New Summertime Traditions by Richard Hartung

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May 31, 2023

Summertime conjures up good memories of years past and excitement about plans for a multitude of activities. Backyard barbecues with hamburgers and steaks. Sparklers and fireworks in the back yard for the Fourth of July, after a delicious dinner from the charcoal grill. A road trip in the car or travel by plane to a national park or historical site. S'mores around a campfire. An afternoon at a baseball game with hot dogs and beer. While each family does things differently, a combination of activities and expectations have long made summertime in America American.

While even just the mention of these traditions often brings back warm memories from years ago, few of us may have thought about the climate impact of these traditions. As carbon emissions grow and climate change causes increasingly worrisome weather catastrophes, though, it may be time to look at the climate impact of our traditions and pause for a rethink.

Let’s start with that backyard barbecue. Producing a hamburger takes about 450 gallons of water and results in about 90 pounds of carbon emissions, about the same as a three-hour shower and a 90-mile drive. A one-pound steak causes about 40 pounds of carbon emissions. And traditional charcoal, which is produced by cutting down trees and burning them in kilns, releases about 11 pounds of carbon emissions per hour. If each of the 38 million owners of charcoal grills in the US fires up their barbecue for just one hour on the Fourth of July, they will collectively release more than 427 million pounds of carbon dioxide on that day alone.

Along with releasing carbon dioxide, fireworks cause health problems. Fireworks use black powder, also known as gunpowder, which is made from carbon or charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate. Studies have shown a drastic drop in air quality at the first rocket’s red glare and bomb bursting in air. "If you happen to be downwind from a big fireworks event, it is very hazardous," according to Paul Walsh, Meteorologist and General Manager of, as "fireworks also release fine particulate matter, which includes something called heavy metals, which is really bad to breathe in."

And that long trip for your vacation has an impact too. Let’s say you decide to drive to Yosemite National Park in California, 893 miles from Seattle, rather than flying to Boston. While the impact differs depending on whether you’re driving a Hyundai or a Hummer, emissions average about 0.7 pounds per mile. You’d release 1,250 pounds going back and forth. If you decide to have a campfire to cook dinner and s'mores, emissions from burning wood include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and benzene.

So, what can we do? It turns out that small changes can make a big difference.

Take that barbecue, for instance. Switching from beef to chicken can reduce carbon emissions by about 75%. Tofu, mushrooms and eggplant are great on the grill. And using an electric grill rather than charcoal or gas reduces carbon emissions tremendously. Alternatives to fireworks include blowing bubbles or creating a laser light or drone show. And consider driving 106 miles to North Cascades National Park, rather than to Yosemite, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 pounds.

Changes like these can easily seem too idealistic. Altering long-standing cultural practices and traditions can feel impossible. If we look at the Bible, though, we can learn from individuals who propelled change when catastrophe loomed.

When Noah faced a calamity, he and his family made radical changes. In Genesis 6, we read that “God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out…' Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” 

When Egypt faced the potential catastrophe of a famine, Joseph changed the entire culture of how Egypt produced and stored food. As Genesis 41 says, “Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea.”

Noah, Joseph and other leaders in the Bible upended traditions and may well have faced disbelief or criticism as they prepared for a coming catastrophic event. They overcame culture, ridicule, and more to do what was right and literally saved humanity from disaster. These decisions can be difficult, but this path can lead to growth and renewal both for the planet and for us as individuals. As God says to Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 29, "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me, I will hear you." In other words, as one commentator reflecting on this passage has written, “while change can be hard, we can grow in our faith when we learn to embrace it. When we trust God's plan, He transforms us each and every day as His followers.”

Just as leaders throughout the Bible have done, we too should embrace change and shift our traditions to care for creation and avert a catastrophe. Starting new summertime traditions can create new memories and help us to care for creation at the same time.

A Season for Gun Violence Prevention—May/June 2023

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 A Message from Dean Thomason

The epidemic of gun violence in our nation continues to take its toll, and we must maintain a resolve to resist it becoming normalized. It is not okay that there have been more mass shootings than days thus far this year. It is not okay that more than 40,000 die each year to gun violence in this nation. It is not okay that death by firearms is the number one cause of death for children and teenagers in this nation.

Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) has issued a call to all congregations in the Episcopal Church to a Season for Gun Violence Prevention, following the Feast of Pentecost, May 28. This is a call to deepen our commitment as people of faith to resist complacency and to confront the epidemic of gun violence through action at the grassroots level in our parishes and dioceses. Through liturgical action, public witness and legislative advocacy, we will continue to lend our voice to the cause with intention, and we will engage the EPF’s Gun Violence Curriculum as part of our work. You can read more at:

For a decade now (since Sandy Hook in December 2012), Saint Mark’s Cathedral has also been engaged with Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) as a member organization supporting the legislative work of this broad alliance. We have made considerable strides in safe gun legislation here in this state. It can be done. It must be done!

The weekend of June 2–4 is Wear Orange Weekend, a tangible way to raise awareness about the tragic reality of this epidemic. I hope you will consider wearing orange at points across that weekend as a sign of your commitment to this cause.

In it all, I bid your prayers for our nation, for the victims of gun violence, for our children, for our lawmakers and civic leaders, and for the cathedral community, that we may have the courage and resolve to engage this work with grace and fortitude. I am,

Your Brother in Christ,


The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector


Transphobia has no place in the Christian Church

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 A Message from Dean Thomason

Dear friends,

Haters will hate…and yet we have another story to tell!

As we approach Holy Week and the heart-heavy task of walking with Jesus to the cross and beyond, I am keenly aware of the harm that is done when religion is misused to justify crimes against humanity. The One we follow was killed by the deadly concoction of distorted religious fervor by the few, doused with the flammable rhetoric of a politics of hatred.

The sin of transphobia and the devastating effects on the dignity of human beings is not new, but it does seem to be escalating in our country. This week a television talk show host took the further step of twisting theological language to advance the argument, and his rhetoric sent a violent message to his followers. I do not join his echo chamber regularly, but its ripple effects were sobering and fearful for the trans and queer communities. For their sakes, I watched the segment, and feel the need to respond.

This person does not speak for me, or for this cathedral community, and his transphobic tropes are poorly developed, dangerously extrapolated, and provocative of the sort of violence we, as Christians, eschew. We have a different message to share with one another and with the world—it is one of love, mutuality, dignity, respect, all while espousing the Christ-like virtue of non-violence. This is who we are; let us show the world what it means to be Christian!

To that end, I want to highlight a special forum tomorrow evening in which Saint Mark’s is hosting the Rev. Canon Carla Robinson who will facilitate a conversation of hope and respect observing the Transgender Day of Visibility. You are invited to join in Bloedel Hall or via Zoom. Registration is required, and the space will be moderated. Cis-gendered participants should take our cues from our trans siblings.

Canon Robinson is a transgender priest in the Episcopal Church, a leader in this diocese, a blessing to this cathedral community which sponsored her for ordained ministry, and I count Carla+ as a friend, confidante and counselor to me. I marvel at her witness to Christ’s love, and I have learned much from her. We are grateful for her ministry in our midst.

We have a different story to tell, and our world needs it now as much as ever. This cathedral community is committed to this work, and I hope you will join the effort. I am,

Your sibling in Christ,

The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector


“Autumn Returns” by Doug Thorpe

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November 13, 2022

Autumn returns with the rain and cold. This time it seemed to happen overnight. I talk with my daughter over WhatsApp and—along with the beloved and very mobile grandson Walter—she shows me the blue skies, the red and golden leaves of Buffalo New York. The flames of autumn give way to grays and ash.

I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one around here who welcomed the rain with a sense of relief—more so this year because of the oddly high temperatures we had into October. Now we relax a little, bid farewell to the fruits of summer and early autumn, and settle in with the wind and rain. It’s a time of endings, marked in particular by the Triduum of All Hallows, All Saints and All Souls, a time in the calendar to honor and remember those who have passed, the saints of our own lives and of the church.

Fittingly, Advent is just around the corner. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the word comes from the Latin, meaning to come to or towards, and more specifically “the arrival of a notable person or thing.” Out of the darkness, Advent affirms, comes new light—most generally in the form of the solstice, with days growing longer. For us. of course. that new light comes more specifically in the form of a child.

This fall I’ve been reading Karen Armstrong’s most recent book, Sacred Nature: How We Can Recover Our Bond with the Natural World. In the title chapter, she tells us the story of a group of seventeenth century Jesuit missionaries trying to explain the shape of the cosmos to a group of Chinese intellectuals, using a map of sorts that showed the earth, the planets and the location of God out at the edge of the universe in the form of the Primum Mobile. As Armstrong tells it, the Chinese were bewildered. Why should the deity whom the Jesuits called the “Lord of Creation” be content to be confined to a tiny sector of the universe that he had supposedly created? The Confucian scholar Fang Yishi (1611–71) concluded that the West was detailed in material investigation,” and deficient in comprehending seminal forces (qi). By qi, Fang was referring to the essence of Being—a force that the Chinese regarded as “unknowable,” the “recondite,” and the “uniting layers of mysteries.”

As Armstrong concludes, “when faced with the ultimate reality, [Fang] believed, humans must fall silent because it lies beyond the reach of verbal concepts.”

There is much about these ideas that I find compelling—this sense of a “basic ‘stuff’ or essence of the universe ... neither wholly spiritual nor wholly material,” as Armstrong describes qi. “It is ineffable; it is something that we cannot define or describe. It is not a god or a being of any kind; it is the energy that pervades all life, harmoniously linking the plant, animal, human and divine worlds and enabling them to fulfill their potential.” This is similar, she continues, to the Hindu concept of Rta, “best understood as ‘active, creative truth’ or ‘the way things truly are.’ Like qi and Dao, Rta was not a god but a sacred, impersonal, animating force. . . [which] could be experienced as the sublime whole, which flowed from itself expansively, bringing about the cosmos, humans, and the god themselves.”

