Weekly Notes from Father Brian Murphy


  • may 23, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Blessings for a wonderful week and a powerful beginning to Pentecost.

    This week’s note is a bit of a hodgepodge of important announcement that include:

    • A summer missions trip to Chiquilá, Mexico with Hands Offering Hope. There is an informational meeting scheduled for this Sunday (5.27) after Church.
    • An upcoming Baptismal Service on Saturday, June 16 at 2 pm at the home of Paul and Carol Wolff’s home. Contact Jane if you would like to be baptized and please plan to join us for the service.
    • An opportunity to be confirmed in September when Bishop Steve visits our parish.
    • A schedule for prayer for a permanent place for Apostles.
    • A reminder of our new seating arrangement for Sunday morning services.

    Wow! That’s a lot. Keep reading to get more details about all of these.

    Summer Missions Trip to Chiquilá, Mexico with Hands Offering Hope
    During our visit to Chiquilá, the team will demonstrate the love of Christ by leading high school students in community service, proclaiming the love of Christ by praying for and with kids and through Gospel conversations with students, and preparing for our concluding graduation event on August 11th.
        Fast facts:

    • We are welcoming up to 6 volunteers ages 16 and up to join us for this event. (Attendees below the age of 16 must be accompanied by a family member.)
    • The team will leave on Sunday morning, August 5th.
    • It is a very affordable trip and donations for the trip are tax deductible, making it possible to raise support form your friends, family, and church.
    • Plan to stay after church for a few minutes next week (Sunday, May 27) for an informational meeting about he trip or contact Amy Dominguez (amycaroldominguez@gmail.com)

    Immersion Baptismal Service
    Church of the Apostles will celebrate an immersion baptism on Saturday, June 16 at 2 pm at Paul and Carol Wolff’s home. If you are interested in being baptized, please contact Jane Jackson (jjackson@apostlesct.org). Please plan to join us for the service as we welcome brothers and sisters into the family of God and a deepened faith through baptism.

    Confirmation Service in September
    Bishop Steve will be visiting Church of the Apostles on Sunday September 16 and celebrating on Sunday morning with a Confirmation Service. Through confirmation we receive the laying on of hands from our Bishop and a prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Through confirmation we confirm our baptismal vows. If you were baptized as an infant, this is an opportunity to present yourself publicly and voluntarily, as a follower of Christ in the company of his people, or renew your vows if you were baptized as a believer. If you are interested in being confirmed in September, please contact Jane (jjackson@apostlesct.org).

    A Schedule for Prayer and Fasting for a Permanent Place
    As your friend and pastor I am calling for three days of prayer and fasting during the season of Pentecost on…

    • Wednesday, May 30: Fast one meal for the day and use that time to pray that God will increase our love for Fairfield County and SW Connecticut.
    • Wednesday, June 27: Fast from media all day and pray that through the planning and execution of finding a permanent home, Church of the Apostles becomes unified in our worship, fellowship, and witness.
    • Saturday, July 28: Wake up at 6 a.m. and pray for one hour together as households and ask God to give us a permanent place.

    On Thursday, August 23 at 7:15 at the church offices we will come together and pray for a permanent place.

    A New Seating Arrangement for Sunday Mornings
    Beginning this Sunday morning in an effort to literally bring us closer together, I have instructed the set-up team to rope off the mezzanine section of this room. We will not be sitting in that section of the auditorium any longer. In addition, I am asking that most everyone not sit in the last 4 rows of the room reserving those seats for…

    • those in our community who have a physical condition or health concern that requires them to sit close to the doors,
    • families and caregivers of those whose health requires proximity to the doors,
    • and families with infants and toddlers who need to step to the back of the room on those occasions when proactive parenting requires some space.

    If you were not in church last Sunday you can listen to the sermon here. This will give you more context, vision, and direction for this decision.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • may 9, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Anglican priest and author The Rev. Greg Goebel writes the following:

    Ascension Day is forty days after Easter. After Jesus’ rises again, he spends forty days with the disciples, and then “while he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24).

    Wait, what?

    Imagine the roller coaster ride the disciples went through, from their disappointment at the death of Jesus, to their elation at his resurrection – only to see him ascend and leave.

    Ascension Day helps us live in that moment. Jesus really did leave. In a very important and powerful sense, he is absent.

    Read more from Greg here.

    We hope that you will join us this Thursday at 7:15 pm at the church offices for an Ascension Day Eucharistic celebration.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • May 2, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    The Nicene Creed states, “He ascended into heaven; and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

    Eucharistic Rite II from the Book of Common Prayer states, “We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.”

    Each Sunday we affirm our faith by saying these two statements together. In addition the Church Calendar reserves one Thursday each year (approximately 40 days after Easter) to pause and consider the Ascension, yet many of us have never celebrated the beauty, power, and tension of Christ’s return to the Father.

    Why is the Ascension important enough to Christians that we recognize it each week and reserve a special to day to observe it?

    I invite you to join us on Thursday, May 10 at 7:15 p.m. at the church office to consider and celebrate the Ascension of Jesus Christ with a Eucharistic service. I hope to see you there.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • april 25, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    Recently, I attended the Northeast Regional Retreat for our Diocese, Christ Our Hope at St John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Southampton, PA. Church of the Apostles has a long and sweet relationship with the people of St John’s. In fact, the clergy of St John’s played an important role in the early days of our formation as a community of believers here in Fairfield.

     

    On our church website, on the page “Our Brief History” you can read:

     

    Church of the Apostles began in the late fall of 2001, when a handful of people met together in a living room to consider starting a new church in Fairfield, CT. For the next year and a half, a core team formed and weekly gatherings began. The Lord blessed these early days. He gave us a love for worship, a desire to hear from the Bible, a heart for prayer and mission and being filled by the Holy Spirit to impact the world.

