Spirituality of Giving
|Stewardship is about
the Spirituality of Giving. Important as financial support is to the work
God calls us to do, our primary focus is not in giving to a budget but in
giving from the heart of our faith and trust. The Saint Luke's lifestyle
is based on the joy and hope in believing that through Christ we can grow
into becoming what God intends, so that with all Creation we give glory
to God. Christ teaches us that life is as basic as receiving a gift and
saying thank you--accepting that all comes from God and learning to become
the gift to share with others. The Spirituality of Giving opens us to wonderful
possiblities for creative change and amazing grace.
The Reverend Thomas F. Reese, Rector
Reverend Canon William H. Stokes,
Bishop-elect of New Jersey
Fanning the Flame!
For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
It is a great joy and honor to be at St. Luke’s and to preach during this milestone centennial year. This parish church has played a central role in my life and in my faith formation and continues to be a touchstone place for my soul. My grandfather and grandmother attended this church all of their adult lives. They loved St. Luke’s and its people and served this parish church faithfully and well. So did my dad. Barbara, my step-mother, continues our family connection with St. Luke’s, for which I’m deeply grateful. She has kept me posted about life here, and about old friends, over the years.
My twin brother and I were baptized in that magnificent shell baptismal font 56 years ago. Canon Tom Bloomquist, who served as Rector here for more than three decades, was my godfather. I have been told that he smuggled that shell back from the Pacific, where he had served as a Navy Chaplain during World War II. My sister Elizabeth and brother David were baptized in that same shell.
I learned my first hymns – “I sing a song of the saints of God” and “For the beauty of the earth” in the little children’s chapel downstairs…I was a part of St. Luke’s Seniors, the Youth Group when Fr. Joe Farley was here... He died on the feast of St. Luke in 1985 almost exactly 28 years ago….I carried the cross at his funeral.
Joe Farley had been a mentor, guide, faithful pastor and priest to me and to my family. He had officiated at the marriage of my wife Susan and me and baptized 3 of our 4 children (our fourth child was baptized here after Joe had died). I entered the process for ordination as a member of this parish under Joe’s guidance and care.
St. Luke’s, Forest Hills was my “sending parish.” St. Luke’s and its vestry supported me and our family through seminary and through the ordination process and now I am blessed to stand here as the Bishop-elect of the Diocese of New Jersey. God is good and I have experienced this goodness of God and the redeeming love of Jesus Christ through this church and its people – clergy and laity alike – all my life. St. Luke’s and its people have been an integral part of my journey all along and so I am deeply thankful today….deeply thankful to be here, to celebrate with you, the 100th anniversary year of this sacred place and this sacred community which has been, and continues to be, so vital to me and to my family.
In case you can’t tell, I’m a “Timothy.” Perhaps you are wondering what I mean by that. Well, it occurs to me that there are two primary models of conversion in the Church. Both of them are found in the New Testament. By conversion, I mean turning one’s life toward Christ, being transformed by and in the love of Jesus Christ.
The first and most familiar model of conversion is a sudden encounter with Christ, like that of James and John by the Sea of Galilee or even more familiar, like that of the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road. He was a person who was zealous in his hatred and persecution of Christians. But one day, he had a wake-up call in the form of a flash of light that knocked him to his “keister.” The presence and Spirit of Christ challenged, confronted, him and called him into new life and love. It was quick, sudden, surprising.
Sure, I’ve had days when a light bulb came on, but I’ve never had that big, dramatic, Damascus Road experience. I’ve known people who had, but I’m not one of them. As I said, I’m a Timothy.
Timothy was Paul’s younger colleague and protégé. He travelled with Paul and represented Paul to several of the Churches Paul founded. He is listed as a co-author of several of Paul’s Epistles.1 Timothy was nurtured in faith over time from childhood. He was raised by a Christian mother and grandmother. Paul makes reference to this in his letter to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you” (2 Timothy 1:5).
I’m a “Timothy.” I was raised in the faith, gradually, over time. It has been a lifelong process. There was never a time when I did not know the story of the love of Jesus Christ. It was told and taught to me by my parents and grandparents and loving friends of this church and other churches. I was formed in the faith from the time I was an infant.
As my friends at the Youth and Family Institute, a Minneapolis-based organization that focuses on Christian nurture and formation often observe, “faith is formed by the power of the Holy Spirit through personal trusted relationships, often in our own homes.”2 It’s true. How many of you first came to church and to an awareness of faith because some trusted other, a family member or friend brought you?
Still, whether one is a Paul or a Timothy, we all need to tend to, to be stewards of, the faith that is given to us as gift and grace. Paul is clear about this too in his letter to Timothy. After referring to Timothy’s sincere faith, a faith that lived first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, Paul writes to him “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands” (1:6). The Jerusalem Bible translates this , “I urge you to fan into a flame the gift of God within you….”
Whether one is a Paul or a Timothy, the flame of faith can grow dim if it isn’t nurtured, kindled given some oxygen. How do we do this? How is faith kindled? Through prayer, through worship, through reading and Bible study, through service and fellowship and sacred, caring conversations with faithful others. Christianity is a way of life, a life of discipleship…The word “disciple” is related to the word “discipline.” We are shaped by our disciplines. Through these the fire stays strong.
