St. Barnabas in Covington, KY

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we had a very delightful visit with St. Barnabas’ Anglican Church, which is just 45 minutes away in Covington, KY. It is a small urban parish, meeting in downtown Covington.

We are especially glad to have a relationship with St. Barnabas because they are a fellow ACNA parish in the Cincinnati area, and will be easy to visit when we’re on home assignment. We were also excited to learn to that one of the parishioners, Rebecca Dohn, is the daughter of SAMS missionaries Michael and Anita Dohn, who are serving in the Dominican Republic.

We had a great time, and Matt preached on Christ the King Sunday. You can download audio of that sermon here.

Below: Matt and Sora with Rebecca Dohn and Rev. Chris and Miriam Peterson and their kids.

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Thank you, Fr. Mike!

In the nature of the case, missionaries must be thankful people. Being the “stretching arm” of the church that is sent around the world to minister to other parts of the body of Christ – this calling inevitably means that one is placed in a situation of perfect and complete dependence on the other members of the body.

As we near the finish line of our fund-raising efforts, it is incredibly sweet to think of all the senders we have met and partnered with, whose hearts were moved by what we plan to do. I have often said that my sense of calling is largely an awareness that I have been called by others to do this job. So many people want this mission to happen, and they have entrusted our family with it.

Chief among them is Fr. Mike Fitzpatrick, the rector of Grace Church, Collingdale. He has visited our parish in Cincinnati several times, and knows everyone in the REC’s NEMA diocese. He is a gentle and kindly man, truly a father figure for his parish and for the African students of Christ Academy, the school that meets in his church.

Fr. Mike wants us to go to the Philippines. And while his parish is considering us for financial support, he has already used the best treasure he had for us: his friendships with other REC rectors. He made phone calls and arranged visits for us. He opened up the whole diocese for us, and led us to make many new friends who are also eager for us to go. They in turn are now very dear to us, and we look forward to visiting them again when we get back from the mission field. Without Fr. Mike, we would not have met them.

When we visited Philadelphia this week, he arranged for us to be put up (for 9 nights!) by one of the teachers at his school, Mrs. Miller. He bought us pizza. He gave us money to visit a museum in downtown Philadelphia during one of our free afternoons. He loved our kids and was a blessing to them, understanding in his own heart that it is difficult for kids to be “dragged around” from church to church on deputation visits.

Fr. Mike is also an inspiration to me as a pastor. The stories he can tell of his adventures in the service of his parishioners, with their troubles as immigrants and residents of pretty rough parts of town, are simultaneously hair-raising and heartwarming. He has a real heart for the immigrant families in his parish, and he does for them the same thing he did for us: he lets their needs be known and gives his friends opportunities for good works. He is a shepherd. He cares for his sheep. Some pastors want to be Bible scholars, or great orators, or dispensers of sacraments, and they neglect pastoral care. But for Fr. Mike, it is at the core of his ministry.

Thank you, Fr. Mike! Without you, we would not be able to do what we are about to go and do.

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Whirlwind Tour of Philadelphia RECs, Two Sermons

We’ve been in Philadelphia since November 11th, visiting several Reformed Episcopal parishes, the seminary, and Christ Academy. As always with the REC, we have been welcomed with open arms and warm hearts.

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Our first stop was St. Paul’s in Oreland, where we were treated to lunch after the service by the Rev. John and Vicki Medvick. (Picture above shows Rev. John Medvick, Matt & Sora, and Rev. Dcn. Russ Buchanan.) I preached in the Morning Prayer service, and you can download that sermon, on the “Taxes to Caesar” question, here. Many thanks to Pastor Medvick and his family for making our visit a very pleasant one. Thanks also to his son Alex for taking some great photos of our kids! Here’s my favorite: Naomi running around the house in the beautiful autumn light.

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On Monday, we took a one-day trip down to Washington, DC, for Sora to attend a conference on breech birth. Three of the other Cincinnati area midwives were there, as were many celebrities of the midwifery world. I took the kids to the national zoo. While there, I got this video of Naomi reciting William Blake’s Tyger, Tyger while an actual tiger prowls behind her:

On our return to Philly, we took a day off and went to the UPenn Museum of Archaeology, which had some really wonderful artifacts.

