a month and this month we have four!   New volunteers join the dozens who work tirelessly every week to help us worship, serve our neighbors, care for one another and build up our spiritual lives.

The Spirit is moving.  As I look around I see that we are responding to God’s bounty by giving of ourselves.  Truly,  we praise God by building up God’s Kingdom.  

On Thanksgiving Day, we’ll have a quiet Eucharist  from 9:30-10:15. Come with your apron on—just leave the turkey in the oven.   As part of the service, we will celebrate the marriage blessing of Maucha Andrade and Hyllo Nader de Araújo Salles who are visitors here from Brazil (where they were married a year ago in a civil service).  

Here is our prayer of Thanksgiving:

Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we
possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you with our
substance, and, remembering the account which we must one
day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten November 17

On Sunday, we talked about listening for God and discerning what is righteous in the midst of troubled and violent times. I got to thinking about that process of discernment -- the listening for God for direction, for comfort, for the truth. I know that there are lots of approaches to discernment, but a regular practice of asking God questions and listening for answers is a powerful way to pray. A member of St. Stephen's in Belvedere, Joe Jennings, told a story about his discernment practice at our Deanery meeting this past week.  

Joe said, "I'd made a resolution to ask God regularly what I should be doing. A few weeks ago, I went off for a meeting and when I was just a few minutes away, the person I was meeting with texted saying he'd be 45 minutes late. Rather than sitting there annoyed with the delay, I decided to do some contemplative prayer-just sitting in the car in silence, listening for God. I set my phone timer for 10 minutes (I know it could have been longer, but 10 minutes is as long as I can sit quietly). When the timer went off, I opened my eyes, and there was a banner across my windshield. It said, 'Reindeer for the homeless." It was a strange vision and I kept sitting there thinking, "Reindeer for the homeless?" What does that mean? Then finally, it became clear -- I'd misread the message. It said, "Rain gear for the homeless." So I called a couple of the agencies that serve the homeless and sure enough, they wanted rain ponchos. So I've been collecting money for high quality ponchos. I can get them for $13-$20, depending on how many I order at once. It turns out that lots of people want to contribute-both money, and in some cases, good rain gear that they have sitting unused in their closets. I thought I'd just collect for a couple of weeks, but now it seems like there's a need that we can fill if we keep going for a few more weeks."  
The Deanery gave Joe a grant of $400 to buy more rain ponchos (and if you'd like to help, we've attached his flyer here).  

But the point of the story is that you never know what you'll hear when you ask God what you should be doing. God's message to you might come as a banner across your windshield. Or it might come in the words of a friend who you ask for advice. It might come in a realization after listening to a news program or a sermon. It might be something that you've been wrestling with for a long time and finally you just know that God's answer is clear. The key is in the asking and the listening.

I invite you to try some active discernment this week. Maybe God will tell you to stop doing something that no longer nourishes you. Maybe God will offer you the word of comfort that you have been waiting to hear for years and years. Maybe God will tell you that it's time for you to join the vestry (OK . . . I know that's my prayer, not necessarily yours!  :)) Whatever it is, I am sure that God has a word for all of us; let's listen together.

Here is Thomas Merton's Discernment Prayer:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following Your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You
Does in fact please You.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust You always though,
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me to face my struggles alone.    
Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten November 10

When we came out of our retreat a couple of weeks ago, Phil (our retreat leader) encouraged Susan and me to think about how the retreat as a process reflected our values and our strengths as a community.  

Everyone who came, came because they wanted to participate in thinking about our future. At each table, I heard people talking about what they love about Nativity. We love our worship, we love our outreach work together, and we love being with one another. There was a sense of inclusiveness and generosity as we listened to one another. We heard different points of view, but it felt as though every perspective was respected. There were members who have been at Nativity for many years, and there were relatively new members -- all were encouraged to participate. There was a flexibility and an openness as we allowed people to come early or late, leave when they had to or stay until the end. There was a lot of laughter in the midst of hard conversations. There was a sense of creativity and excitement about looking for new options. There was an appreciation for different gifts, our age diversity, our families and our seniors, our regular attendees and our infrequent members. There was celebration of our Marin Episcopal Youth Group and a desire to continue to find ways to work with our sister congregations in Marin. We ate a lovely lunch together. We talked in the courtyard and the kitchen when we took a break from our work. When we prayed together at the outset of the meeting, we held out our hopes and our vision, and we gave thanks for what we have been given. Throughout the retreat, there was a sense of gratitude for who we are and what we give to one another. There was a deep commitment to serving the community around us.

We got into some practical solutions-hiring a music director, working on our landscaping, reaching out to the community to find partners who would like to share our space with us. We talked about pews and chairs, but we didn't reach a conclusion on that one. And we talked about getting more "vivacity"-- more people engaged in the church. We talked about really enjoying being together and finding more ways to just have social time.   We have followed up on several concrete suggestion that came out of the retreat:

1) that we hold a "ministry fair" to introduce everyone to our various activities and encourage new participation. (That's happening this coming Sunday with a potluck lunch after 10 a.m. service.)

2) that we hire a music director. We have! If you have not yet met him, Daniel Chang joined us as the permanent Music Director/Organist on November 1. Now would be a great time to consider joining the choir!

3) that we explore ways to share our Church with our neighbors. A committee is forming. We have three members and could use a couple more. See me or Susan if you'd like to participate in a couple of meetings to think about how we identify and welcome groups with compatible missions to come see our space.

I came away from the retreat feeling so energized and happy about our work together. Maybe this is what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. It's not perfect, but it's a place where God's people come together to love and serve. The "Kingdom of Heaven" parables from Matthew chapter 13 come to mind. The parable of the mustard seed:  "it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." (Mt. 13:32). The parable of the yeast: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."  (Mt. 13:33).

Are we (Nativity) the mustard seed or the yeast that might grow into a heavenly kingdom?  Let this be our prayer for the week.  

God, we are not a large congregation, but your Spirit is moving here. Help us to be the faithful who will share your love with one another, and out in our community. When we worship you and participate in your sacraments, let us offer our thanks fully and accept your saving grace with humility. Help us to grow as the mustard seed so that we can provide shelter to the people who need us. Help us to grow as yeast in flour, leavening our community-both our members and our neighbors -- showing all we meet your loving ways.  In the name of Jesus Christ your Son and our only mediator, we pray.  