In a world that is so fast and furious, maintaining these disciplines can be a challenge. There are so many distractions….Countless things in our consumerist culture try to seduce us away from life in Christ. Faith is never easy, think of the disciples in today’s Gospel reading who turn to Jesus and petition him, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). And they were with him! They had first hand experience of his teaching and miracles! Nonetheless, even they needed their faith rekindled….How much more so for us…
There is something strengthening, empowering about journeying in the company of faithful others, about Bible Study, about small groups and prayer groups, about joining in service and purposeful actions that help others, which is why church communities are so important, so vital.
We are in challenging times in the Church. The number of people who identify themselves as Christian has declined precipitously in the United States in the past couple of decades. 15% of people in this country now identify themselves as having no religious affiliation. Among 20 – 30 year olds, the percentage is more likely between 40 and 50%.3 It is worth asking if we as a society are better off because this is so. I don’t believe we are. Asking about why and how we have reached this stage is a bigger conversation than we can have this morning, but it does represent a major concern for us all.
In his letter to Timothy, after he urges him to rekindle the gift of God within him, Paul continues, “for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul exhorts Timothy, “Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace”(1:8-9).
My dear friends, my family in Christ, I am here today with you because God in Christ called me…. But he hasn’t called only me…He has called each and every one of you into his service as well. We are all called….We are called by virtue of our baptism into Christ’s body the Church. My holy calling began in that baptismal shell on May 12, 1957…From that moment on, I belonged to Christ, my life belonged to Christ. I wasn’t always aware of this holy calling, I have had my prodigal years,4 but I was called, and by the grace of God, at turning point moments in my life, holy others have stepped in and helped me rekindle the gift of God within me.
How about you? When did your call happen? When were you baptized? Who were the faithful others in your life who have loved you, nurtured you, formed you in Christ, helped you rekindle the gift of God within you? What is the state of that gift now? Does it need some fanning into a flame?
We have work to do…There is a great deal of hurt in the world. People are isolated, alienated and alone. Concern for the common good seems to be a forgotten value. God is calling us, calling us to join in his mission to restore people to unity with one another to restore people to unity with God in Christ and Christ’s love. The mission of the Church is not really our mission, it is God’s mission, God’s mission of love…
It seems clear in our time that we will no longer be able to sit here and expect people to come to us in our churches: “come” as in “come see our beautiful church” “come hear our wonderful choir” “come be a part of our Bible study.” It’s not that this formula of invitation is unimportant; it’s just not working anymore. It’s not effective.
We will, all of us, have to go out, be sent out, as I was sent out from this church; sent out to our neighbors and places that are different -- Coffee shops and pubs, to our workplaces and community gatherings -- to bring the message of Christ and his love to the world. The world is no longer coming to us. That’s the task Christ sets before us in our time and place: to go out into the world. Parish churches, like St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Forest Hills equip and strengthen us for that task. We are called to be servants of that mission, dutiful servants, like the ones Jesus refers to in his parable today...
It’s not easy this call and mission of God’s, but it is life-giving….It leads to wondrous things like this, the people of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, serving Christ and Christ’s mission for 100 years; loving one another generation after generation….It only takes a little faith….just a little, perhaps even only a mustard seed’s worth to get the fire going.5 Think of those first St. Luke’s parishioners who didn’t have this beautiful sanctuary but gathered in someone’s home.6
I pray that the flame in this place will continue to be fanned for generations to come and I thank God it has been a place that helped kindle the fire in me. May you go forth and rekindle that flame in others and may God continue to bless you in your calling and all that do and are.
20 Pentecost – Proper 22 – Year C – October 6, 2013
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10
1 See 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. 2 See http://www.vibrantfaith.org and especially their “Five Principles.” 3 These statistics are reported in Putnam, Robert D. and Campbell, David E American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc. 2010). More recent Pew Research Indicates the number of Unaffiliated Americans is closer to 20%. See “Nones on the Rise” – Report of Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project – October 9, 2012 found at http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/ 4 See Luke 15:11-32 5 See Luke 17:6 6 See St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Forest Hills website “Our History” at http://www.stlukesforesthills.org/history.html
Jump and We’ll See (pdf)
I began attending services here at Saint Luke’s on the first Sunday of Advent in 2007. I came with a very specific purpose. I wanted my girls to learn that Christmas was about more than tinsel and getting presents. I had an agenda. I was here for the girls. Surely, I had nothing to learn about God, the universe, myself, the world around me… We would attend through Christmas, and the girls would have a touchstone when we talked about God and religion. Check, please.
But Sally Hagwood wouldn’t let us go that easily. She began right in by welcoming us, and treating our girls like her own. Right from the start, she always greeted the girls with a smile and a hug, and often with a little extra something that said, "I've been thinking of you." I will forever be in your debt, Sally. And Claire and I were moved beyond words when Father Tom, kneeling down to speak with Charlotte and Maggie as they were preparing to receive Communion for the first time, assured them that they were family now, and if they ever had any questions or concerns about ANYTHING, he would always be there for them.
I was already beginning to recognize that there was something special about Saint Luke’s. I felt that I was getting so much – much more than I had ever anticipated, and I wanted to do something in return. That summer, I began volunteering for God’s Love We Deliver. I met Carol and Dennis Khare, two of the friendliest and most generous people I know. And I began taking classes in preparation for my confirmation, where I met Sal and Florence Amato, and had the distinct pleasure of watching three generations of Amatos taking the next step in their respective faith journeys together. Everywhere I turned, I came across loving and caring people who always had a kind word, and carried the light of God within them, shining for all to see. Anne and Velma. Jonathan and Joe. Jean, Jane, Joyce. Karen, Barbara – the list goes on and on. Suddenly, I wasn’t coming just for the girls anymore. I was coming for me.
