All Angels’ welcomed a new Youth Ministry Coordinator in August : Jack Ricci. So that everyone in the All Angels’ community might get a more personal glimpse of Jack, as everyone on staff has been so grateful to have had, we decided to come up with five questions that would reveal a bit more of who the real “behind the scenes,” and in his personal life.
1. What really matters to you more than anything else?
Jack: More than anything else, I want everyone, including myself, to believe that God loves them and will love them through eternity, and that they act that out in the world.
2. If you had the choice to do one thing on your day off, what would it be?
Jack: Spend the whole day with my fiancé Kate – doesn’t matter where we go!
3. What brings you joy?
Jack: Seeing the kingdom break through into our world through beauty, kindness, redemption, and trust. I also like when the Yankees win.
4. What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
Jack: I love 90’s club music. It’s heavily motivating and it’s great bike riding music.
5. What are you most excited about working at All Angels’?
Jack: Getting the chance to make an impact on the hearts of our youth, and to equip them to be their fullest selves for Christ.
And because of Christ, I must try to not worry about where my feet will be by the end of September. He’s going to provide green pasture and still waters and new sounds and sights and even new smells in my new town, in my new grass.
The title caught my eye. I clicked to open the daily devotional with hopes that the words
would resolve my angst about our upcoming cross country move. Moving to me is usually an adventure. New town. New Streets. New Friends. New fun things to do. But not this time. This time, we are moving to the familiar, a place I know well and a place that knows me. I have not yet figured out why that doesn’t bring me comfort.
Unfortunately, the written advice didn’t do much for my heart. While well-meaning and helpful for many, I found this piece full of Christian platitudes and Church-speak that means little in the midst of grief, fear, and anxiety. I can tell you all the reasons why we should move and I can tell you how we can see the hand of God opening the doors of this move, but I’m just not ready to leave my NYC life.
While the comfort did not come in the “advice” of the blog, it did come in the title: Be where your feet are. “That’s right, Beverly. You don’t have to be in Houston, Texas yet. You’ve still got months left in NYC and a lot of life in the midst of those months. Be where your feet are NOW, and then, when it’s time, plant your feet in Houston.”
As I continued to mull this over, three Scripture stories came to mind.
The first one is found in Genesis 19 It’s the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the salvation of Lot and his family. Scripture says that the land was covered in darkness, that it was a time when each person did what was right in their own eyes, following the desires of the their flesh and using people for their own gain and pleasure. Lot, a man of God, lived in the midst of this with his wife and two daughters. Angels came instructing them to flee, providing them a way out before God destroyed the city. Take a moment to read the passage below.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” 16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords,[b] please! 19 Your[c] servant has found favor in your[d] eyes, and you[e] have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.[f])
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
I see so much goodness from the Lord. He not only sought salvation for Lot and his family, but he even allowed Lot to negotiate where he would dwell next. “Please Lord, not there! We won’t survive in the mountains. We need a something a little closer.” And then, just as we are headed toward a happy ending for Lot and his family, we find those haunting words, “But Lot’s wife looked back.”
In the midst of their family’s salvation, Lot’s wife looks back. She dies, loses her life, wishing she could be somewhere her feet were not.
The second story is found in Acts 5. This is the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira who sold a piece of property. Rather than giving all the proceeds to the church for distribution to those in need, they held back part of the money for themselves, a clear violation of what God asked of them. While Scripture doesn’t tell us why they tucked some away, I wonder if they kept some back to make sure they had enough for the future. Maybe they were planners and living without a plan for the future was too much.
Ananias and Sapphira die, looking forward to somewhere their feet were not.
And then there is Jesus, who unlike Lot’s wife and Ananias and Sapphira, knew how to be where his feet were. In the midst of feeding the 5000, Jesus took time to teach the disciples important lessons about faith and provision. He could feed the masses and still work in an object lesson for his trainees. The hillside was full of hungry people and yet Jesus managed to be aware of who was sharing the grass next to his own sandals.
How about the woman with the issue of blood? Jesus is walking through crowded streets, pushed and shoved and jostled like commuters trying to exit the subway at ALL Times Square trains at ALL times of the day! And yet, he is aware of the tiniest touch of a desperate woman hoping for miracle.
Finally, there is Jesus on the cross. In the midst of the pain of the cross, knowing that his human death is imminent, he has the divine foresight to care for the future of his mother.
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)
Here’s where these stories collide for me:
There is coming a day when I will need to quit looking back longingly at NYC. But until then, I need to be where my feet are, in the middle of America’s most exciting city, rubbing elbows with humans from every nation in the world, listening to the music of trains, sirens, and the laughter of children, and waking up every morning to the smell of fried eggs, coffee, a party that went too long, and the brokenness of my homeless friend down the street.
