Monday, October 31, 2005

Flaming Fire

The Flaming Fire Illustrated Bible

This is the Web site Canon Shallcross talked about in her sermon last Sunday.

Our goal is to illustrate the entire bible verse–by–verse— one illustration per verse. We plan to enlist artists and illustrators from all over the world— including you!— to help us bring each of the 36,665 verses in our database to life.

Check out the great illustrations!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

One of My Favorite Books

One of my favorite books is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. The book opens in the year of 1123. It is about a mason's life-long dream to build a cathedral. And building a cathedral in those times was a life-long project.

Ken Follett's Web site says:

In a time of civil war, famine, religious strife and war, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against this backdrop, lives entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age.

What this book did for me was show an incredible picture of that age and the struggles to overcome the entwining of politics and religion. When people talk about the 'good old days' I often wonder when they are refering to. I know that I wouldn't want to be transported to the 13th century. The 21st century has made me a little too soft.

I have read this book 3 times since it was published in 1996 and I will need to read it again soon. In the meantime, I am willing to lend my copy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Intelligent Design: Belief vs. Proof

Like many people, I have been following the Intelligent Design debates (and fist-fights) that are going on. My first thought is that I don't have enough information to settle the issue for either side. As someone with a scientific background, I like the elegance of Evolution. As a believing Christian, I like the grace and beauty of God-as-Creator. My simple solution has always been to ask "Why can't God have created Evolution?" I know this is too simple but the problem with a scientific examination is that 'belief' is a little hard to measure.

So be it. I will continue to believe in God and I will continue to be a scientist (in the form of an engineer) and I will let the lawyers argue over proof. They aren't likely to get it right, no matter which side 'wins.'

I was prompted on this subject by a post from Nick at Entangled States. Check out his thoughts. I especially like his statement:

At any rate, I have found that there is nothing in my scientific training that asks or requires me to disavow the first line of our Christian Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.”

What else can I add to that?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Illuminator

If you like romance, intrigue and history, pick up a copy of Brenda Vantrease's first novel, The Illuminator. Set in the 14th century, when books were still copied by hand, our hero is a traveling illuminator. He gets work from both John Wycliffe and Julian of Norwich who are among the first to write in English. A quick read, the story presents a picture of medieval life with a focus on women's roles.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Feast of St. Luke

St. Margaret's Emmaus
October 18, 2005

In the last seven days, I have been exposed to many of the fine outreach activities in our area. In the process, I have also learned much about the needs of the most vulnerable people among us: the homeless, the hungry, the mentally ill and children at risk.

The needs of these individuals and families should send us all to prayer.
Both our individual and community prayers must ask God to be with them and to send us the ways to be with them offering love, prayer, understanding and support.

Wednesday October 12th, at the invitation of Dave and Kathy L., who serve as volunteers for Daybreak in Allentown, I attended a luncheon at Asbury United Methodist Church for the Aspires Mentoring Program as part of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches "Together We Can" challenge. The featured speaker was The Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia. In retirement, he founded the Amachi Mentoring Program. He had everyone on their feet pledging to help support Aspires. This program keeps young people in school and helps them find a direction for their lives. This is just one of the LCCC s programs.

Thursday Oct 13th, Linda R. asked about the Sharing Tree and I realized we have not prayed for or supported the ministry of New Bethany in months.

Friday and Saturday, Oct 14- 15th , at Diocesan Convention, the Diocesan Episcopal Women and AWE Ministries asked all parishes to join in "Cruising to Equity". This year long schedule of advocacy and prayer begins with the national observance of Children's Sabbath (for us October 23rd). The in-gathering of childrens underwear was the first salvo. Next we are asked to collect toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene products.

Sunday, Oct 16th, I preached and celebrated at Christ Church, Reading as they celebrated Children's Sabbath. The prayers moved me. The "joyful noise" made by the children made me laugh. The statistics found in the bulletin about the poverty of children made me heartsick.
Here's just one: Over 9 million children in the USA lack health insurance. And today, I learned that federal government is cutting back on Medicaid funding in order to send $50 billion in foreign aid to fight avian flu. One of the first benefits cuts considered was mental health care for foster children. Foster children do not vote. We do.

Monday, Oct 17th, I had three meetings outside of the parish.

First, the Emmaus Ecumenical Ministerium met with Joyce Marian from the Borough Council and the Vice Principal of Emmaus High School. Marian let us know that the Borough may have matching funds if the churches could find a way to contribute to the LV Coalition for Affordable Housing. (Aside: did you know that by federal definition you are not homeless if a friend lets you sleep on their living room floor rather than sending you to a park bench?)

