Sacred Idleness

The importance of rest

Sabbath Sunday 2019

 And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3)

When our son was born Maria and I worked hard to be responsible parents, and we tried our best to step in first whenever he cried out with a need. When he cried out with hunger, we were right there to feed him. When he cried for diapers, we were right there to change him. When he cried for presence, we were right there to hold him. And when cried out for comfort, we were right there to soothe him.

Indeed, we worked hard at being responsible parents, but instead of praising our noble efforts a nurse came by and told us this:

What your child needs the most is not parents who do everything. What your child needs the most is parents who know how to rest.

George MacDonald once wrote that there are times where we all need idleness, or moments in life where we simply do nothing and put aside our quests for work. Of course, we all have responsibilities and things that must be done, but we also need to simply rest and step back from our labors. If you remember in Genesis, after the universe was created, God stepped back and rested and declared that everything He made was good. And later on, when Israel was given the Ten Commandments through Moses, God told them to remember the Sabbath or keep the seventh day as a day of rest.

So even God values idleness from time to time, and the purpose of stepping back is to enjoy the fruits of all our work. You see, without rest our labors lose their meaning, and the things we get from doing them become burdens instead of blessings. Without rest the places we live become buildings to maintain instead of homes. Without rest the foods we eat become things to consume instead of being savored. Without rest our relationships with others become surface-level instead of deep connections. And without rest our relationship with God becomes a thing for Sunday instead of daily life.

This week at All Souls we will have a time idleness, and on Sunday (November 17th) there will be no service with all the usual works we do. Like Israel long ago, we will use the day to worship through rest and enjoy the fruits which have grown through our labors as a fellowship in Jesus Christ. But above all, we will seek the Lord beyond the sanctuary and worship Him in ways beyond the liturgical practices we know and love. And as we seek the Lord and worship Him through things like taking a nap or going on a walk, I pray that we would offer thanks for and recapture the purpose of the works that He has blessed us with.

In our world, where things are fast-paced and one’s worth is determined by how they perform, the Church must not be a place of labor that only seeks to do things well. Our world needs a Church that truly knows how to rest, and invites all to be refreshed through the sacred joys of idleness.

Good Sabbath to you all and God bless!

Pastor's Desk: Practicing thanksgiving

Practicing thanksgiving

Pastor's Desk November 2019

In last month’s Newsletter the theme was change and how to live with it, and since then my wife and I have been learning how to live with a very big change. On October 24th at 3:05 a.m. our family grew from two to three, and we found ourselves changed from Scotty and Maria to the Mami and Papi of a new born son. Suddenly our norm of sleeping eights hours was replaced by naps between crying and feeding, and our norm for going out was replaced by limits on where we could go. And though we love being parents these changes started to feel constricting, but as it was when we were waiting for a child these words from Paul kept coming to our minds:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)    

Now when Paul says “all circumstances” he is speaking literally, and during our long adoption journey what kept us going was the practice of thanksgiving. When we experienced roadblocks with paperwork, we gave thanks unto the Lord. When we experienced two painful disruptions, we gave thanks unto the Lord. When we experienced positive updates from the agency, we gave thanks unto the Lord. And when received encouragement from others we gave thanks unto the Lord. Of course, there were times where it felt as if our gratitude was forced and not genuine, but even still we sought to do the will of God in Christ for us.

Truly, what kept us going on the road of adoption was the practice of Thanksgiving, and what is keeping us going on the road of parenthood is giving thanks unto the Lord in all things. And friends, as you continue on roads or embark upon new roads that life presents to you, my prayer is that you would carry on by giving thanks in all things. May the Lord continually give you an attitude of gratitude by His grace, and know that He accepts your thanks even when you struggle to give it.

In all things may you give thanks unto the Lord, for this is His will for you in Christ Jesus!

For some daily tips on practicing thanksgiving throughout this month, check out this article by Mary Ann Brussat titled, “Ways To Practice Thanks-giving“.

Interview with Nathalie Schmidt

Interview with Nathalie Schmidt

Soul of the month.

This month we interviewed Nathalie. She comes from canton Thurgau and has been with our community since 2018.

What is your favorite food?
Ebly (Wheat Berries) with sweet corn and cherry tomatoes.

What is your favorite animal?
Cats because they are sweet, fluffy, cute, and independent. They tend to make up their own mind, and choose to like you.

What brought you to St. Gallen?
I moved to St. Gallen to attend university where I studied Law and International Law.

