St. John of Damascus Priest, c. 760

John of Damascus was the son of a Christian tax collector for the Mohammedan Caliph of Damascus. At an early age, he succeeded his father in this office. In about 715, he entered the monastery of St. Sabas near Jerusalem. There he devoted himself to an ascetic life and to the study of the Fathers.

In the same year that John was ordained priest, 726, the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian published his first edict against the Holy Images, which signaled the formal outbreak of the iconoclastic controversy. The edict forbade the veneration of sacred images, or icons, and ordered their destruction. In 729– 730, John wrote three “Apologies (or Treatises) against the Iconoclasts and in Defense of the Holy Images.” He argued that such pictures were not idols, for they represented neither false gods nor even the true God in his divine nature; but only saints, or our Lord as man. He further distinguished between the respect, or veneration (proskynesis), that is properly paid to created beings, and the worship (latreia), that is properly given only to God.

The iconoclast case rested, in part, upon the Monophysite heresy, which held that Christ had only one nature, and since that nature was divine, it would be improper to represent him by material substances such as wood and paint. The Monophysite heresy was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

At issue also was the heresy of Manichaeism, which held that matter itself was essentially evil. In both of these heresies, John maintained, the Lord’s incarnation was rejected. The Seventh Ecumenical Council, in 787, decreed that crosses, icons, the book of the Gospels, and other sacred objects were to receive reverence or veneration, expressed by salutations, incense, and lights, because the honor paid to them passed on to that which they represented. True worship (latreia), however, was due to God alone.

John also wrote a great synthesis of theology, The Fount of Knowledge, of which the last part, “On the Orthodox Faith,” is best known.

To Anglicans, John is best known as the author of the Easter hymns, “Thou hallowed chosen morn of praise,” “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain,” and “The day of resurrection.”*

St. John of Damascus

Collect of the Day

John of Damascus, Priest and Teacher of the Faith, 760

Almighty God, you gave your servant John of Damascus special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth revealed in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP2019 ACNA)

*Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 2200-2218). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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Channing Moore Williams – Missionary Bishop

Bishop Williams, a farmer’s son, was born in Richmond, Virginia, on July 18, 1829, and brought up in straitened circumstances by his widowed mother. He attended the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Ordained deacon in 1855, he offered himself for work in China, where he was ordained priest in 1857. Two years later, he was sent to Japan and opened work in Nagasaki. His first convert was baptized in 1866, the year he was chosen bishop for both China and Japan.

After 1868, he decided to concentrate all his work in Japan, following the revolution that opened the country to renewed contact with the western world. Relieved of his responsibility for China in 1874, Williams made his base at Yedo (now Tokyo), where he founded a divinity school, later to become St. Paul’s University. At a synod in 1887 he helped bring together the English and American missions to form the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Holy Catholic Church of Japan, when the Church there numbered fewer than a thousand communicants.

Williams translated parts of the Prayer Book into Japanese; and he was a close friend and warm supporter of Bishop Schereschewsky, his successor in China, in the latter’s arduous work of translating the Bible into Chinese.

After resigning his jurisdiction in 1889, Bishop Williams stayed in Japan to help his successor there, Bishop John McKim, who was consecrated in 1893. Williams lived in Kyoto and continued to work in the opening of new mission stations until his return to America in 1908. He died in Richmond, Virginia, on December 2, 1910.*

Collect for this Day

Channing Moore Williams, Missionary Bishop in China and Japan, 1910 Almighty and everlasting God, you called your servant Channing Moore Williams to preach the Gospel to the people of China and Japan: Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP2019 – ACNA)

*Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 2172-2185). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon and Founder of the Little Gidding Community, 1637

Nicholas Ferrar (1592– 1637) was the founder of a religious community at Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, England, which existed from 1626 to 1646. His family had been prominent in the affairs of the Virginia Company, but when that company was dissolved, he took deacon’s orders, and retired to the country.

At Little Gidding, his immediate family and a few friends and servants gave themselves wholly to religious observance. They restored the derelict church near the manor house, became responsible for services there, taught many of the local children, and looked after the health and well-being of the people of the neighborhood. A regular round of prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer was observed, along with the daily recital of the whole of the Psalter. The members of the community became widely known for fasting, private prayer and meditation, and for writing stories and books illustrating themes of Christian faith and morality.

