Where in the World is Christine?

The vicar is going places.

Jim and the wardens have given me some additional vacation time this summer which I am gladly taking! This past Sunday was my last Sunday till mid-August. Here’s what I’ll be up to:

Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA, June 17-26

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When I tell people I’m getting a “demon” from Fuller Seminary, they look concerned. Why is Fuller giving out demons? And why would Christine want one?

Before you start performing an exorcism on me, a demon is a “D.Min” which stands for Doctor of Ministry. It’s a program geared toward full-time pastors and Christian leaders to strengthen and deepen their ministry practice in a particular area. I thought for sure that I was done with school but the opportunity to study with Dr. Tod Bolsinger was too good to pass up. He wrote Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership In Unchartered Territory, one of the best leadership books I’ve read in a long time. It scratches exactly where I am itching in this season of life and ministry leadership.

Dr. Bolsinger writes, “In a rapidly changing world, the primary task of leadership is to energize a community of people toward their own transformation in order to meet the challenges of the uncharted terrain before them.” And this begins with the leader. When I learned that Dr. Bolsinger had a demon cohort on leading congregational and organizational change, I thought, I’m in!

In Chicago, June 29-July 4

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(Chicago Cubbies!)

I’ll be back in NYC for two days, one of which will be spent with the staff finalizing plans for next year’s ministry calendar. Then I’m off to Chicago where my family will be congregating for my niece Kara’s wedding in what will surely be the coolest wedding celebration my family has ever experienced. She and her fiance are both artists and working as graphic designers. Word on the street is that their reception will be a circle of their favorite food trucks which I am of COURSE not more excited about than their actual marriage… their sacred union as husband and wife is infinitely more important than tacos as we ALL KNOW… [stomach grumbles]

In NYC, July 5-13

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(with my brothers Rich Villodas, lead pastor of New Life in Queens and Jordan Rice, lead pastor of Renaissance Church in Harlem)

That Sunday July 8th I’ll be preaching at New Life Fellowship in Queens, one of my favorite churches in New York City. They have over 70+ ethnicities represented in their congregation. I love their warmth, passion for the gospel, commitment to contemplative prayer and social justice, along with a good dose of emotionally healthy spirituality. I’m looking forward to strengthening relationships with the larger body of Christ in the city as we witness to the love of Christ together. I’ll be back in the church office the week of July 9 through 13 to do some mid-summer catchup and finalize fall plans.

Family Time in Korea, Thailand and the Adirondacks, July 14-August 18

 

 

(the adorable Kim family)

This leg of my summer is the part I’m most excited about. My family is scattered across the globe in Korea, Thailand and the States, and it is very rare that we are all able to be together for an extended period of time. It’s an interesting time to be there given all that has been happening in the news with North Korea. It’s questionable what Trump actually accomplished with Kim Jong Eun in Singapore so I’m thinking we need to get a real peacemaker in there and wrap this thing up. #vicargettingthingsdone #EnneagramType9

 

 

(going to be in my belly soon)

My sisters and I will then fly to Chiang Mai, Thailand where Grace and my brother-in-law Bob serve as missionaries with the Evangelical Covenant Church as the Asia Regional Coordinators. Having this precious time with my family is of course way more important than all the delicious Korean and Thai food that I’ll be eating along the way which is totally not the main reason I’m taking this trip. [stomach grumbles again]

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(good times with the hubby)

All this will be capped off in the Adirondacks with the one and only Jimmy Lee, my favorite person in the world. I’m looking forward to being out in nature, hiking, reading, taking naps and eating good food cooked by not me. (reading over this, I’m seeing a theme here…)

I’ll be back at church on Sunday, August 19, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, well-rested and well-fed. I hope you all have a wonderful summer and looking forward to sharing our summer adventures when I get back!

A Little Help From Our Friends

Since 2002, All Angels’ Church has been in partnership with Hope For New York as a way to support the ongoing work of Community Ministries. This organization has been a tremendous resource over the years, equipping our ministry with volunteers, grant funding, trainings, and a network of fellow Affiliates, among other things.

A few weeks back, I was notified that Hope For New York had chosen All Angels’ for the second year in a row as a finalist for the HFNY Community Investment Award–an award given to one of 40+ HFNY affiliates, for an additional $10,000 beyond our grant allotment. This award recognizes the impact of the winning organization on its target communities, as well as its need for additional funding. All we had to do was give an 8-minute pitch–to 50 members of the Community Grant Circle and partnering churches–about who we are, what we do, and how we will use this extra funding.