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(Photo of me with a replica of the code of Hammurabi, a document which I have shown in pictures and discussed with a decade of Antiquity students.)

With Sunday’s sermon still in mind, we had Isaiah obey Jesus’ command to “Show me a denarius” – the right one, from the reign of Tiberius.

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On Wednesday morning, we visited Christ Academy, which is run by Grace REC in Collingdale, and is a boys’ school serving mostly the sons of Liberian immigrants. The questions we got from these kids after our presentation were outstanding. They cut to the heart of missionary work, asking us how we planned to maintain our kids’ identity as Americans despite moving to the Philippines (answer: we know we can’t, at least not fully, and anyway, it’s important that they be citizens of Christ’s kingdom.)

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The rector of Grace Church, Collingdale, is Fr. Mike Fitzpatrick, who is an inspiration. It is a very great joy to hear him tell stories of his urban ministry and the immigrant families from Africa who make up so much of his congregation. This is a church that is truly ministering to the hurts of God’s children, rather than trying to pretend that they are all perfect. We’ll be with them on Sunday evening next week.

Wednesday evening, we were blessed to attend a joint evening prayer service of the Church of the Atonement and Church of the Messiah, two congregations pastured by the Rev. Walter Hawkins and the Rev. Chiron Thompson, respectively. We had met them at the NEMA Council, and it was a pleasure to see them again. Deacon Holloway was also present, along with his wife and new baby.

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Thursday morning saw me preaching again, this time at the REC Seminary in Blue Bell. Since it was a Holy Communion service, the propers were the same as on Sunday at St. Paul’s, but I have a policy of not preaching the same sermon twice (a policy created after trying to give a sermon a second time to a different congregation, and failing because it wasn’t new to me). So I preached on the reading from the epistle, Philippians 3. You can listen to that sermon here.

Many thanks to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Riches and Bishop Hicks for welcoming us and making us feel at home in the seminary. We also got to meet Presiding Bishop Leonard Riches, who let me sit in on a bit of his last class of the semester on the 39 Articles.

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Tomorrow we have a day off, and hope to catch up a bit on the lost homeschooling. On Sunday, I’ll preach a third time, at St. Mark’s in Rydal (the Rev. Jason Patterson, rector). I’ll try to record and post that one, too.

Shipping Our Stuff

One of the initial motives for becoming missionaries was a realization that we had slipped into some bad habits, accumulating possession that were encumbering us. We’re now in the process of purging them. We’ve sent the really nice books (leather-bound Tolkien, etc.) to live at our friend Erin’s house, and we’re storing our king sized bed and 12 of my model cars with Matt’s parents. (Sora rather wishes Matt would get rid of all the model cars.)

But as pleasant as it is to get rid of things we don’t need, we we found we couldn’t go to the Philippines without books. They are central to Matt’s ministry, helpful for Sora’s ministry, and an integral part of who we are as a family. Even paring the library down to only the ones we really want to have with us in Davao, we were looking at this:

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(The stacks continue on the floor outside the borders of that photo.)

Many Filipino expatriates (“balikbayan”) and emigrants send gifts home to their families via surface freight, a custom known as pasalubong. They thus have a network of cargo shippers who will ship very large boxes and charge by volume, not by weight.

We distributed our books into the bottom halves of four balikbayan boxes, and filled the rest of them up with board games, stuffed animals, bedclothes, and towels. The result was four very heavy boxes, sealed up and with their contents catalogued (see below).

It took both Sora and Matt working together to load these titanic boxes into our minivan, but we did it. That means that everything else in our house is either to be carried in our luggage, or else sold or given away. Unfortunately, the boxes probably won’t arrive in Davao until mid-February. They go by train to California, then by sea to the Philippines. Our carrier is Star Kargo, operating out of the Pinoy Clasik Asian Mart on Cin-Day Road. The boxes cost $85 apiece to ship. It feels very good to have them sent off now.

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You can tell a lot about a family by their books and their board games. If you want to know what we packed, you can see the list after the break: Continue reading

Home Again

At one parish we visited recently, I prefaced our talk by remarking that the life of a missionary raising support to go to the field feels an awful lot like “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.” We have put about 8,000 miles on our van in the last two months.