Amen.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten November 3

By now, many of you have received Senior Warden Susan Pick's stewardship appeal. For those of you who receive our notes but are not regular pledging members, I want to invite you all to read the letter and participate in our discussion about who we are as a Nativity community (near and far, regular attendees and infrequent participants). We are particularly interested in what you value about Nativity. What has it meant to you in the past, or how do you imagine it growing into the future? You will notice in the stewardship letter, the notes on our budget and the invitation to imagine how we might spend additional financial resources. The theme of the stewardship campaign is Vivacity - we seek to energize our ministries with new participants and invite our neighbors to come and share our beautiful church space.  

We are immediately planning more social time with an Evensong and soup supper November 4, Wednesday night (celebrating the Commemora-tion of All Faithful Departed). We are having a potluck lunch on November 15, and we'll informally structure discussions about all the ministry opportunities at Nativity. If you are receiving Nativity notes from far away, consider joining us virtually. We would welcome your thoughts, prayers, calls or notes. Of course, we would love to receive a donation from you if you would like to help us grow our budget. Or maybe you would just like to come to one of our special holiday services when you are back in town - Christmas Eve, or plan on Holy Week and Easter services.

On the night before he died, Jesus said to his disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35. This passage speaks to me about where we are right now, we are building up our love for one another - within Nativity and out in the community that surrounds us. It is joyful work that we do and it is what sustains us both collectively and individually. As we love one another our faith is built up and God takes a central place in our lives.   

Let us praise God's vivacity in our midst. 

We give thanks, O God, for all the blessings you have bestowed upon us. We know that our church building, our beautiful hilltop, our children and our elders, our teens and our parents are all blessings. We seek to welcome the strangers and comfort the lonely in our midst. God show the way to live most fully as your Body, responding to your grace and forgiveness with new energy to love one another and serve you, today and always. 

Amen.

Rev. Kirsten Notes 10.26.15

This coming Sunday, November 1st is All Saints Day.  Historically, the Church celebrated martyrs on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, a common feast day arose in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.   In the Roman Catholic church, All Saints Day is a day of Holy Obligation—a day on which Roman Catholics are required to attend services and abstain from secular work. The Roman Catholic understanding of Saints is that they intercede on behalf of the living, carrying prayers to God.  Our Episcopal Church understanding is a little different—we recognize the Saints as models for virtuous and godly living,  We believe that our prayers are heard directly by God, no need for the intervention of priests or saints.  Jesus Christ is our one mediator and advocate.  For us,  All Saints Day is an opportunity for us to learn about the saints and think about which saints we admire how we might model our lives on theirs. 

On Sunday, we’ll change the service slightly—we will renew our Baptismal Vows (p.292 in Book of Common Prayer) in place of the Nicene Creed and Confession since All Saints Day is a traditional day for Baptism.  We’ll also use the Preface for All Saints in the Eucharistic Prayer (at the 8 a.m. service).  Because of the way the calendar falls this year, we will also be adding names of the faithful departed to our Prayers of the People.  We’ll have a tablet at the font for you to add names of people you are holding in prayer.  If you can’t make it on Sunday, feel free to send names to the Church office:  Nativityonthehill@gmail.com and we’ll add them to our prayers on Sunday.  

On Sunday we also celebrate a big event in the life of our Church—the installation of Presiding Bishop Elect, Michael Curry.  I will set up our computer in the office to view the beginning of his installation liturgy which will be webcast from the National Cathedral starting at 9 a.m. (12 p.m. East Coast time).    Here is the link if you’d like to view the installation from home.  http://www.cathedral.org/

A week and a half away—we’ll do a special Evensong at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night November 4th in Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (All Soul’s Day).  We will build a special “ofrenda” or altar for the dead.  Please bring photographs or moments of people you are remembering so that we will have visual reminders of their constant presence with us.  I have some photos of people who have left Nativity and died, but if you would like to send me others from afar either electronically or by US mail, we can add them to our altar.  As we look to our future, it is some important that we remember those who have come before us.  After our Evensong worship, we’ll have a soup supper in the kitchen.  Everyone is welcome.

Here is the prayer for our Presiding Bishop-elect, Michael Curry.  Let us pray with him as he prepares to lead our Church.

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and
perfect gift: Send down upon Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry
and upon the congregations committed to his charge, the healthful
Spirit of thy grace: and, that he may truly please thee, pour upon him
the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of
our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen

Rev. Kirsten Notes 10.19.15
At our Diocesan Convention, Bishop Marc prayed with us this prayer attributed to Sir Francis Drake:

Disturb us, Lord, when 
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
Amen

 It was the right prayer for our Convention, positioning us to discuss the future of our work together.  But it seems that it is also the right prayer for us here at Nativity.  Twenty-nine of us met yesterday in our all parish retreat (fantastic turnout). Phil Sandahl led us in a series of discussions,  around the theme-- "Where Are We Going Cafe".  In small groups we asked,  "What do we want?", "Things are changing.  What do we absolutely want to keep?" and then "What are we ready to let go of, leave behind?"  We wrote up a series of next steps to move us forward.  I will write a full report with Susan Pick, our Senior Warden and Phil.  But the short summary is that we came away from the retreat with a few concrete ideas about how to grow in our ministry work, our congregational worship and our support of one another.  We are focused on building up the community that is here and reaching out to our immediate neighbors.    We love our two Sunday services and we imagine that our church building could become a real community center with lots of groups sharing our beautiful hill.  We want to let go of disagreements about small things (like pews v. chairs) and we want to move forward with "VIVACITY"-- a word that captures our sense of energy, joy, optimism and growth.

If you didn't make the meeting, we'd like to hear from you about your thoughts on these questions.  Come have tea with me and your vestry members.  Or just call us and give us your thoughts.  If you call the office, we'll find time that works for you.  Our vestry will discuss next steps on the 27th and we'll continue this discernment process.

Your love and care for one another, your vision of the new Heaven, your promise to love and serve the Lord, and your commitment to reaching out to our neighbors here in Marin and around the world is inspiring.  We are energized and enlivened by our time together in our all parish retreat.   Here are a couple of pictures that give a flavor of our meeting.






Rev. Kirsten Notes   10.13.15

This morning Senior Warden, Susan Pick. Ruth Baney and I met with Phil Sandahl who will facilitate our all parish retreat this coming Sunday.  (Mark your calendars—on October 18th, one service at 9 a.m. and then retreat at Lucas Valley Community Center beginning at 10:30).  We are so looking forward to talking with all of you about who we are and where we are going as a congregation.  We expect this conversation to be energizing and Spirit-filled.  We expect to be creative and honest.   We talked about what might emerge if we all come with an open mind, a curiosity, a sense of wonder and an awareness of God’s bounty.  We hope that our conversation may lead us in directions that we haven’t yet imagined. 