Who is Saint Luke’s? We are. Those of us present today, those who have sat here before us, and those who will sit here after we’re gone. We are all Saint Luke’s. God invited us here. Our invitations may have had different envelopes, but they all came from the same host. And there is still plenty of room at the table, so bring a friend
it Wasn’t Enough: How St. Luke’s Supports
and Encourages My Spiritual Growth
I come from a very mixed religious background, but not an observant one. Although my parents were not opposed to organized religion, they felt that, “It’s not for us.”
My connection with St. Luke’s started with Marianne Percival, my friend since nursery school. Over the years, I had come to St. Luke’s for Christmas or Evensong. I came to hear the nice music in a pretty church, but I’d been told, “It’s not for us.”
About 2 ½ years ago, there were some unavoidable stresses in my life, and one sunny spring Sunday, I said to my family, “I think I’m going to go to St. Luke’s for services.” I decided that, rather than politely listening or sitting when other knelt, I would participate in the service wholeheartedly. That was the beginning of a profound change.
Because of the welcoming nature of St. Luke’s, I knew that I could keep attending, even as a non-baptized visitor, for the next 20 years, and no one would mind. So, I decided to come, “when I wasn’t doing something more important.” I started attending every two or three weeks.
It wasn’t enough. I started to miss St. Luke’s when I didn’t go. So, I started going every week. And every week, everyone else would get up for communion, and there I sat.
And it wasn’t enough. I asked Father Tom for an appointment, in order, I said, to explain what I was doing in his church. I surprised myself (I don’t know if I surprised you, Father Tom) by asking if there were inquirer’s class. Father Tom agreed to cover the material of inquiry with me, and by our second meeting, I again surprised myself by asking to be baptized so that I could become a full, participating member of St. Luke’s.
When I told my family about my plans, I asked my daughter what she thought. She replied, “I think St. Luke’s would be good for you, and I think you would be good for St. Luke’s.”
And so it has proved to be. I was baptized on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2009 with Marianne and Brian Percival as my sponsors, and confirmed on October 16, 2010. So you see, today is something of a double anniversary for me.
In the two years since I was baptized, I’ve continued with my religious education through the good offices of Father Tom, and the various adult education programs St. Luke’s has provided. I think I’m in the process of deepening my understanding of Christianity, both theoretically and practically, as it can be played out in the world.
What I didn’t expect is that I also gained a new family (that includes my original family) and a home away from home. C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters talks about Christianity being in action rather than in feelings, and active I have been. I’ve participated in Rummage Sale, substituted for God’s Love We Deliver, baked, cooked, sold, sung, auctioned and Gingerbreaded.
Now some people might think that such activity is “social” rather than “religious,” but we know better. Every action, everything I participate in, every friend I make, draws me closer to God.
St. Luke’s is an extraordinary
place. Next year, we celebrate our centennial. St. Luke’s has been here
for 100 years. Won’t you join with me to make sure St. Luke’s continues
for the next 100 years?
Suzanne C. Schick
I don’t know exactly what turns a church community into a loving family, but in recent years I certainly know that Father Tom has had a lot to do with it, and that the supportive presence of this church family continually informs my faith. One of the things we do in this parish, and never used to do, is to share our stories. In doing so we have learnt much about one another, and about the nature of faith – how it can uphold us, how it can help us uphold one another.
In this church, more than in any other I have ever attended, we have some wonderfully honest discussion groups where we almost literally hammer our way through to an understanding of the scriptures, not always as written, but as they relate to our lives today. Then of course there is the pastoral care that underlies the discussion – and the encouragement to share problems that people used to hide as though they were some kind of disgrace. Like a lost job, or a broken marriage, or a verdict of cancer. And the support is unfailingly there.
Now that I’m old and live alone it’s an enormous comfort to know that if ever I have a sickness or an accident I can’t cope with, someone from St. Luke’s will make sure I get whatever help is needed, someone will take me to the hospital, someone will leave a casserole on my doorstep. Only recently I gave myself a concussion by falling head first into a heavy piece of furniture which left me dazed for a few weeks. I was overwhelmed when Jim Chamberlain heard of this and made me promise that if I needed help at any time of the day or night I was to call him. And I know he meant it, and would have come.
I think too of the consistency and dedication with which Velma Adams accompanied Terri O’Rourke to chemotherapy sessions so that Terri did not have to face the frightening ordeal alone, even though Velma’s own husband was then terminally ill. That was going way beyond the calls of friendship and kindness. And it was beautiful to see.
Then I think of Barbara Gratz who a few years ago argued passionately before the outreach committee that we should involve ourselves in that charity with an odd name, God’s Love We Deliver, which takes prepared food to people too frail or too poor to prepare it for themselves, the kind of people who fall between the cracks of city services. Some of us argued that there were too few of us to keep up the deliveries. But Barbara insisted that we could make it work, and thanks to her persistence it did and does.
These stories can be matched
by others that I don’t know, many times over. In St. Luke’s today
I am constantly seeing faith at work. People supporting one another in misfortune.
People helping one another to grow in faith. God bless you all for being part
of this special community, and for all the loving and giving you do.
IS THE NICEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU
IN CONNECTION WITH SAINT LUKE'S CHURCH?
The Rector's Message
Below are responses to the question "What is the nicest thing that ever happened to you in connection with Saint Luke's Church?" Please share them with your friends, both within the parish and farther afield. Then add your own St. Luke's story by sending us an e-mail. What better way to keep us all in mind of how much the church means to us, and how much we would lose if we allowed its doors to close? And what better way to invite the wider community in than by spreading the word about just how wonderful and sustaining life at Saint Luke's can be?