And because of Christ, I must try to not worry about where my feet will be by the end of September. He’s going to provide green pasture and still waters and new sounds and sights and even new smells in my new town, in my new grass. “Until then, Beverly, be where your feet are. And then, when it’s time, move your feet to new pasture.”
Be where your feet are. That’s where we find rest, peace, comfort, joy, and safe pasture. Amen.
If you want one more story that really brings all this together, ask me about the squirrels at Marcus Garvey park!
Attending a new church is hard. It just is – no matter the reason. It is especially hard if you are an extroverted introvert. What that means is that if I am by myself in a room full of people I do not know, I will talk to as many people as I can and start making new friends because what else am I going to do? But if I know one other person, I will only talk to them and not talk to new people. So going to a new church with my husband (who is an introverted introvert) meant we didn’t really talk to anyone. And since we started going to church in the summer, it also meant that house churches (or at least the ones we were looking at) weren’t meeting.
So after attending AAC for three Sundays my husband and I signed up for the retreat, and by “my husband and I” I mean I told him if he wanted this to be our church home, we had to go to events where we would meet people and really commit, and he agreed (which is a big deal. Remember the introverted introvert part? I’m not exaggerating that.)
I was nervous about going to this big event, but excited to meet new people. I mean coffee hour at churches is terrifying for me, and here we were, going to a weekend long retreat with a bunch of strangers. And you know what? We did meet many nice and awesome people from both services. It was so great to see the whole church together.
It was more than just a meet-and-greet church social. I have always struggled with being close with my family. I just never understood how I really fit in with them or why I was the way I am when they are the way they are. Then we had to do an exercise where we had to create a genogram of our family. A genogram is basically a super detailed family tree (this is an oversimplification. If you want more, see my husband. He took a class on them.) As I was filling out the genogram, I started noticing patterns and seeing my place in the family. It all started making sense. And I took my quiet time, in the calm of nature, to really pray about it. After the retreat, I started opening myself up to my family more, and I started feeling more a part of them.
This allowed me to open myself up more to my church family. We are part of an awesome house church (which I highly recommend) and volunteer with the church sound team (always looking for new members!)
In short, I would recommend the retreat to everyone. It was really a wonderful experience (and I hope to meet you there!)
The ideal Bible translation would be accurate to the original language, faithfully represent the ideas that are expressed, maintain the literary style of the original text (wordplay, rhythm, assonance, alliteration, similes, etc.), while at the same time being easy to read without reference to a lot of footnotes. Unfortunately, no such translation exists. All translations represent a trade off between these various factors. This post explores some of the strengths and weakness of various approaches to Bible translations.
Translating close to the original language
This style of translation tries to find the closest English word for the given Hebrew or Greek word in the passage. Additional words are avoided unless necessary to make the sentence intelligible in English. Perhaps the best way to understand this approach is to compare some translations. Consider Isaiah 7:20.
The New American Bible (NAB 2011) prides itself on being very close to the Hebrew. Here is the NAB’s translation:
On that day the Lord shall shave with the razor hired from across the River (the king of Assyria) the head, and the hair of the feet; it shall also shave off the beard.
Clear? The New International Version (NIV) is willing to depart from the strict Hebrew if necessary to convey the meaning of the phrase accurately, perhaps that will help. Here is the NIV’s translation:
In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River– the king of Assyria– to shave your head and private parts, and to cut off your beard also.
Not much clearer, and the hair of the feet has been replaced by shaving “private parts.” The Message is primarily concerned with getting the idea across, with faithfulness to the Hebrew being much less important. The Message is considered a paraphrase. Here is the Message’s paraphrase of the same passage:
And that’s when the Master will take the razor rented from across the Euphrates—the king of Assyria no less!—and shave the hair off your heads and genitals, leaving you shamed, exposed, and denuded. He’ll shave off your beards while he’s at it.
Let’s take a look at the phrase translated “hair of the feet” in the New American Bible, which is almost word for word from the Hebrew. The NIV uses the phrase “private parts” as a replacement for the “hair of the feet.” The Message uses the phrase “genitals” to represent the Hebrew “hair of the feet.” Confused? The Biblical Hebrew text “hair of the feet” is thought to be a euphemism for pubic hair. The NAB translates the Hebrew directly, but leaves the reader with the wrong impression (that the text is referring to a hairy foot). The NIV replaces a Hebrew euphemism by an English euphemism. The message gets the idea correct, without resorting to a euphemism. A good study Bible might give you a footnote explaining the situation, or might not.
