Sunday, May 12,  10:00 a.m.

Easter 4C* May 12,2019                                                                    St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                    Acts 13:15-33;Rev7:9-17;Jn10:22-30

Isn't it strange to our imaginations, this Revelation vision of the reign of God looking just like the ancient Roman Senate with white-robed, wreathed people surrounding the emperor’s throne and acclaiming him with the same words that would be offered to a Caesar: Blessing and glory and wisdom and  thanksgiving and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Yet this was, in its time, a profoundly inclusive vision of heaven: the white-robed gang (unlike the Roman version) included representatives of every nation, tribe, ethnicity and language, and the one on the throne is not a Caesar, but the unblemished lamb of sacrifice, raised up in wholeness. Early Christians would have recognized that symbol of Jesus Christ. It would be hard for us to envision heaven looking much like our own Congress, though maybe a a bit easier with the latest class of Representatives! For Roman Christians, such a picture must have suggested parody, and more: the inclusive Roman empire founded on the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic captives with its Pax Romanus, Roman Peace, based on might and subjugation, replaced by a different sort of emperor, a different sort of peace - with all those liberated souls shouting their heartfelt praise.

Eighteen years ago we Episcopalians heard about the pain of the Anglican Church of Canada suffering lawsuits in the aftermath of its collaboration with its government policy twenty to forty years ago. At that time, the government and most Anglo-Canadians thought it would be a good idea to remove small children from their aboriginal families in the Canadian northwest and place them in residential schools where they would get English-language education and culture. Some of these schools were operated by the Anglican dioceses. This forced separation and assimilation of children was worsened by the Church’s habit of sending clergy who had gotten into trouble in parishes to work at their schools where they would be out of the public eye. Some of them sexually and physically abused the children in their care. The Church saw assimilation of First Nation people into Anglo Culture and Christianity as their “mission” to make disciples of all nations.

Decades later, with a new consciousness about the value of indigenous cultures and families and persons, and with heightened understanding of sexual misconduct, Anglicans in Canada began to try to forge different relationships with First World people both inside and outside the Church, but much damage was already done. Litigation is still underway, with the Anglican Church and its dioceses named along with the government in many lawsuits. One diocese went bankrupt and closed its doors, merging with an adjacent one, and others may follow. I heard in British Columbia, priests from Canada speak movingly about the varied responses of people in their national and local Church – the confession and penitence, the anger, the shock, the complex issues, the great pain of all concerned.

The journey toward reconciliation begins with apology and admission of harm done. Without a heartfelt apology, no mending really happens. Canadians apologized. Even so, several generations of damaged children grew into still-hurting, angry, and depressed adults - some never reunited with their family and tribe. Many lost the language of their relatives and the religion of their people and many never accepted the Anglo substitutes as their own.

17th, 18th and 19th century Christian missionaries believed that to make First Nation people Christians was to make them European gentlemen and ladies – in dress, in manners, in values, in religious practice. The best way to do this, they thought, was to separate children from their families and acculturate them among European adults, even have them adopted by and married to white folk. In the United States, the same practices were common as government policies against Native Americans, and churches often ran the schools where they were abducted and confined. Only in our lifetime - since the 1970s!- have these practices come under revision. African-Americans brought here as slaves suffered similar violence at the hands of Christian institutions. Our Episcopal Church has begun to apologize. Our government has not! Nor have we as a nation become more compassionate toward children, though we know so much more about the psychology of trauma.

Today Churches are faced with the need to redefine radically what mission means, and indigenous peoples everywhere are saying loudly that it does not mean exporting culture, or simply supplanting local religions with foreign faith and practice. It does not mean entering into dubious partnerships with governments that blur the safety margin between church and state and pretend the two share one benign purpose. We are challenged to dismantle imperialism in our government policies and in Church practices. We wrestle with what it means to make justice together, what restitutions and remedies we owe or might offer for the sins of the past. It is not enough to believe “bygones should be bygones”. This history was not even very long ago! The privilege enjoyed by some today continues to rest on the sacrifices forced on others in the past, and the ongoing disadvantage of their descendents in the present. What are we to do to set things right? What does the Lord require? "Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God," said the prophet Micah.

As the complexities of the situation unfold for us, we become aware of the way that sin is a great web that snares everyone. We cannot simply make things right by wishing it, as though a new unilateral action, a newer, kinder imperialism would repair the wrongs of the past. The decent and humane workers at Church schools back then bore responsibility right along with the abusers, for a system in which all suffered because of the bigotry of some, and few if any questioned it, even watching the suffering. Even the settling of lawsuits with big sums of money does not repair lives shattered by past abuse, or re-establish broken trust. We together have not done well in loving our neighbors or God. We begin by repenting and confessing.