MY ST. LUKE’S COMMUNITY
STORY: IT’S NOT JUST A CHURCH
The story of how I became St. Luke’s parish administrator is a happy one. In 2002, a friend invited my husband David and me to see him perform in the Gingerbread Players’ production of Much Ado About Nothing — which it definitely wasn’t, because we met many warm, friendly, multi-talented people there. When the group held auditions for Godspell, David tried out and was cast. He has appeared in every Gingerbread Players production since and currently sings bass in St. Luke’s choir. I made a five-minute appearance in The Music Man (so much talent on one stage!) and will appear again in The Sleeping Beauty (so much glorious music!). Recently, I have been videotaping Gingerbread productions starting with As You Like It, and I did like it, but my main interest lies in baking. If you would like to see my recipes, go to www.bake4me.com.
When I heard that the parish administrator position was open, I “auditioned,” eager to assist Father Reese and St. Luke’s parishioners. Like David and Godspell, I got the part. Acting as parish administrator is much more fulfilling for me than my previous positions because I am giving back to people with whom I have a long-term, extracurricular relationship, and to a community that has warmly welcomed David and me. It’s not just a job — it’s a lifestyle.
TESS CONTE:The feast of St.
Luke this year will be the tenth anniversary of my first visit to this church.
I had been attending Episcopal services since college, but always at large churches
where I felt happily invisible. When I finally got up the courage to come inside,
everyone was wearing red, and I wanted to run, but Fred Guinter was the usher
that day, and his smile and greeting made me feel that even if I weren't 'with
the program' in terms of my color scheme, I was welcome.
I cannot choose one specific incident that makes me feel that St. Luke's is home. It's a fluid, continuous sort of cocoon that the people of the parish weave around each other, that seems to say, "no matter what heartache or trauma or doubt---you belong here and we're here for each other."
PAST: Anthony's recent debut with the Gingerbread Players.
My baptism at the Vigil of Easter, 2003.
A special Christmas gift, 2001.
PRESENT: The beatific vision of Acolyte Anthony.
FUTURE: Our continuing spiritual journey- the "Leap of Faith" à la Soren Kierkegaard.
THE HISTORY: Once upon a time, September 1995 to be exact, two classmates became buddies. The families became better acquainted, leading to an invitation to visit St. Luke's Church.
April 1996: A visit with a sense of "home". A new food driver recruited. Mother & child gravitate to Quaker meeting as a spiritual home. Its silent meetings are of great comfort.
Christmas Eve, 2000: one of the buddies, now a young man, grumbles about having to go to church with his parents.
Christmas Eve, 2001: same folks, same complaint, with the added lament, "And my pal will NOT EVEN BE THERE!" The grumbling changed to sheer delight upon entering St. Luke's Church: a surprise Christmas gift in the presence of JOEY DINAS, with Jackie, Barbara and Paul!!!
February-March 2002: Two major traumas, indeed, metaphorical earthquakes, befall the Lenti family within a 26-day period .
Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday 2002: Mother
and child, seeking solace & to "make a joyful /sorrowful NOISE onto
the Lord", find same at St. Luke's Church. Thanks be to God. AMEN.
PETER NORCROSS COOK: To anyone residing in the greater Forest Hills area, I strongly urge you to get over to St. Luke's Church right away. They need you, and you will need them too. Trust me, you will never regret it.
I was lucky enough to spend my protracted formative years in the midst of St. Luke's Church (age 12 to 35) , for which I give humble & hearty thanks to Almighty God every day of my life. What a privilege to carry the innumerable benefits procured unto me, from the love of Christ therein. The nicest thing that ever happened? Yikes, that's tough. I can only respond with a few anecdotes and fond remembrances. Let's see.....
The long-term nicest thing was probably Day 1, being introduced in the Narthex and receiving a warm invitation, from Anne Becker as I remember distinctly, to attend St. Luke's Seniors (Youth Group) that afternoon. New to the big city, I was a shy, dopey, unassuming lad from a recently broken home, and was doubtful that this was for me or I was for them, but my mother made me go: "they seem nice, you might like it".
That Narthex encounter led to future involvement in virtually every aspect of spiritual and community life for me at St. Luke's Church. I think the only ministry I didn't actively participate in was Altar Guild, although I often practiced at the organ while others were doing that good work on Saturday.
Acolyte duty was my most enriching experience, especially while assisting with preparation of the Sacraments. Canon Blomquist was magnificantly proper; I still chuckle at his affectionate but firm remark after Igoofed an important ritual: "Do I have to tell you the facts of life too"? I like that he cared enough to humorously admonish daydreaming-me to pay better attention when in the service of the Lord and others. His confirmation classes were challenging and illuminating. We learned not recitation, but how and why. He took the time to ask questions and to thoroughly explain the context and meaning of our liturgy. Canon Blomquist's firm foundation of faith continues to serve me daily.
Harriet Morin was, without equal, one
of the most influencial people in my life. After years of Episcopal School choir
and piano lessons (a brat who never practiced), only Miss Morin could get through
to me with caring instruction and an uncompromising ability to impart elegant
and precise standards of delivery - "don't scoop!" - not to mention
her excellent taste in musical selections. Choir rehearsals were hard work,
and a hoot. Who could forget Dick Stokes' hilarious comments. Latin or German
text? No probelm, "Repeat after me....". Canticle pointing? "Let's
not breath at the end of that phrase, it sounds muddy". Vivaldi Gloria?