Until last Sunday, we had been on the road every weekend for eight weeks. The trips have been enjoyable, and it has been great fun to meet other faithful Anglicans in the REC and ACNA parishes we have visited., It sometimes feels like we, who have signed up to be strangers in a strange land, have already left home. But last Sunday, we were home. Coming back to our own parish felt so good. There were so many beloved faces that we had not seen in two months. Perhaps this is another way in which deputation helps prepare one for missionary life?

Last Sunday saw a celebration of the tenth anniversary of our parish’s reception into the Reformed Episcopal Church, so everyone was there. It was great to see Fr. Wayne McNamara and Fr. Chris Herman from Trinity’s sister churches in Dayton. They mean a tremendous amount to me personally, not only because they were my examiners for orders, but more importantly for their example of vibrant faith and good works in their parishes in Dayton.

Our kids were also visibly glad to be home. No longer self-conscious as they are when we visit another church, they romped and played with the other Trinity Church kids.

Bishop Morse was present to confirm Emily S. and install James M. as an acolyte. At the end of the service, he also commissioned us to represent the parish as missionaries, and the parishioners joined in laying hands on us. We appreciated this very much, since we see ourselves as the representatives not just of the bishop, but of all our senders, and especially of TREC.

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Canon Bill Jerdan, without whom we would not be going as missionaries, was present to read a letter from the Board of Foreign Missions, and joined in laying hands on us (actually, on Hosanna in particular!).

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Afterwards, the whole parish enjoyed a fried chicken lunch in the fellowship hall. This is nothing other than what Fr. Manto explained in his remarks before the bishop’s sermon: “We pray together, we worship together, and we eat together.” It is a simple but effective recipe for a congregation bound together by love.

The recipe has certainly worked on us. We love this church. These brothers and sisters have been the face of Christ to us for almost 10 years. Had they not loved us so well during that time, we would not be daring to do what we’re about to do — even though that same love will make the distance hurt. Doesn’t it always work that way? (Acts 20:37)

Grace REC and NEMA Synod in Scranton

We spent last week in Scranton, PA, at the house of the Rev. Paul and Beth Howden. We have been lovingly cared for by the Crums, the Millers, and the Sanders family during previous road trips, and the Howdens were yet another warm and welcoming host family for us. We’re especially thankful for their older kids, Timothy and Clarissa, who looked after our young ones and gave up bedroom space during our lengthy stay. Naomi enjoyed getting to know Lydia and her pet guinea pigs:

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We were very blessed by the Howden family’s musical talents. Here are Beth and her two oldest daughters performing a prelude before the morning prayer service on Friday:

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Matt and the Rev. Paul Howden:

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The Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic is full of parishes that are supportive of foreign missions. We either had already visited, or were scheduled to visit, the majority of parishes represented. It was great to greet familiar faces (Ven. Jon Abboud, the Rev. Greg Miller, the Rev. Mike Fitzpatrick, the Rev. David Crum, the Rev. Cedric Benner) and also to meet in person those rectors who have invited us in the coming week (the Rev. John Medvick, the Rev. Chiron Thompson, the Rev. Walter Hawkins, and the Rev. Jason Patterson). We were also glad to see Bishop Gillin for the second time, as well as Bishop Grote, the president of the REC’s Board of Foreign Missions.

It is a token of how much we have traveled that Pastor Crum took the opportunity of this third meeting with us to return to us a pillow that we had left at his house. We’ve put over 7000 miles on our van since we were with the Crums last, and have had enough time in the car to listen to the full text of the Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, read aloud by Rob Inglis, plus several other audiobooks.

We were also abundantly blessed to meet two rectors whose parishes have voted to support us even without a visit: the Rev. Robert Hackendorf of St. Luke’s REC in New Providence, NJ, and the Rev. Eric Jorgensen of St. Stephen’s in Maryland. Thank you for receiving us with such enthusiasm and encouragement! It is because of you that we are on track to go to the Philippines by the end of the year.

Matt with the Rev. Hackendorf, vested to lead Morning Prayer:

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We also corrected an earlier omission. We had visited St. Matthew’s in Havertown, PA, but didn’t get a photo of Archdeacon Abboud until the NEMA council:

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Bishops Hicks generously devoted the Friday morning offering to our ministry, just as Bishop Morse had done at the REC Central States Synod, and we were overwhelmed to see the clergy and lay delegates of the diocese contributing.