Thursday, April 10

St. John's in Newport Restores the Word Episcopal to its Sign

Before                                        After
The Vicar of St. John’s, Father N.J.A. Humphrey, will bless the restored sign at 9:00 a.m., following Morning Prayer on Friday, April 11th.

The Zabriskie Memorial Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport's historic neighborhood called the point, has re-affirmed it's Episcopal affiliation by restoring the word 'Episcopal' to its sign and adding the phrase 'A member of the worldwide Anglican Communion'. St. John's is one of two Anglo-Catholic churches in the Diocese of Rhode Island.

11 years ago, in October, 2003, the former rector of Saint John the Evangelist Church changed the sign out front to read 'Anglican'. Through the years the former word 'Episcopal' could still be seen faintly in the blacked-out background, over which the word 'Anglican' was superimposed.

The 2003 sign change was intended as a protest against the consecration of Gene Robinson, a partnered gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire. “I believe some people hoped that St. John’s would leave the Episcopal Church over this issue,” the current vicar, Father N.J.A. Humphrey, said. Fr. Humphrey has been the priest at St. John’s since August, 2013.

But St. John's didn't ever leave the Episcopal Church, and the term 'Anglican' on their sign gradually became misleading. Over the years breakaway churches across the nation began to claim the title 'Anglican' as a way of distancing themselves from the Episcopal Church, which is the official U.S. branch of the Worldwide Anglican Communion. Fr. Nathan Humphrey said  “As soon as I arrived, several people asked me what I was going to do about the sign. It wasn’t exactly my top priority, but I was bothered by the fact that it sent not just the wrong message, but a false one.”

A few months after Fr. Humphrey’s arrival, the governing board of the congregation authorized the sign’s restoration, and soon thereafter Fr. Humphrey raised enough money to cover the cost. “John Liptak of Liptak signs did a beautiful job,” Fr. Humphrey said.

This restoration is not intended to signal any recent change in the church’s ideology. Fr. Humphrey said “St. John’s is home to people on all sides of any given political or theological issue. We’re just like any other happy dysfunctional family in that regard...There are plenty of Anglicans who are progressive as well as plenty of Anglicans who are traditional in our theological and political outlook. He continued on to say "The plain fact of the matter is that to leave the word ‘Episcopal’ off of our sign was false advertising. We have been a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island since our founding as an Anglo-catholic congregation in 1875, and we have never ceased being anything other than a member of this diocese. Nor do we have any intention of changing that now or in the future.”

In fact, last Spring the governing board of St. John’s voted to request that the Bishop of Rhode Island, The Right Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, make the parish a transitional mission congregation of the diocese, legally making the bishop the rector of the church. As Rector, Bp. Knisely appointed Fr. Humphrey, an experienced Anglo-catholic priest, to be his Vicar. The church consented. “I was recruited to help St. John’s reclaim its traditional identity as a joyful center of high church worship and caring outreach in Newport,” Fr. Humphrey said. “The denominational in-fighting of the past forty years effectively distracted many past members of St. John’s from our core identity as brothers and sisters in Christ, called to glorify God in reverent worship, to edify each other through attention to the Gospel of Jesus, and to embrace service to the world in Jesus’ name.

He continued "Our identity in Christ is the only identity that really matters, and anything, including what the sign says out front, pales in comparison to that. Thank God that St. John’s has members who have remained faithful to that core identity through thick and thin. Now is the time to broadcast that nothing will hinder us from proclaiming who we truly are: a Christian community in the Anglo-catholic tradition within the Episcopal Church.”

The Anglo-catholic movement began in the Church of England in the mid-nineteenth century. Soon, its emphasis on reverent beauty in worship and fidelity to the apostolic teaching of the early church was imported to many congregations within the Episcopal Church. “People like to say we are all about ‘smells and bells,’ but I prefer saying we have ‘all the pomp without the pope,’ though were the pope to visit us, we’d be pleased as punch to welcome him,” Fr. Humphrey quipped.