"We'll break into groups. Tenors and Basses, upstairs with me". My
hymn suggestion? "I like camp meetings, but it's barely sacred and far
too corny for an episcopal visit ". Tocotta & Fugue? "Nothing's
impossible, you will learn it in pieces, let's begin with the pedal part.....".
I got started at the organ as Harriet's page turner when recording Puccinni's
Messa di Gloria, and was fascinated, so decided to give it a try. At lesson
time, we used her dog-eared workbooks from Julliard, and she shared every discipline
of practice, procedure and habit that could be mustered for my [slow] learning
Harriet Morin also taught me that performances were for the Parish House and elsewhere, and a good thing; but that Sacred Music in the church was a Ministry of the Word, for the enhancement of worship to the Glory of God alone. The first service I ever played was for the Womans' Guild. A nervous wreck, I made several mistakes. When the postlude finished, a beaming Miss Morin emerged from the nearby stairwell with a twinkle in her eye, assuring me that ''it sounded good, a few slips are expected, its recovery that counts, and besides we're only at 40% capacity under pressure". Patient, encouraging, and dedicated to excellence, she was a good person!
The Rev. & Mrs. M. Joseph Farley were also wonderful to me. The rectory was my second home for many years; if I wore out my welcome, they never showed it. I even took my driving test in Mr. Farley's black Volvo. He wasn't a relaxed passenger, but possessed absolute Christ-like qualities in matters of faith and pastoral care. My most profound moments of Grace with God occurred while serving as acolyte on midweek holy days, with sometimes nobody in that beautiful church except the Holy Spirit and us. I love a standing room crowd, stately procession, mitars, trumpets, rousing responses, you name it, but Joe Farley made those quiet times devoutly fulfilling.
St. Luke's was welcoming and inclusive long before these virtues were popular, and in all my travels as supply organist, I have never observed a more diverse, dedicated and talented collection of individuals serving a Parish. Regardless of secular circumstances, everbody brought unique and valuable contributions to the enrichment of St. Luke's Church. Completely intergenerational, St. Luke's engages everybody in virtually all aspects of life in the Church, most outwardly visible in The Gingerbread Players productions. I never baked Gingerbread and had no imagination for costumes, but tried helping with scenery, got to be Stage Manager once, collected tickets, played the original Pied Piper [wigs were scarce in 1973, and I was briefly fired for an unauthorized haircut!], was a townsperson in the reprise, and they daringly let me sing a few bars as Snow White's love interest. Thankfully, the heartbreak of closing nights were assuaged by well earned awards, rousing applause and wonderful parties. There was something for everybody, and everybody for something, while benefiting both the church and the FH community.
Our Youth Group enjoyed active support of the clergy & laity. We did everything: spiritual retreats, cultural outings, games & picnics in Forest Park, bowling, movies, cleaning the 71st Street subway platform, rehab and nursing home visits, lively engagement in liturgical study & discussion, and spirited fund raising with car washes, bake sales, and hosting ambitious parish dinners. I so fondly remember pushing heavy laden grocery carts from Waldbaums on Yellowstone to the kitchen back door. The greatest challenge was successful negotiation across bumpy Station Square, not food preparation, because Barbara Trippel and other angels of mercy came to our 11th hour culinary rescue. Then, in the best spirit of Anglican tradition, we'd have even more fun expressing our "deeply held divergent points of view" about how best to give away all the money.
Chip Stokes and I were hired by the Vestry to scrape, spackle and paint the Parish House top to bottom, which took two summers. Walter Koetzle served as project manager, instructor, supply procurement agent, and seasoned boss. Dick Westney was our benevolent foreman, expressing genuine concern that we might suffer closed area toxic brain damage, or worse - fall from the scaffolding. By the Grace of God and under caring supervision, we survived! I graduated to painting parishoners' laundry rooms, gardening & lawncare, cleaning gutters, polishing andirons, washing windows and other domestic endeavors that serve me quite well as a homeowner today. Chip Stokes became a priest, and many of us were fortunate enough to be present at his ordination. For those who remember us, Frances & I now live in Baltimore, where Caroline is a Junior at Oldfields School studying acting, music & dance, and Fred Guinther's godson George is a varsity tennis player, football kicker and 9th grade student vestry member at St. Paul's School. My sisters Victoria, Valerie and Claudia have seven children between them and, thanks to the gift and heritage of St. Luke's Church, are all active church goers living in North Carolina, Colorado and Arizona, respectively.
We miss our St. Luke's people: Stokes, Creigh, Koetzle, Guinther, Thornton, Banci, Hounsell, Smith, Grant, Lee, Trippel, Hogan, Miller, Moore, Van Westering, Shanley, Becker, Seylar, Murty, Pearson, Quist, Thayer, Manly, Samuels, Ludwig, Albert, Graham, Alexander, Bernard, Bonner, Dinas, Yelverton, Hertwig, Westney, Eggington, Roecker, Vickers, Harris, Relyea, and countless others, here and gone.
Lastly, I offer a hastily composed St. Luke's Church personal top ten list:
Favorite Place: Beneath eternal flame
at the World Peace Altar.
Favorite Sound: Roll of the Parish House door at the opening hymn.
Favorite Sight: That old rugged Cross in procession.
Favorite Scent: Fresh Gingerbread.
Beauty of Holiness: The Windows.
