GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS - JANUARY
GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS
There are so many themes and motifs around Christmas. One that has been on my mind recently is the cosmic significance of the Christmas story. In many ways it is symbolized in the Nativity scenes we all know. Think of the Christ child in the center. Around him are Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the visitors to the creche. Also present are the animals, and above all of them are the angels, and above the angels is a star.
What is going on here? It is nothing less than the knitting together of all of creation. The Incarnation is so much more than the coming of Jesus as a wise man to teach us how to be a morally good people. In our society we have reduced Jesus to a good, moral person. The Incarnation actually means that God comes into His creation in order to knit back together what sin has driven apart. Revisit the first three chapters of Genesis and you will see that.
Sin leads to a kind of disintegration of creation. Now read about the ministry of Jesus. You’ll find far more than moral teachings. Jesus is actually effecting the reunification of all created reality. Notice how that is anticipated back in the Christmas story. The Christ child is born, and around him are human beings, animals, the angels, the star and all the different elements of the cosmos.
I have been taking time in prayer and self-reflection as to what the upcoming year might look like within God’s creation. This helps me to sync my life with God’s work and will for us. I look forward to the work we will do together.
I like to use God’s abiding word to help me in the work and ministry here at St. Margaret’s as to our communal vision and different roles in ministry. I ask, “What does God have in store for us this year that will be different, and that is going to equip us to fulfill what God is calling us to do?” This always leads us to more conversations.
The prophet Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”
Our ministry and work are anchored in God’s love and our response to it. Being open to God’s call will clarify God’s bidding for each of us.
Thank you all for the ways you have supported me and my family in our ministry here at St. Margaret’s.
Fr. Isaias, FCC
Expectant waiting of a liturgical season is part of our tradition. In fact, one of the most eagerly anticipated Christian seasons is Advent. Advent comes to us from the Latin word “adventus” and is a translation of the ancient Greek word “parousia,” which means “presence, arrival or official
visit.” For most ordinary Christians, Advent is the season to anticipate, prepare and await the Nativity of our Lord. For others, it is the coming of Christ in our hearts daily. For others, it describes waiting for the end of days and the coming of Christ on Judgement Day. This is why Advent is both loved and feared by the faithful.
Our season of Advent is marked by hospitality and sharing. God became one of us that we all might discover God. When we welcome others, we meet God. God has given us an immense treasure. It is our responsibility to receive and give of this treasure of God’s reign in all of us and to stretch the area of our tent for those around us in the community.
Welcome God. Be welcoming toward our community. Each day and every instant of the day open your innermost heart to our brothers and sisters. Love them as they are, not as you wish them to be. Be humble always, and gentle and patient. Be forbearing with one another and charitable.
Welcome others. Remember to show hospitality to the people and families coming back to share the services with us. There are some who by doing so have entertained angels without knowing it.
Welcome the neighborhood, just as it is. God has planted this church with the responsibility of good neighborliness and witness. Guests coming through our church doors must be received like Christ. Receive them and pay special attention to those who live on the fringes of society, for they are a special presence of Christ. Let them share our meals, our hope, our faith.
Fr. Isaias, FCC
Did you know that the word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus,” meaning “coming”? The church year begins in Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation since the 6th century. Advent is also a time for preparing for Christ’s second coming, even as we remember and celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The purple (or blue) liturgical color, which is also used during Lent, symbolizes forgiveness and repentance. The Advent Wreath has three purple candles, one pink candle (lit on the third Sunday), and a central white “Christ candle” that is lighted on Christmas.
NOVEMBER 2019 - “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Celebrating All Saints’ Day brings back a lot of childhood memories. In the Philippines, Nov. 2 is All Souls Day, the proper day for families to visit deceased loved ones and relatives. It is such an important holiday that family members who live near and far will take time to be there. I remember the traffic and long lines of people lining up to enter the cemetery to spend time with loved ones, all bearing flowers, candles and even food.
In the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation, we follow a tradition called “Undas,” otherwise known as All Saints Day. I’d like to share with you all how we celebrate this day.
On Undas we all gather from different parts of the country in our own hometown/city to remember our departed love ones. It is customary to visit the tombs and say our prayers, offer flowers and clean around the tomb if necessary. Some families stay overnight in the cemetery. They bring tents, mill around, enjoy each other’s company, re-tell much-loved stories, and pass the long hours of the night playing the guitar and visiting. Nearby, churches will be having masses one after another and prayers will be said.