The sign change comes just in time for Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday on April 13th. “We are planning a procession from Storer Park to the church, beginning at 10 a.m. All are welcome to join our blessing of the palms in the park that morning, weather-permitting.” Fr. Humphrey continued, “I hope our neighbors and friends will join us, as well, on Maundy Thursday, April 17th, at 6:30 p.m. and Good Friday, April 18th, also at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Apirl 19th, Bishop Knisely will preside over the Great Vigil of Easter, at which the clergy and people of the other Episcopal Churches of Aquidneck Island and St. George’s School Chapel, Middletown will participate. St. Andrew’s, Little Compton will also join us, since they are in the same deanery as St. John’s.”

The Zabriskie Memorial Church of Saint John the Evangelist is located at 61 Washington Street in the historic Point neighborhood of scenic Newport, Rhode Island. The 139 year-old church was founded in the home of a free black man named Peter Quire from Maryland. In the late 1800s, Sarah Titus Zabriskie gave the current 13th century style stone gothic church overlooking the Narragansett Bay in memory of her mother, Sarah Jane Zabriskie. The church has been identified with the Anglo-catholic, or “high church,” tradition since its founding, and is known for its friendly, racially mixed and economically diverse congregation.

Thursday, April 3

Reminder: First Cathedral Brainstorming Session is this Saturday!

Cathedral Brainstorming Sessions

Don’t forget that the first of our Cathedral Brainstorming Sessions is this Saturday, April 5th at St. Mark’s in Warwick, 10am to 12pm.  If you can’t make this one, there will be another held on Tuesday May 20th at church of the Redeemer in Providence from 7-9pm.

These meetings are open to the public, but will be geared towards facilitating conversation among Rhode Island Episcopalians worshipping in our 51 churches across the state, as our churches have a stake in the future of St. John's.

A few exciting ideas have arisen out of our previous meetings with RI Clergy and members of the Cathedral’s former congregation. We will be presenting these to the people of the diocese of RI to discuss, along with any other ideas that come to light during the event.

Hope to see you there! Your opinion will be invaluable as we begin to narrow the wide field of opportunities for St. John, and start to define a real future for Episcopal ministry in that building on North Main Street.

Transfiguration in Cranston Plants a New Hispanic Congregation

Members of Transfiguration in Cranston have stepped outside their comfort zone, to canvass the neighborhood on recent Saturday mornings.  Theyre on a mission to let their neighbors know that a new Hispanic/Latino congregation is being planted at their church, and the first service is just around the corner at 5pm on Palm Sunday. 

In recent years the Cranston neighborhood surrounding Church of the Transfiguration has seen an influx of immigrants from around the world, with the majority being from Spanish speaking countries. The Vestry of Transfiguration decided it was time to pastorally respond to the spiritual needs of the neighbors just outside church doors, and with the guidance of The Rev. Mercedes Julian, Diocesan Hispanic Missioner, Transfiguration began talking to another Cranston church that found itself in this very situation a few years ago. 

Just down the road on the other side of I95, Church of the Ascension has founded a vibrant Hispanic/Latino congregation that is well integrated into that parish community.  Ascensions Spanish speakers and English speakers worship in separate services, but the congregations work together on much of the mission and ministry happening there. They learn from each other about their different cultural traditions and support each other in celebrating them, which has brought much new life to the whole community. 

Ascension is happy to help Transfiguration experience this new life too, and The Rev. Mercedes Julian has commissioned 12 people from church of the Ascension to actively help Church of the Transfiguration knock on doors and launch their new service.  Ten people from Transfiguration have been matched up with Ascensions volunteers, to canvass the neighborhood in multi-lingual pairs, inviting neighbors to the new Spanish language service, as well as all the other exciting things happening at Transfiguration.

What can you do to help? Attend their first service to help get them started -- especially if you speak Spanish. It will be a Holy Eucharist on Palm Sunday, April 13th 2014 at 5pm. And, of course, pray for Transfiguration in your own parish and personal prayers.

