By Melody Walcott
We have lived through a time that amazes, frustrates and sometimes scares us all – a pandemic that spread from one side of the world to another, that tested our survival, our medical skill and our spiritual stamina. COVID-19 was unlike anything most of us have lived through before. It brought different words and graphics to our everyday thinking: pandemic, respirators, tiers, vaccination, COVID long term symptoms, stimulus checks. And the ever-present masks.
To compound and exacerbate our worries, we met a throwback to a time of confrontation and divisiveness – both political and racial. We mourned the passing of young Black men and women from confrontations with police and realized that our country has not overcome its troubled racial history. We bickered about how to meet at one table to solve our problems.
We had to learn patience and a small mountain of compassion. We had to be creative in communication and just how to manage a visit with our family. We had to figure out ways to school our children. We had to care for our loved ones after COVID and endure the pain of their loss. We had to figure out how to honor them in death.
We saw ourselves at our best and at our worse.
By Beth Conkle
The Anglican Catechist Training School is currently wrapping up its fourth year of training catechists for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. This year, there are eight students enrolled in ACTS: Katie Tjerrild, Joel Young, and Christina Pestana from St. James, Nancy Gomez from Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rachel Conrrique from St. John’s in Petaluma, Chris Thomas from ADSJ’s church plant in Reno, and Taban Duku and Margaret Douglass from Jesus the Good Shepherd in Henderson, Nevada. There are two students currently enrolled in year 2 of ACTS and will be licensed as Lay Pastoral Catechists: Harlan Young (St. James) and Delmas Gault (St. John’s).
This past Memorial Weekend ACTS held its annual retreat at St. Anthony’s Retreat Center in Three Rivers, and this event indeed represented a milestone for ACTS in many ways. Catechists from every class of the ACTS School were represented (Jeanine Werner, 2018, Mary Giles and Sandra Simon, 2019, Delmas Gault, 2020) along with several clergy who have enthusiastically supported ACTS since its beginning. Fr. David and Betty Miller from St. John’s, our own Fr. Carlos and Carol, and our Bishop Eric. Also in attendance were Fr. Noah Lawson (St. Alban’s Los Banos), Dc. Erin Giles (Jesus the Good Shepherd in Henderson) and our beloved Fr. Anthony, all three who serve on the ACTS Leadership Team. Also present were Avery Meyer from Holy Cross in Sanger, Barbara Lyles from OLG, and Mark and Wendy DeRaud from St. James. There were twenty-six people in all. Due to the pandemic, the ACTS class met solely via Zoom this year, so the retreat was the first opportunity for students and instructors to actually get to meet each other face-to-face.
Our guest speaker, Fr. Ryan Jones from Eucharist Church in San Francisco, shared his vision and experience of building a church as a culture of catechesis for all its members, including children, life-long church attenders, newcomers to Anglicanism, and newcomers to the faith. According to Fr. Jones, the goal of catechesis is Christoformity: the process of individual and collective formation into the image of Christ. All of life is to be lived in reference to Christ and his purposes. In addition to catechism classes and discipleship, Christoformity occurs over a lifetime as members participate in the worship, sacraments, mentorship, and spiritual disciplines together.
Fr. Anthony Velez
Pentecost is just three days away, the event that gave birth to the Church, the event that effectively completed the passion and ministry of Christ. Pentecost is crucial in the celebration of the Church year because it is the event by which our lives are existentially connected to the life of Christ, it enables our story to be taken into his story because it is through the outpouring of the Spirit that all that belongs to Christ is graciously shared with us. Jesus himself declared, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” On an immediate level this seems counterintuitive, for it seems that Jesus’ going away will disable us, but the truth is, his going away means our empowerment to live in the world as he was in the world.
It was the Spirit who began the incarnate ministry of the Son of God by overshadowing Mary to draw forth from her humanity the very humanity of Jesus. It was the Spirit who fell upon Jesus at John’s baptism and remained upon him to empower his ministry to establish the Kingdom. It was by the Spirit that Jesus made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the mute to talk. It was by the Spirit that Jesus calmed the seas, walked upon waters, cast out demons, and raised the dead. It is this Spirit, that Jesus intimately relied upon throughout his Kingdom ministry, that he sends to all those who look to him by faith.
By Katie Tjerrild
There is no shortage of movies, TV series, and plays depicting the life of Jesus--The Passion of the Christ, Godspell, and Jesus Christ Superstar come to mind, among others. These portrayals vary as much in quality as in medium, and new content about the life of Christ rarely feels worth the watch. Because of this, my first reaction upon seeing the YouTube thumbnail for The Chosen was to groan and wonder whether the series’ cardinal sin would be poor acting, uninspired storytelling or the casting of a too-smiley (or too-stern) Jesus. I was pleasantly surprised. The Chosen demonstrates a real commitment to excellence in its production, storytelling, and acting, as well as its attempt to honor the gospel narratives.
