From the Vicar: With apologies to Sister Boniface
Many years ago when I was young and foolish, I got into an email battle with a nun named Sister Boniface, SHN. (Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity.) She grew up in Würzburg, but emigrated to USA after WW2, eventually becoming an Episcopal nun. When I met her she was Mother Superior of the convent, located in Wisconsin, not far from my seminary. To the other sisters she may have seemed a bit of a battle axe, but to young seminarians, she was a sweet older lady. She always wore a traditional black habit with a heavy silver cross around her neck, looking very much like Hollywood might expect a nun to look. The email battle I refer to now with regret was a few years after I had graduated from seminary and moved south to exercise my priesthood in Louisiana, where flowers can bloom all winter long. After writing a January newsletter listing all the beautiful flowers blooming around the church, I received an email response from the Mother Superior. What a pity, she said, that I was deprived of the deeply satisfying joy of seeing the world in the full glory of four seasons. I answered that I though three seasons were plenty, spring, summer, and autumn. She responded that winter was also beautiful I challenged the beauty of sooty snow slush, and dead, barren leaves mouldering under the slush. She answered that icicles hanging from the eaves sparkled like diamonds in the morning sun. I answered that falling icicles could kill if they fell on your head. She talked of the uniquely individualized beauty of every snowflake and what it says about God that he makes each “one of a kind”. Well as you can image the rhetoric went back and forth for some time. She gave many examples of a spirituality which sees God’s hand, even in the frosty cold of winter, I denied it, and made the claim that winter is death, whereas our God is life. Therefore the two cannot be connected. She played the trump card, citing Jesus’ dying and rising as proof that God is God of death and life together. I broke off the conversation at that point, but never really understood her way of thinking until recently. So now, after many, many years I apologize to Sister Boniface, now singing in the heavenly choir, for my heresy. She was right. God is God of both life and death. Winter is just as much a sacrament of God’s presence as summer, and yes, it is very beautiful when the early winter sun sparkles on the freshly fallen snow, each flake unique and wonderful. Walking down the steps from my apartment to the church on a silent Sunday morning, everything blanked in white, only the little birds flitting about from branch to branch, I find myself feeling very close to God. And to Sister Boniface, may she rest in peace.
Women’s Morning Group meets tomorrow, Thursday, 21 January at 10 a.m. in the Anglican Centre. Can you come and help with the book repair? If so, please do. We will be finished by 12noon. Promise.
Sunday School planning committee has busily been planning for the next few months. Our facilities provide us with very limited opportunity for children’s Christian Education of the traditional sort. Thanks be to God and these people that with creativity and concern they are able to present quality Christian formation through teaching, singing, praying, role modelling and fellowship. Any parent who wants to see how they do this is welcome to go with the kids to the Bible Story Time, any Sunday morning. They are always looking for more teachers and helpers. If this is you, contact Jackie, Frances or Buli, or any of the other teachers and let them know of your interest. They will be glad to inform you on the way you can become a teacher or helper and can also inform you about the diocesan guidelines for Safeguarding our Children.
Parish Council Meeting will be held this coming Sunday morning 09:30h. We have lots of issues to discuss and decide. Budget 2016, AGM, Pancake Day, and Lenten/Easter plans.
New members…. Did you get a chance to pledge yet? We have had a goodly number of people who have come to worship with us since our Stewardship drive in the Autumn. But it is now time to present the Budget for 2016. In order to be as realistic as possible, I want to ask all those newly arrived here at St. Catherine’s “Have you had a chance to offer your pledge toward the budget? We do not want to leave anyone out. If you haven’t yet pledged, and would like to step up and be counted, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let our treasurer Stefan B., know your estimate of how much your expect to donate during the year 2016. It is just an estimate, but will help us so much in preparing a realistic budget. Every pledge helps, big or small. Your pledges will be treated with great discretion. Thanks. K+
How many children does it take for a Children’s Sunday? Just a few… if they are engaged enough to take part. This last Sunday, due to the weather no doubt, our normally large number of children was reduced to 6 kids. I was worried as the service began that they might not be able to muster the gumption needed to stand before the congregation in such a small number. But I was wrong! They did great! Thanks kids for your enthusiasm for singing, percussion, and praying with me at the altar. Thanks parents for knowing that these Children’s Emphasis Sundays are good, not only for the children, but for the whole family. Thanks, dear members of St. Cat’s who do not have young children, for knowing that Children’s Sundays are for everybody. With God as our father, we are all “Children” trying to muster the gumption to be his People. K+
Seeking old pots and pans... cooking utensils, plates, glasses, and all such things needed in the kitchen or dining room. We are trying to wind down the clothes and help them now with the other things one needs when setting up a household. Please feel free to bring your donations on Sunday, or anytime throughout the week. Call the Centre (0711 7878783) to make sure there is someone there before setting out.
The Wednesday Night Bible Study is back! After a long Christmas break, the Bible Scholars of St. Catherine’s will resume meeting at 8 p.m. each Wednesday in the Anglican Centre. Using the African Method of discussion and prayer, they will begin this term with the Epistles for the coming Sunday.
Prayers continue for: Wolfgang still doing daily rehabilitation on his hip replacement, for Warden Mark feeling much better after his neck surgery, for Stacy and family, and for Wilma in hospital. Please offer Thanksgivings for Irene who sends greetings from New Delhi, for Benon who sent a message he has returned safely to his family in India, and for all blessings received by the vicar on the occasion of his birthday. Thanks to God and all who were so kind.
Good News! Our window is repaired. The repair men came yesterday morning, and within an hour, had the old broken bits removed and the single new page installed. It was quite cold for a short while as the office stood open to the frigid outside air, but instantly as the new pane was lifted into place, the office warmed. Let us offer a prayer of thanks for our landlady whose insurance paid for its repair and for her concern about us in the meantime.
The Vicar will become Area Dean Friday afternoon as he switches hats between here and Freiburg. He and the Archdeacon will be participating in Saturday’s liturgy for installation of a new chaplain. The Rev’d Christopher Parsons is coming to Freiburg from British Columbia, Canada. His wife, however, grew up here in the Stuttgart area. Pray for his work as chaplain and for the English Church of Freiburg as, together, they begin a new phase in their ministry. The vicar will return on Saturday evening, switching back to his vicar hat near Vaihingen/Enz.
Looking ahead: 31st Jan will be a 5th Sunday and therefore the date of our next Joint Anglican/Old Catholic bi-lingual worship service starting earlier than normal at 10:30h. Every month with 5 Sundays give us a chance to worship together with our host congregation. This coming service will be led by the Old Catholic priest, Joachim Pfuetzner, but Ken will be right there to help translate and keep us all together on the same page.
Looking farther ahead: An Irish family from Rottweil has asked for a baptism on 24th April. We are glad to be able to offer sacramental rites to any Anglican or English speaking families, even those too far away to participate regularly in Sunday worship. But it begs the question: Are there any other families or individuals looking to be baptised in the Easter Season? If so, please speak to me about this, so that plans can be made. K+
Our Grafiker is a Spender! Thomas K., who designs and helps us produce the advertising cards we use for Lessons and Carols, and the Gospel Concert, is busy clearing out a house and has several nice pieces of furniture to donate to anyone who needs such an item. He has photographed each item and given the Centre a large poster with the photos printed out. If you need a table, chairs, or cabinet, check it out at the Centre. All you need to provide is transport from Stuttgart-Ost, and the item can be yours!