February 2, 10:00 a.m.

1-26-20 Annual Meeting Sunday                                                St. John's Church

Annual Report - Rev. J.Phillips, Rector

Church meets world

On us light has shone, is shining! There is joy, companionship, nourishment and self-giving even in this rather troubled world and nation, even in - what is for some - lives of high anxiety and constant motion and endless opportunities; light shines. It is a joy for me to be in the presence of all of you, serving you, and holding up the mirror to this shining. Light does shine in the darkness!

I think we all realize, though, that we are in a time and place where religious institutions are shrinking, where for church folk, Sundays are just like every other day of the week, and for increasing numbers, God seems an anachronism, or an emergency backup service like AAA or 911. It's tough to cultivate a sense of wonder, delight, and contemplative openness when every second is full of information (much of it trivial, useless, or fake) being presented to us right in our hands and eyes, and presented as though it were either an emergency or a transcendent and life-changing revelation of truth. Our adrenaline can only pump so often and for so long! We get weary, frazzled, bewildered, and often, mad (in every sense of that word). We need to stop and breathe and be quiet and pray.

Church is a community that moves with a different current than all that. Our stories are ancient and thickly layered with meanings, full of truthiness that keeps on inviting each generation in.

Our fellowship is more than coffee and cake: it is koinonia, Communion that unites us to people we have not hand-picked, whom God brings through the doors here, so that we may be a mutual gift to one another and together be sent into the world to bring it good news by our words and actions. We need one another to share in our praise and thanksgivings. Our baptism - into which this year we have welcomed four new members of the Body of Christ here - seals our commitment to being Christ's own for ever, and undertaking this countercultural mission. The Sacrament of Christ's Table (put into 3974 hands this year at 175 public services and 96 home or hospital Communion visits,)  fills us with the energy and hope to go out and do this as apostles, sent ones. Sunday attendance is down a bit (average about 5 people less) from previous years, and fluctuates hugely through the year. For better or worse, this is the number on which church success is measured by dioceses and the wider church, even though another third of total attendance is added outside of Sundays. It is a crude measure, especially as lives and time gets more fragmented and we must work on Sundays, evenings from home, and in this community we travel pretty constantly for work and pleasure. Given this trend it will become harder to keep community connected and incarnate in that face-to-face way that God has reminded us in Jesus communicates the divine to us. It will depend on all of you showing up and staying in touch with each other. There is no substitute for gathering in person to pray, eat, and exchange the peace of God. So every household and individual decision to be present or not has a powerful impact for you and for your community now and in the future.

Your giving in dollars is healthy. We are in the black. Last year we had an alarmingly large one - and we more than closed it (+$22,000 over budget), thanks to giving beyond what was pledged by quite a few of you. Disciplined spending kept us on budget target. The 2020 budget shows a relatively tiny deficit ($1400) which I bet we could close by passing the hat today! And certainly by year's end. Meanwhile your leaders have been working to get investments made wisely, be intentional about growing an endowment, and practice excellent and proactive care of our buildings and grounds and material resources. You've seen the new paint and carpet and siding, but likely not seen the amazingly dry basement, the energy audits and insulating work, the improved state of the rectory, and the constant flow of repairs and refurbishings quietly undertaken by the leadership of Bob, Brian, Tom, Steve, and lately Dan, and some others.

You do see what still needs to be done - back walkway and deck work, for instance. You may not have realized that, thanks to Brian and his passion for lowering our carbon footprint by reducing and transforming our use of energy, a wonderful plan for a large solar array was developed and a professional quality green loan application to our diocese was put together, for this project to be done in cooperation with First Parish UCC, First Baptist Church, and Temple Beth David. They with their different governance systems, all approved and have begun solar installations through a lease-purchase arrangement. We, after a slow and cumbersome multi-committee diocesan loan process, were ultimately turned down for approval by these committees. So we are now seeking another and more conventional loan approach that will be less financially advantageous for us, but something workable and -we hope- approvable by our diocese during 2020. Brian will fill you in later. The level of determination of your leadership to get this work done for the care of our planet, our faith responsibility to be good stewards of resources, and the long-term efficiency and cost of our physical plant, is impressive. I am so grateful for it! This project is our communal action of apostolic Christly hope and faithfulness and - I think - subversive resistance to carrying on as usual in our changing climate. The resurrection is not about entropy! Please cheer on your leaders and get involved in this work to care for God's creation and our planet  however you can...maybe by joining a parish Green Team!

The loving and faithful nurture of children and youth at St. John's is a long-time gift and charism. It is embodied, incarnated, not only in Emily Sugg our amazing Youth and Children's minister, but in a dozen splendid Sunday School teachers, as well as parent-chaperones, Ellen Stryer, our Nursery Worker, our B-SAFE Boston team headed by Leslie Davie, and our hands-on and dollars-given mission support for Urban Promise Honduras (the school in Coban), and Glorious Orphanage that serves so many AIDS orphans in Tanzania, and more. The shining of your light is not only widespread through these efforts, it is long-term, down generations of young people.

