Father Manny: Walking, Praying, Staying On and Off The Trail

This weather of late has been remarkably wonderful…almost “perfect” if you ask me. Not much in our world comes close to being perfect. So when such near-perfect weather presents itself, we are to make full and good use of it.

Hiking boots on, I ventured to a small but rather rugged forest preserve just a stone’s throw from our home. The place is a year-round refuge for outdoor folks; hiking, fishing, camping and cross-country skiing, too. It is a wonderful spot. I decided to take the longer path; lots of hills and some sharp curves were on the agenda but I was not to be deterred.

St. Nicholas Church provides us a safe place to worship, to gather with family and friends around a Common Table, the altar, where we have Jesus presented to us from humble, earthly gifts of bread and wine. Through the sacred words of consecration and God’s divine intervention, Jesus is afforded us and we partake in the banquet. Drama of the highest degree!

The sun was out, God was in God’s heaven and all was well in my little world. I began the power walk right into the woods: the journey commenced. As I walked I prayed; sometime silently and sometimes aloud, as if I were announcing my Creed to the creatures of the forest. I was in a zone. I walked fast and and I walked hard. I stayed focused on the trail but not really paying too much mind to what trail I was actually taking. Eventually, it dawned on me that I was no longer on a “marked trail,” but into the damp, muddy and swampy fields. The cattails were tall…I mean really tall. I kept walking on what appeared to be another hiker’s footprints. I figured they must have gotten out some how as I saw no body laying amidst the tall grasses and other growth. And I kept walking. It wasn’t that I was scared, mind you. I knew I’d get out eventually. After all, I could still hear the truck traffic on the main road. I figured if I could hear the trucks and determine from whence they came, I’d head in that direction and I’d be safe. Well, it’s not that easy when a forest and swamp lands intercept your path. I was sweating and my heart was pounding…okay, maybe I was just a little “concerned.” I left my cell phone in the car…that was smart. So much for emergency use. But, behold, just before me, past a group of evergreen trees I could see the bend of the gravel road that would lead to the parking area. Success. I had survived. Truly, it was not all that dramatic a situation. However for poetic license, I had to make it sound dramatic, right?

When it comes to church, there is a friendly familiarity to what we do. We know of what we commemorate, of what we celebrate. We recall Jesus’ breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine with His disciples. We have heard the Lessons from Sacred Scripture. Some passages are very dear to us and perhaps some passages not so catching or memorable. And yet, we come each week and some thing “new,” some thing “wonderful” happens. We are refreshed. We are rejuvenated. We are made gift of God’s unique and loving grace yet again. This is why our worship is so dramatic…so dynamic…it is never the same…it is ongoing, varying and flowing.

St. Nicholas Church provides us a safe place to worship, to gather with family and friends around a Common Table, the altar, where we have Jesus presented to us from humble, earthly gifts of bread and wine. Through the sacred words of consecration and God’s divine intervention, Jesus is afforded us and we partake in the banquet. Drama of the highest degree!

It is our sacred responsibility to make sure St. Nicholas stands tall and remains just such a safe place for ourselves, our children and the generations that are to follow. Preserving our church today secures a solid and sound tomorrow. Please pray and consider with generosity, kindness and love the current requests of our Stewardship Drive and Capital Campaign. Let’s make sure we keep St. Nicholas on the right path…the path to a long, enduring and successful future.

God bless us, one and all.

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny

Father Manny150

Unity, Harmony, Singleness In Action

WeAreStNick

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
-A.W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God.”

And there you have it. Complex and at the same time so very simple and concise. Aiden Wilson Tozer touched many hearts with his preaching and grassroots ministry. As an Evangelical minister, preacher and writer, Tozer knew how to communicate with his congregations. He spoke to them and listened to them and worshiped with them. Together, they formed community that was strong, faithful and unified.

Unity, as defined by the Free Dictionary is: “1. The state or quality of being one; singleness. 2. The state or quality of being in accord; harmony. 3. The combination or arrangement of parts into a whole.”

