November. The time of being drawn inward, like the quieting trees and earth around us.
Just weeks ago I proudly proclaimed October the best month. The month of changing leaves and of breathing in crisp, clear, Iowa air. It’s the month of hot air balloon festivals, early morning hot chocolate, and evening tea. It’s the month that still offers the promise of warmth in the coming cool. It holds some of my favorite memories, and my birthday.
Trying to be fair to November, wanting to give it a fair chance at a voice, a champion, I decided to ask David what November makes him think of – as it’s his birthday month. He said November is walking down Walnut Avenue in Mill Valley after school, wet pavement from rain, yellow and brown leaves fallen from the trees. November, he said, is Thanksgiving and family gathering inside, making the somberness of autumn more bearable. November, he said, is not his favorite month…
It always takes a moment for me to accept someone not feeling as I think they ‘should.’
Still, his memory was gift enough – a reminder of imprinted moments we still carry with us.
In the spirit of November’s quiet,
We’re pleased to present the November 2018 issue of our SeventhAveNews church newsletter. It is packed full of important information and fun photos, so be sure to check it out!
CLICK HERE to download a PDF copy!
During our SAPC retreat last month up at St. Dorothy’s Retreat in the Russian River we reflected on the topic — “The Spirituality of Play”. These words by Pedro Arrupe captured our attention: “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
An aspect of the Spirituality of Play is falling in love with that which we love. This is one way of playing … loving what we love, in such a way, that our hearts are released to become more expansive, and full, and free.
Anthony de Mello, the Jesuit who lived much of his life and ministry in India, wrote about the Hindi conception of ‘leela.’ Here is a parable he used:
“The Master once referred to the Hindu notion that all creation is “leela” — God’s play—and the universe is God’s playground. The aim of spirituality, is to make all life play. This seemed too frivolous for a puritanical visitor. “Is there no room then for work?” “Of course there is. But work becomes spiritual only when it is transformed into play.”
Our work becomes play, and our play becomes work, when they arise from the same source. Play, like God, is universal — accessible to everyone. As Christians, part of sharing our faith is helping others tap into the divine, whether they name it as God or not. So, what might this mean for you? How often do you play? Have you ever thought about playing with God — and that your prayer — might be one and the same?
St. Francis and his order of Jesters of the Christ. Coyote. Nasrudin. Zen masters. Taoist sages. Hasidic storytellers. Clowns and performance artists. All of these are prophets, if you will, inviting us to stop, to look, to listen, to be. They encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously.
Being playful with God allows us to move outside ourselves so we can be within ourselves more fully and completely.
For play is:
— the exuberant expression of our being.
— at the heart of our creativity and our sexuality.
— that which expresses our most care free moments of devotion.
— that which frees our joy and wonder. And, wonder is the realm of the Spirit.
— that which keeps our search for meaning down to earth… for play is relational/incarnational.
— allows us to ‘lose ourselves in God’ or as one of our hymns puts it: to be lost in wonder, love and grace.
Play helps us live with absurdity, paradox, and mystery. And mystery is the very nature of the Divine. This is why I often refer to “The Holy” as “The Mystery we call God”, for God is mystery … beyond any word or thought or expression we may conceive or utter.
I believe that play is a critical practice in these days of such political unrest in our country and world. In fact, the Spirituality of Play — falling in love with that which we love — might be a way to help bring some gentleness back in our living with one another on this, our planet home.
Remember when Jesus put a child in the circle of his teaching those disciples long ago? Well, he continues to remind us of this truth today … unless we become like a child, we will never enter the dominion of God. If we look for playfulness in the young, we will find it. If we join them, we will find it in ourselves.
May this be true for each of us.
In play with you,
Jeffrey Steven Gaines
The Prophet Isaiah wrote that “in returning and rest you shall be set free; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Returning is so much a part of the cycle of life. As we enter September this returning cycle confronts us head-on. Students and teachers are returning to school. Commitments to community organizations beckon our return. As a faith community, we return to another program year full of opportunities for worship, education, service and growth.
Returning is essential for human beings. We return home from work or vacations. We return to disciplines physical and spiritual. We return as individuals, celebrating turning point events such as birthdays and anniversaries.
Isaiah spoke of returning to that which gives us strength and freedom and quietness and trust. Many of us, when we talk about the beloved community of Seventh Avenue, speak in terms of a community where we receive support, gain strength, find a place of rest and quietness, and experience a place where we are set free to be and become the women and men that God intends for us to be.
Returning is a way of developing roots. Returning is a way of connectedness: connecting us with our past while catapulting us into the future.
As we return to a full program year here at Seventh Avenue, I encourage you to participate as fully as you can. Our core experience is our Sunday liturgy/worship celebration each week at 10AM. When you come to worship — invite a friend or colleague to to join you and experience the freedom of Seventh Avenue. If you haven’t experienced our twice-monthly Taizé worship service, I invite you do so on the first and third Wednesdays at 7.30pm.
You may want to serve on one of the many teams or working groups of our church; be assured — you will be welcomed with open arms! Have you ever wanted to sing in the choir and simply haven’t? Have you wanted try your hand exploring playing in our handbell choir? If so, talk to Luba Kravchenko, our Director of Liturgical Music.
Other opportunities include the monthly Perspectives @ 11.30 (adult formation classes — check out the flyer in this issue of the newsletter), Bible Study, Book Club or Women’s Spirituality. On Saturday, September 22, our own Tom Stafford will be preforming his delightful: Totally Tom Night Club show as a Benefit for our Organ Restoration. This show is being called: “Totally Tom Pulls Out All The Stops”. October 7 is World Communion and Saturday, November 3 our Annual HomeComing Event followed the next day for the celebration of All Saints’ Day and then Advent with the Advent Retreat, right around the corner.
Yes, returning … what is it that you are being called to return to this Fall?
As you can see, great opportunities await us!
Know that I thank God for you and this community. I find at SAPC that we gain strength to be and become our best-selves as we are set free in God.
Returning with you,
Jeffrey Steven Gaines
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In response to the humanitarian crisis at our nation’s southern border, the Leadership Council of Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, in communion and solidarity with First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo, issues the following statement: We vehemently condemn this administration’s policy of separating families and criminally prosecuting all people who enter the U.S. without previous authorization — removing children, including many as young as 2 or 3 years old, to detention facilities away from their parents — as a cruel practice, an outrage, and a travesty.
We affirm the family as a foundational societal structure to support human community. The security of the family provides critical mental, physical, and emotional support to the development and well-being of children. Leaving their communities is often the only option some parents have to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm. Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children. The harm done to these children is long lasting and has a lifetime of health consequences.
We further condemn the use of cruelty as a potential bargaining chip to achieve increasingly draconian immigration policies.
Finally, we condemn the misappropriation of scripture to justify this loveless action. It is disgraceful for a government official to use scripture in order to say, “obey me.” Approached from a Christian perspective, relying on Christian teachings, the Bible honors the stories of people looking for new homes and condemns ripping children out of the arms of their parents; to argue otherwise is to misrepresent the full text of scripture to justify the cruelty imposed upon children.
The Christian scriptures speak to the well-being of all the vulnerable, not the government’s. These families are the very neighbors Jesus commands us to love. In fact, Jesus says that there is nothing more imperative than to
love and to welcome. Separating children from parents is not loving in any way, but instead, is an inhumane practice that must end with all families reunited, safe, and free.
-The Leadership Council of Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church, July 8, 2018