Monday, December 19, 2011


Christmas Day Eucharist is at 9:30 AM. Great time to bring the family before a day together.

And yes, my own kids will be there... they're not allowed to open gifts until they've been to Mass. Cruel, I know.

(changing the post date on this so it's at the top of the page)

Sunday, December 18, 2011


To go with the sermon below, here is a picture of the Gabriel image I mentioned during the sermon today. The whole thing is six feet tall. Batik on silk by Elizabeth Jones.

Sermon out-takes (posted for Tony)

We like to take the Bible in small chunks, maybe just a verse, maybe a little more, a story, a chapter, an idea. If we’re really ambitious we may tackle a whole book of the Bible, but we take it in isolation, with no idea of how one book lends to a coherent whole. A particularly cranky Old Testament professor I once endured referred to it as “cross-stitch it on a pillow syndrome.”
But the Bible, all sixty six books written over centuries and by many human hands was inspired of one Holy Spirit, and makes one coherent whole, one narrative, one history. And Luke was quite aware of that when he told the story of a young woman and an angel and a moment that would shatter the reality we think we know.
Luke surely remembered another young woman who was visited by an angel. Like this Mary, she was an innocent, and the angel took a harmless and common enough form, enticing her to take and eat. And as Father Paul is known to say, her day did not end well. When Eve ate the apple and gave it to her husband and he ate, the very fabric of the universe was changed. Human kind had been given the power to introduce sin into perfection, and that’s exactly what they did. But in God’s love, right there in the Garden the woman was also promised the power to introduce perfection into the world of sin. That fallen angel, that serpent of old, was forewarned… the offspring of the woman would be the one to crush his head.
Luke would have known the stories of other women, young and old, women like Hannah and Sarah who had no children. Barren women are a theme in Scripture; fruitlessness attributed to the eating of that first fruit. A barren woman was unworthy, to be scorned, presumed overlooked by God. And if she should be left a widow, she had nothing. It happened that an angel visited Sarah, a promise was made, with God all things were possible. Hannah called out to God, a prayer was heard, and not one but seven children were born to her.
And it happened that in the city of Jerusalem, somewhere about 5 or 6 BC that angel visited Zechariah and promised him that his barren wife would have a child. And half a year later, another woman, not barren by physiology but having no business bearing children in her unmarried state, would learn that she, too, was to bear a son.
The Bible, you see, is like a symphony, each movement repeating its theme, each theme contributing to the whole, slowly building until that point where, with the crash of symbols (pun not intended) and the frantic hum of winds, the symphony reaches its great moment, where it all comes together, where the music makes sense.
The incarnation, in the life of the church, is that moment.
Isaiah had promised, seven hundred years before, that a young, unmarried woman would conceive and bear a child. Of course it was assumed at she’d conceive in the normal way, get married and birth babies. But how much greater when we find that a woman, engaged but quite biologically a virgin (you can doubt the Hebrew word in Isaiah means virgin, but there’s no questioning Luke’s Greek… the good doctor that St. Luke was, is pretty certain of the medical meaning of what he’s putting forth here) conceives a child by the mere power of the Holy Spirit.
And so an angel once again visited a young woman, and Mary was rightly afraid. This was no cute cuddly little cherub from some Renaissance painting, this was one “who stands in the presence of God.” This was God’s own messenger, of the ilk that carried flaming swords before the entrance to Eden and would charge forth to cast Satan out of heaven at the end of time. And here one was, right there in the room.
And there are a million reasons for Mary to run. A million reasons to say no. A million reasons. It’s a horrible time to bring a child into the world, occupied Israel, Romans everywhere. She’s betrothed to a man who knows for a fact the baby isn’t going to be his. The punishment for adultery is death by stoning, Joseph could have her publicly shamed, or even executed.
But for some reason, Mary only asks “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel tells her, your child will be the very son of God. Your child shall be holy, the Holy One himself. And just so you know my words are true, your cousin Elizabeth, who could not conceive a child, is now outgrowing her clothes with pregnancy.
Luke knows the story, how a woman known as the mother of all living saw fruit that looked pleasing and denied the will of God in favor of her own will. Now he tells the story of a woman who saw fruit that looked quite difficult indeed and answered “let be to me according to your will.” God’s will, not hers.
And the world as we fallen people know it began to unravel that day.
There is a word in Hebrew, which we usually translate “visited.” But as my favorite Hebrew professor used to say, “its not like visited for tea.” The best translation of the word is to break into the timeline and change the destiny of the one being visited. In this way, the angel visited Mary, and God visited humanity, and the destiny which began at the fall began to be changed.
And it was a terrible time to have a baby, just like every time in which every baby since the Fall had been born. The Jewish king would try to kill this baby, the Roman Emperor would send the young family on a desperate pilgrimage, the world would whisper about his paternity, even his earthly father would for a while consider ridding himself of the whole mess. He would be born in an occupied country, far from home, in a world hostile to him.
And yet, “he will be great,” says the Angel. “And he will be called the son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
And, as if that were not enough, because every baby ever born is born into the same fallen world as he has emptied himself of the splendor of heaven to visit, his name shall be called Jesus.
Which means “God saves.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Archbishop Duncan's Christmas letter

