An Interview with God - Jim Holmes

On our recent trip to Norway to celebrate, among other things, Tim's 70th birthday, we had occasion to attend several interdenominational church services on board our ship.  Led by the ship's captain, the services would be familiar to long-time Emmanuel members as Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.  The services always concluded with the congregation singing Eternal Father, Strong to Save.

At one of the services the captain shared the following meditation, entitled "An Interview with God":

I dreamed I had an interview with God.  "Come in" God said.  "So, you would like to   interview me."  "If you have time," I said.  God smiled and said, "My time is eternity and is enough to do everything.  What questions do you have in mind to ask me?"

"What surprises you most about [humankind]?"

God answered.  "That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up and     then long to be children again.  That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health.  That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present such that they live neither for the present nor the future.  They live as if they will never die, and they die as if they had never lived. . . ."

God's hands took mine and we were silent for a while.  Then I asked, "As a parent, what are some of life's lessons you want your children to learn?"

God replied with a smile:  "To learn that they cannot make anyone love them.  What     they can do is let themselves be loved.  To learn that what is most valuable is not what   they have in their lives, but whom they have in their lives.  To learn that is not good to   compare themselves to others.  All will be judged individually on their merits, not as a   group on a comparison basis.  To learn that a rich person is not the one who has the     most, but is then who needs the least.  To learn that it takes only a few seconds to open profound wounds in persons we love, and it takes many years to heal them.  To learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness.  To learn that there are persons that love them dearly,   but simply do not know how to express or show their feelings.  To learn that money can buy everything but happiness.  To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see it totally different.  To learn that a true friend is someone who knows everything about them. . . and loves them anyway.  To learn that it is not always enough that they are forgiven by others, but that they have to forgive themselves."

I sat there a while enjoying the moment.  I thanked God for his time and for all that He has done for me and my family, and He replied, "Anytime, I am here 24 hours in a day.   All you have to do is ask me and I will answer."

Something to think about as we begin a new season at Emmanuel.

A Letter from Our New Rector

Dear Saints of Emmanuel Church,

I am excited to meet you on Sunday October 1, 2017, and I have been praying for you each and every day.

Our ministry together will begin, per my desire, with my sitting in a pew as a first time visitor to worship at Emmanuel. Per my request, your current priests will celebrate the Eucharist and preach at both Sunday services on October 1, and I won’t have any official responsibilities during worship.

Then on the following Sunday, October 8, I will preach and celebrate at both services.

As a newcomer, I hope to look, listen, learn, and absorb as much as possible about your worship. I want to adapt to who you are and adopt your traditions, structure, and tone as quickly as I can.

Truly, I am adopting the motto: “When in Emmanuel Church, Baltimore, do as the Emmanuelites do.” Having lived around the world, I have some experience in merging into new communities, which is both an exciting and a challenging opportunity. I hope to celebrate and respect who you have been, who you are, and who you hope to become.

I truly love serving and leading in the parish. I truly love helping parishioners be the best saints God has created you to be. Parish ministry is a joyful and fun adventure, full of complexity and occasional conflict, as all communities are--and yet also pregnant with so much life and hope.

As you all know, life in today’s climate can be quite miserable and hopeless. And, it’s because of the suffering of the world, that the courage, strength, and witness to love and justice of Emmanuel Church are all the more critical.

As we establish bonds of respect, trust, and even Christian affection, the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst will multiply. Together with God, we can be ambassadors of peace and love for each other. Together with God, we can be a community of creative, passionate, compassionate, and resilient leaders and servants. Together with God, we can make our world a better place.

Saints of Emmanuel Church, yes, you’ve had along journey. That journey has wounded and frustrated you, and I know it has made you eager for stability, peace, and a fresh, new beginning. I can’t promise you miracles, but I will try my best to be the priest and rector, the inspirer and the healer, you need me to be.

Please remember:  God does love you very much. And, with God anything and everything Good is possible for Emmanuel Church, for Baltimore, and for our nation and our world.

May God help you breathe and relax. May God sustain you with the knowledge that your name itself is powerful. Emmanuel- God is with us. Emmanuel- God is with you.

Please pray for our children: 23 year old, Lucas, just graduated from Williams College, who is teaching in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 20 year old Sophia, a University of Denver junior, who is in Patagonia, Argentina, and Costa Rica for a semester of adventures.

