Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas

Christmas is coming - as a matter of fact it is coming on Saturday.  We know that because the Christmas pageant was Sunday.  Here's a picture from our crack photographer, Charlie Hibschweiler.   The youth group created the pageant.  What would the Hogwarts Christmas Pageant look like?  Now we know - check out the video on St. Paul's web-site
Here's the new Christmas banner - hung in the church - thank you Jason, Brian, Brie and Kate for getting it up, looking good and not hurting yourselves in the process.

Hope to see you and your families at Christmas services -

Christmas Eve Services are at 4pm, 7pm & 11 pm
Christmas Day Service is at 9 am

January 1 the service is at 9 am

If you are travelling, be safe.

Have a Merry Christmas

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

It is in fact that time of year - as hard as I'm finding it to believe.

I hope that all of you have safe travel and a happy thanksgiving.

We all have so much to be thankful for - it's good to take some time and stop and remember it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moving Quickly into fall

I can't believe how quickly fall has not only come - but has moved on.

Fall events have happened one on another. 

We did Sunday School kick-off and youth group kick-off with hot dogs on September 11.

We had a Ministry Fair on September 18.

We blessed pets on October 2.

We've gone to the UB game.

We are having a fall food festival and a Halloween Party.

This is a busy place - please let me know if there is something else that you would like to have happen - hold on tight, Advent and Christmas will be here before you know it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remembering 9-11

I'm struggling with the sermon for Sunday - the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to say - you'll have to come to church or check out the sermon on the web-site on Monday to find out - but, the media has already begun talking about the anniversary and NPR has been having various people share their memories of that day.

But one of the things that I am thinking about is - oddly enough - Mount St. Helen's - the volcano in Washington St.  I have aunts and cousins in Oregon and we went out to visit them just after the 1980 erruption and visited Mt. St. Helen's.  My mother still has a jar of the ash.  One of the things that I remember about 9-11 was how much the ash that covered people and buildings reminded me of the Mt. St. Helen's ash that covered everything. 

However, the reason I'm thinking about it today is that about 5 years after the erruption we went back to visit Mt. St. Helen's and the trees and flowers were beginning to push their way through the ash - the ash was still there - but there were saplings and flowers growing in the midst of the ash. 

I'm hoping that as the 10th annivesary of 9-11 nears that we are able to see some saplings and flowers pushing up through the ash of that day as well.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Making a Difference

This is a picture of some of the school supplies that we collected this year.

We filled 20 backpacks and two big bins with school supplies and still had a few bags of supplies too.

In addition to the basic providing of supplies - I hope that we also sent the message to the kids that receive them that there are other people who think that education is important and who think that they are important. That is so much more vital than having a new pencil - knowing that there is someone out there who thinks you are important and who wants you to succeed - that is outreach to the soul.

Thank you all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wealth and Riches

In the recent debates over the debt ceiling there has been lots of talk about "the rich" and what "the rich" are doing or not doing.

It got me thinking - everything depends on your perspective - I mostly don't think of myself at one of the rich - however - everyone else in the world does.

Don't believe me - go to and see where you fall in terms of the richest people in the world - I bet you'll be surprised.

Once you've done that - if you want to easily help those less fortunate than yourself go to and by answering some trivia questions you can donate rice to people who have much, much less than you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Twenty First Century Stuff

We are using more and more social media here at St. Paul's. Right now it's just additional ways to stay connected - but I'm hoping over the summer and into the fall to move to more spiritually focused contact as well.

We have decided to move from Facebook groups to a facebook page - you can "like" us at St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Harris Hill on Facebook. We'll be posting some thoughts for reflection as well as parish news.

I'm also going to be using my Twitter account for some thoughts and prayer tweets - you can follow me @vdzust if you use twitter - but be warned you might get some things about my life as well as the church

Monday, May 16, 2011

When Help Isn't Helpful

I don't know if you saw this article about donations flowing in to Alabama after the tornados. In brief the article says that they have received so much stuff - some of it useful but most of it not - that they are inundated and the tasks of finding storage space and sorting through the piles of used underwear and broken toys to get to the few things they can actually use is a huge challenge.

This seems to happen after every major disaster - people want to help - but in trying to help they get in the way- I remember a friend who was helping out after 9/11 at St. Paul's Chapel where the rescue workers were being fed and counselled and otherwise cared for. She talked about the 4 truckloads of stuffed animals that people sent. It was a nice thought - but they had no use for stuffed animals and had to either dispose of them (and pay for it) or figure out where they could be used and get them there.

Uniformally those who work in post-disaster relief say that the most useful thing that people can do is send money. With money they can purchase exactly what they need in ways that they can process efficiently or provide funds to victims directly - with the added benefit that purchasing things locally helps the economy begin to recover.

Our Christian instinct is to help those in need - but we need to be sure that our help if really helpful - not just what we want to give but what is really needed.

That's part of the reason I'm so proud of all of you - for example $285 for Japan just from people's donations - well done.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Great things are happening

It has been a busy couple of weeks at St. Paul's. Holy Week and Easter and then this past week which was bookended by a visit from our new Bishop on his first day as Bishop and the ECW basket auction.

