Sometimes I really do believe that we are all doing the very best we can and at other times, not so much.  I recently read an article about a woman who entered a fast-food restaurant and took issue with some of the employees who were speaking a language other than English to each other.  This did not interfere with the woman’s attempt to order or receive her meal, but it apparently interfered with her sense of propriety in “Mickey Dee’s.”  She proceeded to lambast the two people conversing with each other and the manager as well, for not forcing them to speak English only.  I wonder if that was her true best since their conversation was not directed to her nor intended to engage her.  It’s funny that I should have come across the story because it made me wonder about the way we think about and treat the average, nameless worker in our society, and the actual origins of the Labor Day holiday which we will celebrate next week.

In lots of ways, we take the holiday for granted, never really stopping to consider the honor and respect due the American worker for the material success of the United States.  This was true even after the first Monday in September had been declared a legal national holiday in 1894.  And still today, migrant workers remain one of the most disenfranchised groups within this country.

With the full flex of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century came 12-hour workdays, 7 days a week for the average American worker.  This included 6,7, and 8-year-old children.  The Haymarket riots in Chicago in 1886 are considered the origin of the labor movement.  The clash between the police and workers resulted in deaths and eventual arrest and capital punishment for at least four workers charged with being instigators of the rebellion.  I don’t believe any of us consider the enormous sacrifice that many of our national nameless ancestors encountered to allow us the privilege of celebrating Labor Day Holiday with food, fireworks, and fun.  And THAT is truly the RUB.

People like A. Philip Randolph, Cesar Chavez, Larry Itliong, and Dolores Huerta were paramount, especially for the many people of color who did the work that other Americans disdained to do.  How often do we eat a cucumber or anything else without giving thanks for the ones who prepared the soil, planted, harvested, and transported them all to market for the rest of us to purchase and consume?  We all need each other so where do we go when we forget this very significant fact?

The average worker in this country goes in to work to do the tasks assigned for the compensation agreed upon.  It is a strictly quid pro quo agreement.  Our personal likes and dislikes can certainly be rectified by withholding our business from some enterprises and patronizing others.  We have the human responsibility to do our personal best though, to honor other human beings who are just trying to do their personal best.  What if our judgment of the other is a projection of our own psyche through our own eyes?  After all, who was it who said, “why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own?”  And yes, the sword cuts both ways! 😊

I hope you will enjoy your Labor Day in gratitude with food, family, and fun…and fireworks if available.

Feeling Grateful for the opportunity to do my Best,
Freda Marie+

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

The song Pete Seeger wrote (based on Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8) and The Byrds  made famous in the 1960’s is on my mind-heart-soul.

It’s that time of year, when a familiar refrain I hear in conversations is “Where did the summer go?

While some of us are hanging on to and relishing every last drop of summer, others are already shifting gears to new school and program years. Teachers are getting ready to welcome students back, fall schedules are being put in place and dates marked on calendars.

Our church staff is getting ready to roll out our new house meetings next month (stay tuned for more details, coming soon!), and our Redeemer Parish Day School is blazing a trail with our first ever 3rd grade class learning and growing on campus.

Seasons are shifting in other ways too. Many of our beloveds continue to depart this earthly life, while others are preparing to go. Couples are getting ready to exchange vows and rings. Parents are inviting friends and family to come celebrate with us in church, to welcome their child as the newest member of “Team Jesus”.

And what about all that continues to shift and change in the world around us, in the wider communities of which we are a part?

Amidst all that is changing, all that is shifting, all that is turning, God Is. “Abide in me,” our Lord whispers, agitates, invites, reminds, “Abide in me.

At the end of last spring/beginning of the summer, a prayer-poem came to me that I shared with all of you. I’ve changed it, shifted it, turned it, so to speak, and I invite you to pray it with me, in a new way, once again.

Grace and peace, strength and courage, comfort and love to you, as we continue journeying along the way, together.

Grace at the threshold II

as we walk
across the threshold
behind us — what has been
before us — what has yet to be
let us be mindful
of what
we carry with us

like those
who are packing
our bags
to go
on pilgrimage

let us take time
to be still
to reflect
to envision

let us choose with intention

and take special care
that our compass
orients
to the voice
of the One
who calls us forth

to be
to become
to embody
more fully
who we really are

Beloved

Beloved

Beloved

Love,
Cristina

A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of celebrating three sacraments in one day. In the morning there were three baptisms, which Freda Marie+ and I shared, and afterwards I celebrated the Eucharist. Then, later that afternoon, I officiated a marriage here in our beautiful church. It was amazing, wonderful, awesome in the truest sense of those words – I was amazed, filled with wonder and awe. Being present to those three sacraments in quick succession made me more aware than usual of the presence of God among us. They heightened my sense of how we truly are the body of Christ, coming together to welcome new members, eat together, and celebrate the joining of two lives.

This is what the sacraments do. In the Episcopal Church, we understand that the sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. They help make us aware of God’s grace and presence through material signs and symbols. And that’s important, because sometimes that grace and presence can be easy to overlook, even though, I would argue, it’s always there. And we are so hungry for it!

As the weeks have passed, and as I look ahead to the fall and the start of the program year, I am excited for more opportunities to recognize God’s presence within and among us. Instead of rose colored glasses, I want to wear sacramental glasses, to help me see God’s grace and presence. The world is not always rose colored – but God is present even in the midst of suffering and despair, and even in the most quotidian moments of life. This is part of the promise of the Incarnation and the Resurrection.

While visiting a friend last week, I came across a prayer that captures this with beauty and eloquence (and struck home for me personally).