Here was my pitch: Give us an extra $10,000 and we will use it to hire a Community Ministries Program Manager. 

You might be wondering, “Why do we need a program manager?” and “Isn’t that what you do, Chelsea?”. This is where things get fun…

On the pitch night, I started off by reading a vignette written by one of our parishioners, Belinda Luscombe, about her experience sleeping at the shelter as a volunteer. She described the chasm between herself and the shelter guests, despite their physical closeness as they shared a room together that one Sunday night. I found this to be an appropriate setup to the rundown of programs, services, and events we offer through Community Ministries to 600+ participants per year; It was appropriate because the committed relationship people like Belinda have to our ministry, and to the people who benefit from it, is what makes All Angels’ truly unique. And, family, I can not tell you how many other people want to be able to say the same about their own churches. They tell me so all the time. We really do offer something unique and powerful through Community Ministries, not just to those on the streets but also to our parishioners, and to the city. We have a gift that ought to be shared.

So I ask, What if we could replicate Community Ministries throughout the city? What if we put CM into a model (albeit nuanced) that could be replicated in neighboring churches? What if these new churches we graft through the Episcopal Diocese could all be part of an AAC Community Ministries network? What if the 70,000+ people experiencing homelessness in NYC knew there was a network of churches they could go to for support? What if these churches played a role in addressing the NYC housing crisis in a real and tangible way? Imagine the impact.

At the end of the summer, we will be hosting another Town Hall, so to speak, to give a much more robust and detailed description of what we mean by “replicating Community Ministries”. In the meantime, our priority is to hire a Community Ministries Program Manager (or CMPM, if you’re lazy), to provide on-the-ground program oversight for our shelter, drop-in program, and events, as I (with the help of two committees) do the work of clarifying and tightening up our structures, protocols, services, discipleship opportunities, and long-term goals for the future of the ministry.

Even in writing this post, I get excited. God is doing a mighty work here at All Angels’ and the same can be said for this profound ministry. And, I believe God wants us to give him the space to do an even greater work in it. My prayer is that this new vision, and new team structure, will do just that.

–Chelsea Horvath, Director of Community Ministries

For position details, please view the job description at https://allangelschurch.com/employment/Questions and/or job applications can be directed to chorvath@allangelschurch.com.

 

 

 

 

 

It Takes A Church

Late spring is filled with transitions and milestones in family life. Two things are true at the same time: the graduations, concerts, recitals, championship games, report cards and other moments will bring much pleasure, pride, and sense of accomplishment. During this season also, inevitably, parents notice other emotions: anxiety, loss, sadness, and regret as goals are missed, milestones are unreached, and different paths are taken. Grieving that which never existed feels real. When our staff team attended the Sticky Faith Summits in Pasadena in 2016, the trainers addressed the room packed with eager youth pastors and offered this wise insight: “all those parents you work with? They all feel guilty most of the time.” Parents feel guilty that they’ve failed their children, haven’t done enough, have misread situations. I certainly have felt that. During seasons that bring enormous institutionalized milestones like graduations and report cards, refraining from mulling over what-ifs when there have been disappointments is about as easy as not wiggling a tooth.

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You’ve heard of elevator speeches? They are the nimble, concise answers to any number of questions one may encounter. Almost every industry requires its employees to have ready answers of varying lengths. Motivational speakers urge us to develop our own. They aren’t the entirely modern invention that the name suggests. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Parenting is no different. And in that industry? We mostly need to give these speeches to ourselves.

Each Winter, the 4th-5th-6th grades go on a retreat. We practice listening to God and developing some chops to discern truth from lies. I hear myself telling the kids on retreat elevator speeches I’ve told my own children so often they’re practically trademarked:

  • Our brains are wired to believe the things they hear, so care about the things you listen to;
  • Your brain believes the things you tell yourself even if they are lies;
  • If you hear lies from others or even tell yourself lies, you risk your brain starting to believe them …because… brains believe the things they hear.

And on and on. Again, not new words. In Philippians we read: “…whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

The All Angels’ Blog launched this last January; it is quickly becoming a place where stories, experiences, and events are shared. I suggest it may also be a place where truth is shared—the kind of truth that combats lies. I have a particular interest in truth related to raising up and discipling (no, that was not disciplining as my spell check always suggests) the next generation and look forward to sharing stories, experiences and insights that I hope will encourage our community.

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My elevator speech to parents deep in the season of milestones and transitions, some achieved and some missed?