Perhaps we can be like the prophets and angels referred to in the first letter of Peter:

"Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory.  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!”  (1 Peter 1:10-12)

Peter tells the reader that our very salvation was the subject of “search and inquiry”, even though it had already be “revealed” to the prophets.  Even angels longed to look at this revelation.   And so it is with us—we must search and inquire, even though we know that Nativity is already God’s community, the Body of Christ.  Let us prophesy with assurance that we have done our human part-- studying, asking, listening, imagining, dreaming and committing ourselves to follow where Jesus Christ leads us.   

If you haven’t RSVPd already, send a note to Susan Pick and let her know you are coming so that we can plan enough lunch and snacks, tables and chairs, crayons and paper.  (Because this discernment, our “search and inquiry” might be hungry work.)

Before we get to the Parish retreat, your Convention delegates and I will be attending the Diocesan Convention on Friday and Saturday.  Feel free to call if you have questions about the agenda or the specific resolutions.  http://www.diocal.org/governance/diocesan-convention/166-diocesan-convention  We will report on the highlights and outcomes on Sunday morning.  


Here is a prayer written by the Rev. Matthew Kozlowski

A Prayer for a Large Church Gathering 
At this gathering, I pray that:
The essential message would be Jesus Christ and his good news.
The essential people would be those whom we are called to serve:
the poor, the hungry, the sick, and those in prison.
The essential values would be humility and compassion.
The essential gifts of the Holy Spirit would be generous perceptions
in the midst of disagreement, uplifting speech in public and
private conversation, and kindness in all encounters.
The essential decisions would be in service of our goal to
make disciples for Jesus.
I pray all this in his holy and life-giving name. Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten, October 6th

This past Sunday, I preached about how God, from the very beginning of creation made us to be in community.  It is in community that we are sustained, comforted, healed and nourished.  In community we come to know our Triune God, our God who’s very nature is to be community.  I talked about created family,  Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.   

On Monday, I began to hear from our Kairos Outside Ministry team—Jean Heine, Ruth Baney, Bob and Everil Robertson and Penny Poteet about their experience with the women’s retreat this past weekend. Kairos Prison Ministry is a Christian faith-based ministry that addresses the spiritual needs of incarcerated men, women, youth, and their families. By sharing the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, Kairos hopes to change hearts, transform lives and impact the world.   Our Nativity Kairos Outside Ministry team joined other volunteers to run a weekend retreat for women who have incarcerated family members.  It sounds like it was an incredible experience for the women who attended the weekend.  

But what struck me was the depth of the experience for our Nativity Kairos Outside Ministry team.  They came back feeling exhausted.  But they also came back with a deep sense of appreciation for the other volunteers who participated in the weekend and a sense of spiritual renewal from having worked together.  One of the volunteers described it.  She said,  "I looked around at the others from Nativity and I knew that we really are a community.  Those of us from Nativity share something special.  We don’t always agree about everything, but we knew that this was the right thing for us to do.”  

It is powerful testimony to why we are Church.  We care about one another and we do what God calls us to do.  We love and support one another, we share hard work, and the joy of doing God’s work in the community around us.  I am looking forward to hearing more reflections from the ministry team about what this meant for them next Sunday when we’ll be together again.  

My prayer for us  this week is one of the Kairos prayers:

Lord God of the ages,
from time out of mind
you endow the children of earth
with the life and light of eternity;
transform our doubts and fears,
and with the courage born of love
may we seize your moment for growth,
that our lives may sing out with joy
the glory and mystery of your timeless presence,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Barbara Mosse.

Notes from Rev. Kirsten, September 28th

My time on clergy retreat last week was rich with spiritual reflection and connections with clergy colleagues.  We focused our work on what Bishop Marc referred to as a Christian Mandala.  We worked with the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, John and Luke, spiraling through the Gospels with themes of Change, Suffering, Joy and Service.  I spent almost all of my time on Luke’s Gospel, reflecting on Service and thinking about how we are called to serve here at Nativity.  Hearing my colleagues reflect on this theme, was a wonderful time of renewal and appreciation for our Church.  

And then I spent the weekend camping with my family and a group of friends.  We hiked the redwoods above the Russian River and played on the beaches of the Sonoma Coast.  We saw otters, coyotes, cormorants and deer. We were watched by harbor seals, and marveled at the sea anemones in the tide pools.  I come back today full of joy and aware of the blessings of our natural world.  

I look forward to celebrating St. Francis Day with a blessing of the animals at 9:15 this coming Sunday (October 4th) at the outside altar.  Bring all pets for a blessing.  Invite your friends and neighbors.  Our animals give so much to us and we love them simply because they are.  It is a reminder of how God loves us—simply because we are.  We are blessed, gifted with with God’s grace.  All animals are too.  Today this deer stood outside my office.  She seemed to be contemplating us as we contemplated her.

A prayer in preparation for St. Francis Day 

Your goodness is turned upon every living thing and Your grace flows to all Your creatures. Grant to our special animal companions long and healthy lives. Give them good relationships with and if You see fit to take them from us, help us to understand that they are not gone from us, but only drawing closer to You. Grant our petitions through the intercession of good St. Francis of Assisi, who honored You through all Your creatures. Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten, September 20th

Notes from Rev. Kirsten

New Senior Ministries 
Starting in October

Last month, we formed a senior ministry committee and decided to experiment with two new programs to serve our senior community here in Marinwood. We agreed to start two new programs. On the first Thursday of the month, we'll host a Dementia Caregiver Support Group from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On the third Thursday of the month, we'll host a Senior Fitness Class from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.  

A couple of people have asked, Why we are starting this programs? I guess the simple answer to the question is, We're starting these programs because our baptismal covenant calls us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. And we've identified these two programs as ways that we can serve. Our senior ministry committee met and brainstormed about the needs of the senior community and the resources that we have to offer. There are so many needs, but these felt like ones we could tackle as a natural extension of who we are and the pastoral caregiving and outreach that we do so well here at Nativity. These programs also make us partners with a network of senior services providers -- the County's Aging Action Initiative, Senior Access and other congregations and non-profits who are providing services to seniors in our community.

Caregivers are often isolated and overwhelmed. We agreed that Nativity could be a place where they could come and find support and community. We have many people in our congregation who have been or are now caregivers for people suffering memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer's. We felt that we could help people connect to resources that are available in the community, and we can simply be a welcoming and supportive presence for caregivers. The Senior Fitness program was identified as a valuable resource for people in the congregation and around the neighborhood. The class will be fun, with music and relaxation time as well as movement and exercise. The exercises will mostly be done in a chair so even people with limited mobility can participate. Our fitness leader, Kathleen Downey, comes with a wealth of experience in leading groups in music, movement and relaxation-what she calls the "Powerful 3." I'm looking forward to this monthly class as an energizing and fun way to be together as a community and to welcome new people to our wonderful space.

