This Week – 03/16/2020

This week.

Well, this wasn’t the way this was supposed to go.  I’m not sure what you expected from this semester but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t this.  As with any disruption, I wonder what you’re feeling, what you’re dealing with, and what you need right now.  We can still stay connected, you may always call, text, email, message us for anything you need, or if you just want to talk.  Using Zoom, we’ll continue to gather on Sundays at 6 pm and say Evening Prayer (BCP, page 115); we’ll have time each Tuesday at 6 pm for check-in, a chance, just like we do on campus, to come if you want to and share what’s going on with you.  We’ll continue our Lenten series ‘Money and Possessions’ each Thursday at 5 pm.  This isn’t the way it was supposed to go; but we can continue to connect, share, and be a community of faith with one another. Links are listed at the end of this email.

Social distancing doesn’t mean isolation but staying connected is requiring a new way of life.  Uncertainty is hard, and when we don’t know when or how life will get back to normal we begin to grieve what we’ve lost.  In one of the more important lines from our service of burial the priest (or bishop) says, “for to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.”  Life is indeed changed and it’s not ended.  We still need to carry on with life but in new ways, in ways that demand creativity, in ways that inspire conversation.  We need a human touch and a human voice to remind us we’re not alone; and we need to remember that God hasn’t forgotten us or abandoned us when our lives get turned upside down.

A friend recently joked to me saying, of all the congregations yours is the best suited to this new way of communication.  While you are far more tech-savvy than older generations, in the days to come I suspect you’ll miss gathering together on campus, in dorms, apartments, at your jobs, even in class.  You’ll miss the rituals of college life, and for those of you graduating, a chance to be recognized for your hard work and achievement.  This is a hard time and Jesus teaches us that in hard times we do best when we remember God is with us and we should be with one another.

I hope to see you on Tuesday, thanks to Zoom; and I hope you’ll let us know what you need, how we can help, if a prayer needs to be said, or if you just want to talk about a show you’ve seen or a book you’ve read.  Life is changed, not ended; and together, as God’s people have always done, we can move forward in trust and hope knowing we’re not alone.

–Thomas

This Week On Zoom

Tuesday at 6 pm – Check-in
Thomas and Kelley will be on Zoom beginning at 6 pm. Drop-in and say hello: https://zoom.us/j/821152763.
Thursday at 5 pm – Lenten Series
We will gather via Zoom to continue our discussion on Money and Possessions by taking a look at the letters of Paul. We will post this link soon!
Sunday 6 pm – Evening Prayer
Join us for Evening Prayer and a time to check-in via Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/554598167.

This Sunday – Responding to COVID-19

This Sunday

Friends,

One of the reasons we return again and again to scripture for guidance, solace, and instruction are the many stories which help remind us that God is present, understands our fears and hopes, as well as responds to our cries for help or mercy. It’s easy to forget when we’re anxious, confused, and uncertain about where our life may lead. Scripture points us back to God as someone who understands us and is alongside us when we’re prone thinking we’ve been abandoned and are alone.

As your schools wrestle with the best way to keep you and your loved ones safe while still offering you instruction to finish the semester, I invite you to trust that God continues with you on your journey, wherever it may be and wherever it may take you.  There is an abundance of caution being practiced, as well as an effort to minimize and contain the spread of COVID-19; we are on a new journey, but it’s still a journey best done together.

At Trinity Commons, and for Episcopal Campus Ministry in Birmingham, we are following the directions of your school administration and the Diocese of Alabama.  This Sunday, March 15, we will not gather at Trinity Commons for our 6 pm Eucharist and supper; we will offer Evening Prayer at 6 pm via Zoom and continue to do so until further notice.  I hope you join us on this platform for prayer, conversation, and an opportunity to stay connected.  On Tuesdays at 6 pm we will offer TC Tuesday via Zoom; this will be a chance to just connect, share, hangout for a while if there’s anything on your mind and you’d like a chance to connect with the group.  Our Thursday Lenten series will continue at 5 pm, also via Zoom.

Here is the link to join us this Sunday at 6 pm for worship: https://zoom.us/j/554598167.

We will send out the links for the other meetings on Monday.

While prayer and worship are important, it’s equally important for you to get the help you need in a difficult time.  We are working to arrange some assistance for students who need help, so if there is food you need, help with some financial hardship, dealing with medical concerns or issues, we will work to meet that need; please let us know how we can help you should you find yourself in a time of need.  As always we continue to be available for conversation and pastoral care, either in person, by text, email, phone, or video chat.  We urge you to stay up to date on information about this virus, take COVID-19 seriously, and to monitor and report any symptoms to your doctor.