Wednesday, April 2

St. Mark's in Warwick Spreads The Word to Make a Difference

Spreading the word, expanding your reach

In the social media age, it's not enough just to have a good idea: You also need to spread the word and invite people to help you meet your goals.

Before                                      After
That's just what the Rev. Susan Wrathall of St. Mark's in Warwick has done, and the results are astounding. Four years ago when she arrived at St. Mark's, Susan recognized a hunger in her congregation -- a need for physical sustenance -- and has encouraged the congregation to work toward meeting that need.

Early efforts included putting together a "street sheet" listing community resources for those in need in and around Warwick. The church has since started a monthly free lunch program and food pantry.

The exciting thing is how these efforts have gained the support of Mayor Scott Avedisian and the entire Warwick community, as described in this article from the Providence Journal.

Susan writes that the results have been nothing short of extraordinary:
"If you look on our Facebook page, you can find pictures of the brimming shelves. What you can't see is just as much still in boxes. Our biggest donor was the Cumberland Senior Center with 30 boxes of food. Many folks have stopped by with bags and bags of nonperishable and toiletry items. Some folks who donated for the March lunch stopped by today to donate for the April lunch. A number of folks have indicated they want to do this monthly. And to date we have received close to $4,000 in monetary donations (a couple in memory of Fr. Franklin). There was one error in the Journal article that I want to correct: They said not everyone who needs the food pantry gets to visit it. What I said was everyone gets something but the first 50 percent of the folks get the best choice (we let folks choose what they put in their grocery bag) and for the last 15 folks or so there is often little left but canned veggies. In March we had a record 93 for lunch, and 65 households visited the food pantry (111 adults and 25 children)."
How might you leverage local politicians and local media to build up your own ministries?

Tuesday, April 1

8 Churches to Participate in Easter Vigil with Bishop Knisely at St. John's Newport

This year, Bishop Knisely will be presiding at a joint Easter Vigil in Newport. Every Episcopal congregation in the Aquidneck Deanery, along with the chapel of St. George’s School, has been invited to participate in the service which will be held at The Zabriskie Memorial Church of St. John the Evangelist on the Point in Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. The Bishop’s Vicar, The Reverend Nathan J.A. Humphrey, will give the homily at the first Mass of Easter that evening. St. John’s is located at 61 Washington Street in Newport.

The Great Vigil of Easter is the single most important service of the Christian Year, and amongst the most ancient liturgies of the Church, documented as far back as the year 215 A.D., and believed to be apostolic in origins, that is, dating back to the communities founded by the twelve apostles of Jesus.

The Easter Vigil consists of four parts: The Service of Light, at which the Paschal Candle is lit from a great fire kindled in the rear of the church; The Service of Lessons, during which Biblical accounts of central events in salvation history are recounted in the darkened church; Christian Initiation, held in candlelight, which may include baptisms, confirmations, and the renewal of baptismal vows; and the Holy Eucharist, with the administration of Easter Communion in the context of a bright and joyful Mass. The Great Vigil of Easter is preceded in Holy Week by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and the three services are known collectively as the Triduum Sacrum, the “Three Holy Days.”

The clergy and people of each participating congregation will take an active role in the celebration of this most solemn and joyful service. The service is free and open to the public. It is recommended that attendees arrive early in order to secure a seat. All participants are invited to bring hand bells, securely wrapped, which will be rung with great joy and fanfare at the proclamation of Easter. Parking is available on the street in the historic Point neighborhood, as well as in the garage at the Newport Visitors Center, 23 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport, RI 02840, conveniently located a short walk from St. John’s at 61 Washington Street, Newport.

In addition to St. George’s School Chapel and the hosting congregation, St. John’s, the participating congregations will be: Trinity, Newport; Emmanuel, Newport; St. Columba’s, Middletown; Holy Cross, Middletown; St. Mary’s, Portsmouth; St. Paul’s, Portsmouth; and St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea, Little Compton. Holy Trinity, Tiverton will be unable to participate due to a prior ecumenical commitment with the churches of Tiverton that evening.