When I was growing up, we brought favorite foods of our departed loved ones, left food offerings for them, and shared food amongst ourselves. These practices are also common in many Asian countries. Prayers and 9-day Novena rosary prayers are also said in preparation for the feast of Undas. Nowadays, eating in the cemetery is prohibited as it is thought that this day should be a somber celebration, and the living should not be enjoying the passing of a loved one. Another cultural practice in rural areas that is not common in the cities is walking over the bonfire. One walks over the bonfire so as not to allow the spirit of the dead to follow you when you leave the cemetery. Finally, one should not step on a grave or tombstone because it is disrespectful and years of bad luck will follow. This is more of a superstitious belief than a tradition.
As we celebrate All Saints Day here at St. Margaret’s, let us recall our Baptismal Covenant as we, along with traditional Christians around the globe, profess the words from the ancient Baptismal Creed, “I believe ... in the communion of saints ... the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 304). With joy, we celebrate with the relatives alongside us and with those who have gone before us in all places and times. I invite grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles to tell stories to their children and grandchildren about the loved ones who have influenced and shaped their lives.
Dear friends and parishioners,
Have you ever considered the power hidden in the poverty and weakness of Jesus? He was present to both the rich and privileged, and the poor and weak, to bring Good News. He set out his mission early on in the Gospel of Luke (4:18). St. Margaret’s is called to the same mission.
The two worlds that existed in the time of Jesus still exist today in every country, city, town and in every human heart. The “rich” are those who, believing they are self-sufficient, do not recognize their need for love and for relationships with others. There is a rich person in all of us. It is so easy to be caught up in a self-satisfied life of luxury, wealth, power and privilege. Have you noticed how often we are surrounded by more than we need, yet still seek more — and how easy it is to disregard those who are different or weak? There is no shortage of God’s children who are living in poverty, unemployed, homeless, victims of abuse, or suffering from mental illness or mental and physical handicaps. And don’t forget the elderly who are lonely or neglected; the mentally unstable; people trapped in broken self-images; and refugees fleeing from hatred, violence and war.
We recognize the Gospel lesson about the rich man and Lazarus, because the story is the same as ever. And Jesus’ message is the same as ever. Jesus came to gather and unify the scattered, divided children of God, and to give us fullness of life. Jesus longs to restore unity, reconciliation and peace by inviting the rich to share and the poor to have hope. Breaking down the walls that divide us is also an important mission at St. Margaret’s. When we recognize that we need each other, we can be united in mission and ministry in this place. This is the good news.
The culture of self-involvement teaches us that, beginning as children, we must strive to be first; we must win in order to be admired. As a result, people struggle to climb the ladder of success so they can stockpile more: more money, more influence, more recognition.
I admit that I was part of this competitive world. I wanted to be on top. How could I have value if I were at the bottom? But over the years, I came to realize that sharing our lives with people at the margins of life is exactly what Jesus invited us to do, “…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” … (Luke 14: 12-14).
When we walk in our neighborhoods with the true spirit of Christ - making friends and building relationships with our neighbors - we’ll change the way we approach life. Rather than developing “projects,” we’ll see people – people who are lonely, people who are suffering, and people who feel marginalized or unaccepted. As theologian Jean Varnier said, “we [will become] vulnerable, taking off our masks and letting down our barriers so we can accept people as they are, with all their beauty and gifts as well as our own weaknesses and inner wounds.” Instead of climbing the ladder of self-promotion, we’ll find ourselves breaking down barriers, seeing people as Jesus sees them: the wounded, the hurt, the vulnerable, the ones in need of love. But Jesus knows that the ones we call “they” are just as often “us.” And he is calling each one of us at St. Margaret’s to look around with new eyes, to include the forgotten and to build communities that are places of covenant, compassion and communion.
Blessings, Fr. Isaias
SEPTEMBER 2019 MESSAGE
In late August, our ongoing “Journey to Wellness” program pivoted in a new spiritual direction. As you know, part of St. Margaret’s 2019/2020 RenewalWorks commitment is to find ways to incorporate new prayer practices into our personal lives and into our life together as a parish. “Moving With the Spirit,” as the day was named byteam leader Barbara Festa, introduced several new spiritual practices that deepened our time together.
Lectio Divina is one method to place our whole selves into reading and understanding the scriptures. Reading scripture not as literature but as the Word of God requires that we invest all of our senses — and the entirety of our being — into the experience. Digging deep by using our intellect, memory, will, emotions, imagination, drives and desires helps us truly understand God’s revelation. We had a grace-filled four hours of delving into the scriptures, being transformed by them and learning to live “in Christ” in a way that touched every aspect of our being.
Our sharing was powerful and, at times, very emotional. We saw a sacred space open up when we were able to share the depths of our being, knowing that we would not be judged. We became soaked in the narratives of our whole selves, with our entire mind and hearts, feeling our emotions and desires, and for a brief moment experiencing the shift of something God-shaped in our lives.