     

    During the time from ‘late fall of 2001’ until we called our first rector, The Rt Rev Thaddeus Barnum, in the spring of 2004, clergy from other Anglican churches in our region came to this ‘handful of people’ to bring us Communion, to preach the Word, and to encourage us. We were a group of lay people gathering weekly for study and prayer, and having clergy come transformed our time into Anglican worship services that fed us, deepened our faith, and began to shape us as an Anglican church. Of all the priests that came to care for us, most of the time it was the clergy from St John’s – Phil Lyman, who was rector at that time, Mark Rudolph, who is rector currently, and Ken Cook, associate rector for 30 years – who drove up many early Sunday mornings to be with us.

     

    As I sat at this retreat listening to Mark and Ken share the history of St John’s as they welcomed us into their church home, the Lord stirred in me an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all that these men had done for us, for Apostles. They gave us their time, treasure, and talent. They were faithful and steadfast brothers in Christ who came alongside us and walked us through those early years. We have been blessed by the Lord through these men and the body of believers at St John’s, who willingly shared their leadership team with us.

     

    Why tell you this part of our history? So that I can tell you this: I had the opportunity to give a report on Church of the Apostles – how we are, what we’re up to in ministry, and what prayer needs we have. Before I did that I first gave thanks. I publicly thanked Phil, Mark, & Ken for what they did for us and how their good care, love and time is bearing good fruit for the kingdom in Fairfield, Connecticut to this day. May we continue to stand strong in the legacy with which we have been gifted, and continue the kingdom work of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.


    Blessings,

    Jan+

  • april 11, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    I want to invite you to subscribe to our Diocesan eNewsletter to hear all the exciting things going on around our Diocese. Below is Bishop Steve Breedlove's Easter letter to us from the April 2 eNewsletter.


    Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!
     
    This week we declare our confidence in the resurrection of Jesus. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins . . . but in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20). The joy of Easter rings in our worship and in our hearts for another year.


    But is this where resurrection confidence ends? No. If Jesus is the firstfruits, then he points toward a full harvest of resurrection. All those who are in Christ are headed for the New Creation where we, too, will be raised from death to life immortal. We look forward to a new, glorified body, fit for eternity, endless beauty, wonder, worship, love, purpose, and joy.
     
    Christ is raised from the dead: we will be raised from the dead. Eternal hope is ours.


    Read the full article here.


    In Peace & Hope,

    Brian+

  • april 4, 2018

    Photo credit: Resurrection by Josef Žáček

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    He is risen!

    As I sit in the quiet of the morning and reflect on Holy Week, the memories of God’s goodness to us are washing over me.

    I was blessed by all the services beginning with Palm Sunday and culminating in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. The greatest blessing is having shared these services with all of you.

    Thank you for all of the hospitality, service, and love that you shared with our guests, our hosts at Stepney Baptist and Calvary Church, and with one another.

    As we look forward to the season of Eastertide, l pray that your faith in the risen Christ will be strengthened, and I encourage us all to engage with the with joy of the resurrection by being together as a church family in worship, discipleship, serving, and playfulness.

    Plan to attend the remaining six Sunday Eucharistic services during Eastertide. We will be considering the light and love of Christ as written in the Epistle of 1 John. Plan to participate in one of the great offerings that are coming up at Apostles. Check out the information on our Home page.

    I look forward to walking in the light and love of resurrection together!

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • march 28, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    Tomorrow and Friday evenings we will join Stepney Baptist Church in Monroe, CT for our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services (7:00pm). Thursday evening will be an evening of readings, songs, foot-washing, and contemplation. We will celebrate the Eucharist together before departing in peace and silence.  Friday evening we will read together The Passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Mark. There will be no Eucharist at this service, and we will again leave in peace and silence.


    It is our prayer that you will fully enter into this sacred time of remembering. Plan on joining us for all the Holy Week events listed below:


    Maundy Thursday. March 29, 7:00pm, Stepney Baptist Church, Monroe
    Good Friday Afternoon. March 30, Noon-3:00pm, Calvary Church, Trumbull
    Good Friday Evening.
    March 30, 7:00pm, Stepney Baptist Church, Monroe

    Holy Saturday Brunch. March 31, 11:00am, Dominguez home, Trumbull

    Easter Sunday. April 1, 10:00am, Roger Ludlowe, Fairfield


    Blessed Holy Week to each of you.


    In Peace & Hope,

    Brian+

  • march 14, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Jeremy Bryan of Christ Redeemer in Milwaukee wrote a piece for the Telos Collective blog entitled, A Tribe Called Rest: A New and Surprising OS for 21st Century Mission where he suggests that resting as a way, not a day, could energize mission and engage our culture.

    Jeremy writes, “As Christians, our lives often mirror our frenetic culture. We are so busy scrambling to do God’s work that we end up  missing opportunities. What if we rediscovered Sabbath as a hallmark of our identity—and one of the most potent counter-cultural forces in our world today?”

    Read more from Jeremy here.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • March 7, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    This past Sunday, Fr. Brian spent some time in the sermon casting vision for Church of the Apostles for 2018 and beyond. As he was discussing Sunday worship, he made this statement: “A place of worship matters to God. The physical place of worship matters to God.”

     

    What came to my mind instantly was the conversation between God and Moses regarding the Tabernacle. That conversation starts in Exodus 25, after telling Moses to gather contributions of gold, silver, bronze, all kinds of cloths, linens, and precious stone, The Lord said this: “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.” And then in the following chapters, as the work begins, the Lord repeatedly says, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” There are exact measurements, exact designs, exact placement of each item - why? Because our God is a holy God who must be approached reverently; because His desire is to be with His people; and because a place of worship matters to God.