The representatives from the East Penn School District told us about the "Angel Network" now in place in all schools in the district except 2 elementary schools, which they hope will be on board soon. This program gives at-risk students: school supplies (calculators, book bags, and pens), clothing (gym shorts, bathing suits, warm jackets, and prom gowns), scholarships for field trips, hygiene supplies (toothbrushes, deodorant, and sanitary napkins) and baskets of cheer when a student experiences trauma or death of a family member. The district sent letters to over 200 households asking if they wanted to receive a Thanksgiving basket. They need people to help deliver baskets. The mailing list represents all the households whose children and teens are enrolled for free or reduced lunch assistance and the homes of ESL students. Two facts to ponder: The principal at Jefferson School counted that students from that elementary school came from 20 different countries. US Government statistics show that 2 million children go to bed hungry each night in this country.

At noon, I ate lunch at the LCCC Soup Kitchen at St. Paul's Lutheran Church at 8th and Walnut in Allentown. After we enjoyed our tuna salad, macaroni salad, a roll and ice tea, Charles B., Coordinator and Chief Cook, told us how more happens at the Soup Kitchen than just the feeding of the hungry. Linkage, Pathways, Pharmaceutical Assistance and Homelessness Prevention programs can be accessed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays when the Soup Kitchen is open and 80 to 120 people eat. LCCC has about 400 volunteers and is looking for more!
We saw a short DVD of the LCCC programs and I recognized several people including the LCCC Executive Director The Rev. Dr. Christine Nelson. She and Ira Faro, Development Director, spoke about the LCCC "Together We Can" campaign. The LCCC hopes to raise a significant amount of money for new and increased programs, for building maintainence and improvement, and for an endowment for the future health of LCCC.

The first step of this campaign is to have the 140 member churches show their support by pledging toward it. Member churches are asked to consider pledging about twice their annual pledge. For us, this would be $700 over 3 years if our pledge of $350 remained as a flat figure in our budget for 2006. After the member churches have shown support, the LCCC and its board which includes Dave L. will go to foundations and major contributors to hoping to raise 2 million dollars. Talk about seed money! Our $700 adding and then multiplying into millions!!!

Through its nine programs, the LCCC serves over 14,000 clients each year. While these individuals come from all over Lehigh County, you can picture it this way - the population of Allentown is about 100,000. If those clients all came from Allentown, 14% of the city would be being served.

That evening, Evelyn C., her daughter and I attended the meeting with eight other area churches and a representative of the Lehigh Valley Habitat for Humanity at Faith Presbyterian Church. It looks like an Emmaus build is very possible. A steering committee has been formed. Individual churches are asked to consider what they might pledge over the next three years toward $50,000 which would build a new twin home or refurbish an older home.

St. Margaret's has a history as "builders". In the 1990s two of our teens went with Holy Spirit youth to Maine to refurbish Appalachian homes. They then worked locally on Restoration House in Bethlehem. In 2000, we sent $3,100 to Episcopal Relief and Development to build a home in Honduras. In March of 2001, eleven volunteers traveled to work with the people of San Pedro Sula to build at the "Faith, Hope and Joy" project.

Our Vestry and Parish did not make a collective pledge toward the Episcopal Build last year. Individuals gave generously and a small group from St. Margaret's fed the entire crew for one meal during the Blitz Week.

Tuesday, Oct. 18th, I ate lunch with 399 of my closest friends at the Candlelight Inn in Bethlehem Township. We were there for New Bethany's annual "Souper Day". For $20, I got soup, salad, a roll and coffee. AND the renewal of my personal feelings of pride and affection for this ministry which was born from Bishop Mark's vision of hospitality almost 20 years ago. The Rev. William Kunzie, Executive Director New Bethany Ministries, asked to be remembered to the people of St. Margaret's and hoped to be invited to visit soon. He was last here on Sunday, November 10, 2002 when our church school children gave him the underwear they had purchased for the children of New Bethany from the proceeds of their bake and bean soup sale. Annually, we have helped the residents of New Bethany - children and mothers have a more cheerful Christmas holiday by sending along gifts from our Sharing Tree.

As you can see, these have been thought provoking, rich experiences for me.
Tuesdsay night, on the Feast of St. Luke, the Vestry, Wardens and I had an extended conversation and developed a 3 year outreach plan.

Highlights include:
1. Committment to Prayer and Vigil and Education.
2. Participation in the Diocesan "Cruising to Equity" program.
This Sunday, our children will make a "Joyful Noise" that will be dedicated to the East Penn School District "Angel Network".
3. Participation in an Emmaus Build for Habitat for Humanity of Lehigh Valley. Leadership voted committment of $500, $700, $900 for a total of $2100. There are people ready to volunteer to build. And to feed the work crews! Sara C. and Evelyn C. are our parish contacts and will serve on the steering committee of the nine churches.
4. Support for New Bethany: Maggie W. and Meta C. will coordinate with SMNS and New Bethany to get a wish list, set up the Sharing Tree and make sure packages got delivered.
5. Support for Lehigh County Conference of Churches: Leadership voted to increase St. M's pledge from $350 to $400 and to commit to $800 toward "Together We Can".
6. Reestablish Outreach Committee: All of the individuals interested in these outreach activities will meet to build excitement, coordinate efforts and reform our Outreach Committee with Evelyn C. as Vestry liaison (not necessarily as chairperson) after church on Sunday, November 6 which is All Saints' Sunday.