Church Beyond the Walls Seeks New Partners in Ministry

It has been almost exactly a year since The Rev. Edmund Harris and parishioners from Church of the Epiphany did their first outdoor Eucharist & sandwich meal in Kennedy Park, Providence.

Since then, Church Beyond the Walls (CBW) has grown into a community that feeds the physical and spiritual hungers of those outside our Church walls.

The experience has been a moving one for the Church of the Epiphany parishioners who have been involved and CBW hopes to help congregations across the state to similarly share their worship life and hospitality with those who might never set foot inside our church buildings.

This year, CBW is looking to form active partnerships with Episcopal congregations throughout Rhode Island. Youth groups, outreach committees, and formation programs, and individuals can easily set up a one-time visit or commit to a season of service.

Partnering with CBW is perfect for churches:
  • Looking to take the next step in their spiritual journey
  • Longing for a deep, meaningful formation experience
  • Yearning to serve others
  • Seeking the "living water" that Jesus speaks of with the Samaritan woman at the well
  • Willing to challenge themselves...and to transform!

What sort of opportunities are there for you and your church to participate in? Each week CBW needs a Hospitality Coordinator, six Food Ministers, a Clothing Minister, 5 Worship & Hospitality Ministers, two Volunteer Drivers, and at least one person for the Altar Guild.

For more information on how you or a group from your church can get involved, please contact Waylon Whitley.

Wednesday, March 12

St. Paul's Pawtucket's unique take on Bishop Knisely's "Cosmos" Meditation

In his meditation for the first Sunday of Lent from "Lent is not Rocket Science" Bishop Knisely spoke of the cosmos, saying "The universe is essentially a great empty, soundless, cold, chaotic void...we believe that the same God who animates the vast cosmos, knows each of us individually by name and loves us."

At St. Paul's in Pawtucket, a Sunday School class lead by Joe and Ivy Swinski was struck by this, and came up with the idea to create a powerful physical representation that their whole church could participate in.  For Lent, the class created a visual representation of a desert, thinking that there is a part for each of us in this journey through the desert. The Desert had a big blank black backdrop to represent the cosmos as Bishop Knisely spoke of them.

Then this past Sunday as congregants left from having received communion, the students were at the exit of the sanctuary.  The students handed each person a star, to take back to the pew and write their name on. Then at the end of the service people went to the "great empty, soundless, cold, chaotic void and hung their star in that place where "God knows each of us individually by name and loves us."

The end result was that the black void is now full of light and love, and many parishioners were in tears.  Check it out!


Tuesday, March 11

Tuesday, First Week in Lent - Lent is Not Rocket Science

From Bishop Knisely's new book published by Forward Movement. Today is the last day of the week of meditations we're posting here! To read the rest download the ebook for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or iTunes at a discounted $1.99 price, and follow along as we discuss this book for the remainder of Lent.

Tuesday, First Week in Lent

Uniform Temperature

In the beginning… — Genesis 1:1

If you put two pots of water in a room and take their temperature immediately afterwards, they will not be at the same exact temperature. Even if you fill them from the same faucet, the water will warm or chill over the time the faucet is open, because the first bit of water that was flowing was stored in the pipes in the walls and the next bit is being drawn from pipes underground. If the two pots of water had exactly the same temperature, then you’d have to either be surprised at something that is extremely unlikely or try to work out in your head how this surprising result came to be. 

The simplest explanation would be that the water in the two pots came from a third pot that held the waters together long enough that they came to equilibrium with each other. Or perhaps the two pots were touching each other as they were filled, and they were able to exchange their heat or chill through the walls of the pots in the time that they were in contact with each other. In either case, the water in the one pot must have somehow been “told” the temperature of the other pot so that the two could come to be the same temperature. 

One of the most extraordinary surprises in the early 1960s, when scientists measured the temperature of the deep space by pointing microwave “thermometers” toward the stars, was that the sky turned out to be not absolutely cold. This information wasn’t a huge surprise, given that some scientists had been convinced the universe had begun in a gigantic fiery explosion of light. But the surprise was that no matter what direction you looked, the temperature was, for all intents and purposes, the same. 