During Lectio Divina, three different people volunteered to read the same portion of the Gospel out loud. Before each reading, a different question was posed, so we could experience the story in three contexts. The purpose of this practice is not to study scripture, but to assimilate it. We place ourselves directly into the narrative, then chew it, digest it and experience the words flowing through our bloodstream. Do you recall the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of God in which the Divine Being handed him a scroll written on both sides and then instructed him to eat it? God literally places his word into the prophet so it could become enfleshed in him. God wanted Ezekiel to experience God’s word with his whole being — his body, mind, will and spirit — so that Ezekiel, fed withGod’s word, could then boldly proclaim God’s word to others.
The spiritual practice of Lectio Divina invites us toexperience scripture so deeply that we digest God’sword and allow it to strengthen our lives. God desires that scripture becomes metabolized in us through works of mercy, healing and reconciliation. We arecalled to be bearers of God’s sacred word andwitnesses to God’s eternal grace. Serving God through serving others always reminds us of the ways God is present and actively nourishing and transforming our own lives day by day.
Blessings, Fr. Isaias
Dear St. Margaret’s Family, - (AUGUST, 2019)
While I was at Virginia Theological Seminary in June, it became evident that the group I began my three-year study program with will look quite different by the time I earn my D. Min. (Doctor of Ministry) degree.
As with most journeys in life, circumstances can quickly change in ways that alter assumptions and expectations. The rhythms of relationships change, as people experience obstacles to their studies or even changes of heart. On this road to professional development, or just plain “life,” we may find ourselves alone in one way or another. We may be slower or faster learners than our companions; we may be tired or mentally “sore;” or we may find ourselves particularly energized one day but seriously out of sync with someone who is feeling down. One blessing I found is that whatever side I’m on that day, I know I am not truly alone in my journey.
For now, I am experiencing my journey at school as “alone together,” meaning that while each of us is moving at our own pace on our own path, we are always sure to meet companions along the way. I am one part of the program’s daily rhythm, and I am aware of my remaining cohort as they go about their business of studying at the library, borrowing books and photocopying articles. I regularly pass familiar faces on the sidewalks. In the evening the climate shifts, and we gather together for a church service, dinner at the refectory, and sharing with each other at the end of a long day.
I have come to slowly realize that our own callings, journeys and paths may look different and we may walk to different beats, but we are always in community and will always find each other repeatedly. The rhythm of Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer and the Eucharist confirmed that during my three weeks at VTS.
Yes indeed, we travel alone; but even if we are alone, we are still together, walking at our own pace. If we open our eyes, we’ll see that God’s love is at the very center of our journey. And God’s beloved community is waiting for us at the end of a long day, waiting to hear our stories. One central mystery breaks open as we discover Christ’s presence in the unexpected companions we find in our fellow travelers along the way.
Blessings, Fr. Isaias
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
Pentecost isn’t just a feast. It is a whole season – a season to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, and it marks the birth of the Church. This feast extends all the way to Christ the King Sunday. It is a time to contemplate the words and deeds of Jesus. It is a time to place ourselves every day in God’s hands. It is not hard to do. God’s continual embrace always enfolds us despite our failures and shortcomings along the way. And when we reach our final resting place, we continue to place ourselves in the hands of God, and God brings us through death.
It is true that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is our conviction as Christians. Jesus has shown us the way. If we find ourselves wandering and straying, we have an Advocate, Helper, Intercessor, and Friend to teach us everything and remind us all of what Jesus commanded us to do. This is a very comforting and reassuring reminder. In this journey of ours, we are all immigrants, all naturalized citizens; we each have to cross the border to the reign of God. The Lord Jesus reminds each and every one of us that we need not be afraid that we will be lost for words when we are called to lead and to share our faith with someone. The Holy Spirit will teach and remind us all.
In a way, that is how Jesus the teacher speaks to us today. As Christians, we are always amateurs, always beginners. Jesus does not expect us to walk his narrow, demanding way alone; he doesn’t expect us to have the correct words to say to others in his name on our own. He gives us his Holy Spirit to continue to teach us and to guide us. And remember … a good teacher goes with you!
Blessings, Fr. Isaias
MAY 2019 - The eight days of the Easter Octave end with John’s Gospel account of “Doubting Thomas.” You’ll remember that on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene stood weeping in front of the empty tomb. She is the first to encounter Jesus following his death and burial, although she does not recognize him until he speaks to her. Jesus instructs Mary to tell the other disciples the news. She returns to them and says, “I have seen the Lord!” Later that evening, Jesus appears to 10 of his disciples, who are behind locked doors, and says, “Peace be with you!” (Remember, Judas is dead and Thomas is not there). Jesus seeks out his followers right where they are and changes their lives.