What about the Message’s insertion of “leaving you shamed, exposed and denuded?” Shaving of hair can be an act of shaming prisoners (The Oxford NRSV Study Bible points to 2 Sam 10:1-5 as another example). Now the passage makes some sense. Assyria will invade, take prisoners and shame them by removing their hair! Just translating the Hebrew, word for word, does not reveal the full meaning of the passage!
It is not always possible to find an English word that accurately corresponds to a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word. For example the Greek words eros, phileo, and agape mean different things, but have all been translated as “love.” This can mask possible meanings in the text. A classic example is the scene at the end of John (vs. 21:15-17) where (in English) Jesus three times asks Peter if he loves Jesus and three times Peter responds that he does love Jesus. Here I am not interested in the interpretation of the passage but how accurately the translation corresponds to the Greek. In the Greek Jesus twice asks Peter if he loves (agape) Jesus and Peter answers that he loves (phileo) Jesus (vs 15 and 16). The third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves (phileo) him and Peter responds that he loves (phileo) Jesus (vs 17). Today agape is used as a “technical term” in Christian thought, since there is no real English equivalent. Phileo is the non-sexual fondness or affection. Is the distinction between phileo and agape important in interpreting this passage? This question is debated among scholars. What is interesting, if you rely on the English alone, you would not know that this is even an issue. If you have a study Bible, it might (should) alert you that two different Greek words are being translated using the same English word.
There are many such challenges in translating between any two languages. Two skilled translators, skilled in both the original and target language, can easily come up with different phrases to translate the original phrase. Often translation is about choices, each with strengths and weaknesses. Translation is as much an art form as it is a technical discipline. Word for word translations may get the words correctly and still fail to convey the meaning of the original documents.
Why not just use a Paraphrase?
It might seem that avoiding these complexities by reading a paraphrase is the way to go. But paraphrases have their own issues. Paraphrases involve a double interpretation. First, the author of a paraphrase must interpret the original language, with all the problems involved in a word for word translation. Then the author of the paraphrase must decide on the crucial thought that needs expression in the paraphrase. Thus a paraphrase is a sort of condensed commentary on the Biblical text. Let’s illustrate with an example: Matthew 7:1-2 The English Standard Version (ESV) is rather close to the Greek.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and, with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
Is this passage who is passing judgement on the person judging? Is God judging you? Is the person being judged, judging you back? The text isn’t clear and there is meaning in both interpretations. The Messages paraphrase of this section starts with:
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. “
The interpretation of what it means to judge has been made specific, with a loss of generality. Who is judging you is still vague, (the same treatment by whom?). But at least in my reading of the translation, it seems to shift the thought toward a human response to your judging. It’s not that the interpretation is wrong, but that it limits the applicability of the passage. The viewpoint of the author plays a larger role in a paraphrase than in a translation.
Many translations operate on the assumption that both the meanings of the original language and the thoughts expressed in the Bible are both important. These translations are willing to depart from word-for-word translations if such a departure improves the reader’s ability to understand the ideas presented in the original language. The NIV and the New Revised Standard (NRS) are two examples of this “middle of the road” approach.
The NASB and NRSV have a reading level of 11th grade and above, making them inaccessible to some people. At the other extreme the Message and the living Bible are written at the 4+ grade level, making them better suited for those who have not yet entered High School. The reading level of the translation should be appropriate for the reader. My first Bible as a child was the King James which has a 12th grade reading level! (For a more complete list see the list on Bible Gateway. Choosing a Bible translation that is difficult for you to read may make it less likely that you will spend time reading that translation, making it a poor choice.
Reading Multiple Translations
Often the advice given to those who study the scriptures, and that should be all Christians, is to read multiple translations. This is useful if the translations chosen are not all in the same category. One option is to use one translation that is close to the original languages (word-for-word translations), another translation that compromises between word-for-word and thought-for- thought. If you are reading the Bible for the first time, or are a younger reader perhaps a good paraphrase would be a good first Bible. Here is a list that can get you started. For a more complete list you might see the article on Christian Books (https://www.christianbook.com/page/bibles/about-bibles/about-translations)
Translations close to the Original Language:
New American Standard Bible (closest)
English Standard Version
New King James Version
New Revised Standard Version (closest to the Original Language)
New International Version
New Living Translation (closest to Paraphrase)
The Living Bible
In closing, the most important aspect of choosing a Bible is to choose a Bible you are willing to read. We can encounter God in the scriptures only if we are willing to take the time to read the Bible.
–David A. Larrabee
David Larabee is a member of All Angels’ Church and leads the weekly Sunday discussions following The Bible Project Reading Plan.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.