In this issue I offer an annotated calendar for adult spiritual formation at St John’s. Please see our e-communications and our worship bulletins for up-to-date information on meeting times and locations. You are encouraged to print and save this column!
We opened the season of Epiphany (this year, Jan 6th through Mar 3rd) by gathering to talk about our theophanies or “God encounters”. If you missed those gatherings—on Jan 13th and 20th—you can read about theophanies in the January 8th issue of The Rector’s Pen, and you can ponder some of the same questions our small group did. One of the blessings of these two gatherings was the opportunity for people to hear they are not alone, that their encounters with the divine are gifts God has given to others as well. Another blessing was that hearing the stories of how God manifests in a human life was a reminder to all present of the nearness of God and God’s abiding interest in our thoughts, words, struggles, and decisions.
Coming up next on Feb 17th is a talk by Chris Nelson, Executive Director of Attention Homes. This is the non-profit that—together with First United Methodist Church—is building and operating the Pine Street Housing Project that is being built across the street from St John’s. By the end of 2019, the project will house forty at-risk youth and young adults. These are kids who have been estranged from their families and who have been living on the margins, or homeless. Chris will tell us about how the residents will be chosen, what expectations will be placed on them, how they will be mentored and supported, how the project hopes to connect with the Pine Street neighborhood, and what opportunities there may be for St John’s parishioners to participate in community building and ministry with our new neighbors. I encourage everyone to attend this talk, which will include time for Q&A.
On Feb 24th I’ll lead a workshop on “Discernment, Decision making, and the Brain” based on the theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In the 20th century, de Chardin was one of the first to combine theology with evolutionary science, transforming how Christians approached spirituality. Brain science informs spiritual practice in this workshop, drawn from the book "The New Spiritual Exercises" by Louis M. Savary. In this workshop we’ll try praying and focusing on four different parts of our brains as we do the work of decision making. Participants may wish to bring to this workshop a decision you’ve been wrestling with so you can try out this process on a real-life issue.
On Mar 3rd we welcome parishioner and CU Assistant Professor, Religious Studies and Jewish Studies Dr. Samuel L. Boyd, who will present “Reading John, the Spiritual Gospel”. Sam will offer an overview of some of the major issues that face scholarship when reading and trying to make sense of the text of the gospel, its history, etc. He'll also touch on some of the more difficult parts of the book, particularly the issue of Judaism and how it’s presented in John. There will be plenty of time for Q&A.
Sam is a scholar of biblical texts and the ancient Near East. He researches the Bible through various critical methods and in light of wider historical contexts to understand both the production of these documents as well as their history of interpretation. His particular areas of research include the development of the Pentateuch (or first five books of the Hebrew Bible), legal hermeneutics in the ancient Near East, language ideology in the ancient world, and ritual theory applied to biblical texts. He also has interests in archaeology, Semitic philology and linguistics, and Late Antiquity (Rabbinic biblical interpretation, Ethiopic Christianity, and the advent of Islam).
Sam’s enthusiasm for his field is infectious, and last year when he spoke to our Wednesday Morning Bible Study group on the Dead Sea Scrolls, he captured the imagination and affection of all present!
St John’s Lenten Series this year will focus on “Creation Care for People of Faith”. We all know we should care for our environment because Holy Scripture calls us to be stewards of the earth God has entrusted to us, but many of us don’t know what good work is already being done—work that we can support and participate in. This series will offer participants practical ways you can make changes in your daily lives to better support and nurture our eco-system, and will ground these suggestions in the theology and practice of the Episcopal Church.
The series opens on March 10th with a talk on “The Episcopal Church and Creation Care” that I presented last fall at a conference at Utah State University titled “God and Smog”. In preparing this talk I was asked what my faith tradition does to care for the earth, and I was also asked what gets in the way of doing that. The talk addresses these questions in a general way, and then gets quite specific, pointing to the various resolutions that the Episcopal Church has passed at its recent General Conventions. I was surprised to learn about some of them and think you will be too! There will be time for Q&A following the talk.
On Mar 17th, 24th, and 31st we will feature three guest speakers. I am working to engage the following folks:
Dr. Michael SanClements, who “holds a PhD in the Environmental Sciences and is a scientist at the National Ecological Observatory Network and an affiliate faculty member of the University of Colorado Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. As an ecologist, his research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and he has presented at dozens of international conferences on the environmental sciences. Mike's writing and photography have also appeared in The New York Times, Backpacker Magazine, and on Grist.org. His research and fondness for travel have carried him to all seven continents, including two prolonged stints in Antarctica.”
“In his book, Plastic Purge, Mike takes on one of the most damaging and beneficial substances in modern life--"plastic". Using scientifically rigorous sources and a witty engaging tone, SanClements teaches us how to use less plastic, eat better, keep dangerous toxins out of our bodies, and reduce pollution.” 
Neal Lurie, President of Resource Central in Boulder has also been invited to speak.  Formerly known as the Center for ReSource Conservation, Neal and his staff and volunteers have worked since 1976 to educate people about water and energy conservation and waste reduction. You’ll learn about water-smart gardening, lawn care, and water-smart household use, among other things. We’ll offer a handout that highlights the role and importance of water in Holy Scripture as well, so conserving water in our homes and businesses becomes something of a sacrament.
Suzanne Jones, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, rounds out our guest speaker list.  Eco-Cycle is one of the largest non-profit recyclers in the USA and has an international reputation as a pioneer and innovator in resource conservation. They were established in 1976 by everyday residents who had a passionate belief in conserving our natural resources. These Eco-Cycle volunteers brought recycling to town in 1976, making Boulder one of the first 20 communities in the U.S. to offer curbside recycling. The organization continues to be driven by these same passions and innovative actions. The vision of Eco-cycle is to move people, businesses, and communities toward a zero waste goal, through recycling, re-use, and composting.
During Lent (the weeks of Mar 12th through Apr 12th) four issues of The Rector’s Pen will engage the book “Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation” by John Philip Newell. Each week I’ll cover two chapters of the book, and will pose questions for you to consider. On April 7th, we’ll gather in small groups to discuss those questions. You’re encouraged to purchase and read the book, but doing so is not a prerequisite to participating in this final Lenten forum.
This book study will help prepare us for the second weekend in May (May 10th through 12th) when John Philip Newell himself will be our guest speaker. Newell is a minister, author, and internationally acclaimed scholar of Celtic spirituality. Details of his visit are still being finalized. We plan to welcome him on Friday evening May 10th with a reception, following which he’ll give his first talk. He’ll speak again on Saturday May 11th, and we plan a luncheon. There will be a modest cost for the two days, the proceeds of which will support the Colorado School of Celtic Consciousness. On Sunday May 12th, Newell has been invited to join our Solas Celtic Gathering.
For now, save the dates for these terrific offerings, and be sure to check our e-communications and bulletin announcements for details as dates draw near.