16th December, A.D.2011
O sapientia


Beloved in the Lord,

Advent begins to turn toward Christmas. In the early days of the season, Charles Wesley's hymn "Lo, He comes with Clouds, descending" summarizes the focus on Christ's coming again at the end of the ages. Now the strains of "O come, o come Emmanuel" direct us toward all the prophecies of the first coming at Bethlehem in Judea.

In Britain, eight different evening antiphons were used (seven on the continent) - a different one each evening - as a "countdown to Christmas." These eight antiphons are the source of the hymn now known to almost everyone. Come Wisdom (O sapientia)! Come Lord! Come Root of Jesse! Come Key of David! Come Dayspring! Come King of Gentiles! Come Emmanuel! Come Virgin Born!

The ancient Advent antiphons are cries to the Lord that He would come and "ransom" us, that He would fulfill His promises to us, that He would be God with us.

In this Advent of the Year of our Lord 2011, as we shift our call from Revelation's Maranatha! [Rev.22.20] to Isaiah's Emmanuel [Isa.7.14] there are many, many situations where we need the wisdom, the key, the dayspring and everything else promised in Scripture and rehearsed in the familiar hymn. There are so many needs that require the Lord's help and our conversion: hunger, homelessness, sickness, despair, oppression, conflict, addiction, abuse, no one to care...

One need is peculiar to us as Anglicans and as Christians: unity in Christ. These last weeks have been filled with much heart-break for our brothers and sisters of the Anglican Mission in the Americas and, as a consequence, for us in the Anglican Church in North America. At Pentecost of 2004 Bishops Leonard Riches, David Anderson, Chuck Murphy, Keith Ackerman, Don Harvey and I wrote to Archbishop Rowan Williams pledging to make "common cause for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America." The crisis of the moment is also opportunity. We need the wisdom, the key and the dayspring for this as for every situation. We need to seek the Lord's help and commit our best efforts to this Anglican need as well as to all the other needs of our human family. I, as Archbishop, will do my part. As your gift to Jesus this year, I trust you will do yours.

We received word this week of a decision by the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan that their House of Bishops had taken action to recognize "fully" the Anglican Church in North America as a "true faithful Orthodox Church" and to commit to "work with [us] to expand the Kingdom of God in the world." I pray we will prove worthy of the trust this Province has expressed. I pray we will do it in the same fidelity to the Word of God and with the same Christ-like charity they have shown. I pray we will do it with the same courage and unity in adversity as the Church of the Sudan has shown through thirty years of civil war, suffering and martyrdom. What trust they place in us!

"O come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appear." Our God has come and is coming. We have nothing to fear with Him, as long as we are in Him.

Be assured of my prayers for every one of you in these closing Advent days, in the twelve days of Christmas, and in all the days that are ahead.

Faithfully in Christ,

Archbishop and Primate

Anglican Church in North America

Sunday, December 11, 2011

StEAM Sings: Photos!!!

We all had such fun today! Thanks to everyone who participated! I think today's sing-along was one of those great moments in ministry where everyone just has fun, no agenda and no pretenses... and Christ is glorified in it all.
Fr. Paul preaching on St. Nicholas! What a rowdy start with St. Nicholas' slapping Arius and how God even uses events like that to shape his people!
And a little munchkin appeared at the altar and ended up receiving his first communion! Hooray for Mikey! Afterward he said it was "fun eating the bread."