It got me thinking about everything that is going on at St. Paul's. The Bishop mentioned his first impression of our church - when he was at my house for dinner and came over to see the church on a Tuesday night and met the NA group, our Stewarship committee and the Diocesan Cursillo Secretariat all in the space.

We had the basket auction on Saturday which meant nearly 80 people, most of who aren't members here, in the building for a day of fun. We have a carnival this coming Saturday (1 - 3 come!) where St. Paul's people and members of the Venture Crew and the Boy Scout troop will join together to raise money for the people in Japan. We have the last in the series of forums on care for the Elderly on the 19th. We have another coffee hour contest, the parish picnic and Sunday School awards coming up in June.

I just wanted to take a minute and say thank you - and pat ourselves on the back for a minute - we are a busy, happening place.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A New Kind of Christianity - part 5

This is the last chapter of A New Kind of Christianity that we will be looking at - I encourage you to buy the book if you want to know more. In Chapter 4 Brian looks at the way that we have traditionally seen the narrative of Scripture. In Chapter 5 he looks at a different way of viewing it. In his view - if you read Genesis as a unit what you find is not a literal history but stories that illustrate two arcs - an increasing separation from God and a beginning of a return to God. In McClaren's view the arc of separation runs from Genesis through the tower of Babel and the arc of the beginning of return runs from the calling of Abraham through the story of Joseph at the end of the book of Genesis. What do you think?

Monday, April 4, 2011

A New Kind of Christianity - part 4

The fourth chapter of Brian McClaren's book moves on from setting the stage of the changes that have been happening in the world to looking at Scripture. The way that we have usually looked at Scripture is back from our current place through the lenses of all those who have gone before. So we see Scripture through the lens of modern scholars who see it through the lens of the scholars of the Reformation, who see it through the lens of the scholars of the Middle Ages who see it through the lens of the scholars of the first 1000 years and so on. The result has been that our understanding and interpretation of Scripture has been heavily influenced by neo-Platonist philosophy and that our view of the story of Scripture is colored heavily by that. McClaren's thesis is that we should look at Scripture without those influences and attempt to read the Biblical story as one narrative and to look for the themes that run through it. More next week

Monday, March 28, 2011

A New Kind of Christianity - Part 3

In the third chapter of A New Kind of Christianity, Brian McClaren tells the story of the pilgrims. Right before they left on the Mayflower for America their pastor prayed for them for their new journey. In many ways, Brian says, we are headed out on a journey to a new world in the church. He suggests this as a prayer for us: "Lord, we acknowledge that we have made a mess of what Jesus started. We affirm that we are wrong and Jesus is right. We choose not to defend what we have doen and what we have become. We understan that many good Christians will not want to participate in our quest, and we welcome their charitable critque. We acknowledge that we have created many Christianities up to this point, and they call for reassessment and, in many cases, repentance. We choose to seek a better path into the future than the one we have been on. We desire to be born again as disciples for Jesus Christ. Now grant us wisdom and guide us in our quest, and create something new and beautiful in and among us for the good of all creation and to your glory, Living God." I like the prayer - but it also got me thinking - part of the journey to a new world - both by the pilgrims and by later emigrants - like those moving to the American west - is the decision about what to take with you and what to leave behind. Usually you can't take very much with you. So that raises for me the question - what should the church take with us into the new world and what should we leave behind?

Monday, March 21, 2011

A New Kind of Christianity Week 2

The second chapter of A New Kind of Christianity talks about shifts in paradigms - that is in the way that we see the world and the way we interact with it. For example - when it was discovered that the earth was not the center of the solar system - but only one of many planets that all orbitied the sun - the paradigms shifted.

As we have moved into the shifting paradigms of the modern world Brian McLaren sees 10 qeustions recurring - his thesis is that we need to seek responses - as opposed to answers - to these questions:

1. What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
2. How should the Bible be understood?
3. Is God violent?
4. Who is Jesus and why is he important?
5. What is the gospel?
6. What do we do about the church?
7. Can we find a way to address human sexality without fighting about it?
8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
10. How can we translate our quest into action?

So, what do you think?

Monday, March 14, 2011

A New Kind of Christianity - Part 1

During Lent, St. Paul's is discussing Brian McLaren's book A New Kind Of Christianity. Each week I will post synopsis of the chapter we are looking at and I invite comments and discussion.

This week we are looking at Chapter 1.

This chapter is about setting the context for the conversation - there are several things that jump out.

The first is a set of statistics - In America today 40% of the population attends church regularly (once a month or more). However of those listed as "converts" or new members by churches 90% of them are already churched. So those who are joining churches are moving from one church to another - they aren't coming from the 60% who don't attend church regularly.

We are moving into a world where the paradigms are: Pluralism, Relativism, Globalism, Uncertainty and we need a new way of believing to respond to it.

