Church of the Ascension offers English classes for internationals (beginners, intermediate and advanced). A Bible Study is optional. All welcome!
OWLS SENIORS LUNCHEON
Come for an inspiring talk by the Rev. Dr. Joel Scandrett who will talk on “Embracing God’s Gifts of Loss and Frailty.” Joel is the Assistant Professor of Historical Theology and Director of the Robert E. Webber Center at Trinity School for Ministry. We are privileged that Joel offered to talk on this sensitive and challenging subject and will share from his personal experience. Don’t miss this one! Contact the Rev. Ann Tefft at email@example.com or 412-526-1107 to make your reservation.
Join other members and friends of Ascension who gather to pray at 9am in Ascension’s Prayer Chapel (located on the second floor of the Parish Hall wing). All are welcome! Prayers are focused on the needs of the church and the world, and for our worship on Sundays.
On the last Sunday of the month, please join our prayer ministry team in Ascension’s Prayer Chapel (located on the second floor of the parish hall wing) for SOAKING PRAYER. This is a time to rest quietly in the presence of the Holy Spirit as prayer ministers pray for you.
A Community Group Leader Meeting will precede the Adult Education teaching that follows at 10:30am. Childcare provided. Please meet in the Hunt Room.
Join us on Saturday, January 13, from 10:30 – Noon. Jonathan Warren will teach on the Gospel of Mark, providing insightful background to this Gospel since it will be our primary focus in January and February as we look at “The Baptized Life: An Epiphany Sermon Series”. All who are interested are invited to this teaching. Childcare is provided.
RECOMMENDED READING FOR EPIPHANY: GRACISIM
A few months ago, we had the privilege of hosting Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley at our church for a Men’s Breakfast and to preach on Sunday morning at Ascension. Fr. Esau electrified us with his own story of becoming an Anglican, with his deep appreciation for the liturgy and its formative power for making disciples, and he challenged us with the fact that the Anglican Church in North America does not, by and large, reach people of color. Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, in fact, Fr. Esau told us, he had never heard of Anglicanism, because Anglicans had not made a serious, enduring effort to create inroads into his community.
This is a problem because the kingdom of God is multi-ethnic. As it breaks down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-22), so it also breaks down the dividing wall between all ethnicities. God, the Creator of all, made ‘of one blood all nations of men’ (Acts 17:26), and the future we look forward to is the gathering of all nations into a unity in Christ which is not a uniformity, in which all ethnicities will bring their own gifts and praise God in their own languages (Isa. 60:5-7; Rev. 7:9), as Augustine wrote: “Set in one place, [Adam] fell and, as it were, broken small, he has filled the whole world. But the Divine Mercy gathered up the fragments from every side, forged them in the fire of love and welded into one what had been broken.”
That unity is to find expression in the midst of our local churches now as a sign of our hope for the resurrection. The apostles labored hard to forge and sustain this unity in the earliest churches (Col. 3:11-14; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. 1:10; Acts 15:1-21). This conviction was not a piece of airy-fairy social engineering dreamed up by the apostles, but a central part of the apostolic faith which they had received from Christ (John 15:9-14; 17:9-26; Mt. 28:16-20). The fourth century father John Chrysostom witnessed to the power of the gospel to overcome historic ethnic divisions: “Of one and of the other, Christ makes a single body. Thus he who lives in Rome looks on the Indians as his own members. Is there any union to be compared with that? Christ is the head of all.”
In order to aid our denominational body, the ACNA, in embodying this central biblical conviction, Fr. Esau is one of the co-founders of the Anglican Multi-Ethnic Network (AMEN), which “exists to help Anglicans in North America better reflect the diversity of the body of Christ in local churches so that our churches’ ethnic make-up manifests the universal saving power of the gospel and its ability to unite all people under the lordship of Christ.” AMEN recommends resources designed to help the churches in our province understand and overcome the sources of historic and present divisions between different ethnic groups.
AMEN’s recommended reading for Epiphany is David Anderson’s Gracism: The Art of Inclusion (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010). As a church that places our hope in Christ and which lives in expectation of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to overcome divisions in our city, our country, and in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Christ, we will join our province in prayerfully reading this book during Epiphany, when we remember the nations joyfully bringing their gifts to the Christ-child, and the light of his incarnation becoming known to the world (Mt. 2:1-11).
Circles of Greater Pittsburgh is teaming up with Church of the Ascension for a Poverty Simulation on February 2, 2018 from 6:30-8:30 at Ascension.
A poverty simulation is part role-play, part-monopoly, part game of Life (on overdrive). We step into someone else’s shoes and navigate the tough choices and obstacles that many of our neighbors in poverty face every week. Circles explains that , “During a simulation, participants role-play the lives of low-income families, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security. The task of each family is to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities during the simulation while interacting with various community resources staffed by low-income volunteers.”
