Doubtless you have heard that last Thursday, a gunman killed three parishioners at a potluck dinner at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. We mourn for fellow Episcopalians Walter Rainey, Sarah Yeager, and a third victim who has yet to be identified. And yet we know that this tragedy in one of our own churches is just one more instance of the scourge of gun violence afflicting our country.
We are people of faith. We believe in a God who makes all things possible, even an end to senseless death and suffering as a result of gun violence. I ask your prayers for the people of St. Stephen's, for the victims and their families, and for an end to this unconscionable and unnecessary plague. Much has been made of the hollowness of leaders who offer only "thoughts and prayers" on occasions like this one. But we know that true prayer leads to righteous and sustained action.
Bishops United Against Gun Violence offers a variety of spiritual and practical resources for you to use in prayer and action. I hope you will join me at All Saints' this Sunday as we gather in sacred communion with those grieving and fighting for change.
Steven D Paulikas
NY Times Opinion Piece by Father Steve Paulikas: May 31, 2021
My Parishioner Was Not Sentenced to Death. He Still Died.
Read the entire NY times piece here.
StorySharing this Lent
This Lent, we have a very special opportunity to deepen our spiritual relationships with one another and confront racism with All Saints' StorySharing. Through a series of four guided peer discussions beginning in mid-February, we will tell our own stories and learn about the experiences of others. All parishioners and others with connections to All Saints' are encouraged to participate in this deep and transformative program. A variety of meeting times will accommodate any schedule.
Sign up for StorySharing this Lent HERE
Almighty God, we humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-From the Collect for our Country, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 820
A Message from the Rector
Since earliest times, Christians have prayed for the sick and the vulnerable, for the Church, and for their secular leaders. Prayer assures us of God's eternal love amid the vicissitudes of earthly affairs. As our attention is drawn today to the inauguration of a new President and Vice-President, let us ask for God's blessing on our common life and that the new administration would have "wisdom and strength to know and do thy will" (BCP, p. 820).
Like many of you, I was moved last night to watch the memorial for victims of the pandemic. The reflecting pool on the National Mall was flanked by 400 lights, each one representing at least 1,000 lives lost. It was fitting to honor the dead as preparation for the inauguration. The images of today's civil ritual marking the transfer of presidential power make clear that we are living through a time of grief during a profound crisis--a crisis of health, security, justice, and spirit. And yet our faith teaches us to maintain hope even in the face of dire challenges.
I hope you will join me today in saying a prayer for the future of our common life. Just as we have prayed diligently over the past four years, Sunday after Sunday, for the outgoing president, we will pray for the new administration. Jesus demonstrates that true authority is shown through humility, and that the right purpose of gaining power is to use it to lift up the lowly. Our new leaders will need our prayers as much as they will need to be held accountable to their call to serve the least among us in truth and righteousness. An inaugural prayer service joined by President Biden will take place at the National Cathedral on Jan. 21 at 10am and live streamed at cathedral.org.
May God bless us all on this historic day.
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
All Saints' will soon mark an important but tentative milestone in the process of reopening as we begin to hold our first in-person services of Holy Eucharist with distribution of the Sacrament to God's people. This decision has been made after careful study by the Covid Response Committee and the Vestry and follows the guidelines laid out by the City of New York and the Diocese of Long Island.
The first celebration and distribution of Holy Eucharist will take place tomorrow at our Thursday 12:15pm service. If you plan to attend, please carefully study our Guidelines for In-Person Worship. The Sacrament will be distributed in one kind (bread only,) and worshippers must be masked and distanced at all times during the service.
We believe worshipping in this way presents minimal risk, but I want to emphasize that no one is under any obligation to attend worship in-person--and, as always, and no one should at any time come to church if they feel sick. As we keep the congregation informed of further reopening steps, please know that the Covid Response Committee is monitoring infection rates in our area and frequently reassessing the relative safety of in-person activities at the church.
Please do not hesitate to contact the church office if you have any questions. God bless you in these strange and uncertain times!
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
This Sunday is our annual Founders Day celebration, when we acknowledge the people whose faith compelled them to start our beloved parish church. In the spirit of Founders Day, the 5pm Evensong this Sunday will be our first opportunity to worship together in person since March. Evensongs are scheduled for every Sunday at 5pm through November 1. This liturgy of music (no congregational singing), Biblical readings, and prayer will look quite different from Evensongs before the pandemic. Our COVID task force, composed of medical professionals and other lay leaders, has created meticulous plans to insure this service will be as safe as possible. We follow all guidelines set forth by the CDC, New York State and City, and the Diocese of Long Island.