In our own journey into uncertain times we’re still here to support you, to listen to you, and to guide you. In this wilderness time of Lent we find uncertainty, just as Israel did both in exodus from Egypt and in exile in Babylon, and the relief of connection with God as the Samaritan woman at the well in the noonday heat found with Jesus. Wilderness experiences are rarely easy but they usually offer important lessons worth remembering; in this wilderness season remember you are not alone and do not be afraid.

–Thomas & Kelley

This Week – 03/09/2020

This week.

For who has despised the day of small things?
–Zechariah 4.10 (Robert Alter translation)

When we think about Lent the concept of delight isn’t the first thing we typically think about.  But Lent is about changing our perspective, and finding delight is all about seeing the people around us and our situation with a different perspective.  Delight is about seeing abundance over deficit, opportunity over stagnation, relationship over isolation, and joy over happiness.  Delight is moving beyond our expectations of how things should be to open ourselves up to the surprise of what we encounter.  Delight is about taking time, avoiding the need to rush, moving beyond urgency and hurry, in order to be present in the experience right in front of us.  This Tuesday we’ll encounter this concept of delight as we experience a chance to connect with people looking with us for hope.

Hope doesn’t have to come in big ways, but by little things, little gestures, the ‘day of small things’ as the prophet Zechariah put it.  Those who ignore, disregard, and dismiss humble gestures or the very first steps of any opportunity don’t appreciate how important a small gesture, a humble beginning can be; great things are done by the day of small things.  Hope begins with a willingness to listen, to show compassion, and to offer our most precious commodity: time.

This Tuesday we’ll meet at Trinity Commons at 4 pm and walk (or carpool if it’s raining) over to UAB hospital where our friend the Rev. Malcolm Marler with introduce us into a way of offering hope and sharing in delight with others.  We’ll offer Prayers to Go at UAB hospital, which is a way of offering a prayer for someone who needs it, and find the power of delight in connection in a time of anxiety and uncertainty.  Prayers are always welcome, and being a part of this will probably take you out of your comfort zone and that’s ok.  Lent is about seeing with new eyes, and delight comes when we slow down and engage in the experience.  Prayer is a small thing but from this willingness to connect and name our needs before God we’ll find delight, offer hope, and experience a whole new way of seeing the world.

–Thomas

On Campus

Tuesdays at BSC
We will be on Campus hanging our in front of the Caf beginning about 9 am. Join us for a Holy Eucharist in Yielding Chapel at 11:45 am, and then for lunch in the Caf after.
Wednesdays at Samford 
Enjoy your Spring Break! We look forward to seeing you when you get back!
Thursdays at UAB
We’ll be in the Hill Center from 10 am to 3 pm. Come by and have a coffee, or lunch, or for a chat or a prayer, or just to say hello.

At Trinity Commons

Tuesday, 4 pm, Prayers-to-Go @ UAB
We will meet at Trinity Commons at 4 pm and then walk or carpool (depending on weather) to UAB Hospital. Or you can meet us at the Pastoral Care office at UAB Hospital.

Thursday, 5 pm, Money & Possessions Lenten Series
Join us at Trinity Commons as we continue our discussion of Money & Possessions. This time we will explore what the Prophets have to tell us.

This Sunday – 2nd Sunday in Lent

This Sunday

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
–John 3.1

  • Can you name a teacher who made a deep impact on you, or helped open your eyes to something you hadn’t seen?
  • How do you learn best: by doing, by seeing, by figuring it out on your own?
  • I wonder what Jesus might have to teach you?
  • What might God be trying to help you understand about yourself and your life with God today?

Learning new things can be tricky for some people.  But learning something new can open us to something we might be missing.  God wants us to learn that we’re valuable, included, an important part of what God is doing in and through us.  If you’ve been looking for a new start, a chance to learn something new, then join us at Trinity Commons for Eucharist and supper this Sunday at 6 pm.  We’ll welcome our friend from St. Mary’s-on-the Highlands, the Rev. Danielle Thompson, and enjoy supper thanks to the youth group from St. Mary’s.

