A Sermon for the Last Sunday of Epiphany, the Annual Meeting, February 23, 2020

A sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, February 23, 2020, the Annual Meeting.

This Last Sunday of Epiphany, Jesus leads his disciples up a high mountain.  Peter, James, and John have no idea what’s about to happen, or what they’re going to see up there.  It turns out to be a turning point for them, and a true “mountaintop” experience, where they see Jesus transfigured before them, dazzling white.  They see Jesus talking to Moses, just as we read about Moses on the mountaintop in our reading from Exodus today, with Elijah. Then are overshadowed by a cloud and they hear God’s voice say, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well-pleased; listen to him!”  Of course they are afraid, and, of course Jesus tells them, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 

As I looked back on 2019, I realized that we’ve been on a journey together for a little over a year.  Some of it’s been uphill like Jesus’ field trip up the mountain, and there have been numerous high points.  And some times when we probably have felt some fear, both you and I.  Where are we going?  Are we going to make it as a parish?  You may have wondered, who is this new person?  But overall, I think it’s been a rich mutual learning experience for both of us. 

Last year at this time I was on a liturgical learning curve, learning how to preside as an Anglo-Catholic priest. I am grateful to everyone in the parish who supported me along that journey which was rather steep in the beginning, especially during Holy Week, which began two weeks after my Mom passed away.

Perhaps the parish also experienced a liturgical learning curve this year. Presiding is incarnational, and simply having a female priest at the altar most weeks has been a different experience for you.

And having an Interim Rector with a different leadership style is a core experience of the Interim time, especially following a Rector who was in place for thirty years. That’s an element of the learning curve for both of us, too, and I am grateful to the Wardens, the Vestry, staff, and all of you for the support you’ve shown me, and your openness to collaboration and change.

I often marvel at the sheer beauty of leading worship at All Saints’. The incense, holy water, chanting, vestments, music, and liturgical action are all Anglo-Catholic expressions that for many of us, create a portal to the Holy.  This transcendent experience is a signature strength of All Saints’.

I’d like to revisit some of the high points of last year and some of the new things we’ve tried.

A weekly parish email newsletter.   Every Friday there’s a message from the Interim Rector, photos, links, Vestry news, and a list of upcoming events.  Healthy internal communication within the parish is a key sign of a healthy parish.  The email newsletter helps keep everyone on the same page, and it is also a way to introduce ourselves to newcomers.

A refreshed All Saints’ website.  Where do we go to find out about a church in 2020?  Websites.  It’s vital that All Saints’ website be accurate and attractive, with the service times on the home page. 

Our social media presence. Our Facebook page has 140 followers, and I’ve been running a Facebook ad promoting our website targeted at people living in a one mile radius around the church.  If you’re a Facebook user, please like All Saints’ page and comment on the posts.  Every week I post the weekly email and usually the text of Sunday’s sermon, and photos from parish life.

Wednesday night Lenten Series. We brought people together around a shared meal of soup, fellowship, and spiritual formation.

Holy Week and Easter.  On Palm Sunday we processed out the to the sidewalk and then up the stairs to the front door. I hope we can process a little farther along Waller Street this year.

In June, the Vestry had a daylong retreat at St. Gregory of Nyssa church.  We met beneath the rotunda painted with dancing saints.  The extended time allowed us to get to know each other and explore several topics with more depth. 

During the summer we used a Eucharistic Prayer from “Enriching Our Worship” that was new to All Saints’, and once we figured out when the Sanctus Bells were rung, all went smoothly.  We also experienced the crowds of Bay to Breakers, and the San Francisco Marathon, a first for me. 

In September we had two all parish meetings after the 10:00 Mass to look at our history and talk about our own history with All Saints’. Using a timeline, we invited people to place a sticky note on the year that they came to All Saints’ and we had discussion about what brought them to All Saints’, and what brought them joy. 

We had a third session that offered a time and place to talk about loss and grief.  The conversations around the tables and our larger group conversation made a space for consolation and healing.