When the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada spoke and published an eloquent apology to all who have suffered through the Church’s complicity with the government against First Nation people, his lawyers instantly reacted in outrage that he had created more legal liability by doing this. But he did it anyway. Without apology there is no beginning of new relationship, no basis for healing. First Nation people have confronted religious and secular officials calling for reconciliation to point out that what is needed is not re-conciliation since there was no conciliar relationship to begin with, no relating of equals with equal voice and power, no real mutuality. What is needed is to establish conversation for the first time – a great listening to those who have not yet spoken.

A story: In Australia, the government has been trying to redress identical policies of forced assimilation of Aboriginal children separated from their families over several decades - they are called the "stolen generations". The stated plan was to "breed out color." There is progress, though aboriginal people still are disproportionately un- or under-employed, incarcerated, and poor. there was a huge corroborree – like a pow-wow – a convention of native people from all over Australia for celebration and political work. The Prime Minister attended to offer an official statement of regret and intention for change. He started speaking, and rambled on for about twenty minutes about unfortunate history, the abuses of some, erroneous policies, and so forth. Gradually people in the audience began to hold up pieces of paper which read, “Say you’re sorry”, “apologize”. Hundreds of signs were pencilled and held up, but he continued to speak for ten more minutes, then twenty, totally ignoring them all. Refusing to say, “I’m sorry!” – just those words. Finally, a ninety year old aboriginal woman stood up in her place and slowly and deliberately turned her back. Those near her saw this, and they turned their backs, and more and more of the assembly did the same, until thousands of backs were turned to the Prime Minister, a whole stadium of turned backs, begging for genuine personal accountability and sorrow. It took until 2008 for the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to officially apologize, to recognize the racism as "a great stain on the nation's soul" and commit to improving the lives of Aboriginals. He said:  

“For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

“To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”

And so I offer you today, courtesy of the Australian Aboriginals,  a strange new image of the reign of heaven: not a heavenly senate in its confident power facing forward, but the great crowd of turned backs from every downtrodden nation and ethnicity and people and language, just waiting for an authentic word of love and justice which begins with being able to grieve, to begin to listen, to say, “I’m sorry.”


WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Sunday Worship: 10:00  a.m. 
Wednesday Eucharist: 10:15 a.m 

This is St. John's Episcopal Church... please click on photo below to see more photos of church life!

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2018:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips


Wednesday, May 15, 3:30 - 7:30 p.m.: High School Youth serve dinner @ Epiphany School in Dorchester

Saturday, May 18th, 9:00a.m. - 3:00 p.m.: 
Fundraising Plant Sale at the  Westwood Historical Society - the Fisher School - 830 High Street

We plan to sell 4" pots of annuals such as geraniums, petunias, vinca, impatients, begonias, etc., some herbs; and hangers & containers with mixed plants.
The selection will be perfect for filling window boxes, planters and for Memorial Day plantings.  Additionally, we’re asking parishioners to contribute perennials such as irises, hosta, etc. which they’re interested in dividing or removing from their yards.  

Jackie Collier

Sunday, May 19, 10 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist
Last Church School class for K- 5: 
 Last day of church school for kids in grades K -5: celebration with special snack in class & planting (tossing) our seed balls into church rain garden!

Looking Ahead:
Saturday, June 1, 10:30 a.m.: Confirmation for our Deanery @ Church of the Holy Spirit, 525 River St., Mattapan

Sunday, June 2, 10:00 a.m.: Come celebrate with our high school seniors!

Saturday, June 22, Noon - 2:45 p.m: Picnic at North Beach, Hale Reservation for guests from Ecclesia Ministries

Calling all Artists!
Painters, Photographers, Potters, Quilters, Poets, Fiction Writers, Musicians and More--
We need your talents for the St John's Harvest Moon Arts Night next September. Plans are in the very early stage.  We envision an art exhibit in the Narthex, a poetry reading with open mic signup, maybe dance, instrumental music, song, finger food and wine and sparkling cider, and a silent auction of donated art, from paintings to poetry books. We also need volunteers to  design  a flyer and poster,  handle publicity on social media and in local news outlets, help with planning, managing and organizing the art, to do setting up and breaking down of the exhibit, to organize the silent auction, to help with the food and drink, and to do cleanup.
If you are an artist, let me know about your talent. If you are a master organizer, or helper, we need you, too. Many hands will make light work!

Lynne Viti
cell 781 248 5020

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in downtown Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors from Boston to Hale Reservation for a summer picnic and for a Spring bowling afternoon in Norwood. This year's picnic will be on Saturday, June 22.

Tutoring after-school reading and homework help for city children at Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan on Tuesday afternoons.
Pantry support for the Westwood Food Pantry and the Center for Life elderly housing complex in Mattapan – bring non-perishable groceries to church year round.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years. We are beginning plans for a service trip with our partner parish, CHS Mattapan, for June 2020!

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program. St. John's week this year is July 29 - August 2.

Eucharistic Visiting members are trained and take the Sacrament, offer healing prayer, and make friendly visits to people who are homebound, in hospital, or other institutional settings.

Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!