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

–Thomas

This Week – 03/02/2020

This week.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
–Exodus 20.17

This Thursday at Trinity Commons, from 5-6 pm, we begin our five-week Lenten series focused on what the Bible has to tell us about money and possessions.  How we understand and order our lives around money and possessions says a lot about who we are as people, as well as where we place our trust.  The starting point for any understanding of money and possessions begins at Sinai, with the covenant Moses makes with God expressed in what we know as the 10th Commandment, against coveting.  To covet refers to an attitude of desire, but it’s a desire with an inability to understand that what we desire is not properly our own.  Faced with the desire to possess, we live as seduced by our desire which skews our life. To covet isn’t just to want but to want AND take.

What underlies the prohibition to covet is an understanding of our neighbor.  The word ‘neighbor’ occurs three times in verse 17, and it’s the first usage in the Decalogue.

The reality that we have a neighbor lies at the heart of the commandment against coveting and lies at the heart of our life together, which is what the Decalogue is fundamentally all about.  Learning how to live with other people, and learning how to live without fear, without shame, without resentment, anger, and hostility isn’t just the challenge of our time, it was the challenge of Israel wandering homeless in the wilderness.

Being in the wilderness can be useful as we sort some things out, examine our values, create some priorities.  You don’t need a lot of money or a lot of possessions in order to want to hear and discuss your relationship with them; ultimately these objects are about the ways we relate to God and one another. Over the course of the next five weeks, we’ll also hear from the Prophets, from the words of Jesus, from Paul, and from the Book of Revelation (a vision of the new Jerusalem).  Join us from 5-6p m at Trinity Commons to listen, examine, enjoy community (as well as some delicious snacks), and come and find your life in God with your neighbor.

–Thomas

On Campus

Tuesdays at BSC
We will be on Campus hanging our in front of the Caf beginning about 9 am. Join us for a Holy Eucharist in Yielding Chapel at 11:45 am, and then for lunch in the Caf after.
Wednesdays at Samford 
We’ll be in the University Center near O’Henry’s around 9 am. Join us for Holy Eucharist at 12 noon in Reid Chapel, and then lunch in the Caf after.
Thursdays at UAB
We’ll be in the Hill Center from 10 am to 3 pm. Come by and have a coffee, or lunch, or for a chat or a prayer, or just to say hello.

At Trinity Commons

Tuesday, 5:30 pm, Evensong
Join us for a short service of scripture and sung prayers.

Thursday, 5 pm, Money & Possession Lenten Series
Join us as we consider what the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, has to tell us about our money and possessions.

This Week – 02/24/2020

This week.

“We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others.  An interpreted world is not a hope.  Part of the terror is to take back our own listening.  To use our own voice.  To see our own light.”
–Hildegard of Bingen

Being able to see is important; if you’ve ever had to stumble through a dark room, walk to your car on a dimly lit street, or be ‘led’ while blindfolded on one of those trust walks, you know how important seeing can be.  But being able to see clearly doesn’t just refer to our eyesight, it can also reflect our ability to understand and articulate a vision for who we are and what we do.  Jesus, we remember, heals those who have trouble seeing and the church has tried to follow that model, with mixed success.  There are many of us who experienced the church as controlling, judgmental, hypocritical, and fake.   And yet, we make up the church, we are the body of Christ on earth; what happens will happen because we do, or don’t, do it. Where humanity and God meet is encouraged or hindered by what we do.  We gather in worship to participate in Eucharist and in prayer, because it’s where you see yourself in God’s story, see what keeps you distant from God, and see that you are loved, forgiven, and valuable to God.

As we begin Lent this Wednesday, I hope you experience in the ashes placed on your forehead and in the bread and wine you consume an invitation beyond the loneliness we all feel, all the false promises you’ve been told, all your fears about God and about your future.  I hope you experience a welcome beyond isolation, a relief from the emotions of yourself which control you, a need for attachment to another person, an idea, an evaluation.  I hope you find the courage to engage, listen, let go so that all the substitutes we use to cope are seen for exactly what they are, substitutes.  All of these things: ashes, bread, wine, prayers, inclusion, connection, and love are about a vision we find when we stop worrying about whether or not we’re on the right path, and trust in the presence of God and one another to find the way by what sight we have.

The church isn’t perfect, and that’s because you and I who make up the church aren’t perfect.  Lent is about recognizing we don’t have to be perfect, only faithful.  And this week, this Lent, is an opportunity to begin again to use our own voice, and see our own light which points us to God.  God is already there, eager for you to connect your sight and your voice with something more than what you have in a world interpreted by others.