Fr. Paul and Kathy singing! Who could avoid having a good time!

Isaac and Nathaniel making a joyful noise!

A goodly fellowship!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Remember, Advent/Christmas Concert and Sing-a-long next Sunday after mid-day meal (not lunch, but whatever they call it, there will be a show!)

Just our way of saying thank-you to the good folks at VW for putting up with us!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Conspiracy

The folks at Anglican Relief and Development tipped me off about this movement! If you know how I think, you know already that I love this idea! Nothing more to say! If you need help putting feet on the plan, ask me or Fr. Paul. There will be ideas to fit any situation, budget, ability.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Thanksgiving Day is one of my favorite holidays. It is one of the few events binding us as a nation (cursed be the free marketeers who open their sales' temples before dawn on Friday. And while I am at it, be warned their curse will roll down on you.) Mostly, as a country we pretty much grind to a halt in running here, there and everywhere. I know lots of folk - self included - will be shuffling off to visit family and kitchens get busy early and all. But seriously, when you get up tomorrow morning - first go to the road facing window - watch and listen for a few minutes. It's quiet. Tomorrow morning will be as close as we come to a nation day of Sabbath as we will ever come.

Sabbath is about resting in the knowledge that Our Father in Heaven is actually the One in charge. Creation does not actually depend upon us to keep it running. Rest is a gift given to us.
When you give thanks tomorrow, remember that "thanks" is a noun and when you "give it" you give it to someone. Give a thought to who you are giving thanks to. I give thanks to the Long Suffering Mrs. Sutcliffe for being the best wife ever. And to Our Father in Heaven for the gift of tLSMS and everything else - but especially for His gracious gift of opening the gates of His Kingdom and welcoming us in through the work of His Son.

May joy overflow your day. Enjoy cooking - or even being cast from kitchen as an impediment - and enjoy overeating. Have a second piece of pie.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Starting a What!?! Where!?!

So, we're starting a new church in a retirement community. To be clear, the intention is not to drop in on occasion, do a mass and leave - shoot, that's been done for ages - but to start an actual, live church with a vestry, bylaws and all the other stuff that goes along with a church. We are leaving out a couple of bits...
  • the building: don't need one.
  • salaries: we're bivocational
    • which, in general, seems like a bad idea, but seems to be working out here
Having eliminated the two biggest financial sinks for any congregation we're left with...
  • worship
  • communitiy
  • mission
    • We like mission
    • I sort of hope we can stay more or less broke all the time all in support of mission
    • perhaps I should edit out the above for the sake of the treasurer
The inspiration
The Long Suffering Mrs. Sutcliffe and I have been taking long walks in England as vacation for several years now - hop on a plane to England, hop on a train, hop off and walk for two weeks and come home. We have been through many a small village and they all seem to have two things in common - a pub and a church. Well, this retirement community has about 150-ish residents and if this doesn't constitute a village than what does? So, we're starting a church there (I am not in the pub business. Besides, if you think there is a lot of paperwork involved in starting a church, try getting a liquor license.).
OK - there's more to it than that so, more will be revealed later.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Going live: well sort of....

Good lord deliver us; we have a web presence.
For now this blog is not searchable so you have to know the exact url to find us, but find us you can. Everything is fresh and clean and ready to go and even the chatter and test patterns Fr. Paul and I set up this week as we got things moving are wiped from the slate so we can start fresh as a daisy.

So what's this blog for? You may wonder that especially if you're not familiar with the practice of blogging. Blogging is a great way for us as a parish to communicate with one another and think together about matters of faith and our common life. Fr. Paul or I or another author (right now the only people listed as authors are Fr. Paul and me) will post things here from time to time... meditations, announcements, sermons, jokes and ramblings, and you may either read quietly or if you have a Blogger account you can respond to us and join the conversation.

In short, its a way to be in contact during the week and to reach out to anyone else who wants to hear the Gospel near and far.

A word about usernames: if you do have a Blogger account, you will need a user name, something Blogger can call you by. Its sort of like having an email account name. Mine is Free Range Anglican and I tend to use it in several places on the internet, and although I don't tend to post much of anything under the name my mamma gave me, I remain your trusty deacon.

Anyway, enjoy! Feel free to share the url with your friends and neighbors. There will be more fun in the weeks to come!

And have a happy Thanksgiving.