     

    Part of the 2018 vision for Apostles will be to develop a plan for a permanent place of worship. In Fairfield County, in Southwest Connecticut, a permanent place of worship demonstrates to the community that we are a church of Jesus Christ that will be here for generations; that you can count on us; that you can trust us; that you can come and worship God with us for years to come.

     

    Step 1 of this plan is to pray. On Tuesday, March 13, we are calling Church of the Apostles to a Day of Prayer, to ask God to give us a permanent place.

     

    Would you pray with us? Come to the Cross with us, come with hands open – laying down worry, laying down selfish ambition, and daring to hope – come and ask: Father God, would you give us a permanent place to worship?

     

    All for His glory,

    Jan+

     

    Listen to Fr. Brian’s message here.

  • february 28, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    “An art work can be a doxology in itself.” (Francis A. Schaeffer, Art & the Bible)

    I am excited to introduce 8 Minutes Max: a casual gathering for artists & makers to present original or classic works-in-progress within eight minutes or less and an opportunity for those of us who value art and beauty to come enjoy original work.


    The goal for 8MM is to give artists and makers a safe space to try out something new even if i is still in progress – a stanza and some ideas for what comes next, a melody that still needs words, a half-completed painting, an unglazed piece of pottery, or a series of photographs still needing touch-up.



    You say you don’t create original work, but interpret the work of the great ones?? You think the world is ready to hear your performance of Debussy, Dante or Dylan?? We'll give you space to share classic as well as original work. (Our definition of “classic” is an art medium that is at least 30 years old.)



    Whether you plan to perform your own creation or the work of another artist, all we ask is that the work is presented in 8 minutes or less.



    Collaborations are encouraged!



    We provide an audience that is for you. You provide the work that still needs to play around a bit before it’s ready to straighten up and fly right.

    The first event will be on Saturday, March 24 6:00p-8:00p. Email Tamara to sign up for a slot. Invite your friends and family to participate or just show up to enjoy the evening. I hope to see you there!

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+


    PS This Sunday is our annual parish meeting. Please plan to join us for both the worship service last 10 a.m. and the meeting to follow.

  • february 14, 2017

    This week’s note is a guest post by Tamara Murphy at A Sacramental Life

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Why Lent?

    No season of the liturgical year has been more formative in my healing journey than Lent.  While, my religious background trained me well in the reality of sin, death, and crucifixion, it did not provide much in the way of liturgical or devotional practices for lament, grief, and confession.

    In my experience, this dissonance between teaching and practice fostered a sentimental approach to Jesus' life, death and resurrection, which produced Christians stunted in their ability to experience or empathize with suffering. In this view, the cross becomes a photo-shopped decoration hanging in the background of a Church resistant to the invitations of the Suffering Servant who longs to save us in our suffering, and make us completely new in resurrection.


    Of course, personal and global suffering permeate every day of our lives in one way or another. We live in a broken body on a broken earth, and the Church calendar doesn't intend for us to ignore the entire spectrum of human suffering and joy based on the liturgical season.  Instead, the cycle of fasting and feasting, celebration and lament provides practice, piece by piece, to form us wholly as Christians.  Through each season, we meditate specific portions of Scripture year after year to learn the whole story of God and His people, and not just the portions with which we are most comfortable.  

    When we celebrate the liturgical seasons, we grow not only in our knowledge of Scripture, but we learn also how to embody its life-giving truth. In the wisdom of our Church fathers and mothers - themselves informed by the collective memory of millenia of Jewish feasts and fasts initiated by the Creator - each liturgical season marks itself with daily, physical practices.  

    We are not disembodied spirits just gritting our teeth until we are released from these bodies, like an unwanted overcoat, when we die.  Nor are we merely defined by the physical matter that just happen to contain a spiritual being for those who care about those things.  In the accounts of the Incarnated Christ we read through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we discover year after year a Christ, God made Man, who is not either body or spirit, but both body and spirit. During Lent, Eastertide and Pentecost, we set up camp for longer periods of time in each essential part of our being: body and spirit.  

    Lent is a 40 day lesson in what it means to be bodies cursed by death and decay.  If you've ever received the cross-shaped ash on your forehead, you've heard the pastoral reminder of a very real, and very sad state in which we find ourselves: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


    From Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, we follow the account of Christ as he makes His way to the Cross. In Epiphany, we encounter the light of divinity dwelling on Christ, inviting us to join Him as the light of the world. In Lent, we recognize and mourn the curse of sin and death that has separated man from God, even as we are invited to carry our cross and follow Christ on the road of suffering.  We grow in humility and gratitude with the Lenten practice of remembering that once we were alienated from God and lived as people with no hope, and we seek mercy for those still living in that state.


    There's so much joy to be found in humility.  If you haven't ever fully entered into the practice of Lent, would you consider joining me this year?  May I encourage you that this doesn't need to be (and probably shouldn't) be complicated.  

    Blessings,
    Tamara

  • february 7, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    Next Wednesday, February 14 is Ash Wednesday. We will gather together at 7p.m. at Roger Ludlowe Middle School to begin the Season of Lent by celebrating the Eucharist and receiving ashes with the words, “From dust you have come and to dust you shall return.”

    Below are two quotes that have helped me contemplate and articulate the importance of Ash Wednesday and Lent. 


    By Tamara Murphy at A Sacramental Life:
    "From Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, we follow the account of Christ as he makes His way to the Cross. We recognize and mourn the curse of sin and death that has separated man from God, even as we are invited to carry our cross and follow Christ on the road of suffering.  We grow in humility and gratitude with the Lenten practice of remembering that once we were alienated from God and lived as people with no hope, and we seek mercy for those still living in that state."