We seem close, in a way, to the idea of the Holy Spirit, which similarly “flowed from itself expansively” and which mysteriously and invisibly moves through all things. On the other hand, we are far from the world of the prophet Jeremiah, from whom we’ve been hearing this fall, who claimed to speak as the voice of a very personal God who called his people back to a path of justice. We are also a long way from a child born in a cold barn in a small village in an insignificant country which was little more than a crossroads and was under the control of the military power of Rome. And yet that child is why we are here together as the community of Saint Mark’s, and within that community why we form the Creation Care Ministry. Seemingly impossibly and yet truly, we believe that this energy—this holy spirit—is fully manifested in the person of Jesus, who in turn inspires us in our justice work. Literally, he fills us with that same spirit. Like disciples going back in an unbroken chain two thousand years, we believe that we’ve been touched by that same energy, which we also experience directly and powerfully in creation: in the mountains, in a forest, by the ocean.

Yes, it’s autumn. We are moving steadily towards winter and into shorter, darker days. Yet the new year approaches in that same form of a child in whom we see all the hope of the world. And that same child awakens in us the knowledge that we too are that light—and that hope. May it continue to sustain us.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue,
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river shallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourne;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


—John Keats, To Autumn, September 19, 1819

Longtime Saint Mark's parishioner and former vestry member Doug Thorpe is Professor Emeritus of English at Seattle Pacific University.

Conversations About Gratitude

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This year's annual Stewardship campaign will occur in October as usual, but as a "prelude" to Stewardship season the members of the Stewardship Committee, led by Junior Warden for Stewardship Chris Rigos, invite all to participate in a five-week conversation about gratitude.
Each week, a broad question to stimulate mindfulness of and reflection on gratitude will be posted. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus towards you.” —let's explore this mindset together. The Stewardship Committee believes that a heightened awareness is the best way to thoughtfully begin our formal stewardship season in October. Everyone in the community is invited to write replies to each week's prompt.
The members of the Stewardship Committee—Greg Simon, Amanda Davis, Wayne Duncan, Deborah Person, Canon Eliacín Rosario-Cruz, and Junior Warden for Stewardship Chris Rigos—are looking forward to these conversations, and thank you for your willingness to be part of this exercise. If you have any questions, please write Chris Rigos at:


For the last several weeks, the Stewardship Ministry has invited everyone to reflect on what gratitude or thankfulness means to you and how you experience it. We talked about how you express gratitude to yourself or others, and how you nurture that sense of wellbeing and goodwill. These abstract conversations are almost over, and we now focus hearts and minds on the here and now—Saint Mark’s formal Stewardship campaign for the year 2023 will begin on Sunday, October 2. Soon you will receive a package of Stewardship materials in the mail, and you will hear reflections from parishioners in person and on video throughout the month of October.

So, our final question involves how your developing sense of gratitude applies to this beloved spiritual home, Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. For what are you grateful, here at Saint Mark’s? Do you experience that feeling towards the clergy, staff, preaching, liturgy, or music? Ministries of restorative justice, creation care, or intergenerational connections? The sense of community, or particular community members? Perhaps it is the core beliefs and ethos of this place. If you have been attending Saint Mark's for some time, have these feeling changed over time? Remember: “wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome here.”

As we launch into our formal Stewardship campaign, continue to reflect on the ideas shared here. As we bring this series to a close, we thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and we end with our final question: Where are you on your gratitude journey with Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral?

Please offer a response of any length in the comments at the bottom of this page, or send an email to (Note that the first time you leave a comment, it will be held in moderation before appearing.) Thank you for participating in this conversation.


Every week the presenting clergy member at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral invites us by saying: “Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome here.” On Sunday, September 11, Dean Steve Thomason continued this blessing by asking us in his sermon on Sunday morning: “Where are you on your spiritual journey?”

1 Corinthians 13:11 reminds us that we are born with a developing sense of self, our world, and our place in that world. When we become adults, we “put an end to childish ways.” The same observation may apply to our developing sense of gratitude or thankfulness. In our youth, perhaps we are grateful in a purely transactional way—for an unexpected gift, a fine report card, or a dream job. Sometimes our praise and prayers of gratitude are only for the “positive” or “pleasant” things, and we nurture, perhaps unconsciously, the belief that our prayers are being answered because of our “good” behavior.

So, where are you on your spiritual journey with gratitude? Are you prayerful for the events that benefit your life and family? Are you able to give thanks for positive things that happen to others but not to you? Are justice advances in far-off places part of your gratitude list, or progress in protecting our endangered creation, or nourishing meals provided to those who are experiencing hunger?

Where are you on your spiritual journey with gratitude?


The Saint Mark’s Stewardship Committee continues its five-part Gratitude Conversations with a question from community member Greg Simon:

In my day job, I reply to a lot of emails—200 or more most weeks.  I’ve noticed that nearly every one of my responses begins with “Thanks.”  And I really do mean that.  Setting aside all of the marketing spam, the messages I respond to really do deserve my gratitude.  Often, someone is telling me something that I need or want to know.  Or someone is telling me they’ve finished doing something that I asked for or just hoped for.

I did have the thought that I could just automate the first word of every email response.  It would be simple to have every reply start with “Thanks.”  In my email software, that’s under “Options>Mail>Replies and Forwards>Preface Comments With”.  Starting every reply with an automated “Thanks” would look exactly the same to the person receiving my message.  But it wouldn’t be the same for me. And gratitude really isn’t a transaction.  While it is important for people I correspond with to feel thanked, it’s much more important for me to feel thankful.

So I still type out those letters T-H-A-N-K-S every time.  Those six keystrokes add a few seconds for me to feel gratitude and consider what I’m grateful for.  I hope my gratitude will grow to be ever-present – but never automatic.

What things do you do every day to cultivate gratitude?  How do you make gratitude ever-present but not automatic?


The Saint Mark’s Stewardship Committee continues its five-part Gratitude Conversations with a focus how we experience gratitude and what we do with that experience.

Franciscan Father Richard Rohr talked in May 2020 about our need for a new vision when he wrote:

G. K. Chesterton spoke of the “mystical minimum” which he defined as gratitude. When we stand in the immense abundance of the True Self, there is no time or space for being hurt. We are always secure, at rest, and foundationally grateful. The grateful response for what is given—seeing the cup half full—requires seeing with a completely different set of eyes than the eyes that always see the cup as half empty. I don’t think it is an oversimplification to say that people basically live either in an overall attitude of gratitude or an overall attitude of resentment. The mystical minimum is gratitude. Everything that is given—that we are breathing today—is pure gift. None of us have earned it. None of us have a right to it. All we can do is kneel and kiss the ground—somewhere, anywhere, everywhere.

Several questions immediately rush into our consciousness. Does Rohr’s view or that of G.K. Chesterton resonate with you? How does a sense of thankfulness come upon you? Does it come to you slowly and quietly, or with a burst of speed, clarity, and whistles and bells?

What you do when gratitude fills your heart, mind, or soul? Do you rest quietly, “kiss the ground,” or rush to “go tell it on the mountain?”


The Saint Mark’s Stewardship Committee continues its five-part Gratitude Conversations with a focus on the broad importance of gratitude and its meaning to each of us.

In his 1984 book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness, Brother David Steindl-Rast writes: “All prayer is essentially an act of gratitude. Even the prayer of petition that boils up from some agonizing personal need includes, if it is authentic, a stated belief that ‘God’s will be done’—an expression of our utter dependence on God’s mercy.” Another author states that “gratitude is the ultimate spiritual practice.”

But what is gratitude? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers a definition for gratitude as a strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what the person has done to help you.” Researchers writing in a 2019 article published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology propose that “gratitude stems from the recognition that something good happened to you, accompanied by an appraisal that someone, whether another individual or an impersonal source, such as nature or a divine entity, was responsible for it.”

So, what does gratitude mean to you? How it is different in different contexts?

Intersectionality and Environmentalism: A Reflection by The Rev. Edie Weller

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The Intersection Between Environmentalism, Racism, and Privilege

A Program at Town Hall Seattle on May 10, 2022

Reflections by The Rev. Edie Weller

Leah Thomas, author of The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People and Planet (2022), recently spoke with Hannah Wilson, Farm Manager at Yes Farm, leader of the Black Famers Collective and co-chair of the Environmental Justice Commission of the City of Seattle, as part of a program offered by Town Hall Seattle. Their conversation focused on Thomas’ work in the field of environmental justice with direct focus on intersectionality—how to understand and give voice to environmental issues and actions through multiple perspectives of race, gender, physical and cognitive ability, age and other factors. A video of their conversation is available here.

Thomas described her motivation to enter into environmental advocacy because she realized she saw little evidence of contributions to environmental science and sustainability by Black scholars and professionals. This was especially so during the crucial time of protests related to both racial justice and climate change in recent years.  

Here are some observations and recommendations from Thomas’ conversation with Wilson:


Environmental science curricula in both predominantly Black and white academic programs need to be more inclusive and deepen their focus on intersectionality around topics of racial & social justice, environmental racism, and climate justice.

Access to environmental education at all levels should be a priority. Social media has a role to play in expanding access to multiple levels/cohorts of people (though this is not necessarily the primary teaching platform).


Thomas advocates for increasing staff diversity (in terms of race and other dimensions) across every level of environmental organization, including academic programs. It’s not enough to have an officer for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. More opportunity needs to be given for BIPOC and other non-dominant voices to contribute to analysis, goal setting, community interactions, and overall action.