Here are the two flyers for the programs (Senior Fitness and Caregivers). I'm hoping we'll be able to circulate them widely and encourage participation.  

Here is our prayer for the Aged, with a special petition for all of us as we begin these new ministries (adapted from BCP 830).

Look with mercy, O God our Father, on all whose increasing years bring them weakness, distress, or isolation.  Provide for them homes of dignity and peace; give them understanding helpers, and the wiliness to accept help; and, as their strength diminishes, increase their faith and their assurance of your love.  Help us to see Christ in all of the elders in our community and to serve them, loving our neighbors as ourselves.  This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten, Ember Day 9.16.15

Today is an Ember Day, designated as such because it is  the Wednesday immediately following Holy Cross Day.   Ember Days are  observed as days of penitence and preparation for ordained and lay ministry.  Traditionally, Ember Days are observed with fasting and reflection.  Here in our Diocese, Bishop Mark has asked that all candidates for ordained ministry send him an “Ember letter” sharing their preparation and challenges as they move towards their ordained ministry.   This practice of penitence and reflection continues after ordination as clergy move into new ministries.  When I write to Bishop Mark to tell him about our ministry at Nativity, I will tell him about what we have been doing over the past six months and what we are looking forward to the next phase of our work together.  

I’ll tell him about four areas of our work— our worship, our pastoral care, our outreach ministries and our stewardship. As we look forward, we can celebrate who we are and see opportunities for new growth as a community.  We will continue our discernment about our future (beginning with the parish retreat on October 18th) and I am sure that God will lead us in the right directions.  

When I arrived in January, I began by focusing on our worship together.  Rev. Lizette (who is one of our denomination's leading liturgists) joined us as Assisting Priest.  Together we made a few changes—reconfiguring our 8 a.m. worship around the small altar, exploring new musical options with our choir at the 10 a.m. service, expanding and deepening our Holy Week observance and adding a monthly Evensong.  Recently we have added teens to our lector rota.  I try to focus on preaching that opens up the Word and listens for how we are called to ministry here at Nativity. Our communal prayer is really are at the core of our identity as a Nativity community.  It is a spiraling process:  we worship together-- which shapes our faith-- which shapes our ministry—which builds our community—which shapes our worship and so on.   I leave our worship feeling renewed, energized, filled up.  God is with us and speaking to us.  We are thankful, and our supplications are heard.  We are nourished by the sacraments and called to ministry.   Wow!  

Besides focusing on our worship, we’ve started a new (very active) Pastoral Care team, and we’ve added three new outreach ministries—making breakfast for an alternative high school twice a month, planning for a senior caregiver support group and a senior fitness class. We’re back to our bi-weekly Bible Study and our youth group (MEYG) is off to great start.  On the stewardship side, we successfully experimented with having non-profit summer camps rent our space and have begun exploring other shared uses of our church building and grounds.  We’re writing grants to support our ministry work and we’re continuing our congregational fundraising efforts. I am also working with the other Episcopal Churches in our Deanery, identifying areas of common work and looking for opportunities to share resources.  

The next phase of our growth will depend on all the members of the congregation.  We will be listening to one another and exploring our gifts and our hopes for the future.  We will be brainstorming and asking for leaders and supporters of new and existing ministries.  We are the Body of Christ and every member is important. The vestry and I will talk more about our plans for the parish retreat over the next few weeks, but I hope you’ll plan on coming and will prepare to share what at Nativity helps you grow in faith and what gifts of time, energy, prayer and financial support you can give to help us grow together.   I hope you’ll join us to celebrate who we are today, what is wonderful about our past, and where we imagine ourselves going in the next few years.

As we continue our discernment, the Ember Day collect seems like our right prayer for the week:
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

9.8.15 Planning, planning, planning (and living well in the midst of plans).

Those who have been with us the past two Sundays have heard our Senior Warden, Susan Pick’s announcements about our all parish retreat.  The parish retreat will be October 18th.  We’ll have one worship service at 9 a.m. and then go to Lucas Valley Community Center for a planning retreat from 10:30-4:30.  The theme for the day is:  “Where are We Going Café”.  Our parish member Phil Sandahl has agreed to facilitate the day, helping us to ask two important questions:  1. Who are we? and 2. Where are we going?  Phil is an expert in facilitation and strategic planning and he has designed a day that will be fun, mostly about listening to one another and generating new possibilities for us as a congregation.  We’ll use a method called, World Cafe to generate lots of new ideas.

I am very excited about this next step in our process.  I do want to reassure everyone that while we are open to almost all new possibilities, some things are absolutely secure—whatever we imagine about our future, there will still be Sunday Nativity worship.  Our budget is fine, we are meeting our needs and we love being together.   We will continue as a Nativity community, growing new ministries, deepening our faith.  Imagining our future is about looking forward to growth as a community—not closing our doors or eliminating anything that feeds us spiritually.  

At the retreat, we’ll talk about options like having a school in our upper rooms or renting out space to other non-profits when we are not using it.  We might consider building on our property or sharing some resources with other Northern Marin churches.  We’ll talk about growing new ministries that will serve our congregation and our neighbors.  We might consider some activities that would generate new income and we might consider some activities that would save us money.   We will certainly consider some activities that aren’t about money at all, but are about who we want to be and how we worship and serve together.  We have to think about our long term budget.  But at the heart of our planning work is thinking about how to serve God best.  I know that some people have fears about this process, but the vestry and I are sure that we can thrive, grow, expand as a community guided by our faith, called to action in the world and committed to caring for one another.  

I hope you will all put October 18th into your calendars.  It will be a wonderful day together.  We need many different perspectives to generate possibilities.  This retreat will help the vestry begin to explore options.  We won’t be making decisions or rejecting any ideas, but we’ll be trying to shape our pathways forward.  If you are receiving Nativity Notes Online because you were a member years ago, or an interested member of the community here in Marin or far away consider participating in this process. Give me a call (510-207-6346 or nativityonthehill@gmail.com), or call one of the vestry members.  We’ll find the right way to bring your ideas in,  we welcome and count on your support and love as we plan.

As we look forward, I am praying with you all for God’s support and guidance.  

