Not Selfish At All
Usually when something in the newspaper makes me this mad it is about politics. But this article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution was about a prominent Atlanta minister, Andy Stanley.
Stanley is the “senior evangelist” of North Point Community Church. North Point actually has six different “campuses” around Atlanta, including the Buckhead Church. Taken together they boast a congregation of 30,000 members.
All six campuses hear the same sermon each week, transmitted by video. It’s one of Andy Stanley’s sermons (actually they’re called messages) that made me so mad.
Here is the quote from Stanley’s message that ran in the AJC:
“When I hear adults say, ‘Well, I don’t like a big church. I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,’ I say, ‘You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation.
“All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids or anybody else’s kids.
“If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult.
“Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. Instead, you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church.”
In Stanley’s defense he has since apologized for these comments and said they were taken out of context, although I am hard pressed to find a context in which they would not be offensive.
The mega-church style and theology does not appeal to me, but obviously it is attractive to many people. My intent here is not to critique the mega-church.
As the rector (or senior evangelist) of a small church I can say that Stanley has no idea what he is talking about.
When I look out at the congregation on Sunday mornings I do not see “stinking selfish” adults. I see adults of all ages who care about each other, and care about the children of this parish, whether or not they have young children of their own.
I see people smiling every Sunday as two-year-old Reese does her ritual petting of the fox after communion.
I see people light up when Avery and Devon realize they were in the nursery during the peace and so go pew to pew during the offertory, bidding God’s peace to every person in the church.
I see my own teen-aged son perfectly at ease in the adult choir and the friendships and relationships he has made with adults of all ages who have been his second family since he was three years old.
I see teenagers who serve as acolytes and ushers and lectors and who feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.
I see young children, teens, and adults come together to set up for Family Promise, to serve meals at Holy Comforter, and to collect school supplies for Path Academy.
I see adults who devote hours to teaching confirmation classes and finding creative ways to engage the entire parish in Christian education and formation.
I don’t see a single stinking selfish person in the bunch.
Of course, there are times when I wish there were more people in the pews every Sunday. I think we all do. Not because we want to be a mega church, but because we want to extend the love of God and share this community with others, and receive the gifts that others have to offer us.
We’d all love to have more children in the pews, to have a critical mass that would allow us to do more traditional Sunday School and activities.
But the children and youth who are here soon realize that this is a community that loves them, that will help them and stand by them. And from that they learn that God loves them and will stand by them.
I can’t think of anything more important for them to know.
It’s not too late to turn in your mite boxes or make a donation to the St. Dunstan’s Medical Fund at the Msalata Theological School in Tanzania. The money we send each year (about $5,000) buys mosquito nets, medicine for malaria and other illnesses, and prescription eye glasses for the community. In addition, it pays for a nurse to be at the school an hour a day (for 90 cents a day). We are providing most of the medical care for people in this community. A little goes a long way. Please be generous!
Annual Parish Meeting
Our Annual Parish Meeting will be held in the church during the Sunday School hour (9:30 a.m.) on April 17. We will elect new vestry members and look at the events of the past year and what lies ahead for St. Dunstan’s. Please come and participate in this important event in the life of our parish.
Welcome to Fair Sutherlin, who has transferred to us from the Cathedral of St. Philip.
Congratulations to Fair Sutherlin and Roberta Fong on their marriage.
We pray for parishioner Lou Taylor, who died in Florida in February, and whose ashes will be interred in the Memorial Garden on April 17.
Opportunities to Serve
On the last night of Jesus’ life he reminded his disciples that he was among them “as one who serves.” Then he gave his friends a new commandment to follow – to love one another as he loved them. Serving others is a prime way to show that love.
During the Easter season we have two opportunities to “love like Jesus” by serving others.
April 13 – Holy Comforter. St. Dunstan’s will be providing dinner for members of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, a parish near Grant Park with a ministry of service to people with mental illnesses. We need people to cook food and to serve. Sign up sheets are in the narthex. Or contact Gilda Morris at email@example.com.
April 24-30 – Family Promise. Hotel St. Dunstan’s will open our doors to provide shelter for up to four homeless families. We need people to set up rooms, provide food for breakfasts and lunches, cook and serve dinner, and spend the night. To sign up go to our website, www.stdunstan.net.
This letter is from a recent Family Promise graduate (the 33rd family to graduate from Family Promise to their own apartment).
“I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you. This was a very difficult situation for my daughter and I. However, Family Promise and the various congregations that opened their doors to my family made the cross I carried less burdensome.
“The level of comfort, the hospitality, the kind words, uplifting moments, the laughs, and conversation were a delightful distraction. I appreciate each and every one of you and I hope one day to be a blessing to you as you were to my family. Aniya and I cannot thank you enough.
“Although we are moving on and progressing towards our next stage in life, we won’t forget how much of a blessing and safe haven that you were to us. Thank you and God Bless.”
Many thanks to all who made the services of Holy Week and Easter so beautiful – the altar guild, flower guild, bread bakers, choirs, lectors, lay readers, acolytes, and Easter egg stuffers and hiders. It takes a congregation to celebrate the resurrection!
Thanks to Peachy Horne for making sure the Beech Grove and Memorial Garden were spruced up for the services which began in those places.