  • These are very full days. Notice all of your experiences and reactions. We read in Luke 2: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
  • Hillary was right… but maybe didn’t go far enough. It takes a lot more than a village, it takes a church to raise a child. We must be part of a community.
  • You are not the worst parent in the world, and even if you are, which is doubtful, your child has another parent on the job: God, the Father. And He is a much better parent than any of us. Perfect even.

In fact—and today’s post is not the place for it, but I do intend to come back to this topic in a future post—it is some of those missed achievements and unreached milestones that can provide some of the most profound lessons for us and our families in our parenting journeys. So here’s one more elevator speech, for anyone reading this who is having one of those parental moments or days or even seasons of “what’s the point?”: Moses got the Israelites to the Promised Land—but only after 40 years of wandering, whining, complaining, idol worship, bacchanals and worse.  Let’s take our next steps, raising children, together.

— Mary Ellen Lehmann

Mary Ellen is the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at All Angels’ Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generosity

Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions and distribute the money among all, according to what each needed. (Acts 2: 43-45)

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When Jordan and I first started talking about the work of the stewardship committee, these verses were a big part of forming our ideas about the vision that we were praying over for All Angels’. We were inspired by the way that the early believers did life together and how they lived out of generosity towards God and each other. They held their possessions lightly, holding them on outstretched hands for the inclusion, care and health of each other. Jordan and I started to envision what it would look like for All Angels’ to more fully embody that kind of spirit (both in our church and in the larger community) and we got psyched! Yes, we are stewardship nerds.

To help us explore these ideas, we did an exercise with our committee early on where we all shared personal experiences with generosity that helped shape what it means in our own lives. I wanted to briefly share my story and why it showed me the power of generosity.

I was 23 years old and had been traveling for a spell in South America after I completed graduate school. This particular day, I found myself on a small bus from Quito, Ecuador going to a town called Banos. This was a common bus route and the buses were often quite full. I suspect the same “capacity” regulations that I was used to in the U.S. did not quite apply in Ecuador.

Though I am an introvert, the children in the two seats in front of me and on my left eventually got the best of me with their charm and curiosity. In my broken Spanish I chatted with them, showed them my Walkman (yes, I am showing my age!) and let them take turns listening to my music. A couple of the children were brave enough to try my Altoids and I will never forget their wide eyed surprise and dismay at the spiciness of those “candies.”

A common practice in Latin America is for food vendors to hop on a bus at the first stop in a city, sell their wares and then hop off at the next stop. A couple of hours into the bus ride, the family purchased two bags of snacks from a food vendor, one for their family of 7 and one for me. This simple act of generosity worked to include me in their circle of affection that day — a stranger from a different country and origin, but accepted and cared for. It was a powerful experience.

Human beings are not born generous, we are birthed needing and taking and consuming to survive. We have to grow into our generosity, and that learning does not happen in a vacuum. Many experiences, such as this one, have shaped my understanding of what it looks like to live a generous life. Yes, theoretical and theological ideas about stewardship and abundance are important, but I have found that it is the consistent doing of practical acts on a regular basis that actually sets the foundation for what my life’s generosity looks like.

Over the course of my life, I am constantly learning and relearning that I am not bound by the things I have, but that I am free to give because God’s provision has always been abundantly and freely given to me. I need consistent reminders to trust that sense of abundance because my human nature, my fear, and my anxiety about my own security are always at odds with my heart’s desire to live life openhanded. 18 years later, I am still so grateful for that family. For me, they have been one of those consistent reminders of the power of living in and pouring out generosity – of what happens when we offer and share what we have with others, whatever that might be.

— Martha Lee

Martha Lee is a parishioner and co-chair of the Stewardship Committee at All Angels’ Church.

Reports from Tribeca 2018, Part 4

Brian Cress reflects on VR short film “The Hidden” in part 4 of the series.

This is Part 4 in a series of posts from members of the All Angels’ community who participated in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Check out Part 1 for the series overview and Bryan Brown’s opening reflection on the film Blowin’ Up.


Brian Cress & The Hidden

Have you ever seen a VR film?

The better question may be, What is a VR film? Well, “VR” stands for Virtual Reality. Maybe you’ve seen commercials with people wearing what look like a huge set of goggles with a smartphone attached to the front. These devices allow you to watch a film, spin around, look up and down, and find yourself in the very middle of the action. It’s immersive and interactive, like real life. Hence the term “Virtual Reality”. VR has come a long way in the last several years, from gimmicky novelty flicks to the serious storytelling we’d expect to find at world-class film festivals like Tribeca and others.