Though the Simulation will be at Ascension, our meeting room will be transformed into a city (called Realville). The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes a recent Poverty Simulation: “It is set up with tables along the walls manned by people playing representatives of a bank, school, day care center, employer, homeless shelter, grocery, rent collector, payday lender, pawn shop, police station, utility company and welfare office.” Each participant will be assigned a role to play (and a packet with goals, instructions, “money,” etc.). Think of it like a real-life video game or immersive theater with your church family. Poverty Simulations raise our own awareness about poverty and provide a creative way for us to practice empathy as a community.
We will also get to hear about the important and redemptive work that Circles—directed by Ted Melnyk, who attends Ascension–is doing in our city and how we can join, support, and pray for them. According to their website, Circles connects “people across socioeconomic lines in an effort to move people & families out of poverty.” Instead of creating programs to “manage poverty,” they engage in the “longer term, harder work of moving people out of poverty. Good jobs, saving, investing and changing lives and families for good.”
Join us for this night together, which will be an imaginative, challenging, and thought-provoking time (and experiment!) for our community.
A CHRISTIAN VISION OF MANLINESS: SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION
Speaker: The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Warren
Cost: $10 (Scholarship available)
Registration: To register online, please click here.
The social theorist Zygmunt Bauman says that we live in the age of ‘liquid modernity’, an age where the ideologies and paradigms of understanding of the past have been swept away. We are adrift, it is safe to say, in a time of profound uncertainty and tentativeness. The slam poet Taylor Mali draws attention to this anxiety in his poem ‘Totally like whatever, you know?’: ‘In case you hadn’t noticed,/It has somehow become uncool/to sound like you know what you’re talking about?/Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?/Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s/have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?/Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?’
But at the same time, and for the same reason, our age is one of profound dogmatism, with experts and activists across the political and institutional spectrum speaking with manufactured certainty and heaping scorn upon their opponents. Brené Brown has written recently in this vein that the only thing we now hold in common as a nation is rage.
Nowhere, perhaps, is this combination of profound uncertainty and profound dogmatism more evident than in our loss of confidence in what it means to be a man. We know and can identify ‘toxic masculinities’; we wring our hands about the increasing number of men who ‘fail to launch’; we increasingly see masculinity detached from embodiment and dissolved into a subjective attribute of identity; and we see an alarming rise, especially among younger men, but now increasingly among prestigious societal leaders as well, in ‘feral’, predatory, and nihilistic masculinities. And everywhere it seems, we are not having conversations or debates so much as savage shouting matches.
In the church, to be frank, we are not doing much better. We are better at identifying what we are against in our men than we are for in building each other up in godly manliness. We have heard prominent pastors, like drill sergeants, tearing Christian men down from the pulpit for being ‘boys who can shave’. But what is a noble, godly vision of manliness that we can aspire to? Where do we see it commended and modeled in Scripture? In the history of the church?
This is a difficult topic, and there are bound to be disagreements, but to me it is worth the risk to open this conversation as a church. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb has argued, unless we as the church have ‘skin in the game’, trying to figure out together how to grow as men together with grace and patience with one another, how can we profess to offer the hope of Jesus Christ to the world? Let’s reason together, let’s build one another up, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Christ be an alternative in this discussion to the outrage that surrounds us.
The Christian funeral is a glorious affair, a moment of lamentation, memorial, and celebration all at once. There is profound closure in a funeral, as we commit our loved one to Christ and the age to come, surrounded by our ecclesial family and friends. The third century theologian Hippolytus encourages us: ‘in the funerals of the departed, accompany them with singing if they have been faithful in Christ’. Our funerals should ‘be filled with the Spirit’ as we address one another ‘in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord from your heart’ (Eph. 5:18-19).
The funeral represents a loss that we can mark liturgically: we can place this loss in a context and devote it and ourselves to the Lord through this service. But it is certain that over the course of our lives there are many losses that we are not given occasion to mark in this way. We bear these losses silently and privately, or potentially with a small company of friends who walk in darkness with us. Among the most painful of these losses relates to children: the loss of children in utero through a miscarriage or a regretted abortion, the loss of children through stillbirth, and the long ache of infertility.
At Ascension, we want to offer a liturgical context to corporately and publicly lament and memorialize these losses. We have chosen the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, January 8, as an appropriate date, to offer this Service of Memorial and Lament. The Baptism of Our Lord is the feast in which we commemorate the moment in which the identity of Jesus Christ is made known to the world: the Holy Spirit descends upon him ‘in bodily form’, Luke tells us, and the Father declares over him ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’ (Luke 3:22). We believe that through our baptism we are claimed through union with him in the Holy Spirit as Christ’s own brothers and sisters. We are adopted, as Paul says, into the household of God as His own children (Eph. 1:5, 3:20; Rom. 8:17).
In this service we want to commend children to God who did not live long enough to be welcomed by their parents, siblings, extended family and church family, or to receive baptism, but who are nonetheless holy through the faith of their parents (1 Cor. 7:14). We want to accompany these departed, too, with singing in the assembly. We want to surround those who have longed for children but were not able to have them with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. If you have suffered this kind of loss, or you are close to someone who has, please join us for this service. If you have questions or want more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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