How did you learn about All Souls?
A year ago, I was at a show for the St. Gallen Dance Company and met a member of All Souls named Sarah. As Sarah and I talked, we began to discuss religion and she invited me to a service.

What was your first impression of All Souls?
There were so many different types of people coming together, and there was no pressure to be a certain kind of way. Everyone also gave hugs as they greeted one another during the passing of the peace.

What do you like the most about All Souls?
I like that that we are not all the same and that everyone can be themselves and is welcome for how they were.

What is your role in our community?
Apart from being a parishioner, I am an auditor for the All Souls Verein [Association]. It is a big responsibility, and I enjoy helping our community in this way.

This month our theme is “Change”. What is a change that you would like to see in our community?
I would like to see us do more for young people. Sometimes I feel lonely as a Christian because many people that are my age are not Christian. There are also times where people think that it is strange for me to like going to Church, and really enjoy it, as a young person.

Pastor's Desk: Change is upon us

Change is upon us

Pastor's Desk October 2019

Like the colorful change from summer to fall, beautiful things are happening at All Souls, and seeing them has filled my heart with constant wonder and gratitude. We are seeing new faces at services on Sunday afternoon, and we are seeing each other from new perspectives as we grow in friendship throughout the week. And then, we are also celebrating in new places with services in Thurgau and Bible Studies in members’ homes.

Truly, in this season of change we are taking on some amazing new things, but we are also losing a few things like the trees that shed their browning leaves. We are losing:

1. Old Forms Of Leadership

When All Souls began our leadership was more pastor-led, and our charter Elders were an advisory board that gave occasional input. But after becoming a recognized Church, and electing Elders from the congregation, we must move to a form of leadership that is team-based and Council-led. Therefore, our main ministries (Stewardship, Outreach, In-reach, Christian Education, and Gatherings) are now in the charge of specific Elders, and I will focus on the ministries of Word, Sacrament, and Pastoral Care.

2. Old Visions

During our project phase, the vision was making the idea of All Souls into a living reality. That vision has been fulfilled, and we must now embrace a new vision of growth in fellowship and membership. Though the main cause of such growth is always the Holy Spirit, there are things that we can do to help make it happen.

  • We can spend more time together beyond the Sunday services (e.g., hanging out over coffee).
  • We can care for one another beyond the Sunday services (e.g., calls during the week to see how someone is doing).
  • We can get more involved in gatherings and events beyond the Sunday services (e.g., Bible Study).
  • And, most importantly, we can personally invite others to join in our community.

To be honest, the loss of these things gives me a slight sense of fear, for it shows that we are venturing into places that we do not know. This loss also changes the ways we relate to each other as friends and fellow believers, and the ways in which we carry out our roles as Pastor, Elders, and Parishioners. Nevertheless, what we are gaining encourages us to carry on, and I look forward to all the things that lie ahead for All Souls. Of course, we will face more challenges and struggles as a community, but we will also encounter many blessings and the constant presence of our loving Lord.

Pastor's Desk: Grace for the summer

Grace For The Summer

Pastor's Desk July 2019

Dear Freinds,

It has been over half a year since we became an official congregation, and during this time we have seen some amazing things happen. In December we had a wonderful Relaunch and Early Christmas service. In March we had our first Pancake Day and Ashes to Go. In June we had our first service in Thurgau and Rally Day. And last Sunday we celebrated three baptisms as we entered the summer season.

Truly, these past few months All Souls has seen some amazing things, and as I reflect upon them I am reminded of these words from Nadia Bolz-Weber:

God’s grace is a gift that is freely given to us. We don’t earn a thing when it comes to God’s love, and we only try to live in response to the gift. No one is climbing the spiritual ladder. (Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, pg. 49)

Since founding All Souls I have prayed that our Church would rightly respond to the grace of God, and so far we have managed (and are managing) to do just that. Instead of working to “prove ourselves”, we have opened up our hands and received the gift, and in so doing become a place without the pressure to be a “good Christian”. We have become a fellowship where no one climbs the spiritual ladder, and where works for God are done with joy and without the fear of judgement.

This summer I encourage you to press on in receiving the gift, and to daily look for it with open eyes in all that you encounter. May you see God’s grace in the people you will meet and the places you will go. May you see God’s grace in the joys and cares that will come about. May you see God’s grace as you rest and relax from work and school. And may you see God’s grace when this sunny season comes to an end.

Blessings and have a wonderful summer,