–Thomas

On Campus

Tuesdays at BSC
We will be on Campus hanging our in front of the Caf beginning about 9 am. Join us for a Holy Eucharist in Yielding Chapel at 11:45 am, and then for lunch in the Caf after.
Wednesdays at Samford 
We’ll be in the University Center near O’Henry’s around 9 am. Then join us at Noon for “Ashes to Go” in Ben Brown Plaze with Patrick Harley and UKirk.
Thursdays at UAB
We’ll be in the Hill Center from 10 am to 3 pm. Come by and have a coffee, or lunch, or for a chat or a prayer, or just to say hello.

At Trinity Commons

Tuesday, 6 pm, is Pasta Night!
Join us for an evening of cooking, eating, and hanging out. We will provide the recipe and ingredients. Just bring yourself (and a friend). This month’s pasta is Creamy Shells with Pancetta and Peas.

Wednesday, 6 pm, Ash Wednesday Service
Join us as we begin our observance of Lent with a service of Imposition of Ashes and Holy Eucharist at 6 pm at Trinity Commons.

Coming Soon!

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This Sunday – The Last Sunday after the Epiphany

This Sunday

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
–Matthew 17.1-3

  • Can you remember a particular story you were told as a child that is still important to you? How often do you think about it? Why is it a story that stays with you?
  • What about your life would you change today if you could?  Why would you make that change?
  • Do you imagine yourself connected to the story of God, unfolding today as it did long ago?
  • When you think about Jesus, what reveals itself to you?

This is the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany, Transfiguration Sunday.  It’s the day we remember Jesus going to a high mountain where he meets Moses and Elijah, and his face and clothes become dazzling white.  But why?  What’s that supposed to mean?  If you’ve always been interested in this story, or if you’ve never really thought about it, come join us at Trinity Commons Sunday night at 6 pm for Eucharist.  Then plan to stay for a delicious dinner thanks to our friends in EfM from St. Andrew’s (Gerald Wildes and Phyllis Bennington).  It’s sure to be a great night; I hope you can be there too.

–Thomas

This Week – 02/17/2020

This week.

“My mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.”  To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
–Fred Rogers

I remember when I was in high school I watched my dad put together a storage shed in the backyard.  It was one of those sheds you pretty much had to put together everything yourself and the booklet of instructions seemed to rival a Russian novel in length.  My dad was struggling, finding it difficult to find the right part, the right bolt, not drop the tool, to find the right page in the manual.  Seeing him struggle I helped to get us on the right page in the directions and hold things while he put it together; together, we were able to get it done.  Even with just a small bit of help from me it was a job that was a whole lot easier with two people than just one person trying to do it all by themselves.

Thank you to those of you who were there to help us provide support and refreshments to the runners of the marathon on Sunday.  I am grateful for your help and the runners certainly were.  Helping people is good for everyone, for the person needing our help and in allowing us to feel good for seeing someone else succeed.  For those of you who weren’t able to join us there’s another opportunity this week to provide help for those who’re looking to you for your expertise.

On Tuesday, we’ll meet and leave from Trinity Commons at 4 pm and carpool over to Episcopal Place; Episcopal Place provides safe and affordable housing to low income and disabled seniors. Once there, we’ll help the residents with learning how to use their phones and tablets.  While these devices are second nature to us, learning how to use them and set them up can be frustrating for them.  Your expertise will not only make life easier for someone else, but you’ll be surprised by what you can learn from each other as you talk about something as simple as a phone.

If you need to meet us at Episcopal Place that’s fine, and you’re welcome to leave whenever you need to.  Episcopal Place isn’t too far from Trinity Commons (it’s located at 112 26th Street South 35205).

–Thomas

On Campus

Tuesdays at BSC
We will be on Campus hanging our in front of the Caf beginning about 9 am. Join us for a Holy Eucharist in Yielding Chapel at 11:45 am, and then for lunch in the Caf after.
Wednesdays at Samford 
We’ll be in the University Center near O’Henry’s around 9 am. Join us for Holy Eucharist at 12 noon in Reid Chapel, and then lunch in the Caf after.
Thursdays at UAB
We’ll be in the Hill Center from 10 am to 3 pm. Come by and have a coffee, or lunch, or for a chat or a prayer, or just to say hello.

At Trinity Commons

Tuesday, 4 pm, Technology Help at Episcopal Place!
We will meet and leave from Trinity Commons at 4 pm and carpool to Episcopal Place. While there we will help the residents with learning how to use their phones and tablets. If you need to meet us at Episcopal Place, that’s fine. The address is 112 26th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35205.

