Ash Wednesday Video: Isaiah 58 1-12 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice

This reading from Isaiah by Cindy DeBock contrasts fasting and repentance with hunger and the struggle against oppression, and incidentally reminds us all why offering a food pantry to the working poor in our area is so important.

Isaiah 58:1-12

Thus says the high and lofty one
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

Strategic Planning: Continuing A Conversation

Outreach committee chair Bob DeHaven has worked hard on putting together a strategic plan proposal to use as a road map and an organizing tool for St Nicholas to continue growing. This past Sunday, Bob and Father Manny co-moderated a lunchtime get-together that was very well attended. The discussion was far-ranging and many ideas were raised and discussed.

For the most part, we talked about what we do well, what we know we need more input and commitment to do well, and what we need to improve.


One of the challenges we face is the classic dilemma: how to offer an engaging and attractive children’s program when there hadn’t been as many families with small children willing to commit to a set program. Almost from necessity, the St Nick’s kids are part of the service, with an activities table and with important roles in the bringing forward of the gifts of bread, wine, and food to the altar. And this has led to something interesting: they really “get it.” They get that they are bringing food for hungry children, and they get that they are bringing Jesus to share with all. It seems that the little children are solving this challenge and showing the adults a way that works, and we seem to be welcoming more families with kids. The monthly Children’s Liturgy, in which the young people of the community fill all the roles normally given to adults (except for presiding at the Eucharist) continues to be really well attended, and there’s good energy in the air.

Another challenge: Father Manny noted in the meeting that there seems to be a sort of movement toward increased emphasis on the Book of Common Prayer in the Elgin Deanery, the division of the Diocese of Chicago to which St Nicholas belongs. We at St Nicholas, being the result of a kind of aggregation of several smaller Episcopal mission parishes that joined together to be a more vital community, know something about coping with change.

In the past, the liturgy at St Nick’s was rather eclectic, but we’ve been experimenting with doing more of the prayers and service readings out of the BCP, with page references in the bulletins rather than printing out the text. We’ve also started asking worshippers to grab hymnals rather than printing all the hymns in the bulletin on some Sundays. Providing the service, readings, prayers, and music is very welcoming and simplifies things for long-time members and first-time worshipers alike, but it takes a lot of paper.

Some people voiced a preference for a fully printed bulletin, some expressed a preference for “getting back to basics” with the books and didn’t mind juggling them. More discussion was called for, but there was much appreciation for the really nice 6-ribbon bookmarks that Hal Stratton and Steve Raftery slipped into every prayerbook. The general consensus was that attention to detail was really key to making this adjustment to how the liturgy is done, and the Book of Common Prayer is a strong unifying force in the consolidation process. Father Manny noted, “We are Episcopalians, after all.” It’s a wonderful resource for those seeking to know more about worship and spiritual practice in the Episcopal Church, and for cradle Episcopalians, it’s a familiar companion at church and at home.

The meeting began with a simple meal of Italian meatballs and chicken soup, made by Penny – and it was delicious! After about 90 minutes of discussion, we got through about half of the original agenda; as Bob noted at the beginning, it was time to do some listening and invite comments and input from everyone. At the end it was decided that there should be a similar meeting – a shared meal and discussion – monthly, usually on the last Saturday or Sunday of the month, in order to give everyone from both services a chance to attend.

Due to the schedule of services for Holy Week, the next Strategic Planning conversation will take place

Bob’s announcement from last week’s News from Nick is included below.

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God."
-Philippians 1:9-11

Sunday, February 24 – Continuing a Conversation

Where is St. Nicholas going? What will our community be like in three years? Will we be a few steps closer to realizing our vision? If we do not change anything, will the future be any different than the past?

Creating a strategic plan is an important step in the future of our community. We want to encourage everyone to contribute their thoughts. Please join us on Sunday, February 24 after the 10 AM service as we renew our journey of discernment. We will outline our approach for making a three to five year plan and discuss the ways in which all can participate

Renewing our Ministry – A Plan for St. Nicholas

Nearly two years ago, as the community of St. Nicholas conducted its search for a new permanent Vicar, (Manny) we conducted small group discussions and completed a Church Assessment Tool (CAT) Survey. These discussions became "the beginning of a conversation" concerning our mission, our gifts and our needs as a congregation in ways which helped us to identify and confirm Manny as our permanent Vicar.

Continuing the Conversation

We have been well blessed in these two years. Manny’s installation as Vicar was a gift to all of us; we have been joined by our new members from the congregation of St. Bede’s; and joined by others who have found their way here along independent paths, and have found our community to be a welcoming and meaningful presence in their lives.

Enriched by Manny’s leadership and new energy, The Bishops Committee has determined that this is an appropriate time to "continue the conversation," to embrace the collective needs and gifts of our new members and, along with Manny’s gifts and leadership, build a vision to renew and fulfill our mission as a congregation of faith in this community.

Making a Plan Begins with Listening

The process of planning sounds daunting to many but it needn’t be. There is great consort among many of us at St. Nicholas on what we do well, and where we would like to grow in our ministry to each other and the community in which we live. As one member of the committee said recently, "much of what we need to do is simply to write down what we already know." That is true! Yet with new voices and new leadership, this is also an important time to actively listen- to strive to discern and embrace the gifts and needs of our community today, and to envision where our energies and our faith may lead us.

-Bob DeHaven

via News from St. Nicholas Episcopal Church

Decreased summer donations stress food pantries –

Donations for the St Nicholas Food Pantry are always gratefully accepted. We’re helping families but the problem of food insecurity is growing and growing.

Northwest suburban food pantry operators say the typical summer slowdown in donations is more serious this year because of an increase in demand.

Elk Grove Township, which operates a food pantry in Arlington Heights, for example, usually serves 55 families a month on average. They served 94 families last month.

"I’m digging and scratching for food," said Nanci Vanderweel, supervisor of Elk Grove Township. "It has become my way of life. I’m doing everything but stealing to get food in here."

While demand has been high for at least three years, people who run northwest suburban food pantries said they are having a harder time this summer, as food drives have slowed. While many can still purchase food from local depositories, they rely on drives to be able to operate within already tight budgets.

Food pantry representatives said they usually get a slew of donations around the holidays and through the winter, but donations dry up by the end of spring, partially because some food drives are run by schools.

Sandy Wolf, director of welfare services at Schaumburg Township, said fewer donations and food drives over the summer are expected, but the situation is getting progressively worse.

via Decreased summer donations stress food pantries –