More established, white-led environmental organizations need to examine and confront their legacy of not hiring diverse staffs.


Thomas identified the need to broaden the funding of smaller environmental organizations (majority are non-profits), particularly those led by BIPOC staffs. She noted that 8 of the largest and best-known environmental organizations receive about 70% of grants and other funding, while Black-led organizations receive less than 2%. This distribution needs to shift to build capacity for action over a broader base.

Advocacy development:

Thomas and Wilson both advise getting to know local climate and environmental justice organizations and coalitions, as well as the issues most salient to that community or region. This will increase the capacity for advocacy as well as deepen relationships and coalition-building.

Thomas and Wilson both see a connection to disability justice, especially the need to include voices and ideas from those with ability issues who might not have an easy time physically participating in meetings or actions.

Both speakers were very clear that many serious environmental issues face BIPOC and other marginalized communities right now—action is needed to help people live healthy, productive lives now, not only in future (white) generations. The complexity of climate change and its impacts—and other environmental challenges—calls for an intersectional perspective and participation NOW!

White allies need to be aware and intentional in working with diverse communities:

  • Be aware of bringing a “white savior” attitude (that whites need to help/lead others in defining the critical areas of focus and action)
  • Recognize that there is always more to learn: be open to what BIPOC and others have to contribute from their own experience and priorities. Do not attempt to speak for communities that you aren’t actually a part of.
  • LISTEN to others and respect their right to give input into issues of deepest concern to them.


Black Nature – A poetry anthology of the Black community’s experiences in nature across the last century

Generation Green – Environmental Liberation, for and by Black people

The Intersectional Environmentalist Platform – resources to accompany Thomas’ book

A Complete video of this program – from Town Hall Seattle

“Moments in the Wilderness” by Doug Thorpe

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July 19, 2022

It’s an old game I’d often play with my students to jog them into writing, especially in Spring Quarter as we moved into May.  We all get a little restless indoors by this point in the academic year, sitting in a sterile classroom; we start to feel some warmth rising up from the earth and can imagine again a life beyond the rain and cold. So I’d ask: if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?  Tell me about it—make me feel it in your words.   

My own answer would vary. I dearly love the Gulf of Mexico and the beautiful white beaches of Siesta Key, just as at certain moments I might choose the Left Bank of Paris early in the morning as the bakeries were opening, or even certain quiet streets in the old city of Jerusalem at dusk. But it’s clear to me that my own preference finally lies with the Cascades.  So many memories up there—so many hikes and backpack trips with Judy and Kate over the years, and with the hope and expectation of more to come. And of course part of the pleasure is coming to know these places fairly intimately after numerous trips. For me the Cascades are specific: among many other sacred spots I think of Dishpan Gap, just north of  Lake Sally Ann on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), or Meandering Meadows, still further north by a few miles and a mile below the PCT, or Macalester Pass, a few miles north of Stehekin. 

Of course all of these spots are beautiful, but I could have chosen others which are clearly more picturesque. So what is it about these places? It’s certainly that sense of truly being out there—in the mountains, far from roads and cities, far from Starbucks—but it’s also being out there with people whom I love. And so the memories of those places are filled not just with glorious mountains and deep green valleys but with people.   

This awareness of mine may well mark a difference from when I first wrote about these mountains in a book called Rapture of the Deep: Reflections of the Wild in Art, Wilderness and the Sacred. Back then, fifteen or twenty years ago, I was focusing on the connection I felt between my experiences on these trips with Judy and Kate and what I knew from my life teaching great literature and from my experience with contemplative and mystical spirituality. All of these, I argued, have something to do with the kind of depth of power we feel in wilderness—in the mountains, the desert, the ocean—as Belden Lane has written about so often. In my Introduction to the book I talk about this literal and metaphorical place into which so many of us are drawn, where we might well feel both fear and wonder. Writing of the ancient Sumerian hero Gilgamesh, I say that (metaphorically) “he has known the rolling waters of the sea, the great silence of the mountains, and in those places has felt something so huge and beautiful that he’s ready to surrender everything to be part of it.” 

I still can feel this desire, and acknowledge that it remains central to my understanding of Christ and my own spiritual longings. But what’s curious is that, even as I look back through this book of mine, what moves me most are those passages where I’m with Judy and Kate. At the beginning of the first chapter, for example, I describe a moment with them on our first backpack trip when we did a loop around Stehekin, making our way to Macalester Pass where we spent a night in our family-sized tent. Kate was eight at the time; early in the morning I was out listening to the howling of wolves to the east of us and in my mind making some connections to those beautiful animals and my daughter. And then I wrote: I remember this moment nine months later as I stand on my front porch and watch my daughter walk down the sidewalk, lunch box in hand, to her carpool. She turns, smiles and waves, then vanishes from my sight. 

This was a moment in time that is now more than thirty years ago. It’s long gone, as of course we both—we all—will be long gone in what is really just a blink of an eye. And yet I’m convinced that in some other sense, or in some other understanding of time—Kairos versus Chronos—this moment endures. It’s these tiny threads of love, these connections we have to people and to places. Suddenly I’m aware that it’s not just the magnificent mountains that surround us here beside the Salish Sea that last, but—perhaps even more—it’s  the tiny mycorrhizae, those threads that weave all things together beneath the forest floor and, as we now know, that connect those trees into one magnificent community.   

Into, I might say, another part of the body of Christ. 

And so yes, I do still experience that fear and wonder up there at Dishpan Gap or camped down in Meandering Meadows or up at Macalester Pass; I still feel the sense of adventure setting out down a narrow mountain trail. All that I wrote about decades ago is still true to something in my own spiritual journey. But now, gratefully, gracefully, there’s also this—all those years and memories with friends and family, memories that I see now are their own form of mycorrhizae, spiritual threads woven through time and space connecting us to each other and back to parents and grandparents and forward to the generations still to come. “Fibres of love” Blake calls these connections, and like love, as love, they endure.

We are dust certainly enough, but we are also, as Joni said long ago, star dust.

Longtime Saint Mark's parishioner and former vestry member Doug Thorpe is Professor Emeritus of English at Seattle Pacific University.

“Lenten Thoughts” by Doug Thorpe

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February 23, 2022

A birch leaf held fast
In limestone ten million years
Still quietly burns,
Though claimed by the darkness.


Let earth be this windfall
Swept to a handful of seeds—
One tree, one leaf,
Gives us plenty of light.


John Haines, The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems

Lent. The word derives from the Old English lencten meaning spring season, perhaps derived from a related root meaning long, connected to the lengthening of days. Or, perhaps, to just how long it can take for spring to arrive in the north. Think of the melting of icicles off gutters, which I remember best from my childhood on the edge of Chicago when I used to delight in eating them like popsicles. Lent is no longer winter exactly, but in northern climates it’s also not that burst of energy that we associate with Spring, even though the spring equinox often occurs during Lent. Still, it’s during this liturgical season that somewhere below the surface of the earth things are beginning to quicken. Life returning—time itself is in motion again.

The church calendar follows this seasonal calendar, at least here in the northern hemisphere. We move from the celebration of Mary’s pregnancy on March 25, close to the spring equinox, to the birth nine months later on December 25—winter solstice, as light begins to overtake the darkness. Then we move quickly from birth and baptism to the 40 days of desert wilderness, also echoing the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering: Lent, with that underground sense of something still unknown coming—a wind, a belief in buried seeds. And just as Joshua crosses over the Jordan River into the Promised Land, so does Jesus—whose name echoes Joshua’s—arrive at last back in Jerusalem, David’s city, the spiritual center of the Promised Land.

And then suddenly it all seems to end. And then it doesn’t.

We’re in motion and yet also circling, since we do it every year, all praise to The Book of Common Prayer. Each of us is a year older, so that we’re moving forward through time even while the liturgy circles, so that simultaneously we feel ourselves caught within a linear process, time moving inexorably ahead, even while we stand outside of time. We are, in Christ, in time and freed from time.

There is no better expression of this, in my opinion, than the experience of celebrating Eucharist even as we are observing Lent—and yes, right up through Good Friday. So there we are, caught in this linear sequence that leads us inevitably to the cross and death, and yet in the very midst of that we are celebrating again this meal with Jesus, who is very much with us—not simply as a memory, but somehow here, now, even as He is with Mary Magdalene at the tomb and with those disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Very paradoxical. My non-logical literary mind loves it.

So too with the idea of the Kingdom: we affirm it as a future apocalyptic reality (and we finish the New Testament in linear fashion with a vision of the descent of the “New Jerusalem” among us), even as we accept Christ’s proclamation of a Kingdom already here, around us, among us, within us.

Clearly this is a Kingdom rather unlike Rome’s, or indeed unlike David’s.

Seasons come, seasons pass. We have a journey before us only to discover that there is nowhere we need to go.

Consider the story that Belden Lane (the cathedral’s guest this coming April) retells from Niko Kazantzakis. A pious monk saves up all his life to make the great pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he will approach the Holy Sepulcher at last, circle it in ritual fashion three times, and only then be ready to return home and be ready to die, a transformed man. At last he has the money for the trip and he sets off, leaving his monastery for the first time in decades. But no sooner has he left than he comes upon a poor beggar who asks the monk where he’s off to. “Jerusalem,” proudly says the monk.

“And you have saved enough for this trip?” asks the beggar.

“Yes indeed—I have it right here in my satchel.”

The beggar then describes his plight: a wife and young child at home, no work, no food; indeed, they are on the very edge of starvation. After a moment’s silence the beggar looks at the monk: would you consider, he says, giving me your money and then walking around me three times before returning to your monastery?