    By The Rev. Lee Nelson at Anglican Pastor:
    "So, it needs to be said that Lent is about dying. But it also needs to be said that Lent is about asking God to bring about new life in us. We are a people who have died with the Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of Baptism and have been raised with him to newness of life. This is not a one-time occurrence, but beginning there – continues through one’s life. When we fast, it is about desires and impulses dying in us, to make room for new life. When we give something up, it is to make room for something else – something better, something good, something life-giving."

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • january 31, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    In November, Bishop Steve wrote a letter to the churches of the Diocese of Christ Our Hope entitled, Compassion, the "Yeah, Duh..." of the Gospel. Like the title, the article is compelling and encouraging.

    Here is an exempt from the article.

    "We are familiar with the dual concepts of grace and mercy. Two facets of God’s love for sinners. Compassion forms a third side of the same heart. The distinction is that compassion always… moves toward. It reaches out to touch. We might be able to say that grace and mercy are dispositions and intentions that “inevitably move toward and touch.” However, biblically we must say that compassion cannot rest in disposition or feeling. It must move toward and actually touch pain, sorrow, and need."

    Click here to read Bishop Steve’s entire article.

    As you are considering compassion would you pause and pray for the Missions Team as we discern God’s vision and values for missions, including compassion ministries, at Apostles. Pray for all the compassion ministries that are currently offered through our church family. Pray that God will energize us all to offer compassion to those we encounter each day in our workplace, schools, homes, and neighborhoods.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • january 24, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

     

    I have this verse painted on a canvas, hanging in my office. The practice of this – being still and knowing – can vary from day to day. Some days it’s taking a deep breath in the midst of a busy/crazy schedule and agreeing with the truth: “That’s right. You are God and I am not. I’m giving you today’s crazy. Surrendering the busy and grateful that you are my God!” And this simple act brings attitude adjustment and focus correction that brings peace in the midst of chaos.

     

    Other days, simply stating and agreeing with this truth is not enough. Some days are so much harder than others. Some days bring physical pain, some days bring sudden loss, and some days bring blind-siding tragedies. One simple deep breath of acknowledgement won’t bring the peace needed to weather life’s storms.

     

    How am I to be still when I’ve lost 2 family members, said goodbye to a beloved pet, narrowly missed being struck by a car sliding on black ice, and saw the possibility of an earthquake-caused tsunami headed toward cities where family members live, all in the last 2 weeks? How can any of us be still in this fallen, sinful world?

     

    Psalm 46 – the whole chapter, not just the well-known verse at the end - offers some help and some hope.


    The chapter begins with: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” It goes on to say “God is in the midst of [his city]; she shall not be moved” and “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts…’Be still, and know that I am God'; The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Read full chapter here.)

     

    We can be still because we know God is our refuge and strength; He is all the help we need when we’re in trouble. Therefore, we will not be afraid when the earth quakes and the tsunamis threaten. He is with us, literally in our midst, and we will not be shaken when governments are in crisis or when nations fall. He is God, and when He speaks not only does creation come into being, but that creation moves and melts at His command. ‘Come, behold the works of the Lord.’ He is in charge of all of it, and He is ours - our God, our refuge, our strength.

     

    The Lord of hosts, the Creator of all that is, seen and unseen – that God, the only true God, is with us.  He knows us intimately, and those that belong to Him can know Him deeply. That’s where the stillness comes from. Our increasing knowledge of the one true God brings an ever-increasing trust in Him. That trust becomes the stillness that keeps our focus on Him and places our faith on solid ground in the midst of any storm.

     

    We can be still because He is God. Alleluia!

     

    Peace and hope,

    Jan+

  • january 10, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    This past Sunday it was my pleasure to announce that our brother and friend, Walter Wittwer, is entering the discernment process to become an ordained deacon in the Anglican Church in North America. For those of us who know Walter, this probably comes as no surprise. He has been ministering to many of us for years.

    One way that Walter serves the Body at Apostles is as a member of our Lay Eucharistic Ministry, taking the Eucharist to those who are hospitalized or shut in and can’t make it to our Sunday celebration.

    Walter has written a beautiful mediation on his experience with the Eucharist. Below is an excerpt.

    When we share in the Body of Christ, we get near each other (or at least we should). One person hands the Bread to another, probably touching. The two are close enough at that point that they are probably breathing some of each other's air, they may even be smelling each other. One is feeding the other. This is an intimate exchange. It tends to be quick, we don't want to overdo closeness but God draws us near to each other. To be near to God we must be near to each other.

    When we then bring some of that Bread to someone in the hospital or at home, we bring not only the Bread of Life but also the Body of the church, the Body of Christ to that person and in so doing, we connect each to each other and the Body is fulfilled. The sharing in His Body brings us again into the marriage chamber and we are again one Body.

    There is a transaction in the Eucharist, between God and I and you and me. Something happens that is monumental. There is thunder from Heaven, the thunder of the Trinity rejoicing and the angels dancing."

    Read Walter’s full meditation on his blog.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • January 3, 2018

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Merry Christmas (yes, it is still Christmas for a couple of more days) and Happy New Year!

    Three quick things.

    One, the season of Epiphany begins this Saturday, January 6.

    Emmanuel changed everything about reality. Like the wise men who traveled to visit the King, we all must pause and consider who Jesus Christ is and whether or not to embrace him as Savior and Lord. Those of us who embrace Jesus as King are then invited to respond by conforming our lives to his way and inviting others to embrace him.

    Epiphany is the season when we consider the Light of Christ and His new reality.

    Two, please take a moment to review the procedure for nominating candidates for the Parish Council here. We need three candidates to fill three 3-year terms. Nominations are due to Don Barton, our Treasurer, by Sunday, January 21.

