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Letter from Amy: April 19, 2023


New Gardener, Janpeter Muilwijk, 2017 (Netherlands)

Dear Incarnation,


I love this image of a redheaded Jesus with butterflies in his wounds and a bird as the Holy Spirit (red hair! nature! all my favorite things!) But more importantly, I love that Jesus is incarnated into every hair and skin color, every culture, every time and place. Where are you encountering the risen Jesus this week? Where do you long to see him tend, weed, water, or grow something new?


A community of prayer


Small groups start next week. I've heard from so many of you that our simple meal-and-prayer format has become a refreshing pause in your week and something you genuinely look forward to. Me too!


It may seem like these groups don't "do" much. There's no book discussion, no bible study, nothing but a meal and prayer. And yet I would suggest this is a practice whose "inside is bigger than the outside" (to quote CS Lewis) — in a small, slow, exceedingly ordinary way, it strengthens the bonds of our community, forms us into people of prayer, and invites us to rest.


I hope that you will experience these groups as safe places to simply show up hungry and in need of prayer, not as a spiritual box to check or burdensome demand on your time. There are four Evening Prayer small groups available this spring: 2 in South Arlington, 1 in DC, and 1 in McLean. I hope you'll consider signing up for one that works for you and participate in this refreshing pattern of breaking bread and praying together. Sign up here. And why not invite a friend?


In addition to these Evening Prayer groups, we continue to offer opportunities to pray together on Zoom throughout the week: midday prayer Tuesday and Thursday at 12pm; men's prayer Thursdays at 7am; women's prayer Fridays at 7am. Links to these prayer times are always available on the Online Worship page of our website.


When we first began daydreaming about Incarnation, we knew we wanted to be a community of prayer. And so it brings me joy to see so many opportunities to come together to pray for each other and our world throughout the week.


Going deeper


But some of you are longing for something beyond prayer (though I'd suggest that prayer is still a wonderful place to begin). You want to dig into scripture and theology, ask questions, engage in deep discussion, and more.


  • One option is the Deconstruction Dialogues group, led by Ginny Foran, meeting immediately after church for an outdoor picnic (weather permitting) or at a nearby restaurant. Even if you've done this group before, the content will be different, and your participation is welcome. Here's how Ginny describes it: "This group is for the doubters, the wounded or weary. It's also for the curious, the travelers and the reluctant saints. Deconstruction is a big word, applied perhaps too broadly in our time. But, it's also a useful word to describe an experience many have as they grow into and out of parts of their faiths. These cycles of faith are not new to Millennials, Gen-Zs or any other generation. Unfortunately the current climate in many American churches is to fear the rediscovery of faith as a journey. Many prefer a tidy and controlled faith that feels like a fixed and static destination. Our group strives to be a safe place to discuss the uncomfortable parts of Christianity, and reflect together on where we've been, where we are and where we might want to go." I'm so grateful to Ginny for the way she shepherds "the doubters, the wounded or weary" in our midst and delighted to be offering this group again.


  • Another option is a book discussion group led by Kaitlin Conway, meeting monthly starting in June. We are a church full of readers and thinkers and thoughtful question-askers — come, read, think, ask, discuss! This will be great.


  • And finally, we are rethinking the Life with God group that was supposed to begin last week. This group had lower enrollment than we'd hoped (there was critical mass, but just barely). Anytime low turnout happens — and it happens a lot in a church of our size! — we face a choice. We can proceed with the original plan but with smaller numbers and a more intimate experience. Or we can take a step back and ask God if he's trying to show us something; perhaps the original plan needs re-imagining. Katie and I spent a few weeks in prayer and both sensed that this was a case of the latter: God was inviting us to rethink Life with God. It's a scary thing to go back to the drawing board on something you've spent many months planning and creating. And yet I believe God is inviting us to think more creatively about how we get the Life with God content into the hands of everyone, not just those with the capacity to set aside dedicated time each month. I want all of us to experience more depth, breadth, richness, freedom, joy, and rootedness in our life with God, which was the aim of the course. So we're asking lots of questions, reading, listening, praying, waiting, and thinking wayyyyyy outside the box for now. As we so often talked about during Lent: our God opens new possibilities when we've reached a dead end and the limits of our own great ideas. I am curious what new thing he might bring to life here. Stay tuned!


In the meantime, if you are longing for something more and aren't sure if there's a place for you, please come talk to me or Katie. Perhaps you'd like to lead a small group of a different sort in the future. Perhaps you'd like to schedule a regular "ask the priest" session to bring your questions and ideas about scripture or theology. Perhaps there's a way you'd like to grow, but you're looking for guidance on how to get there. Perhaps you are seeking deeper healing in some area of your life and simply need a listening ear and prayer. We love hearing from you, and it's a privilege to journey with you on the way of Jesus.


Other happenings

  • Thank you for welcoming our outreach partners from Casa Chirilagua last week. They LOVED worshiping and eating with us! Learn more about their ministry as we continue in prayer for them throughout the month of April.

  • Our next art afternoon with Afghan women is Saturday, April 29. Sign up here to participate!

  • Thank you for your generosity to Little Lights throughout Lent! You gave over $2000, which vestry matched from our outreach funds. Please continue to pray for their ministry in SE DC, and for their voice in the challenging issues of race and gun violence.

  • In our tradition, the feasts always outlast the fasts — which means that it's STILL Easter, all the way until Pentecost on May 28! We'll continue with joyful alleluias and white linens and resurrection stories this Sunday. You can keep bringing bells and flowers for as long as you want! See you there.


With so much gratitude and hope for this community of prayer,

your pastor,

Amy

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