The monk returns the gaze of the beggar and then slowly opens his satchel, hands over his life’s savings, circles three times around the man—and yes, returns to the monastery ready to die, a transformed man.

Lent. Yes, we have a long journey ahead of us. And yet—where is there to get to? Jerusalem? The Holy Sepulcher? Sometimes yes, absolutely, we need to go on pilgrimage. But, the story reminds us, ultimately there is nowhere else we need to go to follow this Way, recognizing that Christ himself is right here, directly in front of us in a world in need of all we’ve been saving up. And so we circle that holiness—in the liturgy and in the love we give away to family, friends, strangers, the broken earth itself. We return home and live out our days transformed, moving with the seasons even as we live, as Blake put it, in eternity’s sunrise.

Longtime Saint Mark's parishioner and former vestry member Doug Thorpe is Professor Emeritus of English at Seattle Pacific University.

“We All Have the Potential to Be Activists”—A Reflection by Anna Xie

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Heather Sutkus, a youth in the community of Saint Mark's and member of cathedral's Creation Care Ministry, wanted to share this essay written by her friend and classmate Anna Xie. Heather writes, “I chose Anna’s article because I was struck by how her experience of childhood was dramatically different from my own. Whereas I grew up unaware of the toll my lifestyle had on the environment, Anna had to live with the consequences every day.”

"We all have the potential to be activists."

by Anna Xie

“Don’t run,” my teachers told me, “Play walking soccer.” Or sometimes, “We have indoor recess.” Why? Because it was unhealthy for us to breathe. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Shanghai and Beijing, where the air quality made headlines around the world. Words like “beyond index” and “red alert” were frequently used.

In first grade, I had an assignment to go outside every night and record what I saw in the sky. But almost every night, I couldn’t see anything. I would write “too [sic] pollootd”. Six-year-olds should not have polluted in their daily vocabulary.

My name is Anna, I’m 16 years old, and I am a climate activist. I used to think pollution was just the way things were. That it’s normal to have air purifiers in every room. It’s common to get lingering sore throats when adjusting to polluted air. Of course, everyone has the air quality app right next to the weather one. Some places had it bad, like Beijing, and others had it better, like Seattle, where my family lived during the summer. The clean, crisp air in Seattle was a buffer. I believed everything was under control. I knew about the increasing threat of climate change, but it couldn’t possibly affect me. Besides, adults were on it.

But they aren’t. With climate change being the single largest threat to humankind and the World Health Organization’s projected 250,000+ climate-related deaths between 2030 and 2050, why isn’t everyone freaking out?

It’s time for sweeping, nationwide change and as youth, we need to be part of it. Our home and our dreams are at stake. My generation’s future does not extend beyond 2050. Babies born today will hardly be 30. Us young people are the largest stakeholders of all.

The horrifying thing is that we have solutions to solve the climate crisis. The tools are in our hands, but we just aren’t using them.

In 2019, I finally had enough. In Seattle, where I live full-time now, pollution is clouding the view of Mount Rainier and temperatures are climbing to record highs. Worldwide, this is only the beginning. It was time to do something. Not just for myself, but for people who aren’t as fortunate as I was to be able to move away from the pollution. I ended up joining my school’s environmental club, and after having a great experience there, I decided to go a step further and join an environmental organization. Naturally, I turned to Google, and looked up “environmental organizations to join.”

That search led me on a path to join Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonpartisan environmental organization advocating for national policies to combat climate change. It has been one of the most inspiring and educating decisions I have ever made. Through CCL, experienced members coached me on lobbying Congress and members of our local state legislature for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a bipartisan, market-based solution to lower emissions. Together with youth from around the state, I have organized local community events to bring even more youth into the climate movement. Because of CCL, I’ve met so many passionate climate activists, adults and youth.

The problem for youth is that many don’t think we can create change, but we can and we have. Thousands of youth-led climate movements around the world are gaining momentum. In September 2019, millions of young people held the largest ever global climate demonstration. Seeing people accomplish something amazing like that makes me optimistic and hopeful for the future.

However, we can’t do this on our own. Youth have the power to lift a movement up, but we need everyone to create lasting positive change. Everyone brings individual talents and assets to the climate movement. 

After starting a school bottled water ban campaign, it surprised me that discussion was taking place simply because I had an idea and said something about it. Imagine if today, we all spoke up for our home and our futures. We all have the potential to be activists. It just takes that one step. Wouldn’t it be something?

Anna Xie is a 16-year-old student at Mercer Island High School. 

Photo from the Climate Strike in London via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY 2.0

A Message from Dean Thomason—Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans

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Dean Thomason sent an email message to the community on Thursday morning, March 18, regarding hate crimes against Asian Americans—not just in Georgia, but also in our own city, our own neighborhoods, and our own community.

Dear friends,

The news out of Atlanta over the last 36 hours has been a swirl of tragedy, horror, and a distressing series of comments by police that seek to point anywhere but to the fact that these murders were racially motivated. Sex addiction, mental illness, human trafficking, random gun violence—these are threads woven into the news cycle for reasons yet unclear to me—perhaps meant to humanize the alleged perpetrator (we must ask then, for what purpose?), or perhaps police are striving to avoid stoking the embers of racial protests Atlanta saw last summer.

Whatever the motives, and whatever other “isms” may be involved in this mass murder, it is evident that these were racially motivated hate crimes targeting Asian women. What’s more, I have heard from Asian Americans in the Saint Mark’s community in the last 24 hours expressing a real fear for their lack of safety in this time—and yes, in this place…in Seattle where we have heard accounts of violence against Asian Americans precipitated by an insidious xenophobia seeking to lay blame for a viral pandemic. This is not an issue for a city in the Deep South—it is an epidemic that has swept the nation, and lurks in our midst as well—right here, right now.

The Vestry of this Cathedral is on record as denouncing white nationalism which I believe is at the heart of all this hatred and the violence that flows from it. I write this morning, not primarily to comment on the hate crimes in Atlanta (horrific as they are), but to draw on whatever emotional response you may have in this moment in the wake of those murders, and say to you: we have work to do HERE, in Seattle, and at Saint Mark’s.

An estimated ten percent of the Saint Mark’s community are Asian Americans; 14% of Seattle’s population is Asian. It is not okay that they do not feel safe. It is not okay that they feel the need to watch over their shoulder when they go to the grocery store, or to work…or to church. The collective trauma of decades of disrespect, injustice, and racial violence takes its toll, and I wonder how we might awaken to the haunts of racism, not just as a systemic blight on our society, but also really face racism as the very real weight some in our midst must carry relentlessly while others of us do not.

Do we care enough to make it personal?

Here on the eve of Holy Week, I’m mindful that Jesus says, if we are to follow him, it must be personal. What is our response, beyond horror or outrage for a few days before returning to our routines? What is our response collectively as a faith community? What will you do personally?


Your Brother in Christ,


The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector

Ornaments of Advent at Saint Mark’s

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Did you know? Just as we light a new candle in the wreath each week of Advent, so the cathedral altar also changes each Sunday...

Cathedral Sacristan and Head Verger Michael Seewer sends an email several times a year to those at Saint Mark's involved in liturgical ministries, including both practical announcements about scheduling, training, etc., as well as spiritual reflections and items of more general interest. In his Advent newsletter, Michael included interesting information about the Advent "paraments" (matched set of seasonal vestments and decorations) and the 2020 Advent wreath—information which may be new to many community members, and deserves a wider audience. Thank you, Michael!

The Advent Paraments

Each year for the four weeks of Advent, the nave is adorned with our Advent set of paraments. This set of Sarum blue, purple, and rose paraments (which includes altar hangings and vestments) was lovingly crafted years ago by Steve Hartwell, a beloved member of Saint Mark's Community for many years.

Steve made the original set using wool and dupioni silk in jewel shades of blue, purple, and rose. He designed the multi-color borders used on the altar frontal and on the vestments (chasuble, tunicle, and dalmatic). Remnants of the fabric when the set was originally created were kept for future use. Years after the set was originally made, the altar was enlarged, and Jo Ann Bailey stepped forward to add a larger layer (the royal blue layer in the back) so that the frontal fits the enlarged altar better.

One special tradition of ours with this frontal is to add an additional layer to the frontal each week. On the first Sunday of Advent, we start with the original jewel-toned border layer visible. The second week of Advent, the purple layer is added, the third the royal blue, until by the fourth week of Advent the final light blue layer is made visible. This coincides with the tradition of adding additional O Antiphon banners each week in front of the reredos.

Since the pandemic, we have begun using a burse and veil to "vest" the chalice each week. You may notice this placed in the center of the corporal on the altar at the start of service. We did not have a matching blue burse and veil for our Advent set, and so Jo Ann Bailey has once again stepped forward with her talented eye and has crafted a burse and veil using remnants from the original parament set. This Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, will be our first Sunday using this new burse and veil.

We are grateful for the talent of Steve Hartwell who lovingly crafted this beautiful parament set for us many years ago. We are also grateful for the passion and creativity of Jo Ann Bailey, who helps us to maintain this and all of our paraments, and who has made this new burse and veil and others this year to match our other parament sets. These beautiful additions to our worship space help to remind us of the changing seasons, and to remind us that we are called each week to worship "in the beauty of holiness."

Editor's note: Steve Hartwell died in May 2011 after an illness. The following note appeared in the service leaflet for his funeral liturgy:

We use today the Cathedral's Advent set of vestments. The liturgical color normally used for funerals is white, the color that marks our celebration of Jesus' promise of resurrection. However in some traditions, such as the Sarum rite, a community would use its best and finest vestments for a funeral regardless of their liturgical color. Of all the vestments Steve designed for this community, he felt that the Advent set was his best work and it is the favorite of many people in this community.