    Three, if you have not already done so, please prayerfully consider your financial pledge to Church of the Apostles for 2018 and drop you pledge card in the offering basket this Sunday. You may also mail the card to the church office.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • december 27, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Merry Christmas!

    This Sunday morning, we will come together to celebrate with a service of Lessons and Carols. This service helps us recall our great need, God’s great provision, and our current hope by taking us through nine scripture readings and nine hymns that tell the story of our redemption – past, present, and future.

    The service has been adapted from an order first used in 1880 by E. W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury. He first celebrated the service of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve in a wooden shed, which stood as his cathedral in Truro, England.
     
    From then the liturgy was adapted for further use on Christmas Eve and in Christmastide services. It gained momentum in 1928 when the Festival of Lessons and Carols was broadcast from Kings College Chapel at Cambridge University.
     
    I have heard this service described as “the last breath of Christmas.” I like the picture of us taking a deep, grateful breath together and exhaling songs of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. The liturgy of Lessons and Carols also offers us a time to stay fully engaged with the Feast of the Incarnation through the reading of God’s Word and the celebration of the Eucharist.
     
    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • december 20,2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    This is the shortest Advent season. This year Advent is 22 days long, which means that we really do not have a fourth week of Advent but just one day.

    This Sunday morning we will spend a few minutes fully engaging with the fourth Sunday in Advent through the liturgy of Morning Prayer. This will be a unique service and a great way to close out Advent.

    We will be using the Book of Common Prayer during the service, turning pages and finding our way through the the liturgy together. Several copies of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer will be available to share, but if you have your own copy, please bring it. (Be sure that it is a 1979 version, so that the page numbers match.)

    We will meet in the cafeteria instead of the auditorium at Roger Ludlowe Middle School. The service will begin at 10 am, worship for about an hour, a simple coffee time will follow, and nursery care for kids 4 and under is available. We will wait to celebrate the Eucharist at the 4 pm Christmas Eve service.

    This elegant Advent Morning Prayer service is a blessed way to to conclude Advent before preparing the Christmas goose and Figgy pudding. (I’ve suddenly fallen into a Dickens’ story.)

    I hope that you will join us at 10 am for the fourth Sunday of Advent as we look forward to beginning our Christmas celebrations at 4 pm with Christmas Eve Eucharistic Celebration.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • december 13, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    This past Sunday, during the 10 am service, Donna and Jen played an instrumental version of one of my favorite songs for Advent and Christmas.

    In the Bleak Midwinter is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti. The poem first appeared set to music in The English Hymnal in 1906 with a setting by Gustav Holst.

    I am moved by the song and poem because it captures the beauty, tension, glory, and humility surrounding the coming of our Lord.

    You can enjoy each by clicking on the links above.


    Peace & Hope,

    Brian+

  • december 6, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Advent is the Church season when we as Christians pause to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord as a baby in Bethlehem and actively anticipate his triumphant return. The hymns, Scripture readings, art, and meditations of this season invite us to enter into the tension between two Advents, the first when Christ came to inaugurate His Kingdom and the second Advent when Christ will come to consummate His Kingdom in the final act of making all things new.

    This week I offer several resources to help us enter into the blessed season of Advent.


    Advent Daybook, by Tamara Murphy: This daily, digital offering is my favorite Advent devotional resource, not only because it is curated by my favorite person, but because it offers us a unique way to look, listen, read, meditate, and act during the Advent season. One can dive deeply into the material, meditating on the Scripture and contemplating the art. Our family uses the Advent Daybook as a daily compline each evening. Taking about 30 minutes to think on the blessings of Emmanuel before we sleep.

    Parish Quiet Day: Author and professor Susan Muto writes, “In a noise-polluted world, it is hard to even hear ourselves think. Yet it seems essential for our spiritual life to seek some silence, no matter how busy we may be. Silence is… to be befriended as fertile ground for intimacy with God.” This Saturday morning, December 9, from 9 am - noon (more details here) we will pause together in silence, meditate on God’s Scripture, contemplate His goodness, listen for His direction, enjoy His beauty, and communicate with Him in prayer. I hope you will join us for a few minutes or a few hours.

    The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming, by Wendy M. Wright: This little book offers reflections on Advent (Waiting), Christmas (The Coming), and Epiphany (Living the Season). Wright invites readers into the promise, preparation, rejoicing, and wonder between the two Advents.

    I am praying for a blessed Advent for each of you.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • november 29 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

     

    I have two things to share with you in today. First, I want you to know that the videos from Gordon Smith’s plenary messages at the Clergy/Lay Development Day, which preceded Synod 2017, have been posted to the Diocese of Christ Our Hope website, www.adhope.org.


    Bishop Steve reflected on these in the following statement: “All of us who were there were moved and strengthened by Gordon’s insights into the work of discipleship in a secular society. We were encouraged by his call to move across generations to mentor those who will carry the faith into the future. This call to intentional discipleship will shape our work as a Diocese for 2018 and beyond. We can no longer hope or expect our children and youth to “osmose” into coherent, lifelong Christian faith. Without a well-grounded faith, our proclamation of the Gospel sputters into silence. As a Diocesan staff team, we are convinced that multigenerational discipleship in each local church is imperative, and that it must become our very best work of ministry – well-conceived, creative, and winsomely delivered. If you are a layperson or clergy serving in the Diocese of Christ our Hope, you simply must listen to these timely, powerful messages.”

     

    Second, I want to share some thoughts on the sermon from this past Sunday, 11/26/17. It was the final installment in our 5-part series on Values – Reach.