Remembering the question of the temperature of the two pots of water, how did it come to be that one side of the sky was able to “know” the temperature of the other side? Even if they had sent a message to each other at the speed of light, we are in the middle of them and their two messages are just now at the halfway point. 

The answer turned out to be that the universe, which began in the fiery explosion, was very, very small initially. Even though the part of the universe on one side of the sky is too far away yet to have been able to have “talked” to the other side of the sky, the two sides of the sky were once in the same exact place. So while they are rushing apart from each other, they “remember” the information they knew in the beginning of creation. 

That turns out to be true for everything in the universe. Because everything in the universe was once one. Every particle of matter that is contained in your body and mine were once one. Every particle of matter that is found on the Earth was once one. Every ghostly subatomic particle that is hurtling through the outer darkness of the universe was once part of all of us. In the moment of creation, we were once one. And there are certain properties that we all share because of that moment of unity. 

I find that to be more than just a beautiful poetic image. The reality that every part of the universe “knew” and “experienced” every other part of the universe is what makes much of scientific thought possible today. We can assert that the physics that works here on Earth works the same way in another region of the universe because every electron shares the same charge, and every proton the same mass, etc. And they do that because they were calibrated together in the moment of creation. 

We Christians believe that God created us all. We believe that it was God who was the prime cause of the beginning. And that while God is more than the light and fire of the beginning of creation, God was present in it. If God was present in that, then God is present in us and the whole of universe, just as we are present to the whole of the universe and to God. 

When you look into the deep darkness of the nighttime sky, you are seeing matter and energy that is fundamentally connected with you. When Saint Francis talked about the elements of creation as our sister or our brother, he was much more right than anyone ever suspected.

What will you do today to celebrate this extraordinary family of which you are an equal member?


"Lent is Not rocket Science" was published by Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church which publishes accessible low cost resources on discipleship written by the laity, clergy, and bishops of the church largely on a pro bono basis.

Monday, March 10

Monday, First Week in Lent - Lent is Not Rocket Science

From Bishop Knisely's new book published by Forward Movement. You can read the first week's meditations here, and download the ebook for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or iTunes at a discounted $1.99 price to follow along as we discuss this book the rest of Lent.

Monday, First Week in Lent

Olbers’ Paradox

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. — Psalm 19:1

There are a number of jokes that start with a child asking an adult, “Why is the sky blue?” But to the best of my memory, I’ve never heard any child ask, “Why is the sky dark at night?” Both questions turn out to have very interesting answers, but the latter question has much deeper implications. 

The answer to the question about the dark sky at night requires us to think a bit about what we know of the universe. Prior to the last century, scientists of the Enlightenment believed the universe had always existed and was of infinite extent. But that infinity of scale creates a problem when we think about our dark night sky. Imagine you are standing deep in the woods of a forest. The foliage and the undergrowth are so thick that no matter what direction you look, you see a green leaf. In the deepest parts of the forest, or in a fully grown rain forest, it is impossible to see the horizon or sometimes even the sky. The forest floor is kept in a perpetual twilight even in the middle of the day, because wherever you are standing, eventually there’s a plant with a leaf blocking your view of the blue sky. 

Now imagine you’re standing in the middle of the desert looking up into the night sky. You see that the sky is filled with stars, each one a small point of light. In part of the sky, when we look out into the plane of our own galaxy, the stars appear so close together that it looks like there is a glowing cloud that stretches all the way around the sky. That cloud of light appears because as we look into the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy, our line of sight eventually finds a star that blocks it from looking further. 

If the universe is of infinite extent, then it stands to reason that no matter where we look in the sky, we will eventually see a star. The star may be very, very far away and we may see only a tiny, tiny bit of its light, but if you multiply even a tiny number by infinity, you still get infinity. So, no matter how little light we see from one star, the total amount of light that we see should be very, very bright—as if we were looking directly at the surface of the sun at noontime. 