One of the most interesting of the activities of the Little Gidding community was the preparation of “harmonies” of the Gospels, one of which was presented to King Charles the First by the Ferrar family.

The community did not long survive the death of Nicholas Ferrar. However, the memory of the religious life at Little Gidding was kept alive, principally through Izaak Walton’s description in his Life of George Herbert: “He (Ferrar) and his family . . . did most of them keep Lent and all Ember-weeks strictly, both in fasting and using all those mortifications and prayers that the Church hath appointed . . . and he and they did the like constantly on Fridays, and on the vigils or eves appointed to be fasted before the Saints’ days; and this frugality and abstinence turned to the relief of the poor . . . .”

The community became an important symbol for many Anglicans when religious orders began to revive. Its life inspired T.S. Eliot, and he gave the title, “Little Gidding,” to the last of his Four Quartets, one of the great religious poems of the twentieth century.*

Collect of the Day

Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon and Founder of the Little Gidding Community, 1637

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Nicholas Ferrar, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last, with him, we attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Johns “Little Gidding Community”

*Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 2143-2158). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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Who Needs a Savior?

Sunday, November 29, marks the beginning of Advent, a season in the Church’s year when Christians are encouraged to reflect on their need for a savior. We sing songs and read Bible passages, some of which recall how the ancient Israelites longed for the coming of the Messiah (in Greek, “Christ”), God’s champion who would rescue them from physical captivity and spiritual darkness. We can share that longing even though we know that the Christ  has come. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birth. But we know the world still contains sin, evil, and death, and we look forward to Jesus’ second coming, when all things will be made new and, as one theologian has put it, “all ambiguities will be resolved.”

Do we need a savior, a Christ, a Messiah? What for? Aren’t we doing well enough? Let’s look at the Confession in the ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019. It begins:

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker and judge of us all; we acknowledge and lament our many sins and offenses, which we have committed by thought, word, and deed against your divine majesty, provoking most justly your righteous anger against us. We are deeply sorry for these our transgressions; the burden of them is more than we can bear.

Our maker and judge is the holy God, who is totally good and without any shadow of sin. God’s standard is perfection. Clearly, none of us meets that standard. Faced with this fact, some rebel: “I’m imperfect and I don’t care, I reject God and his standard!” The rebel might as well reject the law of gravity, attempting to deny reality will get you nowhere. Beyond this though, consider where the standard of “I’m imperfect and that’s OK” has gotten us: indifference to the poor, envy, hatred, crime and war. We see these things around us every day in thought, word, and deed and we realize that, given the opportunity, we participate too. There is something broken deep within us. The burden of our brokenness is more than we can fix on our own. That’s what the Confession means when it says our sins are more than we can bear. If there is no savior, then the rebel’s response is one of despair.

Now hear the second part of the Confession:

Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us most merciful Father; for your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may evermore serve and please you in newness of life, to the honor and glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer instructs us to pray for things that we are confident God can grant. Jesus spoke of God’s mercy and forgiveness. God wants to forgive us all that is past (think about that: all that is past) so that we can live with him forever in newness of life. Only God can grant this and the way he has chosen to grant it is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We have an opportunity to accept that gift.

We have two choices: rebel and live in despair, or accept God’s offer of forgiveness and a new life. This is a weighty choice that we can ponder during Advent. You are welcome to join us.

Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem, the first Advent.

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Antique Images: Free Vintage Thanksgiving Graphic: Vintage ...

The American holiday of Thanksgiving means a lot of different things to different people. Many suppose that the holiday originated with the Pilgrims of Plymouth colony, who in 1621 shared a feast with their Native American neighbors and then sat down with them to watch football. In normal years, families gather to recreate that event. A national day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by George Washington. The holiday was made permanent under President Grant.

Amid the festivities and other distractions of life, Thanksgiving is a good time to remember to give thanks. As Christians, our constant attitude should be one of thankfulness for this beautiful world, for the love of family and friends, and for the unspeakable love of God, who through Jesus has saved us from sin, evil, and death. Thankfulness is a good foundation for a happy life.