    This past Sunday was Christ the King Sunday in our liturgical calendar, marking the end of Ordinary Time that we have been in since Pentecost. Christ the King Sunday lets us pause and reflect on the characteristics of our God and King, Jesus Christ before we move into Advent, the season of expectation and wonder in His kingdom coming to earth. In pausing, we can ask Him to reveal the areas or ways in which we have stepped outside His kingdom governance and protection. Why is it important to stop and ask? Because we are prone to wander – outside of His will for us, outside of His perfect plan for creation, outside of His good governance of those He has saved and gathered to Himself. Brian exhorted us to a right view of our King that is found in Ezekiel 34. “Our King helps. Our King seeks. Our King heals. Our King restores…without the correct view of our King’s character, all attempts at reaching those far from God or who have never entered a relationship with Jesus, will fall short of the Great Commission.” When we are a people fully submitted to Him, we get to join Him in helping, seeking, healing, and restoring. Submitting to Christ as King, Judge & Governor fills us with confidence, motivation, and energy to join Him in His work of reaching the lost.

     

    With His Kingship and His Kingdom on our minds, we turn to Advent (“coming” in Latin) – a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Celebration and remembrance of His breaking into history by coming as a child: Emmanuel, “God with us”. Preparation as we await His second coming in glory as Judge and King.


    Peace,

    Jan+

  • november 23, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Giving thanks is essential for restoration.

    Tamara’s family (32 people and growing) has taken an annual week-long vacation for years. We travel to a beautiful location (usually on one of the Finger Lakes in Central New York), spend the week swimming, eating, resting, reading, and… did I mention eating? We are so excited for the the time together each summer that we usually start making plans around this time of year for our next Hill Family Vacation. 

    At one of our first Hill family Vacations my father-in-law introduced us to the Hebrew Passover song entitled Dayenu as a way of rehearsing God’s goodness.

    The word Dayenu is roughly translated into English as “it would have been enough”. The song is used at the Passover Seder to give thanks to God for delivering His people out of Egypt. Two verses sing God’s praises this way, “If He had supplied our needs in the dessert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna - Dayenu (it would have been enough).” “If he had fed us the manna, and had not given us Shabbat - Dayenu.” And so on.

    The Hill Family so enjoys our vacations together that, as the week winds down and the sadness of being apart for most of the year looms, critical spirits begin to manifest in statements like “If only the weather had been better”; “if only there weren’t so many bugs”; “If only we had more time”. 

    Toward the end of the week Dad often invites us into giving thanks by singing our own Hill Family version of Dayenu. “If He brought us all together, and didn’t create this beautiful place to enjoy - Dayenu (it would have been enough).” “If He created this beautiful place, and didn't give us all the food that we enjoyed - Dayenu.” And so on.

    The rehearsing of God’s goodness leads to thankful hearts, thankful hearts lead to renewing rest and refreshed relationships. In short, giving thanks leads to restoration.

    It is my hope and prayer that your Thanksgiving is full of rehearsing God’s goodness with friends and family. I pray that the restoration of rest, rhythm, and relationships will be realized.

    God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Brian+

  • november 15, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Church of the Apostles is a regional church. We have many parishioners who travel 30 minutes, some who drive 45 minutes, and a few who travel greater distances to join us for the Sunday Eucharistic Celebration.

    The Eucharistic celebration must be part of our regular rhythm for us to be ever transformed into worshippers of Christ, engage in mission, and be equipped as Christ followers. In addition the Eucharistic service is essential for our relationships with Christ and with the Body of Christ.

    These realities have led me to deep prayer about how we can make the Eucharistic celebration more accessible to those of our parishioners who live some distance away. Therefore, beginning on December 10, we will be holding a once-a-month, Sunday afternoon Eucharistic worship service in Newtown, CT.


    Details:

    • We will meet every week as we have been at 10 a.m. at Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield.
    • From January - June, 2018 our afternoon service will meet on the 3rd Sunday of each month at 4 p.m. in Newtown at the Newtown Meeting House.
    • This is a Eucharistic Celebration with the full liturgy, worship music, and sermon used in the 10 a.m. service at Ludlowe Middle School.
    • We are committed to meet for the liturgical year - seven times beginning on Advent 2 and going through the 3rd Sunday in June (Pentecost).
    • Childcare will be provided at the 4 p.m. service.

    What should I expect at the second service?

    • Think of it this way: some churches have two morning services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., for example. On the third Sunday of every month Church of the Apostles is going to have two Eucharistic services at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Both services will be as identical as we can make them: same preacher, same sermon, same Eucharistic prayer, same elements, and as much as possible same worship songs and styles.
    • We will offer childcare through grade 4 at the 4 p.m. service.
    • We will have a simple meal and fellowship after the 4 p.m. service.
    • Because this is the same service at 10 a.m and 4 p.m., anyone is welcome to worship with us at either service. If you live in Fairfield or the areas around it, and your Sunday rhythm is better served by attending the 4 p.m. service in Newtown, join us. We’d love to have you!

    Why Newtown?

    • This is where we have the largest concentration of people who call or would like to call Apostles their home church but for whom regular attendance is made difficult because of distance.
    • Through prayer, conversations, and planning the Holy Spirit laid the groundwork for this initiative.

    What is the motivation?

    • Love. We love our friends who live far away and we want to make it a little easier for them to join us for Eucharistic service.
    • Some years ago Church of the Apostles attempted to plant a church in this part of Connecticut. We bless and honor that attempt, but this is in no way a return to that strategy. There is no intention or plan at this time for this second service to become a church-plant.

    Are there plans to extend this service past next June?
    Three factors will need to be apparent in order for us to extend the one-time per month afternoon service past June.
         1. Regular and sustained participation - attendance, service, and

             enthusiastic worship - in Newtown by those who it is designed to

             serve.
         2. Commitment by those who attend the service to join us here in Fairfield

             for worship the other weeks of the month as much as they are able. I

             have no interest in anyone attending church one time per month.
         3. A commitment to reach out to others in Newtown and the surrounding

             area.


