Lincoln’s Log 9-20-2020

Seven Streams of Discipleship Formation Part 2

“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near.”
Is. 55:6

Our Discipleship Formation year kicks off soon! This year we will be seeking the Lord by exploring seven key streams of our tradition that flow from the heart of Jesus. Last week’s Log gave a brief description of the first four themes: 1. The Heart of Jesus, 2. The compassionate life,. 3. The prayer-filled life, and 4. The sacramental life. Here are the other streams we will be diving into this year:

February – A disciple … Lives a virtuous life. They are not driven primarily by rules or perfectionism but are attentive to the sources of their actions. They seek the purity of heart the Gospel speaks of (Mt. 5:8) and intentionally take on new patterns of living. A disciple strives to develop holy habits that flow from the grace of God dwelling within them.

March – A disciple … Lives a Word-centered life. They study, live, and proclaim the good news of God revealed in Jesus Christ and transmitted through the Scriptures and great Tradition of the church interpreted by the Magisterium. They see God’s Word as the light for their path and the light of the world (Ps. 119:105; cf. Mt. 14016).

Apri – A disciple … Lives a Spirit-empowered life. They are aware that the Holy Spirit enables them to do more than their natural abilities allow. A disciple grows in the ability to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and the gifts the Spirit gives. In short, a disciple lives “by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).

May – A disciple … returns to the heart of Jesus to live and proclaim His Kingdom.

Our whole parish will be drinking from these streams together each month. For families, we will have an orientation for parents on Wednesday, September 23 at 6:15 pm in the church to give an overview of the year.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 9-13-2020

Seven Streams of Discipleship Formation Part 1

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Psalm 95:8

God’s invitation never ceases. He is calling each of us to deeper discipleship every moment of every day. But what does that mean? This year our discipleship formation process is focusing on seven streams of discipleship that flow from the heart of Jesus (see Jn. 37:37-38). We are planning some creative new ways to engage these themes (stay tuned), but today I wanted to let you know what these themes are. We will explore one of these themes each month. Here are the first themes we will be exploring:

October – A disciple… drinks from the streams of living water that flow from the heart of Jesus.

November – A disciple … Lives a compassionate life. They seek justice, compassion, and peace in every area of life from the personal to the social to the global. The activities of a disciple are motivated by the love of God and neighbor Jesus’ taught (Cf. Mk. 12:31). Disciples work to bring all relationships into harmony, unity, and balance.

December – A disciple … Lives a prayer-filled life. They are continually drawn into the love of God. A disciple values the inner life, especially silence, solitude, and prayer.

January – A disciple … Lives a sacramental life. They recognize that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn. 1:14). They live in a God-soaked world and strive to see the divine presence in the material world. A disciple shares in the sacraments of the church and sees them as primary ways of encountering God.

Next week I’ll share the themes for the rest of the year!

Our whole parish will be drinking from these streams together each month. For families, we will have an orientation for parents on Wednesday, September 23 at 6:15 pm in the church to give an overview of the year.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 9-6-2020

Reading for Transformation

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name,there am I in the midst of them.”
Mt. 18:20

Last year I took part in an international book group sponsored by Renovare, an ecumenical spiritual formation group. It was fantastic! The books that were chosen were right on topic. Some were challenging, some were easy, and some I even used in my homilies. Along with the books, there were bonus essays, podcasts, interviews with the author (or an expert in the reading), and discussion groups. Reading is a powerful spiritual practice.

So why am I telling you this? Because the book group is starting again this month. I had such a good experience last year that I volunteered to lead one of the virtual discussion groups. I’ve started the first book and it is excellent. You may hear parts of it this year in my preaching; I’m already taking notes on what to steal 😉

If you would like to join this spiritual formation book group it’s simple.