St. Nicholas is many things: we are diverse, we are multicultural, we are openly and demonstratively welcoming and inviting. We are young, old and many ages in between. We are black and white and various shades as well. We are urbanites and suburbanites; our roots and heritages are found in other countries far away and as close as a mile from our church. We are also imperfect and flawed. We are frail and finite; we are mortal and at times become victims to sin. But still and most importantly we are united. Our unity is forged through our friendships and our commonality as believers in a loving and benevolent God. We are sisters and brothers and heirs of the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father and Jesus, His son. We worship as a community. We celebrate and grieve as a community. We succeed and yes, on occasion, we shall fail as a community. We try and when needed, we will try even harder. This is what a family does…it works hard at staying together…at being connected…at being in harmony…at being unified.

The next few months, we will be receiving mail from the Bishop’s Committee, the Senior Warden and myself. These letters concern both our annual Stewardship Drive and Capital Campaign. This is a rare and unique time in the history of our church. The Stewardship Drive is a yearly event. We are all familiar with this. Every Episcopal church in this country encounters this. However, our Capital Campaign is quite new to us and we certainly hope and pray, an event we will not have to revisit for many, many years to come.

We are asking much of our community because much is needed to help rebuild and strengthen our church for now and the long-term future. With the kindness extended to us by the Diocese and the funds already on hand, we are well on our way toward our goals. Yet, there is still help needed as well as much work to be done. Much of the work we are undertaking is long overdue. With this in mind, it is up to us, here and now to do what is “good, right and just.” Please know this; I am very conscience of the generosity of this amazing community — this loving family. No one will be pressured nor will we come “a-knocking at your door.” We ask each member to share as we are able, as we are willing.

Let us see our unity, our harmony and our singleness in action. Let us build our house of worship stronger, better and more beautiful. “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
1 Corinthians 3:9.

And let’s make a joyful noise…a resounding sound so others know that some thing good is happening at St. Nicholas…and we shall all rejoice at the efforts we put forth.

Thank you again and yet again. You are all in my prayers and always in my heart. Unity is a wonderful thing…

Amen.

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny

Father Manny150

Father Manny: Storing Up Treasures

It was a long weekend.  A long but very successful and rewarding weekend.  Douglas and I had a garage sale and we were able to move out a bunch of stuff.  What hadn’t sold…it’s coming to St. Nicholas’ sale and that means lots of vintage and antique goodies that hopefully will catch the eye of a prospective and discerning buyer!

Thursday, the first of a two-day sale, we were blessed with visits from a number of neighbors who came and shopped.  More importantly, our neighbors stayed, talked and we shared stories of ourselves.  They brought food and drink to share.  We got to know one another.  We engaged in conversations that have forged newer and deeper relationships with the people who, literally speaking, surround us.  What a better and more pleasant way to live when the people around us are friends and cherished ones and not just “the people next door or across the street.”

Our St. Nick’s Knacks Rummage Sale is our biggest and largest fund raiser of the year (aside from the Capital Campaign which is an on-going fund raiser until all the funds needed are raised). While the primary objective is to raise much needed funds that help sustain and promote various ministries at St. Nicholas, there is some thing even more important: the time spent with one another while we work.  We gather to pray as a community.  We gather to work and toil, to put things together and take things apart as a community, too.  And all the while, we get to know each other better; we grow closer to our sisters and brothers of this wonderful place we call St. Nicholas Church.

My friends, with so much going on in our lives, it is difficult for me to ask yet more of you.  But, this is our church:  this building where we spend a mere fraction of our time but provides the greatest, sacred and most valuable of space for us to gather.  This is why it is so vital that we, each of us, again, as we can, how we can and when we can, pitch in and help make this year’s rummage sale and all our parish events successful, meaningful and the source of many fond memories which, in time, we will look back at and smile.

Come on down…sign up and let’s get our sleeves rolled up and get to the business of selling all these treasures.  And what a good time we will all have.

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny

Father Manny150