God the parent of all creation, grant us patience and freedom from anxiety as we grow to the next phase of our maturity.  Creative Spirit, help us to become something new that honors who we have been and who we are today.  Jesus Christ our teacher and guide, help us to see a path of justice and truth, faith and understanding of what is God’s will for us here, today.   Amen.

Here are some passages that speak to our planning work:  

Luke 14:28-33 

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. ...

Proverbs 3:5-6 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Philippians 4:6 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.



September 1, Notes from Rev. Kirsten

When do you pray?  On Sunday mornings?  Before dinner?  When you feel a need?  Before bed?  In the morning?  Where do you pray?  At church? At the table?  With other people?  In silent contemplation alone?  When you are gardening?  When you are walking in nature?  

We haven’t talked a lot about prayer, and I’d like to have more of a conversation about it.  I noted a couple of weeks ago that prayers can be a dialogue with God and we need to do as much listening as talking.   But where and how we pray shapes what we pray and what we hear when God answers.  I invite you to consider expanding your prayer opportunities. Experiment and if you don’t know how to start, Rev. Rebecca and I would be happy to share our favorite resources.   

Consider joining me the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 for Evensong.  We’ll sing Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.  It is a very short service (30 minutes).  We will sing quietly without instruments.  Most of the prayers we sing on one note (any note you choose will be fine.)   It is a beautiful sacred time and I’m looking forward to it.  I’ll bring some soup and bread and we can share supper afterwards.  

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh-born English poet, orator and Anglican priest.  He wrote this beautiful poem about Evensong.  (The struggle with Olde English is worth it, just read it out loud and it will be clear.)  Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.  


Even-song.
                                Blest be the God of love,
Who gave us eyes, and light, and power this day,
                 Both to be busie, and to play.
                 But much more blest be God above,

                                Who gave me sight alone,
                 Which to himself he did denie:
                 For when he sees my waies, I dy:
But I have got his sonne, and he hath none.

                                What have I brought thee home
For this thy love? have I discharg’d the debt,
                 Which this dayes favour did beget?
                 I ranne; but all I brought, was fome.

                                Thy diet, care, and cost
                 Do end in bubbles, balls of winde;
                 Of winde to thee whom I have crost,
But balls of wilde-fire to my troubled minde.

                                Yet still thou goest on,
And now with darknesse closest wearie eyes,
                 Saying to man, It doth suffice:
                 Henceforth repose; your work is done.

                                Thus in thy ebony box
                 Thou dost inclose us, till the day
                 Put our amendment in our way,
And give new wheels to our disorder’d clocks.

                                I muse, which shows more love,
The day or night: that is the gale, this th’ harbour;
                 That is the walk, and this the arbour;
                 Or that the garden, this the grove.

                                My God, thou art all love.
                 Not one poore minute scapes thy breast,
                 But brings a favour from above;
And in this love, more then in bed, I rest.


____________________________________________________________________


August 25 Notes from Rev. Kirsten


Back to School for ALL of Us

Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:9-10.

We are preparing for school and looking forward to Back to School Sunday (September 13th with a fun pancake breakfast!) As fall approaches, it is time to think about new routines for our children and teens, but also for all of us who want to deepen our faith through learning. There are many ways to go about it, here are some that we'll be participating in at Nativity.

Marin Episcopal Youth Group (for students in 6th to 12th grades) is following a rich curriculum developed by Rev. Daniel London. Orientation and information meeting for the MEYG is on September13th, 5-6:30 at Nativity. All parents, teens and others who are interested in developing faith with young people are invited. Rev. Daniel is looking for an adult to participate in the group. Ideally, this person would be a non-parent who has an interest in working with young people. We are committed to having multiple adults involved in all youth activities consistent with the Episcopal Church's Safe Church policies.

There is EfM (Education for Ministry) training. Everil Robertson is a graduate of this intensive (and wonderful) four-year study program. You can talk to Everil about her experience and about the new DioCal group that is starting up this fall. Details about the program are available here

The School for Deacons in Berkeley allows lay people to audit their courses. The offerings are very varied and taught by wonderful professors. The schedule is a monthly Saturday commitment. You can talk to Rev. Rebecca or look at the program offerings here.

The Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership offers online courses. This fall, I will be teaching a course on Eucharist -- we will be reading a text on Eucharist and having weekly online discussions about how the Sacrament both nourishes us and engages us, calling us to ministry. Courses begin September 21st and registration is open now:  

And here at Nativity we'll resume our Bible Study with a Thursday morning program on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, immediately following our Eucharist at 9:30. Join us from 10:45-12 for reading and discussion. Our first class will be Thursday, September 24th, and we will decide which books we will read/study over the next few months.

My prayer for today is for all of us, learners and teachers with thanksgiving:

O Lord, our God and Creator, You did teach your chosen disciples that the fear of you is the beginning of true wisdom; You have revealed your wisdom to children and did teach your law to Solomon and to all those who have sought you in purity of heart. Open the hearts, the minds, and the lips of all of us students, that we may receive the power of your law, understand your perfect will and contribute to the building up of your Holy Church. Grant that we may grow in wisdom and in the observance of your commandments, and become heirs of your Kingdom. Bless also our teachers, O Lord; grant that their words may be free from every worldly deceit and vanity, and may always clearly proclaim the word of your truth. For you are God, the author of truth and the fountain of Wisdom, and unto you we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. 



Notes from Rev. Kirsten. 19 August, 2015


I hope that you are enjoying these last days of summer.  With the heat there can be a certain lethargy, we slow down and rest more, conserving our energy for the essential things.  As I return from vacation and recover from jet lag, I am using these dog days of summer for  planning and preparing for cooler days and the coming fall.  I am trying to listen for God, asking more questions and waiting rather than making my supplications and dashing forward.  I think of our prayers as a conversation, and now is a good time to be on the listening end.  Here are some of my questions.  

God,  how can we engage more of our members in worshipping you on Sunday mornings and throughout the week?  What are ways that we can make our liturgies more prayerful, more joyful, and more alive so that all of us will feel your Spirit in our community?

God,  I see that we and the community around us are aging,  many people in Marin are getting older, living on reduced incomes and facing new health challenges. But aging also brings a new luxury, time that was not available when people were working and raising families.   How can we at Nativity support our elders best, helping them through these changes?  What new ministries are you calling us to—both to serve our elders and to use the time and talents that elders bring to our community?

God,  as our children and youth return to school, I see that families are both energized and sometimes overwhelmed.  Parents and children are working hard at their studies, sports, arts and school projects.  How can we at Nativity help families to make you the center of their lives—not a new obligation, but a source of nourishment, a cornerstone of strength, and a beacon of guidance in a confusing world?  How can Church on Sundays and throughout the week be a refuge and support for families?

