Father Manny’s Hiking Adventure

It was a glorious, autumn afternoon.  I had accomplished all the computer work for church that I had determined would be completed for the day.  Granted, the work took me over 4 hours to complete.  Still, the work was done.  I symbolically clapped my hands as if I were wiping my hands free of dust.  The sun was just beginning to take it’s westward dip and the clouds were hanging low and full.  Still, I was determined that I would take care of ‘self,’ and go for a hike/walk/run through the nearby Hallows Reserve in Algonquin County.  First, a run to the grocery store for the weekly shopping trip.  Back home, unloaded and carefully placed all the purchased staples in their proper places.  Then, into my sweat pants, pulled on a tee-shirt that has been with me since probably my graduate school days and laundered, without exaggeration, well over a hundred times, clean, white socks and my shoes were donned and off I went.  Only decision I had was which trail I would take.  I choose the trail, as I describe it the one “less traveled.”  I call it this because it is far more overgrown with thick brush, complete with large stones, ruts and tree stumps that makes running quite treacherous and walking an adventure.  Still, it was my choice.  My two, surgically repaired knees can’t take much running which troubles me, not just because of the pain, but because I used to be such an avid runner.  But, “fast walking” (like how I walk when I’m at St. Nicholas) is okay and I’m fine with being blessed and able to do that.

About 15 minutes into the walk, the elastic on my sweatpants snapped.  I had my car keys and cell phone on me and both pockets of the sweatpants had holes in them.  It was hot and muggy, I was thirsty and now, I had to find a way to walk while holding up my pants and not lose my keys and cell phone.  As fate would have it, I ended up walking the same trail twice and was into my third “rotation” of the course when I finally realized what I had done and was yet doing again!  Looked to see where the sun was, listened to the distant sounds of traffic on Rt. 14 and I began walking quickly toward the noise.  Victory!  I could see the distant parking lot and my brilliant, blue car, all alone in that lot, waiting patiently for me.  Once inside my car I smiled, drank with abandon the two 16 ounce bottles of water and headed home.

“You can’t always get what you want,” is a classic, Rolling Stone’s song.  And ain’t it the truth. We plan and organize, prepare ourselves, fully anticipating a problem-free encounter or event.  Then again, it may be wiser to always plan for the unexpected just as we prepare for the expected.  Wisdom dictates that in running a church, it is wise and prudent we have sufficient reserves available just in case something completely unexpected occurs.

At St. Nicholas, we plan for both realities.  We budget and spend carefully and judicially, to ensure we have reserves on hand to pay our monthly bills (electricity, gas, water, etc.)  Likewise, we plan for the unexpected, the unplanned and unwelcomed realities of life such as roof repairs, sealing and securing faulty windows, etc.  These scenarios should sound familiar as these two unwelcomed realities are what we here at St. Nicholas are working at remedying and correcting.

We are blessed in many ways here at St. Nicholas.  A community of faith that truly cares for the health, well-being and security of one another as well as the growth, development, protection and future of our church and worshiping family.  Because of the generosity and willingness to share our finances, our gifts and abilities and our willingness to participate makes for a church that is alive, filled with the Spirit and the individual spirit and desires of each and every member for the common cause we so affectionately refer to as St. Nicholas Episcopal Church.

Thank you, my sisters and brothers, for the continued and immensely considerate sharing and caring of all our church family members.  We are only as strong as we are united and committed to this loving and vital entity in our lives.  Our church has a bright future because of the resilient, dedicated and loving present time.  Let’s all do our best to ensure and secure that bright future by doing all we can, as we can and as best we can for our church right now and always, first and foremost, for God’s greater glory.

Vicar’s Corner: Oktoberfest event a smashing success, and sharing our gifts #Episcopal

Oktoberfest was, by all accounts a smashing success.  A good time was had by all.  The music kept our toes tapping while the decorations gave us the feel of an authentic “German Brauhaus.”  Plenty of food, ear to ear smiles, friendly conversation, loud and contagious laughter.  Yep.  By all accounts, a mighty good time.

A healthy church community provides her people with opportunities of growth, spiritual development and nourishment for both the soul and the body.  At the Liturgy we are fed with “bread of the finest wheat and the fruit of the vine.”  These elements from the earth and works of human hands become for us, through God’s immense grace and wonder and the Words of Institution as prayed by the priest the Body and Blood of Christ.  Thus are our souls nourished.