The 2020 Advent Wreath

We are grateful that, even with the continued Cathedral closure, the Saint Mark's flower guild continues to grace us with their talent and care by providing flowers and plants to beautify the nave. We are especially grateful this year for the time that Ray Miller dedicated to crafting our Advent wreath, a must-have for the season of Advent! [Editor's note: The making of the Advent wreath was another task overseen by Steve Hartwell for many years, and taken over by his partner Ray following his death.]

This year's wreath was crafted using clippings from the Cathedral Close, as well as some plantings along the Greenbelt. The evergreen branches are juniper, and the small branches with red fruit are from the hawthorn plant at the north end of the close. The yellow and green leaves are from a shrub along the northwest side of the close. This shrub is known as euonymus, or maybe specifically golden euonymus.

Ray designed the wreath with the alignment mindful of the fact that we light the rose candle on the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. We are grateful to Ray for crafting this wreath. And thank you also to Beatrix Roemheld-Hamm for her leadership of the flower guild, and for all of the many ways the flower guild team brings beauty to the nave!

Ray Miller and Steve Hartwell

Stewardship Reflection and Community Discussion

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Each Tuesday during Stewardship Season, October 4–November 8, a member of the Stewardship Ministry is posting a brief reflection and invitation to discussion in the Saint Mark's Community Life closed Facebook group. If you do not use Facebook, here is the final reflection from November 3, posted by The Rev Canon Cristi Chapman, along with highlights of the subsequent discussion. Please add your thoughts in the comments below!

My coffee table was anything but pristine this morning, featuring at least nine different containers. The obvious ones were present: cereal bowl, empty mug, and tea strainer. Several candleholders occupied one corner. On the other side, a ceramic bowl was filled with buttons and stickers and, yes, dust.

It is fitting that a container is the image for this year’s annual campaign. By now, you probably have seen the clear glass bowl, full of colored stones, during the live stream. Like every aspect of our liturgy, the bowl serves a purpose. There’s a practical aspect, of course. Each stone represents a pledge for 2021. And wow, it’s much easier to move 500 stones when they are all gathered into one place! That’s not all, though. The glass container is also an outward sign of something profoundly important: God’s movement at Saint Mark’s and in our own lives. It is a tangible reminder of the Body of Christ and each of our part within it.

How has God been at work through you and through your experiences at Saint Mark’s in the last year?

Saint Mark’s has kept me connected to community even when we can’t physically be together. Our parish and Church is like the simple glass bowl, it holds a secure space for all of God’s diverse children. I meet God in that diversity and call to create a secure space in our church for all.Oh, the simple crystal bowl was my mom’s. It makes my heart sing to see it and I know mom is pleased it’s part of our appeal.
—Robert Stevens

Here is the reflection from October 27, posted by ministry team member Greg Simon.

Can Venmo be a sacrament? It has become one for me.

Julie and I fulfill our annual pledge to Saint Mark’s automatically – directly from our bank to the cathedral office every month. But I have still valued the ritual of hearing those offertory sentences and placing cash in our offertory basin every Sunday. Or I did until the pandemic happened. Since March, that sacramental act of giving during our liturgy now happens on Venmo.

I could say that the pandemic has upended many of our sacraments. Or I could say it has expanded them. As life has moved to “the cloud”, Zoom has become a space for sacrament. And Facebook. And Chromecast. Even Xfinity! When that all seems disorienting or even disturbing to me, I remind myself that people said the same thing about the printing press.

I think that our actions with money have always been a sacramental space. Our money decisions are, as the traditional catechism puts it, “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace”. Giving money directly connects our ordinary lives to the extraordinary life of God’s Kingdom. Our gifts to grow the Kingdom are, as the catechism says, “certain means by which we receive that grace”. Even if they happen over Venmo.

How has your sacramental giving changed since March?

I have been giving online for years, even since the option became available, mainly because I stopped carrying my checkbook, and it was a way for me to give "my first fruits" on payday.
Giving during this time of pandemic feels like a powerful connection. I think it always did, but I had so many other ways of connecting and interacting with all of you, that I didn't notice it as much. Now, when I give my gift, I take a little time, picture our church and our wonderful people, and savor the thought that I am continuing to be present with you all, even while apart physically.

—Lynne Markova

I donate using the text message system. Before, I’d send the message just before the offertory anthem at the 9:00 service, then sing that anthem since I’m in the Saint Mark’s Singers. Now, I do it from home at the same point in the online Sunday morning webcast. It is a symbolic way of putting something in the basket.

—Carleton MacDonald

Here is the reflection from October 20, posted by Vestry member and fashion historian Clara Berg, along with highlights of the subsequent discussion. Please add your thoughts in the comments below!

The stewardship collect for this year begins with, “Generous Creator, you knit us together into one common life.” For today’s stewardship reflection I want to muse a little on knitting as a theological metaphor. Knitting is known as a “single element” technique. That means knitting takes one continuous thread and then shapes it into something new. You begin with a ball of yarn and loop it in a specific way to form a hat or scarf or sweater. So being knit together implies that, like a strand of yarn, we are already connected to one another (as members of the human family and children of God). But being knit together means an added closeness and a new shape—which serves a fresh purpose. How have you felt knit into community at Saint Mark's?

"I love the "knit together" anthems - seeing all those faces I miss seeing in person....
It's important to me to walk around the grounds at least a couple of times a week. And sometimes chat with Ray"
—Greg Simon

"There was something comforting about seeing pictures of everyone's Wednesday evening dinners right after the building closed. Knowing that we were still finding a way to eat together but from our own homes was reassuring. It was also fun to discover what a deep bench of good chefs there are at Saint Mark's!"
—The Rev. Cristi Chapman

"Sometimes, especially when we have large meetings or classes, I like to arrive early and spend the first few minutes just scrolling through the gallery of faces, reminding me that we're all part of the same community even if we can't be together in person."
—Lynne Markova

"Clara, I’ll never use the phrase “knit together” in quite the same way ever again! What an beautiful and profound image... and it speaks exactly to what I’ve learned during the building closure: that this wasn’t just a group of people who happened to be in the same place as me on Sunday morning, and that we were actually connected in a deeper way all along."
—Greg Bloch

"It also implies a creation, as in "you knit me together in my mother's womb" from my favorite Psalm 139."
—Lynne Cobb

"I've been able to meet folks that I might not have met otherwise because of having more available on Zoom. I'm eager to see people in real life again and I'm thankful I can participate in some things that I couldn't have before."
—Amanda Osenga


Here is the reflection from October 6, posted by ministry co-chair Lynne Markova, along with highlights of the subsequent discussion. Please add your thoughts in the comments below!

Welcome to this week's Stewardship Reflection!

During this pandemic, two unique clouds have helped me to stay connected and avoid isolation. I am grateful for them both.

One is the technical computing cloud, the backbone of servers, other hardware and software that fuels our global network. It enables us to connect quickly, safely and virtually, whether through texting, emailing, attending (yet another) Zoom meeting, or my sharing this reflection. The other is our wonderful “Cloud of Witnesses,” our Saint Mark’s community that has gathered virtually in dozens of new and innovative ways, reminding us that we are not alone. We are still One Body, even during this difficult time, and, one day, we will gather in person again.

For me, making my pledge is one way of giving thanks to God for the gift of our community. It is also a tangible way I can contribute to others staying connected and can help to bring about our longed-for reunion, whenever it arrives.

How has God helped you to stay connected and “knit together” during this pandemic?

Thank you, Lynne! One of the ways I witnessed God working through Saint Mark's this summer was through Tent City 3. The hospitality of the community to care for our new neighbors was remarkable. So was the hospitality of the residents to the wider community. (More on that latter part in Sunday's sermon!) God *is* finding all kinds of ways to bring us knit us more closely to and with each other. What a great joy to witness!
—Cristi Chapman

Being part of the team that helps with the livestream production during the pandemic has been a discomfiting experience; the nave feels unnaturally sterile (no pun intended), and I'm acutely aware of the privilege of having access to the cathedral when so many hundreds of our fellow worshippers can't be there.

But when I read their comments on social media about how they follow along every week, how they stand and sing the hymns as we do every Sunday, it reminds me that we are all so deeply and powerfully connected. We have committed our time, our energy, and our money to this place, and I fully believe that God commits to us that we will never be alone.

Even as COVID-19 has taken away so much from us, God has given us so much; the gift of community, the gift of connection, the gift of love.
—Michael Perera

Lynne Markova replied: "Thank you, Michael ! I was on the Vestry when we voted to purchase the livestream equipment. I remember we were all very excited about the new technology and how it might make people feel more drawn in and included. I'm not sure if anyone envisioned it being the lifeline that it has proven to be. So many thanks to you and the rest of the team who work so hard to make the connection possible."

This summer we brought several Ministry groups together through “Virtual Popcorn HappyHours.” It was great to see familiar smiling faces and to hear voices of people we are in community with but have not seen since closure. It was as if time has not passed. It was a blessing.
Robert Stevens

Lynne Markova replied: "Thank you, Robert! The one I attended was so much fun. One of the things I try to do is arrive early to Zoom meetings, especially the larger ones, so I can scroll through and see everyone's faces.
As one of my friends and I agreed, if we *have* to live through a pandemic, at least we're doing it in a time where we have technology to keep us connected."

Tent City 3 at Saint Mark’s: A Report from Summer 2020

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Click the image below to see a pdf of this report as it appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of The Rubric. 

The following report was published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Rubric.