Thomas was not present the first time the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples. The disciples found him later and told him of this miraculous event. Thomas reacts with disbelief, just as the disciples did when Mary Magdalene told themof the Jesus sighting. But Thomas takes it to another level and demands that before he believes, he must touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side. He wants to see for himself what others saw.
A week later, Thomas’ wish comes true. Jesus appears again to the disciples and invites Thomas to touch his wounds, to “Stop doubting and believe.” The text does not indicate whether Thomas did or didn’t touch Jesus, but it certainly says that Thomas came to believe, because he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas is testifying to us and invites us to come to believe, also.
Now what will you and I do? As we walk through the 40 days of Easter, commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus, let’s renew our efforts to be Christ-like wherever we find ourselves ready to offer peace and reconcili-ation – to people in our community, our families and to whoever needs to be released from their own prisons of fear and injustice so they may live in joy.
We must ask ourselves, do we really believe in Jesus? The Gospel for Easter Sunday invites all of us to believe, to take another look at ourselves and to wel-come the Risen Lord into our hearts, to touch his wounds, to accept his gift of peace, to forgive those who hurt us and to walk in love.The life of the resurrected Jesus calls us to a life of peace, faith and reconciliation.
Dear St. Margaret's Family,
All the resurrection stories begin with fear. When the risen Jesus first appears to his closest family and friends, they were hiding behind closed doors. The women were seen running away from the tomb, terrified. In order for all of us to enter deeply into the Resurrection narratives, we have to sit with the disciples in fear, run with the terrified women away from the tomb, and face our own fears – fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of suffering and death, fear of betrayal and fear of pain. We need to hear Jesus’ words of comfort, “Peace be with you,” so that all of our fears will be turned to joy. Our church’s fear of the unknown can be transformed into joy.
The challenge is, do we really believe in Jesus? The Gospel for Easter Sunday invites all of us to believe, to take another look at our fears and to welcome the Risen Lord into our hearts, to accept his gift of peace, to touch his wounds, to forgive those who hurt us and to build relationships with each other.
The life of the resurrected Jesus calls us to a life of peace, faith and reconciliation. It confronts all our fears and fills us with the joy of Christ. And for the rest of our lives, we will walk in faith and trust because of the resurrection. We will reconcile with each other and build each other up in the joy of Jesus our Savior and Lord.
As Holy Week draws closer, we move onward into the great mystery of Our Lord’s death and resurrection. During this time, we will call to mind Jesus’ words and actions and continue to re-imagine ourselves living as his disciples in the world today.
Our final Lenten Program is Thursday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m. We begin with Evening Prayer and a reflection on Spirituality and The Rule of Life, and then enjoy a delicious soup supper.
Renewal Works Update:As you know, St. Margaret’s is in the midst of a parish revitalization program called Renewal Works. Eight members of our church have taken the training program and will be facilitating the implementation of this program in the near future. The objective is to grow in service and in relationship with Jesus through our commitment at church and in the neighborhood. We are all called by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel in words and deeds. A core part in this renewal works is our intentional listening to the different voices in the community; ecumenical and interfaith dialogue with those of other faiths; and our commitment to peace and reconciliation as we encounter the pains and struggles in our area.
Blessings, Fr. Isaias
Dear St. Margaret's Family,
We are all trying to make our way back to the place we most deeply belong, that is, in the heart of God. One thing we will be looking at this year, especially during Lent, is how we can regain our spiritual balance. Our journey of faith is not finished. There is a beautiful land ahead of us waiting to be discovered, and together we will rediscover the path. For us and for St. Margaret’s Church, it will be an adventure in learning, growing, changing and transformation.
I pray you will join us for a four-week Lenten Program. Beginning on Thursday, March 14, we will embark on a journey as we seek our way back into the heart of God. Each program will begin with Evening Prayer. We’ll then have a conversation with people who will help us “walk each other home” and find that needed balance in our spiritual life.
All this will culminate in our Holy Week services as we continue to make room for contemplation and crying out in faith, “Christ Jesus is Risen!”
My recent trip to the Philippines included a wonderful surprise! I received recognition as an Honorary Canon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Diocese of Iloilo. This is a full-communion partner of The Episcopal Church in the Philippines. I’m so happy to be able to work with them in their ministry and mission. I was also greatly blessed to spend time with family and friends spread across the archipelago.