Please pray for my wife Sara and me as we relocate to our new home,

10 Light Street, Apt. 1710, Baltimore, MD

Know that I hold you in the light.

With joyful anticipation and with my prayers for all of you,


The Rev. Hentzi Elek

A Tale of Two Churches - Jim Holmes

We were in Stavanger, Norway, on a Sunday three weeks ago.  Our ship's newsletter had a note about the cathedral in that coastal city, including Sunday service times.  We decided to go.

When we arrived at the door some twenty minutes before the service was scheduled to begin we were greeted by a man at the front door who said, "No tourists, locals only." Though tourists, we assured him that we were there for the service and not to walk about.  "No tourists,"  he said, "we know that once you get in you just walk about and disrupt things." And besides, "There is a a baptism and the family does not want tourists." We told him, politely, I hope, that we had never experienced such a thing and that in our understanding church was open to all on Sunday morning.  "You can go to another church," he said dismissing us firmly.

So we walked to the nearby St. Peter's Church, also Church of Norway (Lutheran), and walked in.  The place was filled with scurrying children, and an usher greeted us, quickly switching to English.  Though there was not one but four baptisms scheduled that day, we were most cordially welcome to join in the service.  The service started a bit late as it was difficult to round up all of the baptismal groups who were a part of the procession, but the hymn was "A mighty fortress" so we felt at home.  Apropos my short article a couple of weeks ago, we recognized The Lord's Prayer and were able to say it softly in English. In our travels around the world, we have found that we can always recognize the Lord's Prayer.

Two ofthe babies being baptized were part of what we stereotype as Norwegian families:  blond, blue-eyed, the women dressed in local costumes, etc.  The other two were of color, and their families and sponsors were dressed in both African and Asian garb.  It was a wonderful mix.  The pastor had a lovely singing voice, and she presided with great dignity. We were welcome to receive Communion.

After church, the usher found us again and invited us to coffee where he introduced us to other parishioners.  They were very friendly and quite dismayed to hear about our earlier experience but glad we had found them.

St. Peter's modeled what a church should be on Sunday morning.  Welcoming, diverse, good liturgy and music.  Even though we understood few of the words, we knew we were in the House of God, among the people of God.  I believe Emmanuel models this kind of church as well, but we must remember that it takes work and that we need to pay attention to those in our midst and welcome the stranger.

Announcing Emmanuel's New Rector

My Fellow Parishioners:

It is my honor and privilege to announce that, following the search committee’s recommendation, our vestry voted unanimously to call the Rev. Henry Drinker Elek (who goes by “Hentzi”) to be the 14th rector of Emmanuel Church, which he has accepted.

Hentzi currently serves as the long-term supply priest for St. George St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Previously, he has led several parishes around the Mid-Atlantic, including serving as rector at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, from 2001 until 2015. He has overseen and expanded innovative outreach on local, national, and international levels, such as “Christmas in July” for resource-challenged kids in New Jersey and leading 150 college-age volunteers on a 2010 earthquake relief mission in Haiti. Hentzi views interfaith engagement as a central part of his ministry, and he has built relationships with neighboring communities wherever he has served—he was even elected as president of the local Interfaith Clergy Association for 3 years.

Hentzi is an avid traveler; fan of classical music, classic rock, and jazz; perennial volunteer; enthusiastic hiker and kayaker; lover of cheeseburgers, chocolate chip cookies, and all food except eggs; and a firm believer in the power of prayer, including his daily Morning Prayer routine. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University and a Master of Divinity from Yale University. He is married to Sara Barton, who is a middle school English teacher at The Haverford School. Their son, Lucas, is currently an Americorps teacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and their daughter, Sophia, will return for her junior year at the University of Denver after a semester abroad in Costa Rica.

The vestry is grateful to all who prayed and otherwise helped during this time of transition: Nicole Greenidge-Hoskins and the search committee, who worked with such extraordinary diligence and faithfulness to discern who might best lead our parish; the Revs. James Hamilton, James Holmes, Mary Sulerud, and Joseph Wood, who aided us in continued spiritual growth and recognition of the real treasures of Emmanuel; the staff and lay leaders of the parish, who kept hold of those treasures and their vision of what Emmanuel can be in even the most trying of circumstances; and the Right Rev. Eugene Sutton and the Rev. Canon Stuart Wright, who insured we remained on track during this journey.