God,  we are continuing to ask what the future of Nativity will look like.  We are open to new formations, new ministries, new ways of using the resources you have given us.  Help us to see the best ways forward as we seek to love and serve you.

I invite you all to pray with me and come and talk with me and your Vestry about God’s answers and our responses.  

Here is a calendar of a few meetings and opportunities for more listening and talking with God and one another over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, August 24th, 2-3:30  p.m. “Imagining Elder Ministries” meeting at Nativity.   I invite anyone interested in exploring opportunities for new or expanded elder ministries to join me in a prayer and brainstorming session in my office.

Saturday, August 29th,  "Equipping the Beloved Community"—a Diocesan Training at St. Clements in Berkeley.  Consider coming for training in liturgical leadership—as a Eucharistic Minister or Visitor . Attend workshops on family ministry and congregational discernment.  Several Vestry members and I will be going and we’d be happy to carpool if you need a ride and the church will pay the registration fee if you would like to attend.  http://diocal.org/equipping-beloved-community

Sunday, September 13th,  “Back to Church/Back to School Sunday”.   We will kick off our fall ministry and music with full choir and youth liturgical leadership.  We invite all members and especially teens to join the fall rota as Lay readers, Crucifers, Acolytes and Eucharistic Ministers.    Serving as a liturgy leader is a powerful way of deepening your own experience of worship, consider trying it out for a season.

October, “All Parish Retreat”.  We are planning on an all parish day of discernment to continue our thinking about new ways of forming ourselves as Church.  We will let you know as soon as we have settled on a date.

May God’s light show us the way.  Amen.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten 7.27.15

Yesterday we heard the stories of loaves and fishes from the Gospel of John 6:1-21 and 2 Kings 4:42-44.  I preached about sharing as a way of experiencing God’s bounty.  (If you missed it, my sermon is on our website:  www.nativityonthehill.org).   And I mentioned, although maybe too briefly, that we need to give God thanks and praise for the abundance that is in our lives.  So as I’ve gone about my day today, I’ve been consciously enumerating the bounty in my life.  I started with the place I live, the people I live with.  I appreciated my breakfast.  I noticed my colleagues and the privilege of having work.  I looked out at the colors of the sky and the hills, the Bay and the mountains behind and in front of me.  I arrived at Church and noticed how beautiful our place is here on the hill.  I count the fun we had yesterday at our barbecue and at the ball game.  I gave thanks for the couple who got married before the game—the Pacifics player Maikel Jova and his new bride who made the first pitch.

 I think about seeing all of you yesterday at 8 and at 10 and the wonderful congregation (over 180) who gathered with us on Saturday for David Wade’s funeral service.   Each person a blessing in my life.  If you had not been there, it would not have been the same.  I can go on and on.

I tasted a new herb yesterday,  Lemon Basil (try it).  I give thanks for the farmers who are continuing to produce food in spite of the drought.   I give thanks for the wonderful story I heard on the radio.  I give thanks for the love of my family and the ways that they support me.

As I count my blessings, I am confronted by the Gospel story.  I have so much, how am I called to share today?  Where are the hungry people who need to be fed?  What are the parts of me that are in need of special care and nourishment?    This seems to me a Gospel-centered circle of contemplation—give praise to God for all that we have been given,  ask who needs today (and include myself on the list), find a way to share what I have, give thanks and praise for the abundance that comes from the sharing.  Consider joining me in this practice today?

God of abundance, you have fed us with the bread of life and cup of salvation; you have united us with Christ and one another; and you have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue for ever in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.  (Enriching Our Worship 1, Post Communion Prayer).

Notes 7.21.15

I have been reflecting on Rev. Lizette's sermon from Sunday morning. If you missed it, it was about Jesus the shepherd, and us the sheep being gathered by God into Church (you can read it on our website). She talked about God's gentle nudging of us to get us to come together in Church. She reminded us that God knows, and sometimes even we know, that we "draw near" for many different reasons. As Eucharistic Prayer C says, "Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength, for pardon only, and not for renewal." Sometimes it is solace and consolation, sometimes it is for strength to move forward and to do more, other times it is for forgiveness and healing, and there are those times when we know we need renewal, and we know we will be transformed.   
I've been reflecting on how we, here at Nativity, do offer worship and friendship, space for reflection and avenues for ministry -- for all people, whatever their need is this week, at this moment in their lives.  

On Saturday (at 3 p.m.), we will celebrate the resurrected life of David Wade. We will mourn his passing with Marian, and our hearts will sing joyfully with wonderful guest musicians who knew and loved David and Marian -- the Bohemian Grove Choir, the Winnifred Baker Choir and friends who are soloists.  

On Sunday we will send Rev. Lizette off to her exciting new job as Huron-Lawson Professor Theology, Huron University College (part of University of Western Ontario), in London, Ontario. Her office address is: 1349 Western Road, London, ON Canada N6G 1H3. We will miss her presence with us. Her voice has led us in prayer and congregational singing. Her expertise in liturgy helped to shape our Easter Week liturgies and has helped us experiment (quite successfully) with a new arrangement for our 8 a.m. worship. She has guided and supported me in innumerable and invaluable ways. I have grown as a new priest with her help. I will be sad at this parting, and I expect to be comforted by our sense of shared ministry even though she will be far away.  
At the same time, we are welcoming back Rev. Rebecca from her sabbatical.  We have missed her servant leadership, her commitment to our ministries in the world and her important roles in our liturgies. We pray that she will feel renewed by her time away and that rejoining us, we may experience the her gifts in our midst in new ways. We look forward to our next Outreach Committee meeting with her (next month).

And we are planning to share a fun afternoon on Sunday, coming together after worship to play -- sharing barbecue on the patio and then going to the Pacifics baseball game. And this fun is also part of being church, called together by God to live as fully as we can, experiencing rest and fun, living in joy. Join us, invite your friends and neighbors. Come just for the barbecue if you don't want to go to the game. We'll meet on the patio at 11:30 and cook together. Bring a salad or dessert to share if you are inspired, or just bring yourself -- we'll have plenty.

Join us, all of you who are called by God.   We'll be together when we're sick, we'll be together when we are hungry for God. We'll be together when we are full of thanksgivings and when we are anxious or afraid.  We'll be together for fun, and we'll be together when we're having a hard time. As we participate in worship and all of our other church activities, we will be building up the flock, gathered together by Jesus Christ our shepherd.    