I’m excited to share that I will be attending “Sharing Jesus: Mutual Witness on Global Mission,”a conference and formation program, under the continuing sponsorship of the Diocese of LI. The conference will highlight the role of sharing the good news of God in Christ in the context of global mission, and will emphasize the fact that we learn more about God in Christ through sharing our experience of God in Christ with others.
My mission work in Micronesia is a striking example of sharing the gospel and learning from the spiritual traditions of other cultures. I will give a workshop called “Gospel Enculturation in Mission: Lessons from Micronesia.”
The Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado, Bishop of Cuba, and the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon for Evangelism, are the keynote speakers. The Dominican Republic was chosen as host because Global Episcopal Mission Network meets abroad once every three years, and this diocese has been identified as a place where active evangelism has contributed in major ways to congregational vitality and growth.
2019 - FEBRUARY
When I was a school chaplain in Guam, it was a privilege and joy to organize a day trip each semester to visit places of worship with my students. We would board a bus and head for the Buddhist temples, where members of other religious traditions were waiting to welcome us. The youngsters and I pledged to leave these houses of worship more informed than when we arrived.
This program was the culminating activity for my World Religions class. Some parents had apprehensions about introducing their children to non-Christian traditions, so I invited the parents along, too!
At one point in the trip, I would ask the students for verbal feedback and written reflections focusing on where they had encountered God that day. We’d begin with an ice-breaker to start the ball rolling, and then jump into this spiritual exercise. It always amazed me how readily these young people came forward and shared their new-found awakenings. They reported experiences that were profound, beautiful and authentic encounters of God. Some spoke of prior judgments based on simple lack of information. Their courageous first steps to engage on a personal level with complete strangers and ask about unfamiliar traditions filled my heart with hope. I loved watching them stepping into the unknown and opening the door toward an expanded sense of community.
We begin this month in the fourth Sunday of Epiphany, a season of light that began with the Magi, guided by a night star, encountering the Word made flesh, the Christ Child. In our own travels, we are called to be present to the divine mystery God leads us toward. Can we see the ways God is made manifest in our everyday lives? Where can we see God working in our midst? Where can we feel God touching us, prompting us to see the world as God sees it?
In fact, as we learn to appreciate and accept God’s active presence in our lives, we’ll be able to recognize “God-sightings,” too. Holy Scripture teaches us to look with new eyes on the people and events that God puts in our path. Instead of seeing strangers, can we be open to seeing people God put next to us for a reason? Listen carefully in church, and notice new connections and God-sightings in the readings, the psalms, the sermon and maybe even in your pew, no matter what service your neighbor attends. When we practice seeing with the eye of God, we as individuals, and as a parish, will be open to God’s holy desire for transformation.
And we can start by asking God to show us the way.
Fr. Isaias Ginson
2019 ARCHIVE - JANUARY
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A Blessed and Happy New Year to all!
Here on Long Island, we work with other denominations and faith traditions, as well as with partners around the country. One of the great gifts of collaborative work is discovering new ways to develop and strengthen congregations.
I’m excited to announce that beginning in January, St. Margaret’s will take part in a program called Renewal Works in collaboration with Mercer School of Theology and The Episcopal Diocese of L.I. Renewal Works focuses on spiritual vitality as the basis for growth.
The program will involve the entire parish, but first we are looking for 7-9 people to volunteer for training as team leaders. There will be guided self- reflection and four 90-minute workshops to identify the ways that God is calling us to grow and create growth for others. We’ll share insights and look atwhere we’ve been, where we are now, where we feel called to go, and how we will get there. The orientation dinner will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Mercer School of Theology. If you want to be included in the team please contact me.
2019 will also bring the official start of a new ministry called Dining Side-by-Side. Several parishioners formed a pilot group last March and attended a South Shore event hosted by Grace Church, Massapequa. In November, the same generous team from Grace mentored a new team from St. Margaret’sas we hosted our own event in a senior housing center run by the Town of Oyster Bay. There was very positive response both from our own parishioners, and from the lovely people we served. We hope to again work with seniors in the housing center situated behind Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Central Park Road.
Every third Sunday of the month at about 4 p.m., we will bring, serve and share a delicious meal. As with the November event, it will be a time to share good food, good conversation and to demonstrate that no one is truly alone, even if they have no family nearby. Everyone is encouraged to participate in ministering in our community.
I will be out of the office for two Sundays, Jan. 20 and 27. I will be traveling to the Philippines for a quick vacation and replenishment of spirit.
2018 ARCHIVE - RECTOR'S LETTER
GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS - DECEMBER 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Sunday, Dec. 2, we will have our Annual Parish Meeting. We are going to look back on what we have achieved as a church together (clergy and lay), and create a vision for the coming year. In this season of Advent, we are hoping and expecting that as a congregation we will continue to focus on equipping ourselves to live more fully into the Christian life and to share that life with others in the world.