I cannot improve on Hentzi’s own words when asked to describe himself:  “I truly believe in the Jewish theology of Tikkun Olam—the fixing, healing, and reconciling of the world. Ultimately, that is what parish ministry is at its best, and I hope to share that ministry in joyful celebration, praise, thanksgiving through worship, prayer, fun, and service within the parish and to the wider Baltimore community.”

Hentzi’s first Sunday at Emmanuel will be October 1, 2017. Thanks be to God, and welcome, Hentzi!


In peace,

Martha Montgomery

Senior Warden

Meditation - Taylor Daynes

When the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, scripture tells us it is because they were “more numerous and powerful more than we.” “Let us deal shrewdly with them,” says Pharoah, “or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” The Egyptians fear that the status quo will be upended by the Isrealites in their region. No longer will they enjoy the de-facto privileges of the normative group-and they perceive this impending shift as inherently threatening. So, they resort to violent, genocidal measures to protect their position.

Though we have heard this story over and over, we can’t seem to stop reliving it. So much so, that it’s almost trite to point out that its drama-in America, the struggle iconically wrought between white power-holders, and African Americans and other communities of color-is being enacted even now. For me, as a white woman protected by my whiteness from so much of the hypocrisy and violence of our nation, it bears remembering, though, that this impulse-the Pharoah’s impulse in Exodus, the impulse of any group in power that views their position as somehow precarious-is exercised even when it’s not so visible as a white nationalist rally.

I hope that all of us who enjoy power and privilege can make it part of our practice to listen to "the other" in our society and examine ourselves daily to see in what ways we may be holding on to our privileges to the harm and detriment of our neighbors. I hope that we can stand up to violence, racism and injustice when we see it. And I hope that we can challenge ourselves to keep imagining that eschatalogical future when this power-struggle between proverbial Pharoahs and Israelites, seems like more than the thinnest of allegories to our own life and times.

Dwelling Together - Joseph Wood

It can be easy to miss the Psalm during our Sunday morning worship, passing over it as more of a bridge between the day’s lessons than a piece of scripture to itself experience. But, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a reason that it’s captivated not one, not two, but three different religions—every Abrahamic faith has a fundamental relationship with the collection of Ancient Hebrew songs. They’re part of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, and Islamic tradition recognizes them as scripture. They’ve been a part of worship since the Temple. The vulnerability of the words, the way they express the fullness of faith, is hard to replicate. The Psalms run the full gamut of life from the deeply personal to the national and even cosmic, touching upon almost every conceivable emotion along the way. Millennia of faith communities have found their voice in the book, and it is hard to imagine our relationship to God without them.

But it can also be easy to misread the Psalms, forgetting their context due to the deep familiarity they evoke. When we read together Psalm 133 this Sunday, please listen to its words carefully. Pray them if you can, especially because I think we need to recognize the psalmist’s exultation of what it means to “live together in unity” for what it is. Those words don’t describe the world of the Psalm; rather, they’re a vision of a society that the author longs for, a vision of the Messianic age. We’re offered the extended image of “fine oil upon the head,” because it’s how people (and things) were sanctified in Ancient Israel. Aaron may have been the first, but generations of priests and kings were thus consecrated and set apart. This act is where the title of Messiah/Christ* comes from, and it’s why we continue to chrismate people to welcome them into the fullness of the Church. Notice also how the oil is described as running “down” just as the live-giving “dew of Harmon” falls. The repetition of downward movement and use of Harmon should remind us of Amos, including Amos 5:24: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The “good and pleasant” unity that opens the Psalm is the goal, not the means. It names a personal challenge and a cosmic commitment. Just as we go out into the world after services, we are called by the psalmist to go down into the land, our land, and share in making it holy. Only then can we fully claim to be the Body of Christ, ordained by the Lord as “a blessing” that draws all towards “life forevermore.”


*same word, different languages

Meditation - Jim Holmes

The New York Times last week had two articles about religion in America.  One is about the conflict between the Pope and conservative bishops who have seemingly aligned the Roman Catholic Church in this country with evangelical Protestants and with the Republican party.  Conservatives accuse the Pope and his supporters of diluting doctrine and wrecking the Church.  Yet one American cardinal who supports the Pope said, "We should speak in a way that invites people and creates a sense of unity in society," as opposed to stripping the poor of health coverage and giving assent to the gun rights lobby.