Best Accoutrement: Coolest Baptismal Font in all of Christendom.
Best Tradition: Neighborhood Christmas caroling.
Worst Kept Secret: The dumbwaiter for hide 'n go seek.
Recurring Nightmare: The Leaky Tower.
Greatest Fear: Episcopal deconsecration.
Greatest Hope: Perpetuity of mission ad infinitum.
Wishing a blessed Eastertide to all,
Easter Day 2004
ANN WESTNEY: My nicest recollection
of St. Luke's is to have experienced God's love through this parish family of
dear friends, who have filled our lives for so many years.
ANONYMOUS: I was searching for a place where I could find the beautiful liturgy I remembered as a child. After attending my first service at St. Luke's, I realized what I wanted was right there. The services are conducted with reverence; the sermons are inspiring, centered on the Gospel, and many times include pertinent comments on conditions in today's world.
I noticed especially the spirit of cooperation among the members of the congregation and realized that this is how the many interesting events take place at St. Luke's. The willingness of the rector to poll the people for their opinions on any changes to be made at the church is a very positive attribute. It shows that St. Luke's is, indeed, a church of and for the people.
I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I appreciate all the good things I have found at St. Luke's.
1) Joining the Gingerbread Players
2) Joining the choir
3) Making friends in my new neighborhood.
DAISY LUDWIG: Two years ago, after a visit to California, I returned home with an unknown, serious infection. I was transferred to Mt. Sinai Hospital. Several specialists were consulted. Even Terry Farrow came to cheer me up. After one week, I returned to my apartment. Unable to speak to anyone about my fears, I called Father Tom. He listened to me and prayed with me. After a few days, I was well, thanks to God's help.
LOUISE FOISY: I was the mother
of a 4-year old when I arrived at St. Luke's. Mollie Smith made a tremendous
impression on me. The ease and joy she displayed in teaching the Sunday School
class was inspiring. She has a vast knowledge of the bible, but more importantly
perhaps, she is able to teach the lessons in a wonderful way. Her students clearly
adored her. I soon began teaching the younger students--every week Mollie provided
me with the filmstrips, take-home pages and a basket of cookies. I was ill-prepared
for my assignment, but Mollie's good humor, kindness and warmth made me feel
up to the task.
I recall the Passover Seder that she would hold for her students each year, and I remember helping her prepare dozens of youngsters for the annual Christmas Pagaent. The familiar costumes were pressed off, and halos and crowns were carefully pinned into place. Most years we were blessed to have a young family of the parish play Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. I can still see Mollie and Milburn watching the pagaent from the narthex - beaming as the children made their way up the aisle, sweetly singing the Christmas hymns. They were sharing a special moment watching their little granddaughters.
STEPHEN T. BANCI: I am quite fortunate in that my favorite moment at Saint Luke's Church occurs on a regular basis. Midway through the Sunday-morning service, as the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, I find myself literally surrounded by the family of Saint Luke's as we come together once again to receive Communion in celebration of perhaps the most fundamental and tangible tenet of Christian life. It is a true and joyful experience. Rarely do I feel closer to God and to the Saint Luke's community.
JANE THORNTON: Where to begin? So many nice things have happened to me at St. Luke's! Here are just a few.
In 1962 my husband and I had just moved to Forest Hills and had been "church shopping," looking for a place of worship that would suit both Lew, baptized Roman Catholic but non-practicing, and me, a life-long member of the Evangelical and Reformed Church which had recently become part of the United Church of Christ. The moment we walked through St. Luke's doors, we knew we had come home. Impressed by the beauty of the building, the high quality of the music, the warmth of the parishioners, and the charm of rector Tom Blomquist, we immediately became members. One year later I was confirmed and Lew was received into the Episcopal Church.
Our son was baptized at St. Luke's, and he and our daughter were confirmed here. They were involved in many church activities, including the junior and youth choirs and Gingerbread Players shows, and piano lessons from wonderful Harriet Morin, organist, choir director, and founder of Gingerbread Players. One day while I was chatting with Harriet, she said to me, "You sound like a tenor. Why don't you think about joining the senior choir?" I was thrilled! Participating in the music of the service has always been my most deeply felt form of worship and one of my greatest joys. Ages ago I had loved singing alto in the children's choir of my church in Pennsylvania and later in my junior high school's chorus, but surprise! Harriet was right - over the years, I'd turned into a tenor, and I've been singing in the choir ever since.
St. Luke's is my church home and its members my dear friends and extended family. It fulfills my need for spiritual, cultural and intellectual enrichment, not to mention just plain fun at parish social activities. When I tell my non-St. Luke's friends about everything that goes on here in addition to the services - Gingerbread Players musicals and plays, adult and youth Christian education, pop and classical concerts, the Imaginauction, picnics, parties, lectures - their reaction is always the same: "That sounds like some church!" And indeed it is.
I hope and pray the day will never
come when St. Luke's is forced to close the doors I first walked through 42
years ago, but hope and prayer alone won't keep those doors open. That's why
all of us who love our church must achieve St. Luke's fund-raising goal by increasing
our pledge as best we can. Additionally, here's something else you might want
to consider doing. On birthdays, Christmas and other gift-giving occasions,
my family and I have always made donations to favorite charities instead of
giving each other a lot of things we may not really want or need. Recently my
son and I have requested that those donations be made to St. Luke's. This really
is "the gift that keeps on giving"! Please think about it.