We are all called to share our enormous gifts as we participate in God’s mission, helping to hear God’s call; discern how God has shaped our lives and ministry and continue to share in the church’s life and leadership. I invite each and every one of you to participate in our Christmas services.
And of course, Christie and I look forward to welcoming you to the rectory on Friday, Dec. 28, for St. Margaret’s annual Christmas party.
I pray that as a church, we will be able to continue to recognize that God is profoundly in our midst this Christmas season.
2018 ARCHIVE - RECTOR'S LETTER
GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS - NOVEMBER
In our Gospel readings for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost, Mark says, “… the Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” John and James, two of Jesus’ disciples, ask Jesus to let them sit at his left hand and right hand when He comes in glory.
This question used to irritate me because of its arrogance. It’s not surprising that Christ checks them by saying, “it should not be among you … lording your authority over others.”
But this same request also comes from other apostles who have been with Christ. The time period is just before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and His subsequent Passion, death and Resurrection. The apostles only know that their desire is to walk with Jesus in His suffering and to be His intimate companions ruling with Him on His right and left hand.
I can really identify with that position. But James and John want to follow Christ without truly knowing what that looks like. So they come up with their own ideas: “It’s going to look like this, God” … “It should be like this” … “I think you’ll like me if I do this.”
In our own lives, Christ is always informing our understanding of what His call means for us and what the path of discipleship will look like in our lives.
We should rejoice with James and John in their desire to follow Christ. Christ says yes, “you will drink the cup with me; yes, you will be baptized with the same baptism that I am going through.” But he also shares with them that it will be quite different from what they expect.
As disciples ourselves, we must remain open to new life in Christ, and keep our eyes open for ways that Jesus continues to reform or inform both what we expect Him to do in our life, and what He is calling us to be and do.
During my recent study at Virginia Theological Sem-inary, we worked on a book by Henri Nouwen called “Life of the Beloved.” In it, he expounds on what it means to be Bread taken, blessed, broken and given. I have always believed we are all called to be God’s beloved in Jesus. In my spiritual journey, every time I listen with attentiveness to the call of the Spirit in my life I feel a deep longing to continue to listen to His voice more and more. Nouwen believes that as we discover being Beloved of God, we realize that we are also chosen. To be chosen is to see that God has seen you and me in a special way. It is not that we are better than the others or that we exclude others.
Nouwen continues to say that we are also blessed. As children of God, we are called to be His beloved and chosen to discover this blessedness. This discovery is aided by prayer and by having an attentive presence every moment of the day. Can I notice being blessed and feel gratitude without being caught up in the busyness of my everyday life?
Third, as bread is taken and blessed, it is also to be broken. All of us are called to claim our brokenness. Our broken-ness is a step forward, opening us to our full acceptance of ourselves as God’s beloved. As I age, I realize that the joy of life is hidden in the fact that I am broken so that my life can be givenfor others. As St. Francis would put it, it is in giving that we receive. All of us are called to be bread for each other and to be bread for the world.That is, my little life will multiply itself in giving … to be a gift for others.
Come for our Backpack Blessing
Sept. 2 at the 9:30 a.m. Service (Sunday)
Come join our parish Backpack Blessing with students and teachers as they prepare for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Welcome Back Potluck Dinner
Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. in the Undercroft (Saturday)
Join us for our Welcome Back Dinner with food, games and laughter as we welcome everyone back from summer travels. Use the sign-up sheet in the Narthex for what you want to bring. Newcomers are especially welcome!
Program Year Resumes Sept. 9 (Sunday)
Worship 8 a.m. & 10 a.m. / Sunday School Sept. 30
After enjoying summer worship together, we resume our
8 a.m. and 10 a.m. services on Sept. 9. As Gift Baskets for the Fair are stored in the classroom, we’ll resumeSunday School on Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. Welcome Back to our Sunday School students and teachers! Registration is open to all.
St. Margaret’s Annual Fall Fair
Sept. 22 (9 a.m.- 4 p.m.) (Saturday)
Come and enjoy our 21stFall Fair with your family and friends. Vendors, food, and cultural presentations will make it a fun day for everyone. Invite your friends and family!
Fr. Isaias Ginson
JUNE LETTER FROM FR. ISAIAS
In April, I attended my first Global EpiscopalMission (GEM) retreat. On May 1-7, I attended a Credo conference sponsored by the Church Pension Group of the Episcopal Church. It was held at Camp Beckwith in Alabama. I was one of 27 clergy of the Episcopal Church (16 men, 11 women).