And so my invitation to you as we get ready for the program year in September is to try out these sacramental glasses with me. How might your version of diaper changing be transformed when viewed a receptacle and reservoir of heavenly grace? And, if you, like me, sometimes need a reminder to see the grace and presence of God around you I would like to issue a second invitation: come to church.

Come on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning to pray and sing and share the heavenly meal with the gathered body of Christ. Come to choir practice on Thursday evening to discover the harmonies that are created in song and in relationship. Come to a young adult group and explore who God is to you at this moment in life. Come to youth group and meet Christ through relationships new and old. Come to BUILD meetings and feel the power of the Holy Spirit as it works in our beloved Baltimore. Come, and let us remind one another of the grace of God that is offered freely every moment of every day and presence of God that is in and around us always.

Love,
Rebecca+

P.S. “A Liturgy for Changing Diapers” is from Every Moment Holy: Volume 1.

Have you ever noticed how many times we are commanded in the Psalms to “Sing to the Lord”?

Psalm 105, the Psalm for this Sunday, exhorts us:

1 Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name; *
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

How many times in important scriptural stories is a song mentioned as a response or integral part? Remember how Miriam danced and sang after the Israelites deliverance at the Red Sea, how the exiles sat by the waters of Babylon and wept and sang sad songs, and how Jesus and his disciples sang a song after the Last Supper before they went out to the garden to pray. Even today we punctuate birthdays and other significant events with songs, because music touches us in a place where other things cannot, and something special happens when we lift our voices together in celebration, in sorrow, or any other expression of human emotion.

It troubles me, then, when I see music programs in schools being cut. I don’t find it at all surprising that test scores in schools continue to fall, despite significant investment in STEM programs, when music and the arts have been taken out of the curriculum. If you look at most of the great scientists and thinkers, they were also artists and musicians. There is a good reason for this. We know that the brain has two hemispheres and that one side-the left side-is more analytical, and that the other side-the right side-is more creative. These great men and women used both parts of their brains, the creative and analytical, to make amazing discoveries.

It is imperative that both sides of the child’s brain are exercised and developed. Music, with its strong ties to mathematics, its recognizable patterns, and its creativity, provides training for both sides of the brain. Musical training gives experience with converting sound into symbol and symbol into sound, which reinforces language skills. We singers mostly sing poetry replete with metaphor, which opens our minds to deeper levels of meaning and expands our horizons. Singers in choirs also develop close ties with their fellow singers, increasing their sense of community and enhancing their understanding of teamwork.

Numerous studies have shown that participation in a choir has benefits for persons of all ages: for children and youth, the obvious developmental and socialization ones, and for adults a variety of mental and physical health benefits, including lowered blood pressure and decreased mental decline.

For all of these reasons, and many others, we offer opportunities for children, youth, and adults to begin, develop, and continue their musical experiences through a variety of choirs. The St. Gabriel Choir, for children aged 5 through 2nd grade concentrates on teaching good vocal practices, building music reading skills, and experiencing teamwork. The Choir School of Baltimore, for children in 3rd through 12th grades, employs RSCM Voice for Life training to acquire fluency in reading and understanding the fundamentals of music, developing healthy vocal skills, learning leadership techniques, and creating lasting friendships. The Redeemer Choir and the Connections Choir, offer adults the opportunity to continue their musical development with others who share their love of singing in vibrant community. You may contact Bert Landman or Robert Chrystal or visit the Redeemer website for more information about the choirs.

As we approach the new program year, encourage the children in your life to become involved in one of our choirs as a part of helping them become successful adults engaging all of their brains, bodies, and spirits. For those of us past 12th grade, there is also a place for you to continue your life-long journey of learning, leaning into healthy practices, and engaging your spirit.

Sing to the Lord, all the whole earth. – Psalm 96:1b

~ Bert Landman
Organist/Director of Music Ministry

Have you ever made plans to do something important and some piece of the plan, namely another person, fails to play their part in your plan?  Even as I write this I am smiling to myself.  How often do we say that we are not God, yet act as if we are?

After taking a full day off for this one issue I had been working on for two months I discovered to my chagrin that my friend, Gregg, had not stepped up to the plate.  Now I don’t know about you, but when things are not going my way I can become an extremely intense and challenging woman.  So as I began to move into a “funk,” I remembered a new spiritual practice I had thought about attempting in a particularly trying moment like this one.

Being in a funk may feel good initially, but frankly I am no longer a low-density kind of person and acting angry, morose, and petulant accomplishes nothing for my soul.  Yes, I can tell when my feelings are out of concert with the true me; the Soul me or the Soul that I AM.          So, my experiment was to remind myself of who I am, what I am, and how I serve in LIFE.  At this stage of the game, outside in the heating waiting on Gregg who is not showing up—what else am I going to do?

After other members of my unsuccessful party had driven off, I promptly sat on a stoop of the building in SILENCE.  While sitting this way and simply observing cars and people, buildings and the sky, heat and the sounds of LIFE around me, a feeling of blessedness arose and right behind it— gratitude.  It felt good and not at all like the funk of just a few minutes past.  I then verbalized my truth I AM that to everything I was experiencing.  This brought me to an immediate inner peace and feeling of “rightness” about the moment I was in —including everything that had brought me to that particular moment.

As I left to return home, I surmised that I may not have accomplished the plan of the day, and so what?  The world did not stop turning, nor did the sky fall.  I am one with the Creator of the Cosmos; we all are and that is enough!  So, what have you been experimenting with this summer?

Still Smiling with Love,
Freda Marie+