Here is a gathering prayer for us:

God of all creation, we come to Church today asking for your guidance, wisdom, and support. We come celebrating and joyful. We come with our grief and our troubles. Help us to engage in this community fully; allow us to grow closer as a group and nurture the bonds of community. Fill us with your grace, Lord God, as we make decisions together and as we support one another. And continue to remind us that all that we do here at Nativity, all that we accomplish, is for the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of You, and for the service of humanity. We ask these things your name.

Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten July 14, 2015

This past week, I spoke with one of our parishioners who said that when she came to Nativity, she was immediately taken by the view from our outdoor altar. She felt something special and has brought family members to see it. I love the view, too. Sometimes, I take my lunch out and sit on the bench. Often I just pause to say a prayer. I've been hearing the Nature Camp children as they take their big hike down to the stream. I meet the neighbors who walk their dogs on our trails. We all appreciate Duane Johnson's careful gardening around the altar, weeding, sweeping, and watering just enough to keep things alive. What a gift it is to be here on this hill.
  
This beautiful outdoor space reminds me that God's creation includes all of us, all of the plants and animals, our stream, the ocean, the winds and birds. This planet we live on is magnificent. And it calls for our care. As we are blessed by God, so is every other part of God's creation. To live in harmony with it all requires that we live lightly. We are called to use just what we need of the earth, called to protect the environment from pollution and destruction. Now in this time of drought, we must conserve our water. And we must preserve our open spaces for all of the non-human species. We depend on this land to provide us with sustenance, and we give thanks for the fruits of the earth and all who work in the fields.  

If you have ideas about what we can do as a community to live more harmoniously with the earth, please share them. We can put ideas up on our bulletin board, or we can publish a list of suggestions on the website.  

Our Prayers for the Natural Order are found on pages 827 and 828 of the Book of Common Prayer. We have beautiful Collects for knowledge of God's creation, for the conservation of natural resources, for the harvest of lands and waters, for rain, and for the future of the human race.

Here are our prayers for Rogation Days from the Great Litany. 

That it may please thee to grant favorable weather, temperate rain, and fruitful seasons, that there may be food and drink for all thy creatures,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless the lands and waters, and all who work upon them to bring forth food and all things needful for thy people,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to look with favor upon all who care for the earth, the water, and the air, that the riches of thy creation may abound from age to age,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.  Amen.


Notes from Rev. Kirsten, July 5

It is time for summer vacations.  It seemed that many people I spoke with on Sunday were either coming from vacation or going on vacation or had family members (who were on vacation) visiting them. It sometimes feels like vacation is “out of time”--not part of our real lives.  We go along with our daily routines, and then we interrupt them for vacation.  

But it struck me this week that God doesn’t go on vacation. Our individual spiritual lives and our life as Church of the Nativity continues through this summer vacation season—whether we’re here on hill, traveling, or home with summer guests.  The rhythm or melody of our dialogue with God may shift because our daily lives have been interrupted by vacation.  These changes may be an opportunity for us to grow and have new experiences of God in our midst, moving in our community.   

Here are some thoughts about how to listen to and sing with God on vacation:
  • As you see a new place, a spectacular view or a pretty town square, marvel at God’s creation and give thanks.  Recommit yourself to your efforts to preserve and promote our natural resources and make our built environments places where all people and the planet can thrive.
  • When you visit a new community, think about the needs of our neighbors in a wider sense—our neighbors include not just the people of Marin, but the people we meet everywhere.  Loving distant neighbors as we love ourselves may call us do something different right then, or might call us to think about new areas of ministry.
  • A visit to old friends, or a visit from family may open up opportunities for healing.  By your loving presence, God’s grace can be felt in new ways.  Let that grace come into your life and heal you and the people you meet.  
  • On vacation, take opportunities to be a faithful tourist—visit new churches,  worship with people of other faiths, check out holy sites.  We can be curious about how God speaks to other people in their places and a new worship experience might enrich our own.
  • Experience Nativity’s worship and fellowship in new ways.  If you are going to be busy on Sunday morning, consider coming to our wonderful Thursday morning Eucharist or our first Wednesday Evensong.  Try out the 8 a.m. service if you are usually a 10 a.m. regular and experience the contemplative intimacy of our new worship in the round with the new portable altar.  If you have guests who get up late on Sunday, consider bringing them to the 10 a.m. service before brunch.  Help them to follow the liturgy and experience it through their eyes.   If you find yourself with an extra movie ticket, or a free moment for a walk in Marin, consider calling someone you have met at Church to join you for fun.

I look forward to hearing about your summer activities.  And I pray our vacation prayer with you: 

O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Book of Common Prayer (p. 825).




Notes from Rev. Kirsten, June 22, 2015

I sat in my office on Monday morning listening to Squeeeech,  squeeech,  squeech.  The rhythmic sound of summer.  The Marinwood Community Center Nature Camp kids on the swings on our playground.  Then there was a rousing game of insect bingo—"ant, wasp, butterfly, ladybug, bee,  BINGO!”  Fun.  What a wonderful thing to be able to share our beautiful church with our neighbors.  If you happen to be around the church and see parents, kids, counsellors, offer a word of warm welcome, we are so glad that they are here.  

We have been experimenting a bit with our 8 a.m. worship configuration.  This week we tried out a small portable altar that is on loan from Rev. Louis Weil.  Come join us and see what you think.  We are sitting in the choir pews in a squared “U”  configuration and staying in place to receive communion.    We considered combining our 8 and 10 services for the summer, but talking with many of you, we’ve decided not to make a change.  We like the contemplative nature of our  8 a.m. worship and the hymns of our 10 a.m. service.  Each service has its character and its regulars and we don’t want to lose any of this richness by shifting the worship times.   This summer we will explore the Gospel of Mark—contemplating Jesus’ ministry and teachings and our own callings.  I hope that it will be a good time of preparation for the next phase of our discernment as a parish.  The vestry is planning for all-parish meetings and discussions beginning in September.

I am taking a week’s vacation this week, the 23rd to 30th. I’ll be back in time for Vestry meeting on the 30th and Evensong on July 1st at 6:30 (and looking forward to soup supper afterwards).   In my absence, there will be Morning Prayer on Thursday at 9:30 (join the regulars for this lovely worship and time for coffee fellowship).  Rev. Lizette will preach and preside on Sunday at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.  Rev. Lizette is also on-call for any pastoral emergencies.  Her number is:  510-334-4385 and her e-mail is: revlizette@aol.com.    The office volunteers are in the office from 10-12 every day and collect phone messages twice a day.  