Our conference retreat centered on our Identity and Ministry in the Episcopal Church. At the end of the conference, we had to come up with a Rule of Life. A rule of life isa commitment to live your life in a particular way. It is meant to be crafted with prayer and discernment, in partnership with God, as you consider the way God made you and the values He has inscribed upon your heart.
My Rule of Life was short and simple. Eat Less. Pray More. Enjoy Life and Do No Harm. The background of this rule is I try to keep a healthy lifestyle so I can do ministry effectively and, in the process, live a life in harmony with all.
I have also started my Doctor of Ministry classes with Virginia Theological Seminary. My area of concen-tration is Christian Spirituality. I will go to Virginia to attend onsite classes for 21 days starting June 18.
Our summer church service schedule will begin on June 3. As in the past, we’ll have one Sunday summer service at 9:30 a.m., combining the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. con-gregations.
Several members of St. Margaret’s will be participating in a short mission trip to Haiti. We are excited about the opportunity to work with Gina, Soledad and the people of St. Andre’s, our sister church in Cazale, helping to facilitate activities at a camp session for youngsters. Our group will be away July 13 – 23. For those here at home, we’ll host a fun evening called Haiti: 101, where we can help support the trip while experiencing first-hand the food, music, arts and culture of our companion diocese.
How are you planning to spend your summer? If you don’t already have one, why not think about developing your own Rule of Life?
Fr. Isaias Ginson
MAY 2018 GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS
Mission: The Heartbeat of the Church
In April, I attended my firstGlobal Episcopal Missions (GEM) Network Conference at the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS). It brought to- gether people in the Episcopal Church who have been involved in mission. I attended a one-day formation program focusing on the “ins and outs” of doing mission work. This formation class is a two-part series and is only given during this conference. The class sparked ideas and enhanced my knowledge of what it means to serve in the mission field. The sessions were designed to balance learning and growing spiritually through inductive and discussion-based pedagogy.
During the main conference, we were encouraged to be catalysts in congregational and diocesan settings by participating in mission events in our respective areas. We received a vast array of mission books and literature during the lectures. Missionaries from Africa and South America shared their experiences through talks and interview-type forums.
One important topic was the tension between disparate cultures and the Gospel — and how to embrace differing perspectives. Because the Gospel is not specific to any culture, western or otherwise, how can it be expressed in cultural terms, if it is to be expressed that way at all? At the same time, how do we
acknowledge the wide variety of human cultures, and accept the worthiness of diverse styles of bearing and witnessing to the universal power of the Gospel?
My take-away on that subject is that I must avoid condemning aspects of other cultures (and even my own), because God is working in and through culture.
It is with great honor and blessing that I have
accepted the call to serve God’s people at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Plainview, N.Y., as its full-time priest in charge. Thank you, Wardens
and Vestry of St. Margaret’s – I am looking forward to this journey and engaging with all of you in articulating our faith and building relationships in the community, the diocese and the world.
From May 1-7, I will be participating in a gathering of priests across the Episcopal Church in a program called CREDO. The Latin word credo means “I believe.” CREDO encourages participants to rediscover the passionate essence of their life and ministry in the context of their faith, their relationships and their community.
CREDO provides clergy at various stages of min- istry seven days of learning, sharing, reflection, worship, exploration, holistic health and joy.
Fr. Isaias Ginson
APRIL 2018 GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS
At Easter, the shout goes up: The Lord is Risen!
Beginning on Palm Sunday, as a parish family we walked with Jesus towards His final act of defiance. Signifying a messiahship of servanthood, Jesus rode on a lowly colt into Jerusalem, washed his disciples’ feet, offered a foretaste of his Body and Blood at the Last Supper, and died on the cross at Calvary. In these acts, Jesus modeled for us what servant leadership looks like when our world collapses on us. It is during times of pain, hurt, grief and loss that Jesus’ final offering on the cross gives us a bright hope for tomorrow, that Jesus will fulfill God’s loving intentions for human-kind. May we each turn our lives toward God the Father that we will be sustained and prepared for our own Easter experience.
I pray that each of us continues to renew and cultivate our relationship with the living God. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ gave the gift of himself to us, our lives should also be a gift to others. Together on Easter morning, we proclaim and rejoice in the blessing of resurrected life, committing ourselves in full. Only with God’s enduring presence in our lives can pain and sadness be endured and overcome as we celebrate God’s eternal gift of salvation.
Many thanks to all who came to the Easter Cantata and to our Neighbors of Faith visit to the Coptic Church last month. It was a joy to welcome guests to our church, and to visit with and learn more about our Egyptian neighbors in Woodbury!