    What can we all do to help support this effort?

    • Pray. Pray for energy and creativity for me and the staff as we get this launched and off the ground. Pray that people who it is designed to serve will be encouraged and feel honored and loved. Pray for participation, attendance, outreach to begin and grow. Pray that the churches and community of Newtown will be blessed by our worship and outreach.
    • I am asking everyone who considers Church of the Apostles their home church to attend one of the services on December 10 and then one of the services on the 3rd Sunday of each month January - June. I am aware that, when we take a few families out of the service in Fairfield and move them to the second service in Newtown, the room and service could feel a little empty. That won’t be true if we all commit to one another to be together and to attend one of the Eucharistic services one time per month.

    I look forward to this new initiative and all that God has for Church of the Apostles in the future.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • november 8, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    The Boys In The Boat is a biography about the United States rowing crew that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Repeatedly, the reader is told that rhythm is the key to victory. Crews that achieve rhythm have the experience of flying rather than rowing. Crews that do not achieve rhythm are in conflict with the water and with the movements of their teammates.

    When a crew settles into a near perfect rowing rhythm, it is referred to as “swing”. George Pocock, one of the architects of the 1936 Olympic crew, wrote about the experience of settling into a "swing" with fellow oarsmen or oarswomen.

    “When you get the rhythm in an eight [person crew], it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes - that “swing” as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came in an eight; it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”

    The discipline of simplicity helps us achieve divine rhythm, or swing if you will, in our lives. One way to assess areas of our lives to be simplified is through a Puritan prayer practice called preview and review.

    First, we preview the day’s calendar in prayer and surrender all our plans to the Lord. Then, we review our day before falling asleep, noting the highlights and disappointments. In both preview and review we assess those things that God may be asking us to simplify or eliminate in order to join His rhythm for our lives.

    This is an excellent start, but like in crew, rhythm is seldom (if ever) achievable for Christians apart from relationship in Christ with one another.

    Joe, a main character in The Boys In The Boat, struggles throughout his life with loneliness due to being abandoned by his family at a young age. I could not hold back my tears while reading about how Joe finally found a home with the other boys and how these loving, honest friendships helped the entire crew settle into a rhythm both on and off the water.

    In the week to come, we will be engaging with the value of Relationship as we continue in our five-week values series.

    I look forward to Sunday!

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • november 1, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Over the next several weeks we will be considering five values that God is calling us to embrace in our worship, disciple making, and equipping of the saints in order to exalt his name, see his Kingdom proclaimed, and become a body of believers that live with one another as Christ intends.

    These five values are Rest, Rhythm, Relationship, Restoration, and Reach.

    Last Sunday we began with the value of Rest. (Listen to Sunday’s sermon here.)

    Resting is like saying a Holy ‘yes’ to Yahweh. It sets our identity fully in Christ. When we enter into God’s rest we are able to trade anxiety for peace, fear for confidence, and despair for hope.

    Below are three resources that will help us as we pursue God’s rest. I have also included one request.

    Christ reminds us as we practice rest that our identity if secure in Him and not in any other false gods or idols.In his book The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith asks us to reflect on ten Scripture passages as we practice stillness with God.

    The Rest of God, a book by Mark Buchanan, explores "the rest God bestows and, with it, that part of Himself we can know only through stillness." There is wisdom in God's own rhythm and rest - liberation-to heal, to feed, to rescue, to celebrate, to lavish and relish life abundant.

    Tamara has curated a playlist on Spotify simply entitled Rest. I have enjoyed listening to this throughout the day and in the evening as I practice rest.

    I would love to hear your stories about engaging in ten minutes of stillness each day. Will you send me a quick email (bmurphy@apostlesct.org) and tell me how the practice of stillness impacted you this week? Here a few questions that may help you form your story. How did God meet you? What were the challenges of being still? How were you encouraged? How were you discouraged? Will you continue in the discipline? Why?

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

    P.S. This coming Sunday we will engage with the value of Rhythm. See you at 10 a.m. at Roger Ludlowe Middle School.

  • october 25, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    This week's note is a guest post from Jan Buchanan.


    This Sunday, October 29 is Service Sunday for our Children's Ministry. Each class will be collecting NEW socks for children, women, and men in need in the Greater Bridgeport area. Socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at shelters across the country. There are several reasons why new socks are desperately needed:

    • People very rarely donate new socks. Most people donate worn out clothes to a good cause, but usually throw out old socks. A person asking for new clothes at a shelter will normally get everything - except new socks.
    • Numerous health problems can result from uncovered and unprotected feet: frostbite, athletes foot, blisters, and nail fungus - just to name a few! Socks provide a layer of warmth, decrease friction between shoes and the foot, and provide protection from dirt and infections.

    This is a very practical way to serve our local community with the love of Christ. We are inviting the whole congregation to join the children in this service project. Please bring NEW socks - one pair or a whole bunch - to church this Sunday morning. There will be collection boxes in the lobby and in the classrooms. The socks will be brought to the cross and prayed over before the end of worship. May the Lord bless and keep all those who will receive them. 

     

    Blessings,
    Jan+

  • october 18, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    Our diocesan newsletter, Anchor Lines, has published the next in a series of blog posts that expound on each of the values for the Diocese of Christ Our Hope. The Rev'd Canon Alan Hawkins, Canon Missioner wrote on our eighth value as a diocese - Hospitality. I encourage you to read Alan's reflection here.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • october 11, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    On Sunday, October 22 we will have the opportunity to hear how God is calling people to himself throughout the world. Ivan (center in the photo above) and Felicita Sikha will be visiting Apostles in two Sundays and sharing stories of God’s grace and faithfulness in India.