  1. Visit Renovare.org/bookclub
  2. Review the information there and see if it is appealing to you.
  3. Join the book club by clicking on a “Join” link.
  4. Complete the information they ask for.
    1. Note joining the club is $50 and includes the first book (other books are purchased separately).
  5. There are many possible discussion groups at a variety of times available. The virtual (e.g. online) one I am leading will take place on the First Thursday of each month at 10 am. After you have joined the Renovare Book Club, you can email me and I can send you the details about how to join my particular discussion group. Space is limited so don’t wait!

Reading is an excellent way to grow in your knowledge and love of God. Reading with a group takes you even deeper.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-30-2020

A School Year Like No Other

“… be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Rom. 12:2

I remember shouting, “Ready or not, here I come!” when playing hide and seek as a child. Those words echo in my mind as we approach a new school year. “Ready or not” the new academic year is here. This year presents unique challenges and a lot of thought and work has gone into preparing. Administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students, and children have all done their best to make this a safe and fruitful year.

Some of us are homeschooling, some are having “virtual school” at home, some are attending in person. No matter how this academic year is structured for you, the goal is the same: the renewal of our minds.

In the midst of uncertainty, it is vital that we go back to the basics and go deep. God is moving in new ways. This is a call to renewal. Every change that enters our life invites us to be transformed. But how do we know how to respond? How do we “… discern what is the will of God” (Rom. 12:2)?

Our Discipleship Formation process this year (formerly Faith Formation) is outlining four key practices for households to enable us to discern well. These practices are fundamental to our faith and are:

  1. To use the bible as individuals and as a family
  2. To pray regularly as an individual and as families
  3. To share a meaningful meal together with someone regularly (as families if possible)
  4. To have faith sharing conversations (as families if possible)

You can start these practices now, but we will have an orientation for parents on Wednesday, September 23 at 6:15 pm in church to give an overview of the year. The Discipleship Formation Year begins in October and will be a critical tool in the renewal of your minds as we journey together into the Kingdom.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-23-2020

Discipleship Formation for Everyone

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Mk. 10:14

A lot has been happening over the summer months at St. Thomas More. Our Faith Formation department has been restructured as the Missionary Discipleship Team. There are familiar faces, Emily Shackleton and Wendy Fischer, as well as some new faces, Andy Chmura and Greg Mohr. You might recognize Greg from his work with Sunday Masses, but now his focus is Missionary Discipleship. These shifts were beginning to happen before the Pandemic, but are now in place as we begin a new year.

This year of Discipleship Formation (formerly called Faith Formation) will look very different from previous years. The Pandemic has forced us to rethink everything we do. We recognize that we are all under a great deal of stress so we wanted to make our process this year very simple and gentle for everyone… and we mean everyone. We are inviting every member of our community to take part in discipleship formation.

We are focusing on four key skills for individuals and families:

  1. To use the bible as individuals and as a family
  2. To pray regularly as an individual and as families
  3. To share a meaningful meal together with someone regularly (as families if possible)
  4. To have faith sharing conversations (as families if possible)

We will be developing these skills through exploring eight key discipleship themes (one each month) which will bring us closer to the heart of Jesus and return us to the foundations of our faith. Stay tuned for more information and see how you can grow this year through Discipleship Formation.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-16-2020

Sacramental Intimacy

[Jesus said] “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Mk. 10:14

Over the last several months we have been celebrating the sacraments in slightly new ways here at St. Thomas More. Because of concerns about COVID-19 we did not have a big celebration of First Communion this Easter season. Instead, children have been celebrating their first communion singly or in small groups.

The response has been wonderful! While part of me misses the pageantry of one large celebration, I am enjoying the intimacy of this different way of celebrating the sacraments. Many families have made a point to tell us how much they appreciate the special care and attention that they received from the community. It feels very personal. The focus has moved from the details of what to wear and what to do. Instead, the focus is on the personal encounter with Jesus which lays at the heart of the sacrament.

COVID continues to be a challenge, but we have learned a lot. We have always been a welcoming community, but now we need to take it to the next level. Our first listening session made it clear that intimate, personal relationships need to be at the heart of how we move forward.