Good news! I have been invited to participate in the Global Episcopal Mission Network conference at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), April 10-13. This exciting conference will provide tools for global engagement, help facilitate relationships and ministries throughout the world, and provide a training curriculum for individuals who will support global mission efforts in their diocese, organization or church. (Visit www.gemn.org for more information.)
Fr. Isaias Ginson
MARCH 2018 GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS
In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians he writes, “Now is the acceptable time.” The season of Lent has now dawned upon us. As Christians on the journey to Easter, Lent beckons us to live a new way of life. It urges us to abandon ourselves to the possibility of new life.
This season affords us the acquisition of virtues, practices and discipline in our desire to live out our calling. All this is possible only through the love of God the Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and in unity of the Holy Spirit.
The church therefore urges us to take on the disciplines of Lent. I would like to encourage each and every one of you to begin to read the Scriptures with a greater sense of regularity during this period. Also let us intentionally continue the practice of prayer and fasting and holy giving. All of these practices allow us to grow closer in relationship with our Lord and each other, enriching each other’s lives in the process.
As a parish, we have several activities planned to help us go deeper into the spirit of Lent.
Wednesday Lenten Soup Suppers
Everyone is encouraged to join the parish for Evening Prayer at 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday of Lent. This short service will be followed by a simple soup supper at 7 p.m. in the Undercroft. We’ll eat silently and contemplatively as we experience the Spirit in the Scriptures and share food with one another.
The “Gracias” Easter Cantata
On Saturday, March 10, St. Margaret’s will host a large choral concert with music focusing on Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection. This inspiring evening comes to us through the Korean-based Good News Church and the International Youth Festival organization. Please invite your friends and family to this wonderful free event, which begins at 7 p.m.
We’ve been invited to visit and learn more about the nearby St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Center at 90 Woodbury Road near the Cold Spring Harbor LIRR station. You may be familiar with the festival they hold every year, showcasing ancient Christian traditions and food. We will meet in St. Margaret’s parking lot at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 8 to travel together (or you can meet us there at 7 p.m.). Fr. Guirguis will give a tour and presentation, and we’ll share some delicious Egyptian food with parishioners.
This offer of friendship continues our series of visitations and conversations with neighbors of faith. Last year,
we hosted the Women of Faith luncheon, and now we will be guests of our Orthodox Christian neighbors. It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand our experiences and learn more about the many faithful communities in our midst.
Fr. Isaias Ginson
FEBRUARY 2018 GREETINGS FROM FR. ISAIAS
I grew up in a family where education was highly valued, especially as a means to get out of poverty and marginalization. I had to work hard, my parents con-stantly admonished me, if I was not to be like our poor neighbors. When I was in college, my parents instructed me not to get involved in politics and radical social trans-formation, for that would only divert me from the goal of getting out of our sorry situation. But their worst fears came to reality. I became aware of the politics of domination and the suffering of the Filipino people, and that got me involved in the struggle for social transformation. As it turned out, my quest for educa-tion, which was primarily to escape poverty and suffer-ing, brought me back into the pains of our world.
This experience was formative to my understanding of my vocation, first as a theology student, then as a priest, and now here at St. Margaret’s. My experience has shaped where I fit in socially, what I see, and what I preach and teach. When confronted with the urgent life and death concerns of the people around me, I was not content to deal only with the abstract Trinity, but preached and taught the gospel in response to the conspiracy of a different, unholy, trinity: the absence of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
As I look back at those experiences, I find it necessary for our Christian community to hear God’s call to be of service to people beyond the walls of our church. This month marks the beginning of the season of Lent. As children of God, we are called to bridge the gap between the margins and the center, raise the consciousness, encourage new experiences, and reconstruct a world in which difference is not treated with indifference.
On Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, we will gather as a community to begin a journey together. Ashes will be distributed during the services at noon and 7:30 p.m. Ashes To Go will be available 11 am - 2 pm.
Beginning Feb. 21, we will introduce an Evening Prayer service at 6 p.m. every Wednesday during Lent followed by a silent soup dinner in the Undercroft. Emphasis will be placed on recapturing the meaning and value of silence so as to help us quiet ourselves and listen to God’s voice by reading spiritual and biblical texts as we eat our meal. This will also help us enter into the discipline of fasting during the season.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, Barbara Festa and I will be leading a Parish Quiet Day as part of our Lenten preparation. We will encounter our Lord in prayers, meditation, journal writing, whole-body prayer and music. This invitation is also being extended to our deanery (cluster of Episcopal Churches in the area). I do hope you will join us in this journey through Lent and be ready for an encounter with God as God continues to call us to be disciples.
Fr. Isaias Ginson