The other was an article entitled "Trump Can't save American Christianity."  The author, Rod Dreher, says, "The truth is, Christianity is declining in the United States.  As a theologically conservative believer, I take no pleasure in saying that.  In fact, the waning of Christianity will be not only a catastrophe for the church but also a calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans to not appreciate."  He posits that the faith that American Christians profess is "shockingly thin," meaning that they have strayed from the historical doctrines of biblical Christianity to "feel good, vaguely spiritual nostrums." 

In both articles, there is seen a call by some to return to orthodoxy (right opinion) as a way of strengthening the Church.  Some say that if the Church returns to the beliefs as defined by the early Church, then it will be stronger, and perhaps it will entice people who have left to return and will be more attractive to those with no prior connection.

I myself am not sure that there is any such thing as orthodoxy because the beliefs and teachings of the Church throughout its history have varied greatly.  Yes, there is the Bible, but how we view its words have been and are a cause of division among Christians as well as sign of unity.  Yes, there are the creeds, but the understanding of the creeds varies widely, from those who are literalists faithful to a particular translation to those who see them only as historical documents.  Look at the Athanasian Creed or the Thirty-nine Articles (found in the back of the Book of Common Prayer) to see examples of how understandings change.

I find orthopraxis (right action) a more compelling way to see the strengthening of the Church.  Teaching and modeling Christ by loving, forgiving, extending mercy, feeding, healing are the hallmarks of a Church which I think is faithful to our heritage, and ready to engage the world which we are called to serve.  In the third century the theologian Tertullian described the Christians in Rome by saying, "See, how they love one another."

Let it be said of us that we not only love one another, but that we love our fellow human beings and all of God's creation.

Transfigured - Timothy Sabin

Did you know that for “transfiguration,” you get 19 Scrabble points? Not so much, really. In Scripture, too, the word is not quite the heavy lifter we have been taught to believe. It’s Latin, and means in day-to-day God talk to make a total change of outward form into something more beautiful, or well, more spiritual. A lot of baggage has been brought down to us along with a goodly number of lovely paintings of glowing faces and poor Moses and Elijah perched precariously on one foot each.

Some late-19th Century French painters were despised by the Academy because their oils showed us not a pretty Jesus, but a coarse, working-class laborer. Following their lead, we can speak of seeing the “transfigured” in the face of a mother holding her dying child in Patterson Park, or an old man comforting his starving wife in the desert of Yemen, or a face more vacant than dust of some genderless soul in a Memory Care unit. Our transfigurations nowadays are not for the faint of heart.

The Church keeps the Feast of the Transfiguration this Sunday, on August 6—unless it is being trendy, and postpones it to Epiphanytide. There is a good lesson to be learned in seeing Jesus transfigured on August 6. Let us remember that on that date in 1945, we bombed Hiroshima. In President Truman’s pious ratiocination, we shortened the war. We also shortened the lives of some 150,000 persons at Hiroshima and 75,000 at Nagasaki, conservatively speaking, of course. Also, at least another 60,000 would be dead by year’s end from nuclear poison.

Those who own the faith of Jesus see Him not just in the forced-marches of Japan’s Imperial Army, in the daily horror of their prison camps, in their tortured slaughter at Nanking and Shanghai. The wounded Jesus as transfigured Christ rises through the blood-red sky above imprisonment and mushroom cloud alike.

So then: The real meaning of “transfigure” is found in the Greek: it says that Jesus “μετεμορφωθη” (metamorphoses) and that means “change shape” or if you will allow me, “Jesus changed how he was seen.” Let us change the shape of our lives; let us learn from the horrors done by ourselves and others; let us change how we are seen to the world. As you read these words and as you come to service at Emmanuel, say to those you meet that we do what is our constant work: we bond as one in the breaking of the bread and the prayers, and we offer to those beyond the door to Cathedral and Read that priceless metamorphosis which is our heritage and our glory.

The Feast of the Transfiguration, 2017

City of Losers - Matthew Crenson

Parishioner and vestrymember Dr. Matthew Crenson offers a meditation that, in our opinion, speaks to both our city and this week's New Testament lesson (Rom 8:26-39). Matt's latest book, Baltimore: A Political History, comes out on September 10.