VERA and OSCAR MORON: Next June we will celebrate our 10th year at St. Lukes. From the start we have admired the beauty of the church, the wonderful Choir Music and enjoyed the church activities. The nicest thing apart from the meaningful church service and communion each Sunday, is the friendship of many great people and feeling of concern for the congregation's well being as we worship and work together.
JOANNA GUINTHER: St. Luke's
provides me the opportunity to do things for sheer love.
The Choir, The Gingerbread Players, and the Rummage Sale: I do all of these things with my whole heart, for the joy of it, not out of obligation or for reward.
At the end of every Gingerbread Players production, flowers are presented to the production crew: our 'Academy Awards.' After Where's Charley, Frank Fallon came on with a bouquet of flowers. The notes in his other hand turned out to be about the costume designer - me. By the time he was done, I was walking on air and didn't come down for a week. I float back up there just remembering it. I do the costumes for fun and don't need the fuss or the flowers to make it worthwhile. At St. Luke's Church, someone invariably thanks you for it.
ANN F. CHAMBERLAIN: One Sunday morning a few years ago, the appointed lector for the Old Testament reading wasn't at Church, and I was asked at the last moment to fill in. The passage was the story of Ruth, my mother's favorite.
As I stood at the lectern and began to read the warm and loving story about Ruth and Naomi, I found myself fighting back tears. My voice cracked and quivered, and after each successive sentence I had to take deeper and deeper breaths to calm myself and continue reading - especially difficult was the heartfelt devotion of "Whither thou goest, so go I."
Well, I got through it and after the service Bill Bennett (who was in charge of the lectors and always admonished us against reading too quickly) came up to me and congratulated me. He complimented me particularly on the rhythm of my reading. "Most people," he said, "increase the speed of their reading as they get to the end, but you keep slowing down and that was very effective."
Did he really connect with the emotion of my reading, or was he just trying to make me feel better? I'll never know, but either way it was lovely
JOYCE EGGINTON: My most treasured
moments at. St. Luke's are the sacramental ones. It gives me profound joy and
fulfillment to assist at the Eucharist, to try and make every Communion special
for the person who is receiving it - which, of course, it is, whether I am there
or not. But it is a powerful experience to be a link in the chain of Sunday
worship, and to have the privilege of taking Communion to the sick.
I have lost count of the number of baptisms and funerals at which I have assisted. Every one of them has been meaningful, but none more so than the baptism of my grandson William, some 34 years after his father John was baptized from the same St. Luke's font. I am enriched by this sense of continuum at St. Luke's, and by the knowledge that this parish has faithfully served so many for so long. And will, I believe, go on doing so.
ELIZA SMITH VALLETTE: I truly cannot pick only one thing. The first happy memory that came to my mind was getting married at St. Luke's to my wonderful husband, Jim Vallette. Father Tom married us, and the whole experience was very meaningful to us. We enjoyed our conversations with Tom before our marriage, when we picked out our favorite lessons and hymns and discussed what our hopes for marriage were.
But then, how could I not mention, all the happy hours singing in the choir? There have been so many terrific choir directors. The two that have had the most profound influence on me were Harriet Morin and Terry Farrow. They were the alpha and omega of my time in the choir; I started singing in the choir in 3rd grade with Miss Morin and finished up with Terry shortly before I moved to Maine. Aside from the joy of singing, I loved the sense of fellowship I encountered in the choir. My favorite service is Christmas Eve, when the candles are lit and the choir sings all the pieces they have been rehearsing all fall. I love seeing all the friends from the community who come home for the holidays gathered together late on a wintry night with smiles on their faces.
I also loved having my Mom, Mollie Smith, teach Sunday school to me and my friends. I think she did it for me initially, but she discovered the joy of teaching and continued it for many years. My only regret is that I didn't always pay close enough attention. Now I wish I could hear all the biblical stories again and have the philosophical discussions that she brought to the table.
Lastly, I would like to mention the joy of working with my Dad, Milburn Smith, in Gingerbread Players productions. He wasn't the only Gingerbread director. There have been other equally talented directors of Gingerbread Players, but he was and remains closest to my heart. Boy, we had fun! Every Sat. and Sun afternoon in the winter was spent surrounded by music and laughter. It has been so gratifying to me to see the next generation enjoy the same things I did when I was a kid. I know my nieces Olivia and Zoe enjoy being in the plays, and that means a lot to me. Knowing that Louise Guinther and Stephen Banci have the vision and dedication to direct is also terrific, because it means that this part of St. Luke's, which I adored, will continue.
And that's why I love St. Luke's.
JIM CHAMBERLAIN: My daughter BB told me that she always looked forward to Saturday afternoons when I had been working in the garden because I always seemed so happy. I guess, then, it is no surprise that one of my best memories at St. Luke's is associated with Lawn Patrol. Scot Williams, Lu Guinther and I had finished up our Saturday morning choresand we were resting a bit on the Parish Hall steps. The two of them got to talking about a discussion they had on faith at a seder they'd been to at the home of a cast member in Godspell. There I was, feeling that lovely contentment I get from looking at a freshly mown lawn, hearing things about the Jewish and Christian faiths that I had never known before from two young whippersnappers who had been invited to a Jewish seder of a new (and now endeared) member of the GBP open-faith, loved-filled community. How like St. Luke's, I thought.
DOLLY GUINTHER: For me, the
best things that have happened at Saint Luke's were not socko one-moment events,
but rather cumulative.