At St. Nicholas we do find that social gatherings, where the sharing of food is a prime objective, does bring us together in large, energetic and enthusiastic numbers.  And why not?  Music has been considered “a universal language.”  Well then, food is certainly universal and does bring people together perhaps even more so.  Whether we gather around the altar or a buffet table, the objective is the same…we seek to be nourished.

This ‘sharing of a meal’ is just one of the many things we do at St. Nicholas and we do it quite well and with such happiness and joy.  “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)  The very gift of gathering is not to be taken for granted.  We are blessed with a wonderful and warm, worship space as well as a lovely Hall where we gather to celebrate and worship.  There are many faith communities that are not as fortunate as us; for they have no house of worship of their own.  Some communities rent halls, storefronts and some rent other churches for their weekly worship.  We have a place that we can call our very own.  Each time I enter our building I smile, because it is such an inviting and special place and…it is ours.

During this, our annual Stewardship Campaign, it is vitally important to remember the very simplest of facts:  St. Nicholas Episcopal Church is ours.  This brick, mortar, and stained glass structure is our very own, our pride and joy.  Consequently, it is our responsibility to do what we can to insure our church remains just that…ours, now and for always.  In order to keep our church alive, thriving and growing, it is necessary we all consider carefully and prudently how best we can assist our church; how best we can provide for not just the here and now, but for our future which we all pray, is long and fruitful.  For it truly is a “good, right and holy thing” we do, when we give and share, from our hearts for our house of worship.  Let us be mindful that the continued ministries and outreach programs are possible because of the kindness and generosity of our church family.

How blessed we have been.  How blessed it is to share for the well being and benefit of others.  This is, after all, what makes St. Nicholas Church such a special and endearing place…because we give and share so willingly.  May God grant us the courage to be equally generous and kind to our very own house of worship.  In advance, my sisters and brothers, Thank You. God bless us, each and every one of us.

Father Manny’s weekly letter: “Make Us Instruments Of Your Peace”

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone, also known as St. Francis of Assisi is one of my favorite ‘holy men.’  He is a saint for all people, Christian and non-Christian alike.  He was a man who simply loved to the fullest of his human ability.  His love was unconditional, unwavering and relentless.  War inflicts immense damage to the body and mind of people and such was the case with Francis.  Upon his return from the crusades in the Middle East, Francis was changed; he underwent an epiphany.  His mind and his heart could no longer entertain hatred nor the allure of earthly riches. There was no room in his life for such negative forces.  Rather, he exuded an almost other-worldly level of love and simplicity.

Francis possessed another virtuous quality; the capacity to share from his scarcity and limited possessions, without counting the cost and always for the betterment and well being of others.  He and his followers abandoned earthly wealth and heartily embraced the Scriptural passage of “storing one’s treasures in heaven.”  Mind you, Francis came from a rather ‘well-to-do’ family.  He was accustomed to a higher standard of life, complete with fine foods, comfortable surroundings and all the benefits that wealth affords. Nonetheless, he turned his back on earthly affluence so he and his followers could better live a life in keeping with Christ and His disciples; poor, without a home and relying upon the kindness and generosity of others.

There comes a feeling of happiness; an interior joy and peace of mind when we share from the heart.  When we see some one react and respond to the kindness shown by others, well now, there is nothing greater nor more satisfying.  I have no doubt that my thoughts as expressed here in writing is the case for all of us, in practice and in the day-to-day experiences we encounter.  The 15 years I spent operating a nightly, soup kitchen provided me a mountain of encounters when sharing and caring was met with smiles, tears of happiness and the most affectionate of “thank you and God bless you.”  Let me tell you, I went home each night feeling I was the richest man in the world.  This richness did not put me into a higher tax bracket.  Blessedly, this richness drew me closer to Jesus, our brother and our savior.

It is Jesus’ example of total and complete surrender for the well-being and benefit of others that I strive to replicate and live out.  I continue to experience Jesus more and more through the people of our faith community, our church family, our St. Nicholas Episcopal Church.  The consistent generosity and selflessness of our church members is such an inspiration and blessing.  God provides; always has and always will.  Then again, the community of St. Nicholas, following the examples of Jesus, St. Francis and our patron saint does an outstanding, wonderful and humbling job at sharing, from the heart, for the betterment of others and for the strengthening and growth of our church.  Let us be mindful during this, our 2018 Stewardship Campaign of the joy and blessing of sharing and providing, for the betterment of our church and always, first and foremost, for God’s greater glory.  Thank you, each and everyone for the time and consideration taken toward this very important matter.  As St. Francis prayed once and we continue to respond…”Make us instruments of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.  Where there is doubt, true faith in you.”