Seth Little and I headed down to the Tribeca Virtual Arcade, donned our VR headsets and sat ourselves down in comfortable swivel chairs, allowing us to spin around 360-degrees to maximize the VR experience. We saw three short films presented as a group in Cinema360: VR FOR GOOD, but for this review I’ll only focus on one for both personal and professional reasons.

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Brian wearing the VR headset in the Tribeca Virtual Arcade

The Hidden follows Indian government officials, supported by International Justice Mission (IJM), as they carry out a daring raid to free a family living in slavery. We learn that there are currently more people living in slavery than at any other time in human history. This family has been enslaved in a rock quarry in southern India for 10 years—over a paltry debt of $70 USD. We see the family’s tiny home and listen in as one of their children is asked about schooling. The little girl responds that the quarry owner would not allow her to go to school and instead put her to work in the quarry. Their captor, the quarry owner, is confronted and arrested, and the family is evacuated to safety and freedom.

The story alone was compelling and the 360 filmography was very well done. It really felt like we were in on this daring raid with IJM and the Indian government officials. The film came across as real because it was real. The VR format lent a heightened sense of connection to the experience, but the subjects of the film really, truly experienced slavery…and rescue.

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The Cinema 360 theater at the Tribeca Festival Hub on Varick Street

And now for some disclosure. I work for IJM and remember when the film crew was in India. We prayed daily as a staff for the filming and celebrated when we heard the raid was successful and that the film crew was able to capture it. More personally, I have traveled to India and visited rock quarries and met rescued slaves just like the family rescued in the film. I remember one rescued slave sharing with me how they had cried out to God to be rescued. It was the God of IJM who heard their cries and whom they want to follow now. This is Isaiah 1:17 being lived out: “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

It is great to see God’s passion for justice presented in a new, exciting, compelling way through VR storytelling, opening a door for those who may never set foot in a church to experience God’s desire for freedom for the oppressed and to envisage their own role in the global work for justice.

Brian Cress
For more information about IJM go to www.IJM.org.

Brian Cress is Director of Denomination and Youth Mobilization for International Justice Mission and a member of the All Angels’ community along with his wife Lori. He bears the distinction of being our only participant to have a direct connection to a film in this year’s festival.

Reports from Tribeca 2018, Part 3

This is Part 3 in a series of posts from members of the All Angels’ community who participated in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Check out Part 1 for the series overview and Bryan Brown’s opening reflection on the film Blowin’ Up.


Trevor St. John-Gilbert & “Tanzania Transit”

Trevor St. John-Gilbert is a professional actor and part-time staff youth leader here at All Angels’. He attended a screening of “Tanzania Transit” on Monday, April 23.

What was the movie about?

Tanzania Transit is a documentary by Jeroen Van Velzen that depicts life aboard a train in Tanzania. Specifically, we follow three story lines throughout the hour-long documentary. The first depicts a Masaai grandfather and grandson who are traveling back to their village. The second, a woman who is hoping to start a new life. The third, a preacher who is planting churches across Tanzania.

How did you like it?

I really enjoyed the movie. I don’t typically watch documentaries, so this wasn’t a movie I’d have gone out of my way to see. That said, I’m very glad I did. It was fascinating to see the cultural differences between us. Their culture is very religious, and they are much more open to spiritual topics and conversation than Americans. It was surprising for instance to see how the preacher was able to open up conversations with relative ease. The other thing that surprised me was the moment the train runs over a cow. Everyone hops off the train and is celebrating because food has been provided for them. They make a fire and cook it up right there! In America there’s no way a train runs over anything and we’re happy to eat it.

What do you think the filmmakers are saying with this film?

To be honest, I’m not so sure they were trying to say anything with this film. The director was there for a Q and A afterwards and it really seemed that his desire was to tell these people’s stories. It was very much up to you to interpret the stories how you wanted to interpret them. There really seemed to be no bias in the film itself. For instance, the director thought the preacher was very manipulative, but that wasn’t what I thought at all from watching the movie. It was interesting to see that the director’s opinions of people weren’t seeping through. He honestly just shot footage and put it together for us to see, then to draw our own conclusions.

As far as how the movie connects to the world, I think specifically Americans will be appalled at the treatment of women. I think it shows that even though we’ve made progress in equal treatment here in America that there is still so far to go. Hearing a woman’s story of being married off at 14 to a man who she doesn’t know and then essentially being raped just makes you furious.

It’s also a reminder of the gap in wealth. It’s clear and easy to see it when you’re on the outside, for instance when you watch this movie. But it reminded me that it’s harder for me to see when I’m on the subway. How do I treat those with less? Am I caring for the poor and needy and the oppressed?

