November 9, 2018

Last Sunday, Frankie Sitler-Ebel, our student intern, preached a wonderful sermon for All Saints Sunday and several people asked me to include it in the newsletter this week.  I am sure that everyone will be inspired by it.

Mary Grace+


All Saints Day Sermon- Frankie Sitler-Elbel

Today is day in the liturgical calendar in which we honor and acknowledge All Saints, aptly called ‘All Saints Day’. In the Episcopal church or in the realm of Protestantism in general, we do not put as much emphasis on the veneration of these holy individuals as, for example, the wider Catholic church does. So, I thought it might be beneficial for us, myself very much included, to learn about the lives of a few devout individuals and maybe see if you can identify who I am describing.

Our first individual left their family to wander the desert, devoted their life to prayer, was renowned for being an example of virtue and piety, and continuously sought closeness with God.

Next, we have someone who is known for showing great wisdom at a young age, they walked long distances to spread an authentic message, emphasized faith and personal relation with God, was ostracized by their community and, as a result, lived ascetically, and was opposed to ‘earning’ merits or making donations to the local religious authorities.

Finally, this last person was advised by God to build shelter for the humans, animals, birds and vegetation of the earth in preparation for an extreme natural disaster, they built a holy space on top of a mountain and lived an extremely long life.

These people I just described where only three of many of the pious people I encountered while researching- and not oneof the people you just heard about were Christian saints. First we had Rabi’a of Basra, she was a Muslim ascetic who has been credited as being one of the first to practice Sufism. Next we had Bodhidharma, a 5thcentury Indian Buddhist monk who is regarded as being the founder of Zen Buddhism and spread his view of the “authentic” message of Buddhism into China and Japan. Finally, I described Shah Jamshid, also known as Yima in the Zoroastrian Avesta, who is understood as establishing a veritable paradise on earth.

I think it’s called All Saints Day for a reason…The word ‘saint’ comes from the Latin ‘sanctus’meaning sacred- While some sources throw in the term “canonized” or reference a specific denomination, the definition that I am deciding to use is that a saint is one who expresses an exceptional degree of holiness or closeness to god.

In the Muslim tradition, one word that is central in the text is ‘Wali’. ‘Wali’is used to represent a “protector”, “helper” or “custodian” in the Qur’an, but in colloquial is almost exclusively reserved for those who are “friends with” or those who are “close with God”.  Is that not what the Christian saints also seek? A relationship, a kinship, and a closeness with God?

In the protestant celebration of All Saints day, there is the added idea that we are meant to honor all saints “known andunknown”.  What this added phrase seems to suggest is that the actual title of saint is not what is important, if one lives their life well, they are as much a saint as those who are canonized.  In his article ‘Doubting Sancity: Why Saints Matter in Islam’, Muizz Rafique states “Every human being has the potential for sainthood (wilayah), no matter when or where they live. Saints are not limited to holy cities or remote villages. The true believer is optimistic, positive, and will see the potential for beauty in all human beings, regardless of their faith.”.  While the exact term may not be used, the idea of ‘sainthood’ permeates though essentially every religious tradition. We are at no loss for positive role models of how to be good people.

Why then, if we have so many examples of people to learn from, does our world look like this? Why, despite the undeniable number and quality of similarities between us, does our newslook like this?  A verse from the Yajurveda of Hinduism reads:

The one who loves all intensely
begins perceiving in all living beings

a part of himself.
He becomes a lover of all,

a part and parcel of the Universal Joy.
He flows with the stream of happiness,
and is enriched by each soul.

In our increasingly polarized world it is hard to feel this way…Another day on the church calendar for this past week was ‘All Souls’ day, where we remember those who have died. We have so many to remember.  In the Gospel reading for today Lazarus of Bethany, Jesus’ friend, has died. His sister Mary and the people who are with her are all mourning and they cry out to Jesus. Jesus sees this, feels the pain they feel, and Jesus weeps. Later in the passage Jesus actually resurrects Lazarus from the dead and tells the others to “let him go”… I don’t think this is the answer for our world today. Horrible acts of violence, under the guise of religion or against a religion or purely fueled by hate, are being perpetrated at a staggering rate. But we cannot let the memories of these events be forgotten, we cannot just “let them go”. We need to weep. Because mourning is powerful. Mourning gives a voice to those who have had their voices stolen from them.

As I was reading about the multi-religious ideas of saints, this line describing holy people in Buddhism came up. It reads: “What marked them, apart from their enlightenment, was that they came from wildly divergent backgrounds and social classes and used unorthodox methods to show that supreme liberation can take many and sundry forms.” Doesn’t that seem to describe our world today? There is no one homogenous idea for the right way to be a saint.

Again, Muizz Rafique states “Saints matter because all human beings need to be reminded that in the midst of so much difficulty, temptation, and evil that the world presents, there will always be those individuals who realize the greatest human potential — to know God.”

I think this is the answer we need. We need to weep for each other.