To participate in our worship of the good God who has given us so much, join us on Thanksgiving day from 9:00 to 10:00. Because of the Covid restrictions, we are in “walk-through Eucharist” mode, meaning that anytime during this period you can drive to the church, park and walk inside (with a mask) and receive the Eucharist individually. We hope to get back to more normal liturgies in time for Christmas.

The Constant Quilter: Happy Thanksgiving
Walk up Eucharist any time between 9:00am & 10:00am Thanksgiving Day
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Edmund, King of East Anglia – 870

Edmund ascended the throne of East Anglia at the age of fifteen, one of several monarchs who ruled various parts of England at that period in her history. The principal source of information about the martyrdom of the young king is an account by Dunstan, who became Archbishop of Canterbury ninety years after Edmund’s death. Dunstan had heard the story many years before from a man who claimed to have been Edmund’s armor bearer.

Edmund had reigned as a Christian king for nearly fifteen years when Danish armies invaded England in 870. Led by two brothers, Hinguar and Hubba, the Danes moved south, burning monasteries and churches, plundering and destroying entire villages, and killing hundreds. Upon reaching East Anglia, the brothers confronted Edmund and offered to share their treasure with him if he would acknowledge their supremacy, forbid all practice of the Christian faith, and become a figurehead ruler. Edmund’s bishops advised him to accept the terms and avoid further bloodshed, but the king refused. He declared that he would not forsake Christ by surrendering to pagan rule, nor would he betray his people by consorting with the enemy.

Edmund’s small army fought bravely against the Danes, but the king was eventually captured. According to Dunstan’s account, Edmund was tortured, beaten, shot through with arrows, and finally beheaded. By tradition, the date of his death is November 20, 870.

The cult of the twenty-nine-year-old martyr grew very rapidly, and his remains were eventually enshrined in a Benedictine monastery in Bedericesworth— now called Bury St. Edmunds. Through the centuries Edmund’s shrine became a traditional place of pilgrimage for England’s kings, who came to pray at the grave of a man who remained steadfast in the Christian faith and loyal to the integrity of the English people.

Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 7754-7768). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Collect of the Day

Edmund, King of East Anglia and Martyr, 870

Almighty God, you gave your servant Edmund boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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St. Hilda – Abbess of Whitby, 680

Collect of the Day

Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, 680

O God, your blessed Son became poor for our sake, and chose the Cross over the kingdoms of this world: Deliver us from an inordinate love of worldly things, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Hilda, may seek you with singleness of heart, behold your glory by faith, and attain to the riches of your everlasting kingdom, where we shall be united with our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP2019)

“Hilda’s career falls into two equal parts,” says the Venerable Bede, “for she spent thirty-three years nobly in secular habit, while she dedicated an equal number of years still more nobly to the Lord, in the monastic life.”

Hilda, born in 614, was the grandniece of King Edwin. She was instructed by Paulinus (one of the companions of Augustine of Canterbury) in the doctrines of Christianity in preparation for her baptism at the age of thirteen. She lived, chaste and respected, at the King’s court for twenty years, and then decided to enter the monastic life. She had hoped to join the convent of Chelles in Gaul, but Bishop Aidan was so impressed by her holiness of life that he recalled her to her home country, in East Anglia, to live in a small monastic settlement.

One year after her return, Aidan appointed her Abbess of Hartlepool. There, Hilda established the rule of life that she had been taught by Paulinus and Aidan. She became renowned for her wisdom, eagerness for learning, and devotion to God’s service.

Some years later, she founded the abbey at Whitby, where both nuns and monks lived in strict obedience to Hilda’s rule of justice, devotion,

chastity, peace, and charity. Known for her prudence and good sense, Hilda was sought out by kings and other public men for advice and counsel. Those living under her rule devoted so much time to the study of Scripture and to works of righteousness that many were found qualified for ordination. Several of her monks became bishops; at least one pursued further studies in Rome. She encouraged the poet Caedmon, a servant at Whitby, to become a monk and to continue his inspired writing. All who were her subjects or knew her, Bede remarks, called her “mother.”

In 663, Whitby was the site of the famous synod convened to decide divisive questions involved in the differing traditions of Celtic Christians and the followers of Roman order. Hilda favored the Celtic position, but when the Roman position prevailed she was obedient to the synod’s decision. Hilda died on November 17, 680, surrounded by her monastics, whom, in her last hour, she urged to preserve the gospel of peace.

Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 7695-7712). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.
St Hilda of Whitby | A short history of our abbess | Visit ...
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St. Hugh – Bishop of Lincoln, 1200

Hugh was born into a noble family at Avalon in Burgundy (France). He became a canon regular at Villard-Benoit near Grenoble. About 1160 he joined the Carthusians, the strictest contemplative order of the Church, at their major house, the Grande Chartreuse, of which he became the procurator. With great reluctance, he accepted the invitation of King Henry the Second to come to England as prior of a new Carthusian foundation at Witham, Somerset. With equal reluctance, Hugh accepted King Henry’s appointment to the See of Lincoln in 1186. He died in London, November 16, 1200, and is buried in Lincoln Cathedral, of which he laid the foundation.

As a bishop, Hugh continued to live as much as possible under the strict discipline of his order. His humility and tact, his total lack of self-regard, and his cheerful disposition made it difficult to oppose him in matters of Christian principle. His people loved him for his constant championship of the poor, the oppressed, and outcasts, especially lepers and Jews. He was completely independent of secular influences, and was never afraid to reprove his king for unjust exactions from his people. He firmly refused to raise money for King Richard’s foreign wars. Yet Richard said of him, “If all bishops were like my Lord of Lincoln, not a prince among us could lift his head against them.”*

Collect of the Day

Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln and Renewer of Society, 1200

O God, our heavenly Father, you raised up your faithful servant Hugh of Lincoln to be a Bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 2019)

*Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 7669-7679). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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St. Margaret – Queen of Scotland 1093

St. Margaret of Scotland

November 16 is the feast day of St. Margaret of Scotland. Margaret was born around the year 1045. She was a member of the English royal family, the sister of Edgar Aetheling. She fled to Scotland after the invasion of England by William (the Conqueror) in 1066. She married Malcolm III, king of Scotland, which made her Queen of Scotland until her death in 1093. 

Margaret was known for her personal piety, her work to integrate the Scottish Church into the wider Christian world, and her works of charity. It is said that she served food to orphans and the poor every day before she ate. She helped to found monasteries and other religious institutions. Many churches in Scotland and around the world are named in her honor.

The name Margaret comes from similar names in Latin and Greek and traces back originally to a Persian word that means “pearl.” Margaret is sometimes called the “Pearl of Scotland.”

St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 16 November 1093 ...
St. Margaret – Queen of Scotland

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Winter weather and Prayer

It’s time to get ready for dark and stormy days. Pray for those traveling over the mountain passes. 

This may raise a question: why pray? If God is all-powerful and in control, what difference do our prayers make? Won’t he protect travelers, or not, as he chooses? That’s a good question. An important part of the answer is that prayer is available to help us get closer to God. The ACNA Catechism puts it like this:

The Gospel is God’s invitation to know him, to love and serve him as members of his family, and to be transformed into his likeness. God continually calls his people to grow deeper in our relationship with him. Thus, for Christians, knowing and loving God is life’s central activity, and a primary way we do this is through prayer. Prayer is the way God has given us to listen and respond to him. . . .

Our primary resource for prayer as Anglicans, in addition to the Scriptures, is the Book of Common Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer has a central place in Prayer Book worship and is included in every service. However, beyond providing us forms of prayer, the Book of Common Prayer also gives us a rule of prayer — a way of ordering our lives around a daily pattern of prayer and the reading of Scripture.

Our life of prayer is one of obedience to Jesus, who prayed frequently and earnestly to the Father. It follows the pattern set by the leaders of the early Church.

Some may balk at the idea of obedience, but obedience is part of learning any valuable skill. Students of basketball practice drills, students of cooking practice basic recipes, students of the guitar play exercises. In each case, the student learns more than expected. The basketball player learns where to look for open team mates, the cook learns how to recognize and control stove top temperature, the guitar student learns about the different sonorities produced by chord inversions. Without obedience, we do not obtain these unexpected benefits.

Prayer works the same way. God exists and wants you to love him. If you pray and open yourself to that love, you will learn unexpected things and you may find yourself able to respond in new ways. You are welcome to join us to try this out. A simple way to explore the daily office is to follow this link to the ACNA daily office page:

Blessings All,

Fr. Harley+

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