Some other thinkers have identified similar thing

Phyllis Tickle in her book The Great Emergence suggests that every 500 years or so the Christian church holds a "rummage sale" and gets rid of some old stuff and reinvents itself for a new age.
At 500 it was the collapse of the Roman Empire and the move of the church into the role of administrator of Europe
At 1000 it was the Great Schism and the split between the Eastern and Western Churches
At 1500 it was the Reformation that led to the birth of Protestantism
And now it is happening again

Harvey Cox in his book, Future of Faith suggests that there are two previous ages in church:
The Age of Faith until about 300 which was characterized by diversity, energy, vitality, suffering, persecution, courage and rapid growth
The Age of Belief was from about 300 to about now - which was marked by the Christianization of the empire and the imperialization of Christianity. During this time Christianity became the dominant belife in the western world - in many ways to its own detriment
The Age of the Spirit - which we are entering into now - is trying to preseve the previous age and embrace new challenges.

What do you think?

Monday, February 28, 2011

On the use of "alleluias"

I've been asked several times about why we don't use Alleluia's at the dismissal. So I thought I'd give an answer here as well.

There are two different rubrics (or rules) that govern the use of Alleluia in worship. One set of rubrics govern the use of Alleluia in music and in all of the liturgy except for the dismissal. This rule says that we use Alleluia all the time except during the season of Lent.

The other set of rubrics covers just the dismissal and it says that we only use Alleluia in the dismissal during the period from Easter Sunday through Pentecost, but not at any other time.

Why the difference? I honestly don't know - but that's what the rules say - :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Getting Ready for Lent

Lent is approaching - in many ways it felt like it wasn't coming this year - but it actually is - it starts on Wednesday March 8 - that is about two wweks from now. So, it's time to start thinking about Lenten fasts.

Most of us "give up" something like chocolate or coffee or some such indulgence. That can be a good Lenten discipline - to fast from things that are luxuries - it is made even more meaningful if you take what you would have spent on that indulgence and give it away. So if you get a latte three times a week - that's about $10 or $60 during the Lenten season that could go to Habitat for Humanity or Episcopal Community Services or Heifer Project or whatever is on your heart.

Another way to fast for Lent is to give up meat - try eating a vegetarian diet a couple of days a week - or removing red meat from your diet. Again - donate the differenc ein your grocery bill to those who have less.

You also might try - instead of or in addition to - one of these practices, fasting from an hour of T.V. a couple of days a week and devote that time to prayer or spiritual reaidng or attending a Lenten event at church (hint, hint).

In any case - please pray about your Lenten practices and let me know if you want some suggestions.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thoughts on troubled times

As you can probably tell I've been doing some reading in early Church writers recently. I found this in the Sayings of Syncletica, Mother of the Egyptian Desert - who is one of the earliest Christian women whose writings we have. This was written in the late 4th century - that is the late 300's but I think it still resounds today:

"Sailors beginning a voyage set the sails and look for a favorable wind, and later they meet a contyrary wind. Just because the wind has turned they do not throw the cargo overboard or abandon ship. They wait a little and battle against the storm until they can again set a direct course. And when we run into headwinds, let us put up the cross for our sail, and we shall voyage through the world in safety."

Monday, January 31, 2011

5th Century Enviornmentalism

I found this piece from a sermon by Leo the Great who was Bishop of Rome in the 450ish time frame when I was looking for some food for thought for our parish Facebook group.

Who knew that there were enviormentalists in the 5th century?

"Use creatures as they should be used: the earth, the sea, the sky, the air, the springs and the rivers. Give praise and glory to their Creator for all that you find beautiful and wonderful in them. See with your bodily eyes the light that shines on earht, but embrae with your whole soul and all your affections 'the true light which enlightens everyone who comes into this world.' Speaking of this light the prophet said: "Draw close to him and let his light shine upon you and your face will not blush with shame.' If indeed the temple of God and if the Spirit of God lives in us, then what every believer has within is greater than what the believer admires in the skies."

I just think that's so cool - I love looking at the stars and I'm inspiried by the thought that because the Spirit of God lives in me then what I have within is greater than Orion.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confession of St. Peter

Today is the day that the Church celebrates the Confession of St. Peter. That is, the time when Jesus asked his disciples - "who do you say that I am?" and Peter responded - "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

So a good question for today for us is "Who do you say that He is?" and once you've answered that question - answer the next, "What does that mean for you?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

From Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, c.202 AD

This is from his treatise Against Heresies:

"Through creation itself the Word reveals God the Creator. Through the world he reveals the Lord who made the world. Through all that is fahioned he reveals the artist who crafted it all."

So - what does creation show you about God? What does the world show about God? How do you see God in the world and what does what you see in creation tell you about God?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Occaisonal Thoughts

I'm going to try something new this year - I am occaisionally going to post some thoughts from theologians of various times and places for consideration and comment if you like.

Here's the first one - this comes from St. Basil the Great who was Bishop of Caesarea in the 370's. This is from his treatise On the Holy Spirit.

"As we speak of worship in the Son becasue the Son is the image of God the Father, so we speak of worship in the Spirit becasue the Spirit is the manifestation of the divinity of the Lord. Through the light of the Spirit we behold the son, the splendor of God's glory, and through the Son, the very stamp of the Father, we are led to him who is the source both of his stamp, who is the Son, and of its seal, who is the Spirit."

What do you think? How might we today describe the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit? And how do we worship each?