Dear God, we pray that you help us to open our minds, our hearts, and our souls to your spirit, presence, purpose and Love in our lives and in the lives of others.
For those of you who do not know me, I am Raymond Dewey and I am here this morning to share with you some of the ways, in which, Saint Philip’s (God included) has touched, challenged, changed and maybe even if I really admit it, transformed my life.
My wife Linda and I first came to Tucson in the early spring of 2006 to visit with my sister Doris and my brother-in-law Court.
For years my sister had been trying to get us to come visit, but knowledgeable and experienced world traveler that I am, I was not particularly interested or excited about visiting any one who lived in the hot, dry, dusty, dirty, god forsaken, empty and dead desert.
You see, I know - I’ve flown over the area probably a 100 times on my way from NY to LA and back.
7 miles up –you get a really good and comprehensive bird's eye view.
There's not much smog and air pollution, like they have in LA, NY & NJ,
So, it’s easy to see - It’s a waste land, no trees, sparse, empty land as far as the eye can see, no water any where, though you can see where it once was – dried up stream and river beds, but now it’s just a bunch of dirt with some mule trails and bushes on it.
What could be better than Boston with all its history and culture, The Boston Symphony, the Handel Hayden Society, Italian restaurants in the North end, the Celtics, Socks and Pats.
Not to mention, the frosting on the cake, Cape Cod in the summer with its blue sky,
Salt air, and Sailing on Nantucket sound.
But, it was a bit cold, damp, foggy and dreary on the Cape, --- we hadn’t seen sun for weeks, snow and ice were on the ground and my sister promised that there would be warmth, sun shine, a Tucson blue sky and a night sky the likes of which I had probably never seen.
So out we came.
Welcome to AZ - , would you believe, our first experience was me being arrested, for the first time ever, for speeding in of all places “Dewey” Az. What kind of a welcome was this to the second to last state on the main land that I had yet to visit.
God help me to open my mind.
Being good Episcopalians, we do go to church when ever we can. My sister told us about this really big Episcopal Church way over (a 30 minute drive) on the fancy east side of town ---in the foothills. They were even so fancy, they served breakfast!!!! And, it would be a pretty ride because we could go over through Gates Pass.
Well, I’ve been in big churches before, and I can tell you from experience, they are institutional, staid, noisy, drafty, to cold or to hot, and they smell damp. The people are stuffy, not friendly and the clergy busy and remote. The churches are so large that they are seldom full. The Choir and organ music reverberate un-evenly off the tall walls and stained glass windows. Coffee hours usually consist of forced sincerity and generally there is not much else interesting going on.
I am use to small churches – 100 or less – everybody knows every one, though they don’t always like each other – the organ is often out of tune - and – played by trained pianists who are not the best with stops and pedals – They botch Bach and stumble over Mozart, but they do, do the best they can. – There are usually a couple of people in the choir - sometimes more than in the pews. And, you can count on an outstanding soprano, if you catch the tone of what I mean.
The good thing is, there is only one rector, they know your name, and you can get to know them, but, the same old, same old from the pulpit can get a little old over the years.
And the People – died in the wool locals – some go back generations and they do have their seats and – God help the new person that comes in and sits in the wrong place.
The libraries – couple of rag torn volumes - limited pretty much in topic – seldom in any kind of order. Once in a while there is even a bible study group – but it’s usually limited in attendance and by the skill set of the teacher or time of offering.
That’s what small church life was like in CT and on the Cape.
Breakfast, however, being a new experience, did sound interesting so we decided to go.
God, help me to open my mind and heart
Doris called, very bad news, no breakfast this Sunday – but we are going anyway. Boy am I disappointed – I just love bacon and eggs.
OASIS IN THE DESERT
Our First Sunday at Saint Philip’s was A First Sunday at Saint Philip’s
And, you might say an opening day--- transforming --- game changer for us.
To start with, I heard Dr. Jeffery Campbell play music that would please the great composers, Johan Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I often tell him now; they are well pleased and smiling at him from above.
Thank you Jeffery for sharing your God given Talent with us it is truly a Blessing.
I heard Garmon Ashby direct a choir, in tune, on note, on time with music appropriate for the service. The soloists and choir are as good as ones I have heard at the MET, Carnegie Hall, Westminster Abby, Canterbury Cathedral and St. John the Devine.
Thank you Garmon and choir and Staff singers for sharing your God given talents with us, it is truly a Blessing.
I heard a guest preacher – one of the first ordained women in the state of Texas – speak on her experiences – turns out I knew her father – He was the President of Boston University while I was in Business school there.
Thank you John and Blake and Clare, and affiliated clergy for your openness to diversity and the breadth and depth of preaching from our pulpit. It is refreshing and a Blessing.
At coffee hour, I saw a man –carrying a 1982 issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine which featured a member of this congregation. That first day, I also met a British chap, an astrophysics, who knows Stellar classification, how Sun’s work and if you really want to know, the number of stars in our Galaxy. I have been interested in astronomy since I was a pre-teen. The connections were starting to scare me.
I observed that you could attend forums and learn of other religions – like Buddhism and Hinduism and or learn of renaissance art. Thank you - Greg, Dr. Justice, Brad, Harry, and others, for sharing your God given talents and for opening my Mind and Spirit.
I have attended bible studies - taught by experts in their field. Thank you Richard, and Terry and Gail for sharing your God given talents and the feeding my Heart, Spirit and Soul.
I have seen the results of the after school music program – the joy and satisfied smile on the face of young children at their first musical performance and the joy and heart felt pride of parishioners who tutored and helped to make that happen.
Thank you Rosalind and Bruce and volunteers for the God Given gifts to young children that you have helped to develop and nourish.
Finally, I have learned that we look to be valued members of a community of faith, and, when we come to church, we like to welcome-and call one another by name.
When we find that value
When that connection happens,
We in turn give value to
and most importantly,
We give support and care to that community of faith.
I am obliged and I give thanks to all of you , for making this possible, for this OASIS in the DESERT where my thirst has been quenched, where I am a valued member, where there is fellowship and spiritual development and growth of one’s being and connection to the HOLY.
These ministries I have experienced are truly special and I do not take them for granted.
Because of this, I pledge, and I have increased my pledge for their support.
I respectfully urge you to do the same.