The Chosen is a multi-season series about the life of Jesus, and is available on YouTube or The Chosen’s free app. According to its website, The Chosen is the “largest crowdfunded media project of all time”—an impressive accolade for Christian media. Because the series will consist of multiple seasons, of which the first and part of the second have been released, the show allows for a more fully-developed look at the life of Jesus than other projects have in the past. The creator and director of The Chosen, Dallas Jenkins, who is himself a committed Christian and an accomplished director, forecasts that there will be seven or eight seasons total, all of which will be funded by viewer contributions.
So, a disclaimer: if you’re looking for a barebones portrayal of the life of Christ that limits itself to scriptural dialogue and detail, The Chosen is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable with imaginative elaboration on scripture (within the general bounds of plausibility, cultural realism, and the intent of the gospels), then The Chosen might serve as a fresh, enriching way for you to encounter the life of Jesus and his disciples anew.
Overall, the series’ imaginative yet faithful writing is a triumph. The show explores the rich inner and relational lives of many of the gospels’ characters. Nicodemus, for example, is shown grappling at length with the competing pulls of Christ’s invitation to follow him and his wife’s preoccupation with tradition and status. The show also portrays Matthew as being on the autism spectrum—a characterization that’s consistent with Matthew’s detail-oriented job as a tax collector and his knack for precision in his gospel.
by Paula Velez
This past year of pandemic upheaval has also been an opportunity for me to pause and reflect on what is most needed for our children’s ministry. The Lord brought to my attention the ministry of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) and I’ve become convinced that this approach would be a very good fit for the families of both our English and Spanish speaking congregations. When everything started shutting down last spring and there was a huge push to make all things virtual, I started to ask myself if going virtual was what our children needed. I questioned the wisdom of making everything virtual, especially for our youngest members who developmentally are best able to engage relationally and concretely. Even as I looked at the needs of my older children, I realized we are ALL being inundated with information and technology and have to work much harder at slowing down, creating space, and simply being present in the moment. So, I began to research ways that we could bridge the virtual-sacramental gap for children and their families. Because of this I started looking for other options and found myself looking again at Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I had looked at CGS in the past when others had brought it to my attention (Jeanine Werner, Beth Conkle), but each time it just didn’t seem to be possible.
I have been involved in children’s ministry as a leader, teacher and parent for over 30 years. In more recent years as I have tried to find resources and materials to fit the needs of our children, I have noticed a few things about Sunday School curricula and materials:
by Paula Velez
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat
falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24
Lately, I have found myself needing more time outdoors to rest and reset during this stressful season. Because of this need, I got my husband to agree to a plan for a new raised garden bed, which somehow turned into 8! And now a lovely kitchen garden is beginning to take shape under my kitchen window.
Through the process of preparing soil, planting seeds or seedlings, I have been reminded of how God often works beneath the surface before we ever see the fruit of his efforts; and how Jesus so often used the example of sowing and seeds to teach us about living in his Kingdom. When I plant a seed or even a dead looking dormant plant, I find myself thinking there is no way something is going to grow from this; there is no way fruit, or veggies or beautiful flowers will come from this tiny seed or “dead” stick I just put in the ground.
by Jeanine Werner
Another season of Lent will soon be behind us. We are rapidly approaching Holy Week. Does it ever remind you of Christian Bootcamp? Do you ever think, “ I’ve really got to build up my strength to do this thing?” It’s daunting, especially when you think of the services and liturgy for the three days beginning on Maundy Thursday at sunset, continuing through Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and concluding with the Easter Vigil sometime after sunset on Saturday. These three days constitute the Triduum, the traditional days of common prayer, fasting, worship, and expectation as we approach our Savior’s joyous resurrection on Sunday. Why would we even keep such a demanding tradition in our modern times? After all, we’ve got lots of stuff to do.
by Rachel Cowart
Technology and I have never been best friends. I am one of the unfortunate generations for whom the most recent technological advances came along just late enough for them to feel unnatural. I actually had a moment of absurd panic when this document window disappeared for no apparent reason. Fortunately for me, I married well and my tech-savvy husband retrieved it in under ten seconds. You can imagine my chagrin as I put in my airpods, press play on my new favorite podcast, and start breakfast for the sixty-fifth day in a row. I would blame my newfound reliance on technology on COVID, but it was actually the birth of my third child that pushed me into an unforeseen alliance with technology. I have trouble finding time to take a shower let alone pick up a Bible, and with three kids under the age of five a Bible is what I found I needed the most.