The fact that we see a darkened sky at night when logically we shouldn’t is called Olbers’ Paradox. A number of scientists and philosophers have tried to work out a resolution to this contradiction from the time Heinrich Olbers first proposed it. Interestingly enough, the writer Edgar Allen Poe first pointed the way to resolving the paradox. He suggested that the only way to understand what we see in the darkness of the night was to conclude that the universe was not infinite. It either had an edge—something scientists didn’t want to accept—or it must have had a beginning. If it had a beginning, then even if the universe is infinite, because the speed of light isn’t, we can’t see all of the universe. We can only see the portion that is as far away as light has traveled since the moment of the universe’s beginning—its “Genesis.” 

Isn’t it extraordinary to be able to go outside at night and look up into the dark night sky and realize that the sky is dark because the universe had a beginning? The simple experience of nighttime proves to us that time had a start and that the universe has a history. Then it’s not too far a line of reason to start to wonder why the beginning happened, and what or who caused it. The dark sky invites us to wonder about the existence of the Creator.

Paying attention to the smallest things in our day-to-day existence can take us into the presence of the greatest questions and answers of human experience. Today, pay attention to what you experience and take on the spiritual discipline of asking yourself, “Why?”

"Lent is Not rocket Science" was published by Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church which publishes accessible low cost resources on discipleship written by the laity, clergy, and bishops of the church largely on a pro bono basis.

Sunday, March 9

The First Sunday in Lent - Lent is Not Rocket Science

From Bishop Knisely's new book published by Forward Movement. You can read the first week's meditations here, and download the ebook for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or iTunes at a discounted $1.99 price to follow along as we discuss this book the rest of Lent.

First Sunday in Lent


O Lord and Ruler of the hosts of heaven...You made the heavens and the earth, with all their vast array. — The Book of Common Prayer, Canticle 14, p. 90

In this first week of Lent, I invite you to meditate with me on the largest structures of God’s creation. Not the large things that we on Earth have seen or created, but structures that fill the sky and are fundamental to the organization of the universe and our own existence. I invite you to meditate with me on what we can learn by looking at the darkness of the night sky, the sameness of creation over vast distances, the meaning of time, and more. 

On this first Sunday in Lent, as many of us begin our yearly pilgrimage in a formal way, I ask you to consider the scale of creation. Much of what I will present over the next weeks is organized by scale, beginning at the largest, the cosmic scale, and ending in the last days of Lent and Holy Week at the smallest, the quantum scales. The greatest conundrum in my mind is that it is possible for us to use our imagination to conceive the cosmos. 

The universe is essentially a giant empty, soundless, cold, chaotic void. In incredibly rare instances, there are small pockets of organized matter. The little pockets represent very simple things like electrons, a proton, a cosmic ray. Even more rarely those little bits of organization combine into something complicated—a hydrogen or helium atom. Even more rare than that are clouds of hydrogen. Stars, planets, and everything else that we can see are very small and very rare things when we think on the cosmic scale. It’s hard to imagine that God fills all of this vastness with the fire of love, or that God can comprehend its totality. 

And yet that is just what we insist on believing about God as Christians. And more than that, we believe that the same God who animates the vast cosmos knows each of us individually by name and loves us. And that God came into the cosmos at a specific moment in history here on the Earth, a nondescript rocky planet in orbit around a boringly typical and relatively small star. It is when I think about the universe at the largest cosmic scales that I am most dumbfounded by what theologians call the “scandal of the particularity of the Incarnation.” We are so small and yet for some reason we matter so much to God. It is a thing near impossible to grasp. And yet it is central to the teaching of the prophets and the apostles.

Do you believe the God of the cosmos hears your prayer?

If you find yourself struggling with that, could you, at least for today, envision what changes in you if you believe that?

"Lent is Not rocket Science" was published by Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church which publishes accessible low cost resources on discipleship written by the laity, clergy, and bishops of the church largely on a pro bono basis.