In Canada,  the summer solstice, June 21st is National Aboriginal Day.  I love this prayer from the Anglican Church of Canada and it speaks to me this week as I celebrate summer and continue to mourn the death of our sisters and brothers in Berkeley and in South Carolina.

A Four Directions Prayer 

Creator, we long for wholeness in our families, for honest, open communication to say what we need to say in safety and without fear.

Creator, we give thanks for the knowledge you give in all traditions of the world. Help us to honour the gifts of all traditions.
Teach us to know how to love and live.

We give thanks for new life, for youth, represented by the eastern direction. We give thanks for new learning, for the sun which rises to begin each new day, and for the teachings of the peoples of the east, and yellow-skinned peoples.
Teach us to know how to love and live.

We give thanks for the south, for the black-skinned peoples of the world, for the growth of the summertime in ou lives, the learnings of our adult lives, to be kind and accept ourselves. Teach us as parents to love and respect our children, to care for the elders and those who cannot care for themselves.
Teach us to know how to love and live.

We give thanks for the west, for the gifts of Aboriginal peoples of the world, for understandings of care of the earth, for teachings about rocks, leaves and trees, for the knowledge we have in our own teachings, all of these given by our Creator. Help us to use our understandings to bring joy and new life to our communities.
Teach us to know how to love and live.

We give thanks for the northern direction, for the white-skinned peoples of the world, and white-haired peoples in our families and communities. Help us to receive gifts of wisdom from all peoples. Help us to grow our roots deeper through life’s journey, that we may grow in kindness to ourselves and each other.
Teach us to know how to love and live.



Notes from Rev. Kirsten, June 16, 2015
I woke this morning to the frightening sound of helicopters, many of them.  We checked the news and heard of the tragic collapse of a downtown Berkeley apartment balcony that killed eight young people and seriously injured several more.  A tragedy.  There are no words to describe the horror, the sadness, the injustice of these deaths.  Where is God when people die like this?  The answer that I hear, is that God is with the people who have died, calling them to God’s self.  God is with the families who will receive this terrible news.  God is with the emergency workers who are on the scene, the doctors and nurses who will meet them at the hospital, and with all of us who mourn in shock.   As we heard in our reading two Sundays ago,  “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1) 

As we look towards the eternal, in accordance with our baptismal covenant,we must do what we can to comfort those who mourn  and work for justice--ensuring that buildings are constructed safely for the people who live in them.  

We pray today with the young people who died, their families and those who will hear of their deaths.  We pray with all who are suffering life threatening illnesses and with all whose bodies are declining as part of the natural aging process.  There is lament and sorrow in death, but we live with the assurance of eternal life in God and the comfort of God’s presence with us always.

I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.
Whoever has faith in me shall have life,
even though he die.
And everyone who has life,
and has committed himself to me in faith,
shall not die for ever.

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

For none of us has life in himself,
and none becomes his own master when he dies.
For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,
and if we die, we die in the Lord.
So, then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord's possession.
Happy from now on
are those who die in the Lord!
So it is, says the Spirit,
for they rest from their labors.


(BCP, 491)

Notes from Rev. Kirsten,  June 9, 2015

It was a glorious day at the Cathedral on Saturday.  The sun was bright and the Cathedral looked spectacular.  The procession of banners, the clergy with red stoles, the candidates dressed up—some in white, a Tongan congregation with veils and traditional skirts.  Really quite a spectacular show.  

But what did this liturgy say about us as a Church?  With more than 120 candidates for reception, reaffirmation and confirmation, it spoke to the lifeblood of our faith and our tradition.  The Spirit is moving here in the Diocese of California.  There is something alive and well in our congregations—so many people making deeper commitments.  120 people who were baptized (many of them as infants) now professing their faith, reaffirming their promises, committing themselves to the Body of Christ.  The Bishop spoke to the candidates immediately before the confirmations and noted that as each person was strengthened with the gift of the Holy Spirit, they would be listening, feeling, imagining God’s particular call.  And he noted that the Holy Spirit moves in us individually and connects us to the Body. What will each of these confirmands contribute to God’s work?  How will they, as disciples of Christ, follow in his footsteps, reconciling, healing, building up the Body in God’s image?  How will each of them contribute to bringing the Kingdom of God here, now?  It was a day filled with hope and promise.  

I felt such love for our confirmands and such thanksgiving for our congregation and all the ways that we (and their families) have raised up these faithful teens.  With God’s help, everything is possible.  And these teens will be part of realizing our prayers, our hopes, and God’s promises to us.  Susan Pick, Everil Robertson and I shared in the blessing of preparing the candidates.  And this coming Sunday, we will celebrate them with special blessings and cake after our 10 am. service.  Join us, the confirmands, their families and all of the graduates as we celebrate the transitions in our communal life.
























Rev. Kirsten Notes on June 1

Yesterday all of us in the US celebrated Memorial Day.  I remember my childhood, it was always a day for parades and visits to the cemetery.  But my boys know it as a day off from school.  There is little public reflection (at least here in the Berkeley) about remembering and honoring those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms.  

I spent the day hiking on Mt. Tamalpais with my family.  I felt incredible gratitude for the freedom that we enjoy.  The prosperity which allows us to take to the day off from work, the safety and security that allows us to roam in the woods, the privilege that we have of being close to beautiful parks with publicly maintained trails and gorgeous beaches.   And I think about the people here who don’t enjoy these same freedoms—don’t have enough income to take a day off, don’t have safe places to play, don’t have access to public parks. I mourn the poverty and the violence that some neighborhoods suffer.  

I think about all the men and women who have lost their lives in military service.  So many who gave their lives to protect these freedoms, this prosperity and privilege that I enjoy.  I give thanks for their service and I mourn their passing.  I think about our baptismal promises that we reaffirmed on Sunday—the promise that with God’s help, we will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. 

I pray that we might commit ourselves today, as our service men and women have committed themselves, to protecting our freedoms, striving for justice and peace among all people and building up the kingdom of God.

"‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14 )


A few reminders:

Next week and the following, Rev. Lizette will lead us in a forum on Ecclesiology.  This forum will prepare us to continue our discernment about who we are called to be as a congregation, Church of the Nativity.  I hope that everyone will be able to participate in this foundational discussion.  The forum will be offered three times, please try to make one of them:  May 31st (11:15),  or June 7  (9 a..m. or 11:15). 

June 3rd  Evensong at 6:30 p.m.
June 6th 1 p.m. Confirmations at Grace Cathedral

June 14th,  Graduation Sunday and celebration of our confirmands  (let me know if you are graduating or being promoted from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, college or a graduate program).



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