But safety will also require your cooperation. Please read the guidelines for attending Evensong below and be prepared to follow them when you arrive. Above all, please do not attend Evensong if you have any symptoms of illness. Contact the church office by email or phone if you have any questions at all.
Attending church in person will be a big step emotionally and spiritually for many of us, and many in our community are not yet ready to congregate in any form. Follow your gut! If the idea of being in church makes you uncomfortable, why not wait until you are able to enjoy the experience? You are always welcome to worship at home by watching the live stream at 5pm on the All Saints' Park Slope Facebook page.
As our period of physical separation extends beyond half a year, the burden is heartbreaking and excessive. Personally, I dream of the day when we can praise God together in person with one voice. Until that day comes, we will continue to care for one another by staying safe and lifting one another up across physical distance.
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
Guidelines for In-Person Worship at All Saints' Church
1. Guidance on Who Should Attend
The best way for our congregation to keep each other healthy is to not attend in-person
The maximum allowable number of people allowed in the church is 25% of the church's seating capacity. In this initial phase, we are capping attendance at 50, which is half this number, or under 1/8 of the church's seating capacity.
Surgical masks will be available at the entrance to the church.
All attendees must exit the building immediately at the conclusion of the service. Weather permitting, socially distanced outdoor fellowship will be available in the garden following the service.
A sanitary log of cleaning is kept.
All porous items, including cushions, prayer books, and hymnals, have been removed from available pews.
Your prayers and virtual presence are requested at the ordination of All Saints' own Chris Lee to the Sacred Order of Priests on Saturday, Sept. 12 at 11am via Facebook live at www.facebook.com/EpiscopalDioLI
Chris was sponsored for ordination by All Saints' and ordained a deacon here in January. Chris will be ordained to the priesthood in a socially distanced liturgy with limited in-person capacity at Grace Church Brooklyn Heights, where he currently serves. Fr. Paulikas will preach at this liturgy. Chris is the first person All Saints' has sponsored for ordination in over a generation, and we are so happy for him! Please keep Chris and his family in your prayers.
It is my great pleasure to announce that Fr. Spencer Cantrell will begin full-time ministry as Curate at All Saints' beginning July 1. Fr. Spencer will develop multiple program areas, including children, youth, and families and newcomer ministry, with the goal of building member capacity in our parish. Fr. Spencer joined All Saints' as a non-stipendiary priest associate in February 2019 and began his part-time ministry in September of the same year. During his tenure so far, he has provided sabbatical cover, offered pastoral care, and greatly enhanced our online content alongside his liturgical and other duties. I can say that his ministry has been indispensable during lockdown as we negotiated entirely new ways of being a parish, and I personally look forward to him being among us on a full-time basis. Fr. Spencer's expanded ministry is made possible by a grant from the Diocese of Long Island.
It has been generations since All Saints' had the benefit of the ministry of two full-time priests. Please join me in giving thanks for this new blessing and congratulating Fr. Spencer!
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
It has been far too long since we have gathered in person, and yet God has continued to give us grace and blessings even though we are apart from one another. The vestry has reviewed the diocesan guidelines for regathering and listened to a broad range of voices from our church and has discerned the following steps toward reopening All Saints'. While these are small and tentative actions, they will give us a first chance to resume personal contact while ensuring the safety of everyone in our community.
- Sunday 5pm Evening Prayer will take place in the church garden (weather permitting) beginning June 28. This will be our first in-person, public liturgy since March as we worship in the beauty and relative safety of God's creation. Worshippers will be socially distanced and masked, and capacity will be limited.
- The church building will be open to the public for personal prayer on a very limited schedule beginning in July. Church members and strangers alike will be able to meditate and pray in our historic building for the first time since the spring. Strict safety measures will be in place, and all visitors to the church will be required to leave their contact information.
- The Sunday 10am online liturgy will continue with the addition of more liturgical ministers and limited music beginning July 5. The online community that has gathered around this service will continue to meet while our liturgy will become more robust. Everyone at All Saints' is encouraged to keep worshipping online at this, our primary weekly liturgy. This service will remain closed to the public.
Thank you for your feedback and ideas, and especially for your patience and prayers. The vestry will evaluate these preliminary measures and review them over the summer, and we will continue to inform the parish of further regathering plans. In the meantime, I always welcome your input! May God continue to bless our church in these unprecedented times.
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
The void created by this crisis may be an unexpected gift.
By Steven Paulikas
Mr. Paulikas is an Episcopal priest.
April 11, 2020
My church is empty this Easter. In lieu of greeting the usually joyful parishioners this day, my clergy colleague and I celebrate the ancient rites of our religion six feet apart from each other, as an iPhone live-streams to self-isolated viewers at home.