So when Harriet Morin asked me to come try the choir, I did so with trepidation.I hadn't sung in a choir since sixth grade, and I found that my reading skill had disintegrated, I frequently lost my place in the music, and I had a lot of southern-sounding vowels that had no place in Latin texts. I could not know that all this mild embarrassment was leading to lifelong friendships, a wonderful run with the Gingerbread Players, many parties and many laughs. In addition, this was the beginning of a musical education for my children, who loved to sing, to mess around with plays, and to hang out with their buddies -- all of which treats came along with participation in the junior choir.In other words, the nicest moment had to grow settle for twenty years or so before I could recognize it.
JIM BATES: When my mother, who
is eighty-nine and had never been sick since she was seventeen years old, was
rushed to the hospital in Connecticut early on September 5, 2003, I was in great
distress and concern. She was operated on two days later, and over four months
she was in and out of the hospital.
The entire congregation of St. Lukes prayed for her recovery, and several members always asked how she was doing. This sense of family and honest concern for a loved one no one knew personally touched me. This total experience had a major influence on my life. Without the support of this church and its' congregation I am most certain that I would not have handled this time of concern and stress as well as I did with everyone's help.
Thank you St. Lukes for welcoming me and my family. God bless St. Lukes.
ANDREW DINAN: When we were new
to the parish, Oscar and Vera Moron invited us to dinner. Just before dinner
was set on the table, Daddy displaced Luke's elbow. Oscar drove us to the emergency
room and waited literally hours in the car while we waited for Luke to be treated.
After Luke's successful treatment for nursemaid's elbow, Oscar drove us back
to his place, where he and Vera treated us to what was now a midnight supper.
LUKE's own story is this: He said during Shirley's presentation, "I know the nicest thing I got from St. Luke's."
"What's that, son?"
"I've learned to be less angry."
"From Sunday school and everything teaching me about the way of Jesus." Upstaged again!
BARBARA GLICK: After Sept. 11,
many people lost their lives and homes forever. I found both the following Sunday
at St. Luke's Church. I, a lost sheep, found my flock of friends and extended
family in this beautiful sanctuary, where people accepted me for who I am, as
Jesus would have.
Creativity, love, friendship and spirituality flourish here, therefore so do I. If this place came tumbling down, many souls would, too.
LOUISE GUINTHER: On a September
Sunday in 2002, during the 10:30 service, Father Doubleday asked the St. Luke's
congregation to pray "for Milburn Smith, who lies dying." As I groped
for my hanky, I looked around me and discovered that, as Milburn might have
put it, there wasn't a dry eye in the house - and it was quite a full house
All that weeping may seem an odd choice for nicest moment, but as a very wise person once said to me, there is good sad and bad sad, and for me that was the best possible kind. I had never felt so close to such a large group of people all at once, and I couldn't help thinking how wonderful it was that St. Luke's had provided Milburn with a forum in which to be his inimitable self, and given all those people a chance to know him and cherish him as he deserved. Could a church do anything nicer for its members than that?
GERT HOUNSELL: Ten years ago, when my husband died, the snow was three feet high, but the church was crowded at his service. (He was a former warden.) I will never forget the outpouring of love on that occasion.
BRIAN PERCIVAL: There are several things I might suggest as the nicest thing that ever happened to me at St. Luke's, including getting married, but I would like to mention one little thing. Long before she or anyone else here knew me very well, when I would occasionally come to church, Joyce Egginton would invariably invoke my name when offering the cup at communion: "Brian, the Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation." That impressed me!
JEAN TESSIER: For me, the "nicest"
thing about St. Luke's is the complete sense of inclusion I have had from almost
day one. Having been on a spiritual journey of sorts, it was a rebirth for me
to find a group of like-mindedChristians who were focused on bringing people
in, not keeping them out. I had grown up Catholic, but had decided before I
was thirteen that it was not where I belonged.
I had always believed in God, but not always in organized religion. For me, it had always seemed that the foundation of Christianity was love, yet I had not previously found a place where this was actively practiced. Too many people called themselves Christians while seeming to hate too many of their fellow human beings. I wandered in to St. Luke's one day, searching for an answer. That was one of those days when Tom welcomed "anyone seeking God's truth" to participate in Communion. This told me everything I needed to know.
The following weeks made my bond with St. Luke's stronger. By nature I am shy and a little reserved until I feel entirely comfortable with my surroundings. The parishioners of St. Luke's were friendly, but not at all pushy. I was made to feel welcome, and at the same time given the time and space for the church to find its way into my heart.
I participated in the Christmas Caroling party. I attended Gingerbread Players events. By January of 2002, I was on the Outreach Committee. I found myself helping with the Food Drive and working on the rummage sale and assisting with publicity. Now, less than four years later, I am on the Vestry.
I love every minute of my time spent with my St. Luke's family. I feel like we are doing good things in the world, and leaving it a better place than when we came in to it, working together, with God's help. And that is more than "nice" to me!
SHIRLEY VICKERS: I recall a special moment on an evening twenty years ago, when Bishop Sherman had just confirmed me as an Episcopalian (noting in his homily an analogy for living a spiritually-guided life in this secular world: the chorister's looking down at the music while constantly glancing up at the conductor for direction). I was a bit lonely (my nearest family lived a thousand miles away), and Dolly Guinther brought me cookies.
ZOE SMITH: The nicest thing that happened at St. Luke's is the Gingerbread Players. My grandfather was almost always the director of the plays, and he got my sister and me into doing the plays. When he died, at his funeral almost everyone in the church was there to grieve with the rest of my family, and that was very nice to know how many people loved him.