May God bless us all.
Canon Lexa

Faith Stories

I found this post by Joe at Canterbury Tales:

Emily over at Hazelnut Reflections recently did a post about something that many of us missed from the last General Convention:

Does anyone remember that the last General Convention encouraged every Episcopalian to tell their faith story? (Does
anyone remember that anything else happened at the last General Convention?)

She's off to a beautiful start in telling her own. What if we responded to this charge from GC by doing a series of cross-blog posts on our own stories. What might we learn about each other? Ourselves?

I plan on starting mine tomorrow.

Thanks for the inspiration Emily!

Grace and Peace,


I do remember when the General Convention asked for Faith Stories. We even got a few people at our church to write them down. We had them share their stories during the service and we posted them on our church Web site.

I have read (most of) Emily's story and it is a long Faith Journey. The ones we have are short stories by lay parishioners about an event that affirmed their faith.

I will share my story:

There is a marvelous story of a man who once stood before God, his heart breaking from all the pain and injustice in the world. "Dear God," he cried out, "look at all the suffering, the anguish and the distress in the world. Why don't you send help?"
God responded, "I did send help."
"I sent you."
Usually I just delete these kinds of e-mails. I was not going to forward it to 10 friends within 10 minutes no matter what prize I would get. But I wasn’t quick enough with this one. This one stopped me in my tracks. Before I knew it I had copied the message into a Word file, with a huge font and a fancy border,
and I hung it on the wall of office at home.
You know those stories or e-mails you come across that touch your heart? Well, this one grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and opened my eyes. I was embarrassed at the lost opportunities. But it made me hopeful for what was still yet to be. He had sent me!
This all happened about 5 years ago and I kept looking at that message on my wall. But I couldn’t think of any ways that I could help. Outside of my prayer, worship and activities within the church, what else could I do? I decided that if I tried to keep God in my heart every day, He would take care of the rest.
I have a coworker who is a Methodist Minister. When I learned this about him I slowly started talking to him about “God stuff”. At work I always felt I needed to be sensitive about how much religion I talked about in my professional life. But Jim is a minister so I knew I could talk to him. And I knew I could learn from him.
I had taken the story off my wall and brought it into work because I wanted to type it into my computer again. You see, I
wanted to submit it to the Webmaster. I was hoping he would put it on the Web site. (He did, by the way. It’s on the home page. I have a special relationship with the Webmaster!)
The story is sitting on my desk and Jim comes in to say “hi”. I pick up the page and show it to him. He read it. He paused. Then he looked at me and said, “Gulp!” He paused again and then said, “It’s a big responsibility.”
It had happened again. I was stopped in my tracks. He was
right; it is a big responsibility. He then asked me for a copy. He said he had just found the cover for his Sunday bulletin that he had been looking for.
Does God touch our lives? Yes.
Does He do it in small ways that we don’t notice until after it’s happened? Yes.
Did He send me to help? Yes.
Did He send you to help, too?
Whenever I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job for God, I try to remind myself that if He wanted to send someone to help
with all of the suffering, the anguish and the distress in the world He would send Jesus. Meanwhile He sent me to do the little bit that I can.
I also believe my faith ties in with a song that has been following me for most of my life. The song is by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and says:
“So I asked this God a question, and by way of firm reply, He said, ‘I’m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.’”
I invite you to share your faith stories whenever you can. Big or small, they all ‘help.’

I hope this will encourage other people to share a moment of faith that has happened in their lives.

Emily and Joe: Thank you for your posts.



Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Diocesan Convention 2005

Our diocese, the Diocese of Bethlehem, just completed their annual convention. The main theme to come out of it is:

“This convention reaffirms the central responsibility of every congregation to nurture and equip the followers of Jesus Christ to proclaim in word and deed the Gospel through hospitality and welcome into our parishes and witness to our communities.”

Now the trick is to figure out how to do this in everyday life.

The resolution “directs the Evangelism Commission in concert with other diocesan committees and local congregations to create innovative gatherings around the Diocese as a way to foster conversation with people outside the church and to bear witness to the Good News” and “pledges diocesan and local support to those communities as they emerge.”

I like the message but I think I will need some input on how we at St. Margaret's can nurture and equip each other. I think it may even be fun.
Additional details of the Diocesan Convention will be available on the Diocesan Web site,

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Answer I Should Have Given

As Webmaster for our church Web site,, the Rector asked me if we could have a blog as part of our Web site. I said no. Starting the next day, and continuing every day for a week, all I could think about was my 'no' answer. I concluded that the answer I should have given was 'I don't know.' I didn't know anything about creating a blog.

So I went to the Web and found out. I created a blog for myself, FlockFeeder, to learn how to do it. Now I know how, so here is our church blog.

Meanwhile, I went to the Rector and told her about the answer I should have given. And I apologized.

Our church is St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Emmaus, PA. I hope to recruit many members to add their thoughts here. I also hope generate some lively, thoughtful and entertaining discussion.