Ministry report by The Rev. Canon Cristi Chapman.

Between 2001 and 2013, Tent City 3 (TC3), a movable community of people who have experienced homelessness, took up residence at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle for three months each year. After a hiatus, they returned this summer in the midst of a global pandemic, arriving to set up camp on July 7. Tent cities began in Seattle in 1990, when a group of citizens experiencing homelessness came together to create a self-managing community run according to grassroots democratic principles. Thirty years later, the organization that grew out of this initiative, called SHARE/WHEEL, runs 11 indoor shelters and two tent cities, housing almost 500 individuals. During that time, the crisis of homelessness in the Seattle area has only become more acute. Today, Seattle has the third-largest homeless population in the nation, despite being only the 15th largest city. [citation]

Per an agreement with the City of Seattle, Tent City 3 sets up its facilities on the property of a church or other host and stays for approximately 90 days before moving on. Living in a tent is not the secure, permanent housing that everyone deserves; however, for some of those for whom such housing is inaccessible, a Tent City can be a better situation than more traditional homeless shelters. Unlike many shelters, it allows mixed-gender couples to live together and some animal companions can join them. In addition, the residents are not bound to restrictive curfews, which removes a significant barrier to employment (most residents of Tent City are employed full- or part-time).

TC3 resident Mary moved to the camp in late August after returning from Florida. She says it has been difficult for her to figure out how to finalize her claim for disability after a recent accident. In Florida, she had to meet with people in person to verify her claim, but with covid-19, those offices were closed. She moved back to Washington, in part, because the state offers more pathways for her to receive benefits. Mary was grateful to find a home at TC3 while she sorted out what was next. About TC3 and covid-19, Mary said, “You make the best out of whatever situation you find yourself in.” Mary’s motto was shared by many others who made their homes in tents outside the cathedral building this summer.

TC3 residents were not the only ones who had to adjust to covid-19. So did members from Saint Mark’s. In the past, many different groups at the cathedral would regularly interact with residents from the camp. While this summer’s building closure and physical distancing requirements made that more difficult, it didn’t stop ministry from happening. Instead, new ways developed to connect residents with the community. Members of Saint Brigid’s Banquet provided meals while adhering to the governor’s precautions. The cathedral provided pallets of water. Individuals brought other basic needs like socks, jeans, t-shirts, and can openers.

Parishioner Kathy Albert recently said of the work done by Saint Brigid’s Banquet: “We need to continue doing this kind of work! We could conceivably shut down this ministry out of consideration for our own health needs and those of the people around us. But what about the needs of the most vulnerable among us? Our faith tells us their needs are to be considered first.”

Tent City 3 packed up and moved to their next host on September 15. In this extraordinary and dangerous time, their presence was a gift and a blessing to the cathedral in so many ways. We continue to remember them in prayer, we decry and denounce the dehumanizing and degrading treatment to which those who have lost their home are subjected in this country, and we continue to work for a world in which all can live with safety and dignity.

Voting, Politics, and the Church: A Message from Dean Thomason

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dear friends,

This Friday, October 16th, marks the opening day in this state for early voting in the November 3rd general election. As I consider my own ballot, I find myself prayerfully mindful of the right and privilege I have as a voting citizen in this nation. Not everyone is afforded the right, restrained either by law or by impediments of disenfranchisement or disinterest.

I am especially mindful of our nation in these turbulent days and prayerful for a peaceful election. I bid your prayers, too, that we may be given grace to be guided “by the better angels of our nature,” as Abraham Lincoln famously wrote in his first inaugural address, as the vituperations launched toward one another reached a boiling point. “Though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection,” he said.

Many have offered spiritual counsel in recent weeks—good counsel—on ways to navigate this difficult stretch of days. I commend them to you here once more— name just a few. The common theme is perspective and grounding. As people of faith, we know such perspective and grounding are forged in the contemplative spirit of prayer and self-reflection, not the acrimonious energy oriented to the other. So I add my voice of entreaty to you: claim your spaces of contemplative quiet with intention in the coming days and weeks; turn off the cacophonous spin which feeds off worst-case hyperbole; turn into those spiritual practices that enable you to plant your whole self squarely with perspective and a firm grounding in the values you hold most dear. These values rise from our identity as God’s beloved.

I often get questions, or challenges really—that the Church and its leaders should refrain from entering the political fracas. I appreciate their sentiment, which I take to mean we should avoid using the pulpit to make decidedly partisan pronouncements. They often cite “separation of church and state” as the prevailing reproach against such activity. A closer read of the founding documents of this nation, however, and additional clarifying statements made by those who wrote them, draws an important distinction between the need for a wall “separating church and state,” and some corollary premise to separate religion from politics. The latter is a fabrication not intended by the founders, and they made that very clear. They saw political and religious expression as inexorably linked and believed one’s values were derived from the intermingling of the two. [note 1]

A person’s religion informs his politics, or it’s not much of a religion. When Americans speak of freedom these days, I think we largely intend a freedom from obligation to anyone else. I am free to do and say whatever I want. Unmoored by a commitment to the common good, our nation teeters perilously close to the precipice of a chasm, lured over the edge by songs of hatred and fear and hubris—a house divided cannot stand.

Our faith-informed notion of freedom comes with an undeniable sense of servanthood. Christian freedom intends the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—virtues that ultimately bear fruit when others experience them as gifts from you.It is dangerous to speak of politics and religion in the same conversation. I know it is. Such talk is fraught with chances to demand that we are right while others are wrong, or even worse, to claim hubristically that God is on our side. But it seems to me that we are living in a time when our religious virtues are desperately needed in the public discourse, and that is what we have to offer—not our claim of moral superiority, but our humble claim to Christ-like virtues offered to all as neighbors.

So vote, dear ones. Bless you in the act of voting. And may you be a blessing to all the families of the earth. I am,


The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason

Dean and Rector

  1. Meacham, Jon. American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. New York: Random House, 2006. We must note the sad deficiencies of the Declaration of Independence and its authors who did not responsibly address the evil of slavery in this nation.

Sandra Smith: A Reflection on Mask Worry

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Back in March, Sandra Smith submitted the very first reflection posted on the cathedral website on the events that were then rapidly unfolding, from her perspective as an immune-compromised person. Now, three months later, she has submitted the following thoughts about the current situation.

I believe all people in our human community do matter, especially the vulnerable and oppressed. We must keep ourselves safe. For people who don’t chose to mask, I have felt righteous indignation with my inner bully/tyrant rising up with anger because my health is threatened. I don’t want to be a bully nor a tyrant nor do I want to hate others whose values and behaviors are different than my own. I want to disarm myself, and ask God’s grace to diminish threats, save all of us, God’s people, and help me to truly walk in love, literally.

So, I walked for exercise with my neighbor. We were masked and maintained 6 feet social distancing from each other. As the months continued, I noticed people on my walk who didn’t wear their masks and it worried me; I felt threatened by their choice as they approached on the street. It surprised me how much woeful energy I felt as I encountered the unmasked. I wondered, why such a threat?

Having walked along a busy street for my daily walk, I felt a slow crescendo of anxiety, both my own and others’. After stepping aside from my frustration and fear, I took time to reflect and realized that I want others to behave in a way that protects me. After all, I wear a mask to protect them. Didn’t they have the desire to protect others, like me?

Then I looked deeper and realized that I had a part in this. Perhaps my need to control the masking behavior of others only increased my frustration. Stepping back from my worldview of what compassionate life may look like, it had now become time for me to admit again, that I only have power over my own behavior and actions. I began to consider the question a very wise woman said, “what can I do differently?”

So, my walking buddy and I chose after Easter Monday to walk a new less busy route while reflecting on a scripture passage each of us brings to the walk, maintaining our six-foot distance between ourselves and the fewer unmasked anxious others we encountered. I avoided the nearby unmasked contractor who was consistently not adhering to the Governor’s directive for him to be masked. As he continued in his illegal neglect, I calmly and firmly wrote to my condo neighbors that the behavior of this unmasked contractor was unacceptable. I asked what does he not understand and why? He is now abiding and masked. I also acknowledge the passing joggers’ rights as equal to my right to be outside and avoid or face away from them as they pass quickly to protect myself.

I try to let go of what is not mine to do responsibly. I don’t want to act in a tyrannical way to any of my neighbors. I fervently want to express my needs in a firm and loving way. I ask God to help me walk in love which is hard to do. I pray that I can continue to choose to do the best I can. God bless you in your journey with the unmasked. Be Safe. Let us pray for one another. Amen.

Dean Thomason: Racial Violence and God’s Call to a “New Normal”

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Dear friends,

Our hearts singe once more with the excruciating pain of seeing a police officer in Minnesota use an established torture technique to subdue a black man under suspicion of an alleged crime. Other police officers were complicit in their participation. George Floyd died at their hands.

There has been much talk in recent weeks of constitutional rights, but Mr. Floyd was not afforded his in this moment which has catalyzed outrage and terror. Yes, terror, for there are fellow citizens of this nation who must live in fear of such heinous and deadly acts being perpetrated on them, too, and their sons and brothers. They live in terror because this is not an isolated event. This nation’s deep roots of racism have given rise to more than four centuries of such terror. It is no wonder that terror intermingled with grief from a pandemic has stirred the masses into a riotous furor.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” So said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who used his prophetic voice to call this nation to repent of its sin of racism, in 1968. That quote has become a soundbite in recent days, as it did four years ago in Baltimore, and eight years ago in Ferguson, and… and… and…

But in that same speech Dr. King went on to ask America — which is to say, he went on to ask you and me: “What is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor [sic] has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

The prophet’s voice singes our ears and our hearts a half century later, and his words are sadly as true now as they were then. Dr. King rejected violence as a means for societal change, and yet he understood the violent protests of the oppressed in relation to the violence and terror that racism has inflicted on a people for centuries.