On St. Michael and All Angels we held a Healing Service that offered up our sense of grief and loss to Christ’s healing grace.

The Vestry created a HACS Subcommittee with Brenda Nelson as Chair, and the Vestry appointed Myron Chapman Acting Director of the HACS Saturday morning food program.  The HACS Subcommittee is meeting on a regular basis to plan how the food program can be sustainable into the future, and draw volunteers from the community.

Bishop Marc visited us on All Saints’ Day on his first day back after his stroke in October. It was a joyous morning, and we celebrated the baptism of Calvin Quick.

The 1300 Block Neighborhood Watch group started meeting at All Saints’ once a month in the parish hall. Many of our immediate neighbors had never been through the All Saints’ gates. This is a way we can serve our immediate neighborhood.  We’ve discussed being a resource for the neighborhood after a disaster.  

On December 15 we celebrated the 100th Birthday of our beloved Willard Harris.  Willard invited many of her sorority sisters to All Saints’ that morning, we blessed a paten engraved with her name, and her family sponsored a festive reception. 

Christmas Intergenerational Pageant. We had an interactive Pageant where people of all ages built the Creche as we heard the Christmas story and sang carols.  Afterwards, we gathered in the parish hall and sang more carols. It was an opportunity to experience a different kind of liturgy and include children in it.

The Rectory Renovation was a priority throughout the year.  The Vestry decided that with the cost of living in San Francisco, we needed to have a place for the new priest to live before we could begin the search.

Larry Rosenfeld, our Jr. Warden, has done a stellar job taking the lead on the project:  analyzing the scope of the work, researching the costs, finding contractors, kitchen designers, and putting out bids. Margaret Taylor was also instrumental in this process. At our last Vestry meeting we awarded the construction contract to Guilfoyle Construction.

Larry has also been instrumental in analyzing how we can pay for the renovation, and coordinated meetings with the Finance Committee and the Trustees of the Endowment to create a plan.  When construction began in January, we had a blessing of the renovation project.

Now that the rectory renovation project is underway, we can continue on our discernment process and begin the steps towards our search. 

In the coming months we will examine these questions together:  “Who are we,”  “Who are our neighbors?” and “What is God calling us to do?” 

This isan exciting period of the Interim time, and I look forward to discerning who we are in 2020, and where God is calling us to go in the future, and who will be our next priest.

As we move into 2020, we say Thank-you to some very important parish leaders.  Vestry members Jeff Russell, Lindsey Crittenden, and Margaret Taylor, who finished Stewart Krengel’s term.  They  have served three demanding years on the Vestry, and we are deeply grateful for their service.

Jean McMaster is finishing her service as Senior Warden after staying on an extra year into the Interim period.  Jean has served All Saints’ as Senior Warden with strength and grace, sensitivity and integrity.  The Vestry is fortunate that she has another year left on her Vestry term.

Later, the annual meeting we will vote on a slate of three new vestry people: Susan St. Martin, Colby Roberts, and Margaret Taylor, who is running for a full three year term, and for our deanery and convention delegates.

The season of Epiphany began with the shining star in the East guiding the Wise Ones to Bethlehem.  Like them, we’ve been on a journey together this past year, learning as we go, and walking in faith. 

As we enter Lent, Jesus continues to lead us on our up hill Interim journey. I think it’s important to pause and see that we have come a long ways, and today I feel deeply grateful for all that we have done together. 

I want to acknowledge again that it is easy to become afraid on our Interim journey. It may feel overwhelming at times.  But I noticed in our passage today that Jesus touches his disciples, and then tells his disciples, “Get up and do not be afraid.” In the Eucharist Jesus also touches us and gently tells us “Get up and do not be afraid.”

I believe that if we listen to Jesus, as the mysterious voice in the cloud commanded us to do, Christ’s radiance will illuminate our path, and guide us into the future.

It’s been an honor and a joy for me to be your Interim Rector this past year and I look forward to continuing our collaboration together. May the light of Christ continue to shine through us and transfigure us into the parish Christ calls us to become.   Amen.