Home Ministry Assignment 2016 Schedule

On Monday, we will hit the road for a month long trip on which we will spend Sunday’s in five churches in NY, MD, and VA, with a stop for debriefing at the SAMS office in Ambridge, PA.

Here’s an updated schedule of visits as of January 15:

  • Jan 8 – Christ Church, Ithaca, NY.
  • Jan 10 – St. Stephens REC, Sykesville, MD
  • Jan 12-13 – at SAMS office in Ambridge, PA
  • Jan 17 – Bp. Cummins, Catonsville, MD
  • Jan 24 – Holy Trinity, Fairfax, VA
  • Jan 31 – St. Jude’s, Richmond, VA
  • Feb 7-14 – Ash Wednesday in New Jersey: Covenant Chapel and St. Luke’s REC
  • Feb 25-26 – Synod of REC Diocese of Mid-America
  • Feb 28 – Holy Trinity, Houston
  • March 6 – Christ Our Hope in Dayton, OH
  • March 13 – St. Paul’s REC (Indiana, Fr. Daniel Sparks)
  • March 27 – Easter (at TREC)
  • April 3 – All Saints REC in Raleigh, NC
  • April 7-10 – New Wineskins Conference in Asheville, NC
  • April 12 – RE Seminary
  • April 17 – St. Paul’s, Oreland with Dean of Indonesia, Timothy Chong.
  • May 1 – St. Nicholas Church in Owensboro, KY (Dcn. Rob Sexton).
  • May 8 – Grace Church, Circleville, OH (ACNA, Melanie Shuter)
  • May 15 – Christ the King in Dayton, OH
  • May 22 – St. Barnabas Anglican (ACNA) in Covington, KY.
  • May 29 – St. Stephen’s REC in Flowood, MS

Diocese of Western Canada and… Cuba

We had a delightful 10 days before Christmas, visiting the two REC parishes in Canada west of the Rockies. (We had previously visited St. George’s in Ontario.)

Our first stop was Holy Trinity in Colwood, BC, which is pastored by Bishop Dorrington. If anyone asks, “How is there a bishop for a diocese with two churches?”, the answer is that there are 18 other parishes in Cuba that are also under Bishop Dorrington’s missionary oversight. If you want encouragement and inspiration, read the story of how these Cuban churches came under the Bishop’s oversight, and how they are growing and thriving. It is a story full of God’s amazing providence and grace.

Bp. Dorrington was one of the clergy who baptized Sora some 14 years ago. (The other was Rev. Rod Ellis of the Church of Our Lord, whom we will see this Sunday.)

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(Matt with Bishop Dorrington and Deacon Barry Lavine)

That same week, on Thursday, we went across the Georgia Strait to Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast to visit Pastor Theo Hoekstra and his family. Their church, Grace Covenant (CREC) was a home for us during our year on Texada Island in 2006-2007. Because we were “sore let and hindered” by BC Ferries, which canceled all its sailings on Wednesday due to gale-force winds, Grace Covenant kindly moved its Bible study to Thursday night, and gave us the whole time to present.

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(View from the ferry on the way home from Gibsons. Click for larger version.)

The next Sunday, we drove over the Malahat to Courtenay, BC, to visit Living Word REC, pastored by the Rev. Bill Klock, who is a scholar and a gentleman. I knew Fr. Bill from Facebook, but we had never met in person. He graciously let me use his pulpit (sermon in text and audio may be found here) and gave us time to present our missionary plans to the congregation. After the service Fr. Bill and his wife Veronica invited us over to their house and fed us a delicious lunch.

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(Fr. Klock with Matt and Hosanna)

We were also greatly blessed to stay overnight on Saturday at the house of two friends of Sora’s parents, Glenn and Denise. They are also Anglicans, as it turns out. More importantly, they are wonderful people, full of grace and love, who know how to exercise gifts of hospitality toward kids. The girls had a great time with a trunk full of dress-up clothes:

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Just three days now! It is rather amazing to us just how many churches God has managed to send us to visit. Deputation is almost over, and it has been a joy. Just one parish left, and then off we go!

“Show them Jesus!”

There have been times during our deputation work when the Lord has taken our schedule out of our hands and given us something unplanned, just to remind us that He is the one driving everything, and that this mission is not being accomplished on our own steam.

That’s what happened during our trip to Tinley Park, IL. We had an invitation to visit St. Andrew’s Anglican Church (Rev. Frank Levi, rector). On the way to Illinois, we received a call from Fr. Levi telling us that we should expect to visit All Saints Anglican as well. This is the REC’s Nigerian immigrant mission parish. We had not spoken with them, nor sent them any materials, but it was plain that their Vicar, Rev. Shola Falodun, was part of God’s plan to bless us this weekend.

Worship at St. Andrew’s was a delight, and we enjoyed lunch with the Levis and their daughter Beth’s family. Here’s Matt and Fr. Levi looking sober in cassocks and surplices:

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After lunch, we headed over to All Saints. The congregation meets in a chapel inside a Catholic high school, normally on Sunday morning. for this Sunday, they had had to change the time of their service to the afternoon because the school needed the chapel in the morning. Thus God brought it about that we could attend All Saints as well as St. Andrew’s. And we were glad we did!

Fr. Falodun gussied me up in a bright purple chasuble (No transsubstantiationism implied in this circumstance), and proceeded to preach a sermon on John 12:21, “Sir, we want to see Jesus”, on the necessity of loving in deeds and not in words only. The most memorable part was when he turned to me personally, as I sat there on the bema, pointed and commanded sternly, “You are going as a missionary. You must show them Jesus.” He said this to me some four or five times. It was just what we needed to hear, and we will never forget it. We will put this picture, with the words, “Show them Jesus” on the wall of our house in Davao:

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Fr. Falodun was celebrating his wedding anniversary and we enjoyed a feast of Nigerian food (Sora was looking up recipes for jollof rice on her phone the drive home!) and more words of encouragement from other members of the congregation. Many were graduates of schools started by missionaries and had a keen sense of the impact that missionary work had had on their own lives and families.

Fr. and Mrs. Falodun at the dinner after the service.

Fr. and Mrs. Falodun at the dinner after the service.

Thank you, Fr. Levi and Fr. Falodun, for making this one of our most memorable visits!

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.

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.