Let’s be honest: we all want justice… for ourselves at least, but maybe not so much when it disturbs the status quo to which we have become accustomed. That is human nature, I suppose, but it comes with a heavy price for some as we organize our common life by a deeper logic that insists on inequity: insider/outsider; rich/poor; powerful/oppressed. Barak Obama reflected this week in the wake of George Floyd’s death that “it's natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ — whether it's while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”

My friends, God is calling us to create a new normal in which justice will take a shape that extends well beyond a neighborhood in Minneapolis, and well beyond cries for retributive justice to be meted out. Yes, a police officer has been charged with murder; other police officers have been fired. We pray this day for the riots to revert to non-violent protest. And we pray that those voices may be heard, by us, by our leaders, and by all in this nation as we struggle to find a new way, a different way of being part of that “inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

God’s relentless call to us is about working for a new creation in which the even deeper logic is abundant life for all. A “new normal,” if you will. As we renew our Baptismal Covenant tomorrow on the occasion of Pentecost, may we form the words on our lips and on our hearts: “I will, with God’s help.”

Your Brother in Christ,

The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason

Dean and Rector

Kathy Albert: Good Friday and the Truth

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It's Good Friday. Today is the day that Jesus was turned over to The State. The State, that behemoth that has always been, sans compassion, sans conscience, sans consciousness, a veritable greed machine. In the Palestine of Jesus's day, that would have been a Roman Empire. In our time, it's an American one. Neither one of them has had a great track record when it comes to truth.

Today, we can see a powerful Jesus. Though he is given up to the workings of an evil system, he is never conquered by it. He has come to so embody the truth that when he simply presents himself in the garden, false authority falls away. Later, he stands up to Annas' attempts to frame him, while asserting his own authority among the people: "Ask those who heard what I said to them. They know what I said." Even when hit, he has a response that would require his assailant to face truth: "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I've spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" In facing his own Jewish community that has gone far astray, Jesus confronts them with truth.

But in his encounters with the Roman oppressor in the person of Pilate, Jesus points to truth in a different way. Compassionately, he speaks to the Roman procurator words that shed light on a path to truth for him: "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. . . . You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Then Pilate seeks to learn from Jesus, "What is truth?", and goes out and asserts his detainee's innocence to those who want this captured man dead.

Even throughout the horrific pain and despair of the cross, Jesus remains heart and soul surrendered to the truth of his life. Even in his suffering, he fulfills the duty of an only child to his cherished mother, and releases her into the care of his beloved disciple, John.  He stays vulnerably human right up to his last breath, expressing his thirst and drinking what's offered, sour as it is.  Then  Jesus simply acknowledges when his final moment has come, saying "It is finished.", and dies.

So, that's how truth showed up two thousand years ago in the Roman Empire. How is it showing up in the American Empire today?  My answer—far beneath the surface of things, and with great struggle and indomitable spirit. To find truth in America today requires deep diving, fringe-living, and perseverance like we've never persevered before. I find truth in accepting limitations in my life that were unfathomable before, while indomitably confronting the stubborn myopia of my American people's devotion to a failure-bound  system. I find truth in praying for the devotees, and therein receiving grace to think and act compassionately towards them. And I find truth in acknowledging my own—albeit unwilling—participation in the most destructive and inhumane mode of socio-economic organization that human beings have heretofore come up with,  and doing all that I can to stop participating, one step at a time.  [You know what system I'm referring to. I don't have to say the "C" word.]

When I look at the mangled truth hanging on the cross these days, I see the undocumented, the impoverished, the imprisoned, the homeless, the raped, the murdered, the queer, the elderly, the children, the sick, the abandoned, the molested . . . who in truth does NOT hang on the cross of Jesus today? It is in finding myself there that a portal into resurrection opens. Then I have the strength and Godly power to resist and keep resisting The State, as Jesus did and continues to do, whenever the Church stands up and divests of her own complicit - and almost always unconscious - support of The State.

I suspect America is like Pilate in the 21st century. Our best bet is to ask Jesus, "What is truth?" But unlike the Roman procurator, we can still choose to follow the Christly word whispered in our hearts, and NOT the loud demands of a crazed culture gone mad with greed. We can opt for death—and pass through to vibrant life like we've never known before.

Carrie Kahler: Three Poems

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Parishioner Carrie Kahler taught a class at Saint Mark's a few years ago on ekphrastic poetry, focusing especially on Saint Mark's own collection of icons. Three poems she wrote as a result of that class were subsequently published in the literary journal Image, issue No. 99. (You can view them on Image's website here, here, and here.) She has graciously offered to share them here. 


After Rublev’s Trinity

Each face turned toward
a face at table leaving
always a space for

one more. An open
door to run through when someone
can’t quite make it home

on their own. Though the
wings work, humans haven’t got
them, and it’s hard to

converse from heights so,
in one hand a staff to lean
on. The other hand
ever reaches down.

After Prokhorova’s Saint Mark

There is no shadow
of turning here but there are
spaces for the dark.

Neither does the point
vanish—receding toward
a horizon of

agreement pinned to
dancing angels, instead gold
instead several

visions at once see
desk with sharp quills curved to light
like the mind on the
feet that bear good news

After The Anastasis

who’s to say here what
is not when the hand firmly
grips the bird-light wrist

the face facing Eve—
her son’s as much as Mary’s—
furrowed long and lined

on her left Adam’s
cloak billows back in the blast
of blue air He brings

the deep blue behind
Him an almond of truth that
is, heaven that is

how we grasp after
holiness when gold leaf is
too dull we go dark

witnesses crowd each
other’s ears and each gestures
and each gesture sends

your glance heavenward
you stand just beyond the first
parents just this side

of death’s doors waiting
for the pull to light waiting
to leave the late night

Kathy Albert: Prayers for Life

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Parishioner Kathy Albert wrote this reflection on two meaningful prayers. Thank you for sharing, Kathy! 

When life gets rugged, I turn to a wealth of spiritual wisdom that has sustained me over the years. Here's a prayer that I am saying out loud now after meals. It comes from Gates of the House: The New Union Home Prayer Book, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

"Let us praise God.
Praised be the name of God, now and forever!
Blessed is our God, of whose abundance we have eaten.
Blessed is our God, of whose abundance we have eaten, and by whose goodness we live.
Blessed is the One-Who-Is!
Blessed is the [Holy One] our God, [Sovereign] of the universe, whose goodness sustains the world.
The God of grace, love, and compassion is the source of food for all who live—for God's love is everlasting.
Through God's great goodness we do not lack and will not ever lack.
For God is in the goodness that sustains and nourishes all, providing food enough for every living being.
Blessed is the [Holy One], Source of food for all who live."
Thomas Merton prayed a prayer that also finds resonance in my own heart, especially now:
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
I am now no more vulnerable to death than I have ever been.  Life is always tenuous!  So I can take this moment to choose life more than ever!  In the face of the deaths, I choose to live!  Life is good!

Dean’s Letter: One Body, Many Parts

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As we approach two weeks since the first public health directives upended our normal routines, with many in the interim faced with job loss, school closures, and the threat of illness coming too close, I am keenly aware that the stress of this disruption and the weight of the burgeoning health care crisis are bearing down on us, collectively and individually. It is difficult in the moment to find an unimpeded path to resolution and a return to normalcy (whatever that may look like). None of us are certain how long this will last, and that naturally enough prompts anxiety. And there is a deep sense of grieving intermingled in it all.

I name all of this, having had personal conversations or email exchanges with literally hundreds of you in recent days—I name all of this as we prepare for a very unusual Holy Week, and I am acutely aware of the fact that we are making our journey to the cross of Good Friday this year like no other year in living memory. But we do so ever-enlightened by the hope of resurrection. We are resurrection people, and we are called to live in a way that does not gloss the harsh realities of life, but rather holds those struggles in the context of resurrected life, trusting that something new is in the works, even if we can’t quite make it out just yet....

Please click here to read the remainder of the Dean's message.

Sonjia Gavin: Blessing and Curse

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Yin and Yang. Sinner and Saint. Blessing and Curse. As they say, there are always to sides to a coin.

In this time of limbo, I find myself thinking about this daily. What is the take-away from all of this? What are we supposed to be learning? How are we going to make it through? Will this ever this end?

All around us, we are experiencing a new normal. Students are not in school, employees are being laid off (including me), some are working from home (husband), stores are closing, and many are in fear of contracting COVID-19. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this is a disorienting time for all of us.

The first few days of self-quarantine for my family was rough. It was a lot of learning to live together 24/7, adjusting to our new normal, and listening. As we head toward the end of the week, we have found our rhythm. For now. We are “plotting a different course than the one we had planned.”

In his sermon on Sunday, Steve encouraged us to look for outward signs of spiritual grace waiting to surprise us, bless us, and nourish us. Common things made holy for our spiritual benefit.

For everything I see as a loss, there is a blessing on the other side. Reframing my perspective takes some practice. During these difficult times, we must be diligent in looking for outward signs of God’s grace.

Reflecting back on this week I can see God’s grace, the Blessing, all around me. Life has slowed down. WAY down. And this is a beautiful thing.

I’m reconnecting with my family on a whole new level. We spend time together, and actually enjoy it! I am A LOT less stressed out. Without as much to do or worry about, the rhythm of my life has found a new equilibrium. And it makes me wonder how I can refocus my energy when this is all over.