Thanks to Vicki Ledet, Deedee Ewubare, and Susan Teat for the hours of work to complete the required Annual Parish Report to the diocese.
Congrats to James Robertson, who received a Superior in the Piano Federation Competition. James is also going to the state Literary Competition with his high school barbershop quartet.
Congrats to Sean Robertson, who received a Superior+ and second place in the Junior High Division of the piano competition. Sean also recently starred as the Wizard in his school’s performance of the Wizard of Oz.
Easter Sunday School
Christianity is a religion which believes in the importance of words. In the first creation story God speaks the world into being. John’s gospel begins with these words, “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word of God becomes flesh in Jesus. St. Dunstan’s is blessed with parishioners who have great reverence for words.
During the Easter season in adult Sunday School we will hear from three of our published authors — Maggie Harney, Sibley Fleming, and Josh Taylor, interspersed with other special events.
Here’s the Sunday School schedule through Pentecost.
April 3 – Maggie Harney speaks about her book of poetry. “I have been writing poems most of my life and putting them on whatever scrap of paper was handy,” Maggie says. “About four years ago, I decided to pull them into a collection that eventually became a volume entitled Looking Out, Looking In.
“The inspiration for poems comes from the beauty of nature, events in my family life, stories in Scripture, and what I see on the evening news. Some of the poems are funny, some are serious, and some try to express my sense of awe for Creation and the Creator. I will read poems and talk about how writing is a spiritual practice for me.”
Copies of her book will be available for $12.
April 10 – Sibley Fleming will discuss how life experiences inform the written word based on two of her books, Celestine Sibley: A Granddaughter’s Reminiscence and How to Rock Your Baby. Copies of her book about her grandmother, newspaper columnist and author Celestine Sibley, are available.
April 17 – Our annual parish meeting will be held during the Sunday School hour.
April 24 – A parish-wide Sunday School event,. Love in Action: St. Dunstan’s Ministry to the Homeless. For over three years, St. Dunstan’s has hosted homeless families through the Family Promise program. What is this ministry? How does it work? Why do we do it?
We’ll have the opportunity to hear from a mother whose family has gone through the program (and stayed at Hotel St. Dunstan’s). And those who have volunteered will have the opportunity to share their experiences. Together we’ll search for signs of how God’s transforming love has touched the lives of all who have been involved in this ministry. This is an event for all ages, and we’ll have some special activities for the church’s youngest members. And, if you are able, please plan to stay after church to help with setting up for our guests who arrive that evening.
May 1 – Josh Taylor will speak about his book, Love Letters Over the Pacific. This book tells the love story of his parents, Jo and Gene Taylor of Nashville, who exchanged 460 letters during World War II. The letters capture the language of a unique period in the social history of Americans during World War II. Jo was a gifted story teller and describes how she was able to care for her two sons while working part time to help her sister manage a guest ranch in Tucson. Gene’s letters from Pearl Harbor were more constrained since he could not talk about his work, planning the naval air logistics for the invasion of Japan. The letters are a 15-month dialogue about family issues and current world events.
Copies of the book will be available for $20. Josh will donate $10 of each sale to St. Dunstan’s Outreach Fund.
May 8 – We will switch from the written word to images of God’s creation as Tricia shares photographs from her recent trip to northern Alaska to photograph the Northern Lights.
Lots of people give lots of hours of their lives to make music happen at Holy Week and Easter services. They bless us all with their ministry. Virginia Skinner, choir librarian, handled hundreds of copies of music; she also put hymn numbers on the boards for us all to see. Jane Blount played the flute, and Judy Guard played the piano (both beautifully). Shirley Morgan, Bruce Lafitte, Steve Mark, and Judy Guard came to extra rehearsals just for handbells. Geoff Walker prepared the Exsultet and delivered it beautifully to us at the Vigil (see your Book of Common Prayer, pp. 286-7). Susan Howard, Lee Morris, John Morgan, Bruce Lafitte, Joseph Henry Monti, and Steve Hauser had solo responsibilities. Steve Mark, Geoff Walker, and I’m not sure who else played percussion instruments. Daria Jones, Susan Hauser, Nancy Knight Latimore, Sallie Smith, Sue Martz, and Jeanne Taylor joined with others already named to make our Parish Choir sound better than it ever has before. Our St. Dunstan’s Youth Ensemble–Connor Mark, Quinn and Alexander Changus, Sean and James Robertson, and Joseph Henry Monti—made the Vigil service extra special. Thank you all!
Summer Choir will begin on Sunday, June 5. Rehearsal will be at 9:00 a.m. for the service beginning at 10:00 a.m. There is no mid-week rehearsal. Regular weekly attendance, while a nice idea, is not required. If you are not a choir member now, this is your opportunity to come and see what it’s like. Youth Ensemble members are especially encouraged to participate (along with your parents!) We won’t be wearing robes, so you can stay cool in your usual summer casual church-going attire.
An Easter Prayer
The stone is rolled away,
grave clothes neatly folded,
no more the smell of death,
behold the empty tomb!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Scripture has been fulfilled,
the sting of death is gone,
the victory has been won,
behold the risen Christ!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The curtain’s torn in two,
our God invites us in,
Christ’s sacrifice enough
to wash away all sins!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!