Like so much else in this bizarre time, the emptiness is foreign and unsettling. Yet we all know the urgency of this disruption. The church, like every other gathering place, has emptied itself so that we may live.
The images of empty public spaces around the world are shocking outward signs that reflect the interior emptiness so many feel right now. Millions are being deprived of the chance to work, socialize and support one another in person. Physically isolated and emptied of our usual lives, we are being forced to face ourselves in a way that few alive today ever have before. Yet the void created by this crisis may be an unexpected gift. This emptiness presents to us a mystical and uncluttered view of life as we have been living it until a few weeks ago. Life will never be the same. Each day, it becomes more apparent that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to consider a fundamental question about the spirit and morality of our way of living: Having emptied ourselves, what do we really want to fill our world with once it is time to rebuild? Now on Sundays as I look out over a field of silent pews, I am reminded that self-emptying is, in fact, a divine virtue. Christian tradition calls it kenosis, the Greek word taken from the famous passage of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, in which he writes, “Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself.”
Early Christian thinkers viewed Jesus’ kenosis is a sign of divine supreme power, not the loss of it. The sight of Jesus’ empty tomb was the first sign of his resurrection, believed by Christians to be God’s greatest act. Now that I have adjusted somewhat to the emptiness, I find myself keeping vigil with the opportunity of this time, hoping that something better will be on the other side.
The Christian contemplative Cynthia Bourgeault writes that we can emulate Jesus’ self-emptying love in our own lives by practicing letting go of the things, thoughts and feelings we cling to. This insight is more often associated with other religious and spiritual traditions. The Tao Te Ching teaches that the usefulness of the clay vessel lies in its empty hollowness. Mahayana Buddhists use the spiritual discipline of meditation to cultivate an acceptance of emptiness, or sunyata, using the famous Heart Sutra: “Emptiness is form, form is emptiness.” The lesson transcends religious divides; emptiness is not something to fear but to explore as a spiritual reality that leads to detachment from self-interest and greater compassion for the world. It is notable that the most dangerous places in America right now are the ones filled with people we are refusing the right of empty space. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used his surging popularity amid the crisis as an occasion to roll back bail reform even as the virus is endangering prisoners and prison workers. The 34,000 people held in ICE detention centers are “sitting ducks” for infection, according to experts. The hypocrisy of homelessness in the world’s wealthiest country is being laid bare.
Similarly, workers in dozens of Amazon warehouses rushing to fulfill the orders of millions of quarantined Americans have tested positive for the virus, yet the company has given them no viable option to stay at home. I have contemplated this news in the sad and persistent knowledge that, as a consumer, I, too, am entangled in a morally corrupt economic web that holds together all these injustices.
What does it say about our economy that it depends on the labor of people whose lives we are willing to sacrifice? Do we want to continue participating in an exhausting economic system that crumbles the instant it is taken out of perpetual motion? And what is the virtue of a desire for constant accumulation of wealth and goods, especially when they come at the cost of collective welfare and equality? These are not just policy questions. They are spiritual concerns that come into view with sharp clarity in the emptiness around them. If there is anything the collective spiritual insight of millenniums can teach us right now, it is that in addition to the horrors of this current state of emptiness, there is also life to be discovered in this moment. The absence left by the virus’s victims is an unspeakable loss, and the lockdowns and quarantine orders are causing untold suffering that will have the biggest impact on those with the fewest resources. But for those who are healthy and patiently waiting, this space — physical, psychological, social and spiritual — can hold unexpected promise. This is a powerful moment in human history in which we can examine, individually and collectively, the unnecessary decadence and cruelty of our contemporary society that we have accepted without sufficient scrutiny.
We don’t yet need detailed plans for the future. For now, we can simply examine the emptiness of this disrupted life and take note of the ways in which we might strive to make it superior to what we had before. Sitting with these questions now will determine what we are willing to accept once this crisis is over. Having tasted a simpler life, perhaps we will shift our values and patterns. Having seen the importance of community, maybe we will invest more in the well-being of the collective and not just the individual. Having seen the suffering of others anew, we may find it impossible to ignore it in the future. And having seen the ease with which the forces Paul called the “powers and principalities” can mobilize to defend entrenched economic interests, maybe — just maybe — we as a people will feel empowered to demand the same urgency of action on our planet’s climate, domestic and global poverty, the health and education of all people, and the myriad pressing problems for which future generations will judge us harshly for tolerating.
The emptiness of this moment is incredibly powerful. Pope Francis has said, “Let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were.”
Life will not be the same next Easter and Passover. Once the world opens back up, we can choose to fill it with the wisdom and insight gained from these weeks — or allow it to be filled with horrors that are even worse than what we had before. The choice will be ours.
Steven Paulikas is an Episcopal priest and rector of All Saints’ Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
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