So on this all saint’s day, and every day, I call you to not only honor and remember the saints of your ideology and those who you have lost, but also to remember Amal Hussain, the 7-year-old girl who died this past week as a result of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. To remember the Shia activists that where killed this past Monday after the Nigerian Military violently intervened during a protest. To remember what happened at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg.

We need to mourn with each other.  We need to be Wali, friends, of God and more importantly, we need to be friends with one another.


This Sunday, November 11, 2018:

The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost


Holy Eucharist, Rite I


Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44




Calling all Renovation Spirits!– As chair of the St. John’s renovation committee, I would like to extend an invitation to all of those who would be interested in serving on this committee. Our current focus will be on Aspinwall Hall. Prior renovation experience not required but certainly welcome. Please consider this opportunity to be of service. The next meeting will be held on Sunday, November 11th in Breck Hall shortly after coffee hour.

Susan Allen (Chair of the Renovations Committee)


Diocesan ConventionOur lay delegate, Susan Allen, is attending theDiocesanConvention from November 9th– 10th. Convention, the ultimate organizational decision-making body comprised of clergy and lay members. Convention meets annually for one or two days in November.  The Convention decides the Diocesan budget (based on recommendations from the Budget and Finance Committee of the Diocesan Council), elects members of the diocese’s various administrative, executive and judicial bodies and votes on any resolutions—including those that amend or add to the Constitution or Canons—that may be brought before it. When necessary, it elects the Bishop, the Bishop Coadjutor and the Bishop(s) Suffragan.



Stewardship – We are in the midst of stewardship season when we are all asked to prayerfully consider how we can support our church financially in order to do the important ministry of the church.

On Sunday, October 7th, our Treasurer, John Ferguson, gave us a wonderful stewardship address at the 10:00 a.m. service.  Here is the text of most of his talk:

Stewardship n. not in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language!

It is in the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: 2b: “The responsible use of resources, esp. money, time, and talents, in the service of God, spec. the organized pledging of specific amounts of money etc. to be given regularly to the church.”

The fundamental contradiction between the ministry of Christ and that of “organized” religion is that we have a physical plant and salaried employees, whereas Christ had neither. He asked his disciples to cast away all their worldly possessions and to follow Him, and they basically sponged off of generous people, supplemented by the occasional bread or fish miracle. Instead we have this beautiful building, which needs constant maintenance and Mary Grace does not have to go begging for food among the parishioners.

From the Second Quarter Report you can see that it costs us about $118,000 to run our church.  If we have about 35 families to should that burden, it would cost us about $3,400 per family, or about $65 per week per family. I have been increasing my contributions slowly over the years, and they now exceed that estimate by a bit.  Not all of us can do this but please be as generous as you can.

John Ferguson



Episcopal Relief and Development – For those who would like to reach out to help those affected by the recent hurricanes, I recommend giving a generous donation to Episcopal Relief and Development.  Here is some information about ERD and its important ministry during times of crisis:

We respond to storms in the United States and U.S. territories through our U.S. Disaster Program. Through our partnerships with Episcopal dioceses, we offer resources and training to help people prepare for disasters and provide emergency support so vulnerable people can make a sustained recovery after the storm. The benefit of our partnership with Episcopal churches is that these congregations are already deeply integrated within their communities. In other words, the Episcopal Church is there before responders arrive and will remain long after the news cameras have gone. You can help provide critical relief to affected communities by donating to our Hurricane Relief Fund. To donate and read the latest updates, visit:


New Sign-up Sheets for Sunday ministriesThere are new sign up sheets located on the table next to the kitchen in Aspinwall Hall.  Please sign up to read a lesson, lead Prayers of the People, host Coffee Hour, provide treats for Coffee Hour and/or flowers for worship.  All are welcome to be part of these important ministries that make our Sunday morning worship a spiritual experience for all.

Altar Servers– For anyone who would like to be trained to serve at the altar during the Sunday worship services, please contact the Vicar (  I encourage anyone who feels called to this special ministry to consider signing up.  We hope to have several Altar Servers so your commitment would be approximately one Sunday a month. Training sessions will be held.


Happy Birthday: Dick Bump

Please remember to fill in the Anniversary/Birthday Book located on the table next to the kitchen in Aspinwall Hall. We want to remember everyone’s special occasions during our Sunday worship.



Sundays @ 10:00 a.m. 

Holy Eucharist/Morning Prayer and Coffee Hour

Mondays @ 8:00 p.m.

Men’s AA meeting in Aspinwall Hall

Wednesdays 8:00 p.m. 

Open AA meeting in Aspinwall Hall




The Rev. Mary Grace Williams, Vicar,    , (203) 858 – 8800

The Rev. Virginia Grab, Associate to the Vicar                                               

Mr. Peter Sipperley, Director of Music

Annah Heckman, Student Intern

Frankie Sitler-Elbel, Student Intern



Peter Sipperley, President                                      

John Ferguson, Treasurer             

Susan Allen                                      

Evelyn (Evie) Chanler                    

Mike Kelley   

Isabel Livingston                                                    

Sara Takács

Wayne Baden, Trustee Emeritus, Advisor to the Board