    After working for many years in Cru Ivan and Felicita decided to work among unreached people groups in India. These are groups of people who do not have a Bible in their own language, nor do they have any Christians to witness to them.

    In the last few years the Lord has planted churches among 7 of these groups through the Sikah’s ministry. In one group called the "Bagdi" there are now almost 90 house churches with about 2000 new believers. There are about 60 house Churches in the other groups.

    The Sikah’s find and train leaders who know the language. These leaders then go in and plant Churches. They also provide job skills for those who have come to Christ, so they can earn a living and support their families.

    We will have two opportunities to interact with Ivan and Felicita while they are here in southwestern Connecticut. Come and join us at 8:45 a.m. in the lobby area (where we usually have Sunday morning Life Group) at Rodger Ludlowe. Ivan will be preaching in the Eucharistic service at 10 a.m. Please plan to join us for one or both of these times.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • October 4, 2017


    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    Today we continue to pray for the families of those killed and wounded in Las Vegas on Sunday night. We pray for strength for those serving through medicine, counseling, and investigation. We pray for the churches in Las Vegas to be guided by God as they offer Shalom. We join all in their grief and lament.

    It seems that we are bombarded daily with news of disaster, tragedy, and division that cause fear, anger, and confusion to rise up in many of our spirits.

    When I first heard the news, my thoughts turned to blame and judgement with a strong desire to detach from the story all together, to just pretend it wasn’t happening. Mercifully, God met me in my distress and quieted my spirit. He invited me to put down my fleshly reactions, encouraged me to relinquish all my attempts to sooth my own soul, and welcomed me to engage with him through prayer.

    My prayer is best articulated in the cry, “Abba Father”.

    On the night before he was to face his crucifixion, Jesus was “greatly distressed and troubled”. He said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” Then Jesus prayed the same simple prayer, “Abba Father, all things are possible for you.” (Mark 14)

    To be the people of Shalom in times of distress, turmoil, disaster, tragedy, and division we must first cry out in trust to our Abba Father. Trust that He is in control. Trust that He is our deliverer and strength. Trust that He will guide or words and actions. It is then that we can join Jesus in the confident hope expressed by the words, “not what I will, but what You will.”

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • september 27, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    Bishop Steve Breedlove will be with us this Sunday, October 1. In our Anglican tradition, the annual visit from the Bishop is a time for us to spend with our Spiritual Leader and to hear news from around our Diocese. It is also a time for Confirmations, for those who have been made ready. Please join us for this important weekend. 

     

    Here are the details for our time with the Bishop:

    • Sunday,8:45 a.m. Bp Steve will be sharing his heart and news from around the Diocese. All are welcome. Roger Ludlowe M.S. Lobby
    • Sunday, 10:00 a.m. Eucharistic Service with Confirmations. Roger Ludlowe M. S. Auditorium
    • Sunday, immediately following our worship service. Roger Ludlowe M.S. Cafeteria
    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • september 20, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,


    Our diocesan newsletter, Anchor Lines, has published the next in a series of blog posts that expound on each of the values for the Diocese of Christ Our Hope. The Rev'd Canon Arthur Going, Canon for Leadership Development wrote on our seventh value as a diocese - Formation. I encourage you to read Art's reflection here.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+

  • SEPTEMBER 13, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

     

    As the fall schedule heats up for all of us, I would like to draw your attention to two events coming up at Church of the Apostles: Compline and a visit from Bishop Steve.


    In our world of seemingly constant noise and distraction, entering into silence and contemplation can be difficult. Compline is a prayer service where we accept the generous invitation to “be still and know that I am God”. The service begins and ends in silence. Prayer is led through Scripture readings and the Compline liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer. There is no Eucharist or sermon. We begin the service around sunset, and the room is lit with soft light and candles. Church of the Apostles will be gathering at the church offices on Thursday, September 21 at 7:15 p.m. for our second Compline of the fall.

     

    In the Anglican tradition the annual visit from the Bishop is time for us to spend with our Spiritual Leader and hear news from around our diocese. Bishop Steve and Sally will be visiting on the weekend of October 1. Here are a few dates and times that we can spend time with our Bishop and his wife:

    • Saturday, September 30 Ladies Tea with Sally Breedlove. 2 p.m. Location TBD.
    • Sunday, October 1 BP Steve will be sharing his heart and news from around the Diocese. All are welcome. 8:45 a.m. at Rodger Ludlow.
    • Sunday, October 1 Eucharistic Service with Confirmations. 10 a.m. at Rodger Ludlow.
    • Sunday, October 1 Family Table following the service.

    More details about the Bishop’s visit will follow. I hope that you can join us for both Compline and spending time with BP Steve and Sally.

     

    Peace and Hope,

    Brian+

  • September 6, 2017

    Dear Church of the Apostles,

    On Sunday, October 1 Bishop Steve Breedlove will be celebrating with us using a Liturgy for Confirmation. This Eucharistic celebration is full of grace and glory.

    According to the Book of Common Prayer, Confirmation is “a public affirmation of faith and commitment to the responsibilities of Baptism in the presence of a Bishop and the laying on of hands”. The preface for the service states, “In Confirmation, God, through the bishop’s prayer for daily increase in the Holy Spirit, strengthens the believer for Christian life in the service of Christ and his kingdom. Grace is God’s gift, and we pray that he will pour out his Holy Spirit on those who have already been made his children by adoption and grace in Baptism.”

    Two people close to me have written pieces on Confirmation that I commend to those who would like to know more about or are considering Confirmation. Tamara has written a personal reflection about her Confirmation experience. My former Rector, Cliff Warner, has written a piece entitled On Being Anglican.

    If you would like to be confirmed when Bishop Steve is here, please, contact Jane in the office by September 18.

    Peace and Hope,
    Brian+