I have been able to enjoy the sunshine and put energy and time (something I would not have had with our normal routine) into working in my yard. It has never looked so good! The bulbs are popping up, the trees are blooming, and the birds fill the air with their songs. Spring has arrived. Common things made holy for our spiritual benefit.

God is here in this time of wilderness. We can cling to his promise in the Sacraments and look for the outwardly visible signs of God’s grace in our everyday lives

Reflections on Signs of Grace…

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After hearing Dean Thomason's sermon on March 15, 2020, parishioners were invited to reflect on where they had been experiencing sacramental grace in their daily lives during this challenging time. 


I snapped a photo (attached) on my walk out of PCC this evening after being greeted by a brass band playing music together in the park. All of the musicians were standing at least 6 feet apart (practicing social distancing) while they played joyful music. Lifted my spirits immediately and filled me with gratitude!

—Kari Nasby


I am standing with my cup of coffee looking out at our sun-filled back yard and enjoying the life at our bird feeder. Juncos, chickadees, towhees and house finches are our frequent visitors but this afternoon it is mostly chickadees and juncos. For me they are holy little spirits, clothed in feathers, emissaries of God’s love.

—Nancy Valaas


As I washed my hands this past week and used sanitizer for what seemed like the hundredth time, practiced social distancing, and did my best not to become hopeless, I’ve had this ongoing internal dialogue about what it means to live a Eucharistic focused life during a pandemic. I can’t stop reflecting on serving at the 11 a.m. Saint Mark’s service last Sunday. The “physical” pews and chairs in the Nave were empty. As one of the handful of ministers who stood on the platform for the Liturgy of the Table, it was clear to me that we were celebrating communion across time, space, and beyond the four walls of the Nave.

While the pews and chairs were empty, the Nave was not! The Cathedral Parish and beyond were clearly present with us. For me, this is a Lukan Road to Emmaus time where Jesus is walking with the two disciples and revealing the truth of Holy Scripture to them so they can hear and soon through the blessing of wine and breaking of bread can see. In today’s context, some of the visible signs of grace are simple as taking extra time to notice water and how I am washing my hands. Water is ritually cleansing and life giving. With the coronavirus, water can limit its spread and thus can be lifesaving.  It is also being mindful of how fearful people are in public and especially in confined spaces like elevators.  When I recognize this fear in others, it is to be gentle and to acknowledge the person with a kind gesture. In my home, we are making it a point to reach out to friends, family, and especially those who live alone and to make sure they are okay.

Living a Eucharistic focused life at its core is being called to community. It is seeing the presence of Jesus in the most common aspects of life.  It is especially true as we navigate not having the ability to be physically present to those we love and to be in our faith community. I know that wherever The Liturgy of the Table is celebrated, it is celebrated for all of us, physically present or not..

—Robert Stevens


Amanda: “We’re all in this together”

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For Saint Mark's member Amanda, the experience of social isolation and distance is not a new one. She recently posted this thoughtful reflection on the Saint Mark's Community Closed Facebook Group, and it is being reposted here for the benefit of community members who do not use Facebook. Please leave a comment below if you are so moved. 

Hi church. I’m Amanda, my family started attending St. Mark’s this past summer. I’m stepping out in a moment of vulnerability to share my story a bit.

This social distancing, self-isolation, lots of handwashing, nervous “am I going to get sick” scenario the nation finds itself in is essentially how I lived for almost two years. I was dealing with significant health issues and isolation was my best option to be well.

For about two years I went almost nowhere indoors. I had next to no physical contact with anyone except my immediate family. When I did go somewhere I often ended up sick. I scrupulously washed after any contact with people. My hubby and son (who most of you know as the smiling 9-year-old in a bow tie) had to go through an involved process to clean up whenever they came home from somewhere. It was this past spring, almost a year ago, that my healthcare team decided I could start doing more.

I know how hard this is. I know how scary, frustrating, confusing, and lonely it is. In some ways, I am grateful people are going to *get* it now. A lot of people live like this every day. If you want to talk to someone who gets it, please reach out. If you’re lonely or scared, please reach out. (I’d also like to mention I’ve worked from home for years now and I am a homeschool consultant. I have lots of easy to implement resources and systems for those who are suddenly working from home and/or homeschooling).

Watching the service reminded me this time I’m not alone. That empty sanctuary and the distance between everyone present felt so strange, didn’t it? Yet it reminded me we’re all in this together. And God is in the midst of us giving us comfort. We’re gathering to worship and connecting as we can. It was holy and heartbreaking. Beautiful and sad. Lonely and united.

I encourage you to be incredibly intentional about cultivating community in any way you can. Reach out to multiple people a day. We live in an era where it is easier than ever to communicate. Keep communicating. Especially make sure to reach out to those with chronic illness, the elderly, those who are already feeling the financial pinch, those in your life with depression and anxiety, and those who care for people in these categories. And send real mail. When I was isolated getting mail was a lifeline. The internet is amazing and we should use it to connect. And there’s something about holding a letter in your hand that someone wrote for you that fills the soul in a unique way.

“Your people” need you now more than ever. This is an opportunity to shine God’s light and hope into a scared and hurting world. I hope it’s not an opportunity that is overlooked.

Michael Seewer: “COVID-19 and Me”

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The video that was live-streamed carefully avoided images of the empty pews and chairs, except for a few special moments at the beginning and end—but for those few of us present in the church the emptiness was a constant, unsettling presence. Cathedral Sacristan and Head Verger Michael Seewer posted a personal reflection about his experiences last Sunday on his personal blog. Below is a brief excerpt. Read his full post on his personal blog

As the liturgy was to begin, the Dean shared words of welcome with everyone joining us on the internet. It was weird. And then, the choir rang the bell to signal the start of the service. The crucifer got ready to lead the procession (of three people…our processions are normally 50 or 60 people). And it really hit me.

This is all so weird.

The church was basically empty. At least, all of the seats and pews in the main part where the worshiping congregation sits. We normally have several hundreds of people attending each service. I think it hit me then, just how much things have changed just in the last couple of weeks.

I keep telling myself that I’m not going to let this all overwhelm me. I live in a city over 2,000 miles from my family. And though I have some wonderful friends whom I love and trust, I have occasional feelings of loneliness, missing the lifelong friendships from my hometown.

In the midst of our liturgy this morning, the words of Scripture washed over me. The reading from Exodus and the story of the Israelites in the wilderness. The words of Psalm 95…the antiphon

Harden not your hearts as your forebears did in the wilderness.

over and over and over…reminding me…don’t lose hope in this wilderness.

Read the rest of Michael's reflection here

Members of the cathedral staff completing final preparations for the first-ever livestream-only liturgy. L to R: Cathedral Sacristan Michael Seewer, Associate Organist John Stuntebeck, Dean Steve Thomason, Sound Board Technician Michael Perera, Associate Musician Rebekah Gilmore, Canon Cristi Chapman, Cathedral Videographer Christopher Brown. Photo by Communications Director Gregory Bloch.

Kelly Moody: “Everything Has Changed”

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Associate for Spiritual Formation Kelly Moody recently sent the following letter to the participants in Children and Family Ministries at Saint Mark's. Her reflection is relevant, however, not just to parents of young children, but to all of us, and so we are sharing it here.

“Everything has changed.”

We say that in Godly Play at the beginning of a new liturgical year, and it seems appropriate in the wake of the news all gatherings over 50 people are prohibited, restaurants, gyms, libraries and museums are closing, and public and private schools are cancelled until at least April 25. Everything external about the way we go about our daily lives has changed this week, and it’s making waves. The impact of these changes will vary among us, but the anxiety that comes with disruption and uncertainty will accompany each of us to some degree. That is to be expected, and I pray that we will be divinely gentle with ourselves and one another as we live into a new reality, and seek creative ways to support the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of our children and ourselves.

Though these external changes to our daily lives are temporary, we ourselves will be changed during this season, too.  We will be formed by the cessation of gathering and activity in deep ways. It is always true that we are formed by our attention and action, but perhaps it’s easier to notice in unusual times like these- times of enforced ceasing.

As members of the Church, the Body of Christ, we have a model for living fully in the face of disruption, and seeing and celebrating God's presence in hard places. It is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the Eucharistic shape of our weekly worship. And as it turns out, it is the pattern of our liturgical calendar, too, which conveniently locates us now in the season of Lent, a time to cease. Every year in Lent, we remove certain things from our worship space and simplify our liturgy. We set aside aspects of celebration and feasting and distraction in order to turn our attention to God’s still, small voice. We are doing that in far more drastic ways this year! But we do so with intention each year to follow Jesus’s path of preparation for surrendering his life on the cross, knowing transformation will come through surrender, somehow. And so, we have a unique opportunity this year to practice surrender.

The question is, to what, or to whom will I surrender?  

I am here to say that until this week, I had not yet been very intentional about surrendering to anything more courageous than the entropy of my own overcrowded and busy life this Lenten season. I'd even taken on too many Lenten disciplines! Truth be told, sometimes our churches become markets of frenetic activity, too, just like the rest of the world.

But not this year. This year we are given the gift of a remarkable ceasing. Folded into the worldwide disruption of COVID-19 is an opportunity to make a different Lenten choice; to show up to our own formation differently and listen to the still, small voice of God calling us gently and persistently to be still and know, and to be changed by that knowing.

The path before us is a bit rocky, but it is not uncharted. We are in the company of Christians throughout time who have found their way through disappointments and unexpected challenges by the light of Christ, in the presence of Christ, and with the love Christ. We are in the company of one another, and we will continue to be formed by our faith every time we gather for prayer and worship by livestream, or make contact with one another by phone, or meet together by Zoom in the weeks ahead.

And, we are in the company of Christ, now and forever. That will not change!

Peace to you and your families.


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