Baltimore. Sitting here on the Eastern Seaboard between stately Washington and cosmopolitan New York, it has been said to resemble the stupid kid assigned by mistake to the advanced class.  Russell Baker called it the city of losers. He grew up in Baltimore, worked as a reporter for the Sun, and then ascended to the New York Times. But Baker thought that there was something to be said for Baltimore’s losers. Living with their city’s shortcomings and embarrassments helped Baltimoreans to develop a realistic acceptance of human failings, moral and otherwise. They recognized that sin was an elemental constituent of the human condition. It followed, wrote Baker, that theirs was a subtle ,“permissive” city, not given to moralistic crusades.    

The Prohibition crusade, for example, made few converts in Baltimore. In a 1916 referendum, almost 75 percent of the city’s voters rejected a proposal that would make Baltimore ‘dry.’ When the nation ratified the 18th Amendment in 1918, a delegation from Baltimore – led by the city’s Republican mayor – stormed Annapolis to demand that the legislature rescind its approval of the Prohibition Amendment and challenge its constitutionality before the Supreme Court. Their appeal failed. Baltimoreans pursued another approach to Prohibition. They ignored it.

In 1922 Prohibition agents raided a moonshine plant on East Pratt Street that produced 300 gallons of liquor a day. It was thought to be the largest bootlegging operation in the United States, until they raided a building on East Street that housed 22 stills and 3500 gallons of mash.  Criminal syndicates of the kind that bloodied Chicago and Detroit never took hold in Baltimore.  Baltimoreans didn’t need much in the way of organized crime to keep them supplied with intoxicating beverages. They excelled at disorganized crime.

For some Baltimoreans – and Marylanders – opposition to Prohibition was a matter of principle, not just thirst.  Governor Albert Ritchie insisted that states’ rights precluded the federal government’s interference with the regulation of alcohol. Mayor Howard Jackson, elected in 1923, was uniquely suited to carry on the resistance to Prohibition. He was a staunch advocate of states’ rights and an alcoholic – a sinner. 

Four years later local and state political bosses decided that Jackson should not run for reelection. His repeated absences from City Hall had interfered with the functioning of government. Baltimoreans drew the line at sin that had serious and harmful consequences for others. But in 1931, Jackson ran once again for mayor.  He had stopped drinking.  Baltimoreans put him back in City Hall. They understood redemption as well as sin.  Jackson gave them four years of sober service.  

Russell Baker noted that Baltimoreans made a distinction between sin and “vice.”  Vice, he said, did serious harm to people other than the sinner.  It was not to be tolerated.  Today Baltimore falters under a burden of hurtful vice.  Some see solutions in harsh penalties or righteous crusades. These are un-Baltimorean responses, not likely to make much headway here. We need to look for practical, proven, and quietly effective approaches that will turn sinners against evil.  Sinners want to know, not only what’s wrong, but what works.

On the Lord's Prayer - Jim Holmes

Dear Friends,

A couple of weeks ago my spouse Tim and a friend were in church.  After the service they reported that they had prayed conflicting Lord's Prayers, one using the "old" Lord's Prayer, the one printed in the service leaflet, and the other using the "new" Lord's Prayer which is found as an alternative in Rite II services.

Having different Lord's Prayers is nothing new.  There are two versions in the Bible.  The one in Matthew is a longer form and was a part of the Sermon on the Mount.  The one in Luke is shorter and is given in response to a request from the disciples to have a prayer that they could say, just at John the Baptist's disciples had a prayer.  Matthew's version concludes with "deliver us from evil" while Luke's ends with "lead us not into temptation."

If we visit a Presbyterian Church we will hear "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" rather than "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  If we visit a place which still uses the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer we will hear "which art in heaven," rather than "who art", "in earth" rather than "on earth" and so on.  If we visit a Roman Catholic church we might note that the doxology (for thine is the kingdom. . . .) is missing, or comes in later.

Far from dividing us in the various translations, however, the Lord's Prayer is something which virtually all Christians throughout the world use as a part of their worship.  And which virtually all Christians use as a part of their personal devotions.  When I visit people with memory issues, even severe ones, the Lord's Prayer is something which most remember even when other memories have vanished.

When you come to Emmanuel I invite you to use the Lord's Prayer which is most comfortable for you.   "Our Father who art in heaven," "Our Father in heaven,"  "Pater noster, qui es in caelis,"  "Πατερ ἡμων ὁ ἐν τοις οὐρανοις,"  "Vater unser im Himmel," "Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos," "Notre Père, qui es aux cieux," "Отче наш, Иже еси на небесех!"

It is the prayer our Savior has taught us, so we continue to pray it regularly as we await the Kingdom for which it asks.