Vocare 20 @ Camp McDowell, March 6-8
Join college students and young adults for a free weekend at Camp McDowell to explore faith and where God is calling you. If you have questions, ask Thomas or Kelley. Sign up here!

This Sunday – Marathon Sunday & the 6th Sunday after the Epiphany

This Sunday

Can you remember the last time you asked someone for help?  What was the last situation in which you had to make a difficult choice?  When we face tough choices we often need help and none of us get where we want to go in life without the help of someone else.  This Sunday we’ll hear a lot from Jesus about how we can best live together by the choices we make, and it takes asking for help.  We know other people need our help and this is a Sunday where I need your help.

It’s Mercedes Marathon Sunday and we need your help at Trinity Commons at 7am (!).  I know it’s early but this is a fun and important event where we provide hospitality (gummi bears, Gatorade, water) to those running in the marathon who come right in front of our student center.  It’s a lot of fun to cheer them on, help them as they run the race, and be a part of an important event in the life of Birmingham.  We’ll have coffee and bagels for you to get you going, but we need a lot of hands to help because there are a lot of runners to support.  I promise you you’ll enjoy it by all the people who’ll tell you ‘thank you.’  So set your alarms, get a friend to come with you, and please make plans to come help serve those who need our support and encouragement.

Sunday night we’ll join our friends next door at St. Andrew’s for a combined Eucharist with supper afterwards.  The service is still at 6 pm but join us in the church at St. Andrew’s to say thank you to God.

–Thomas

This Week – 02/10/2020

This week.

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.
–Isaiah 58.2-3

‘How do you know?’  Is that a question that constantly goes through your mind when someone tells you something; is your first thought ‘how do you know?’  Taking the time to wonder why things are the way they are, and do they have to be that way, can be helpful as we assess where we are and where we want to go.  Don’t just take my word for it, test it for yourself by listening to what others think, then spend some time asking questions and reflecting; thinking and asking questions is how we learn.

‘What do you believe?’  Asking questions of God, even challenging God, is something the Old Testament takes seriously.  The prophet Isaiah questions why the predictions of the restoration of Israel haven’t come true?  For Isaiah, the exiles have returned but where is God?  Isaiah wonders if the problem is we’re doing what we’re doing for us, not for God?  Asking where is God and what does our life in God mean, is central to our faith. Faith is a dialogue with God and we engage one another in that dialogue too.

This week, as we continue to explore different ways of gathering for Trinity Commons Tuesdays, and this Tuesday at 4:30 pm we’ll start ‘Good People, Good Book,’ an informal Bible study at Good People Brewing Company. You don’t have to be 21 to come but you do have to be 21 to buy yourself a beer, but everyone is welcome whether you drink beer or not. The point of this time together is to hear what God has to say, ask each other what we believe about God and discuss the question: How can we determine what is or isn’t part of the Christian faith?

If you’ve wanted to ask some questions, hear what others think, and try and figure out what you believe then come join us and feel free to bring a friend.

–Thomas

On Campus

Tuesdays at BSC
We will be on Campus hanging our in front of the Caf beginning about 9 am. Join us for a Holy Eucharist in Yielding Chapel at 11:45 am, and then for lunch in the Caf after.
Wednesdays at Samford 
We’ll be in the University Center near O’Henry’s around 9 am. Join us for Holy Eucharist at 12 noon in Reid Chapel, and then lunch in the Caf after.
Thursdays at UAB
We’ll be in the Hill Center from 10 am to 3 pm. Come by and have a coffee, or lunch, or for a chat or a prayer, or just to say hello.

At Trinity Commons

Tuesday, 4:30 pm, “Good People, Good Book”!
Join us for an informal Bible study at Good People Brewing Company. You don’t have to be 21 to come but you do have to be 21 to buy yourself a beer, but everyone is welcome whether you drink beer or not. The point of this time together is to hear what God has to say, ask each other what we believe about God and discuss the question: How can we determine what is or isn’t part of the Christian faith?
Sunday, 7 am, Mercedes Marathon!
Yes we know it’s early, but come help us support the runners in the Mercedes Marathon by passing out water and Gummi bears. We will provide breakfast and coffee.

Sunday, 6 pm, Joint service with St. Andrew’s
We will have a joint service with our neighbors at St. Andrew’s. So join us next door for Eucharist.

Vocare 20 @ Camp McDowell, March 6-8
Join college students and young adults for a free weekend at Camp McDowell to explore faith and where God is calling you. If you have questions, ask Thomas or Kelley. Sign up here!