How should Christians respond to this film?

For me there were a couple things that really hit home. One was the stories of broken people. On the train you saw racism between tribes, you heard stories of sexual harassment and abuse, you witnessed people treating one another in sub-human ways. You also saw pockets of beauty and courage and hope. It’s a reminder that we’re all human, we all have stories, dreams, and desires. We also all struggle with sin and need help, need a Savior. Specifically, it was a reminder to me and a challenge to remain open to what God is asking of me. Seeing people’s humanity, seeing everyone as a person is really tough sometimes but so worth it when you do.

The other was watching this preacher. It was interesting to watch him because basically he would walk up and down the cars praying for people and selling his book. The things he was saying seemed mostly to line up with scripture and Jesus, but you did question his motives at times. He didn’t seem that humble, but I wondered how much of that is a cultural difference.  Watching him made me ask myself what are the things that I do that make people wonder if my faith is genuine. It also made me pause and wonder how much time I spend worrying about other people’s faith versus just following Jesus myself.

How was the experience overall?

Overall it was an amazing experience! I so enjoyed going down to Chelsea to see the move at such a nice theatre. It was also and premiere with the director, so it was really cool to hear him talk about the film. It made the whole experience way more real. This was my first time at the Tribeca Film Festival and it definitely left me feeling more connected to New York and to film scene here!

Reports from Tribeca 2018, Part 2

This is Part 2 in a series of posts from members of the All Angels’ community who participated in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Check out Part 1 for the series overview and Bryan Brown’s opening reflection on the film Blowin’ Up.


Ariana Miller & Blowin’ Up

Blowin’ Up is a documentary that embodies the verse “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)  It introduces the viewer to a Queens-based trial-diversion program which offers women charged with prostitution and human-trafficking-related crimes the opportunity to avoid trial and have their charges dismissed if they participate in a program designed to help women reflect on their experiences and create an alternative life for themselves.
Being arrested, charged, and brought before a judge is rightly an intimidating and anxiety-invoking prospect.  But rather than fear of judgment, the documentary represents the redemptive potential of the law in drawing a line defining what society will not tolerate, the purpose not being to condemn, but to present individuals with the option to choose a better path and providing a guide along that path.
The absence of the men profiting from and taking advantage of the exploitation of these women forms a palpable void in the film and the courtroom it observes.  Yet women who found themselves in complicated personal situations marked by desperation which were also exacerbated by their exploitation often seemed resistant to characterizing themselves as victims.   One who turned to prostitution to help a jailed boyfriend confessed, “I don’t believe I was human trafficked.  I chose to do that.”  Another who had paid a large sum to immigrate from China to escape oppressive debt asked herself, “I had been in bad situations before and I never did that.  Why do it now?”
Their advocates, rather than manipulating such admissions to induce guilt or shame, probe that emotional awareness to help the women find their deeper, more life-affirming desires.  And not far beneath the surface, lie yearnings so simple and sweet that the viewer cannot help but see girlish innocence.  Asked where she wanted to be a year from now, one young woman shyly admitted, “I want to be a housewife and have a kid.  Isn’t that what everyone wants?”
The trouble, though, was that, regardless of the situations that led to prostitution, once they had entered into it, they found themselves trapped, threatened, and subjected to violence.  What seemed like a means to an end quickly became a prison.
Despite the unfairness of women being targeted by law enforcement while their exploiters often remained free, most of the women, had they not been arrested, would have remained vulnerable to those exploiting them.   Some had recently arrived to the country, spoke little English and so could easily be kept on the margins of society, unknown, unseen and uncared for.  For those who know their cities well, a web of entanglements make it difficult to extricate oneself.  Providing the title of the film, one woman emphasized how hard it is to “blow up,” meaning to cut ties on one’s own and leave “the life” behind.
And so, the ability to summon these women before the law provides the opportunity for society to bring them out of the shadows, from the dark alleyways and dim parlors to the sometimes harsh light of an open courtroom where they are seen and heard, supported and even celebrated for choosing goodness.  In Blowin’ Up, we are presented with a picture of how law and grace work not in contradiction to one another, but rather in coordination with one another.  We see that compassion can come through accountability.  And at a time when stories abound of law enforcement and the judicial system being used to undermine lives, this film provides a look at what we might aspire to.

Ariana Miller is a parishioner and vestry member at All Angels’ and an attorney by vocation. She attended a screening of Blowin’ Up with fellow parishioners Bryan Brown and Elam Lantz on Saturday, April 21, the first screening in our lineup.