Children don't develop a moral compass or a depth of sustaining faith by themselves. These things come with careful and steady formation from infancy through adulthood, starting with the moral and faith teaching and modeling by family members, and vitally sustained and widened by being part of church, and the particular kinds of service and just community that are grounded in God and shared with unrelated faithful adults and other young folks. Letting a child simply make up their own mind whether to go to church is to faith and moral development as letting that child choose whether or not they will go to the doctor for a checkup or school for education. There's plenty of room in life for choice, but first the tools and resources for choosing rightly, kindly, and generously need to be obtained. There are really good tools available here for those who come. And the most vital of these is love!

Children at St. John's are valued, respected as individuals, listened to when they speak (and encouraged to speak up bravely), given safe and challenging opportunities to encounter people and experiences out of their ordinary and to reflect on them, and encouraged and assisted to become people of  prayer, literate in their religious tradition and free to explore and question. The frenetic pace, abundance of activity, and haze of communications makes it more and more work for Emily and other leaders, with less and less predictability about who may participate. Please keep showing these leaders great courtesy and appreciation by watching for and responding promptly to messages, and bringing your kids (and yes, their friends, too) to take part in the life and activities of your church, so that it may continue into the future.

I also note about you collectively- that while you are passionate about children's education, few make time for adult religious education when it is offered...just one or two people have shown up for classes or ecumenical programs on various topics over these past years, other than our Tuesday Bible Study group which mostly becomes our Lenten study group, too. Don't be satisfied with an elementary school education in your faith and in the Bible.

Service - and you as a congregation are skilled at letting your lights shine through service - is always about building relationships, more than doing a task or handing over money. You don't take eagerly to committee structures and meetings. But many of you help gladly when you can. Quite a few of you serve in the wider community - I urge you to pray for and about that work out loud on Sundays in the Prayers of the People, and talk to others about it here. The service we do together as members of Christ's Body in St. John's Church is special- it joins us to each other, as well as to those we serve together: at Oasis Suppers, Ecclesia Bowling and Annual Picnic, tutoring in the city (going through a restructure at present), Epiphany suppers by our Middle Schoolers, School Supply Drive, our pantry grocery support, and more. I urge younger households - though you are often incredibly busy - to make time to take part in one or other of these parish avenues of service. They are often fun as well as work; they embody and communicate our faith; they help us make friends beyond our comfort zones; and they fulfill what Jesus asked of us - to feed the hungry, offer hospitality for the poor and the stranger, care for the lonely, shut-in and sick ones, and do justice for others as we would do for Jesus himself, (and do do in this work of service).

When I was a child someone gave me a piece of advice for good living - Sit loose in the saddle. -maybe it was the Lone Ranger; I forget. But to me it has always meant: be relaxed but attentive, be ready for change or rough ground at any time, don't try to control things or people that need to move at their own speed and direction, and (in good Anglican tradition: "seeking to keep the happy mean between too much stiffness in refusing, and too much easiness in admitting variations in things once advisedly established." (preface to the BCP) I think it's good advice for churches also. Cherish tradition, but consider what ought to change when it no longer serves God and the people. Don't tinker too much with what is running smoothly. Stay awake for what's going on, inside and out. And never forget you're on the horse, or in the church's case, doing the work of Jesus Christ in God's world. As a parish we are not perfect, but we are healthy. We remain open to new people in their variety, even living in a not very diverse town. We follow the worship and governance traditions handed down to us, with enough regularity to be able to relax but enough freshness to keep us interested (at least I think we do- and I trust you will tell me, if not.) We share a kindly community in a not-very-kind world. St. John's, God is pleased with you and loves you (desires to see some of you a bit more often, I suspect), and God is with you. God's light shines in you and from you, and I thank God for you!

 95 Deerfield Ave
 Westwood, MA 02090

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 2019-2020:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

Sunday, February 2, 10:30 a.m.:
K-5 and High School classes

During coffee hour:
"Souper" Bowl of Caring project, run by the Sunday School kids, during coffee hour: all proceeds will be split between the Westwood Senior Center and the Oasis meal program in Boston.

Please bring some $1 bills so that you can buy a few imaginary "tickets" to the Souper Bowl!  (Of course larger bills are gladly accepted as well!) The elementary school kids love to join in this national children's event to raise funs for local Food Pantries!

Tuesday, February 4, 7:00 p.m.: 
Bible Study followed by Celtic style Compline at 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 5, 10:15 a.m.:

Saturday, February 8, Noon - 2:00 p.m. @ Ron's in Hyde Park:
Bowling and pizza party for High School youth & guests from Ecclesia Ministries! 

Would you like to participate in the Winter Walk fundraiser taking place in Boston on Sunday, February 9? This is a 2 mile walk in Boston to raise funds and to bring support to the homeless in our city.

Looking Ahead:

Friday - Saturday, March 13 - 14: (6 p.m. - 3 p.m.):
CityReach overnight for St. John's high school youth (and some 80-100 youth from all around New England) at St. Paul's Cathedral to learn about homelessness in Boston. Please let Emily know soon if you will be attending!                                                           
On Wednesday, February 15, 6:30 - 7:30, we will host 3 other church youth groups who are attending CityReach for pizza & information about the program.

When online shopping with Amazon, please consider supporting St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church by using amazonsmile.  For more information, click the link below.

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 60 homeless neighbors at Old West Church in 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. 

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.

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

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!