The Reconnect groups are beginning to build this type of intimacy as we share our lives with one another. We are changing the way we do Faith Formation this year including changing the name to Discipleship Formation. Our style is becoming more relational. We are striving for more personal connections and intimate sharing. These changes will be resilient enough to adapt to the world affected by COVID. In a recent survey, the Pew Research center discovered that nearly a quarter of U.S. adults reported that their faith had become stronger during the pandemic. The reason, I suspect, is that the pandemic has made us reevaluate our relationship with God and others. This rethinking can bear good fruit! If we continue to listen carefully, we will grow as disciples of Jesus no matter what the world throws at us.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

P.S, Consider being a part of our next listening session on Wednesday, August 19 at 6:30 pm. You can join in person at the church or online on our Facebook Page.

Lincoln’s Log 8-9-2020

Jesus and the Storm

“‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him [Jesus] homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”
Mt. 14:31b-33

It feels like our world is going through a storm.

Our scriptures give us examples of many ways Jesus deals with storms in the life of his disciples. In this weekend’s Gospel from Mt. 14:

  • Jesus appears to his disciples in the storm. Even though they don’t recognize him and are still terrified, he is present in the midst of the storm (v. 25).
  • Even more, Jesus invites his disciple (Peter) to come to him in the storm by walking on the water (v.29).
  • When his disciples’ faith falters, Jesus saves them in the storm (v. 31).
  • Jesus teaches his disciples about faith in the storm (“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” v. 31)

But these aren’t the only ways Jesus deals with storms in his disciples’ lives. In Mark 6:

  • He sends his disciples into the storm (v. 45)..
  • He speaks with them in the storm (v. 50).
  • He gives them courage in the storm (v.50).
  • He stays with them in the storm (v. 51).

In John 6:

  • He gets them through the storm (v. 21).

In Mk. 4:

  • He remains with them peacefully asleep in the storm (v. 38).
  • He calms the storm (v. 39).

Jesus knows how to deal with storms. He is the Lord of all creation and no storm is beyond his power. He brings his disciples through every storm and through them he reveals his presence, love, and power.

What is Jesus’ invitation to you in the midst of today’s storms?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-2-2020

Amazing Grace

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present thing, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rm. 8:39

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
                                                                                 Amazing Grace

Every once in a while I get a crazy/fun idea. The last few weeks was one of those times. I decided that I would try to find the “best” version of the song Amazing Grace. I sat down with my phone and our streaming service and started listening. I wasn’t alone, my son, Benedict helped out and the rest of the house tolerated my quirky quest.

First, we narrowed it down to 100 songs, then down to a top 20 and then we put that top 20 in order. It was a fun process and I learned, there are a lot of great versions of this popular song. I also learned about music and style through comparing different versions of the same song. Believe it or not, I’m still not sick of it.

Here are my top 10 in order from #10 to #1. All of these are great and worth listening to over and over again. I also have three instrumental versions that are favorites that I list below as well.

10. Andrea Boccelli, Live in Central Park 2011 (effortless singing)
9. Ralph Stanley (Traditional Bluegrass)
8. Alan Jackson (beautiful bass)
7. Reba McEntire (Powerful female country vocals sung simply)
6. Judy Collins and the Global Virtual Choir (amazing soprano)
5. The Statler Brothers (Christian Barbershop with amazing vocals)
4. Selah (Incredible Gospel and Blues style)
3. LeAnn Rimes (solo acapella – fantastic)
2. Gaither Vocal Band (powerful harmonies, each verses with a unique interpretation)
1. BYU Noteworthy (Wow!)

Incredible instrumental versions
3. Grace Kelly (jazz saxophone)
2. Bow and Ivory (violin and piano duet)
1. Joshua Bell and Friends (Double Wow!)

I’m considering a quest for the best Ave Maria next… any other suggestions?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 7-26-2020

Deep Listening 3: Meaningful Relationships

“We know that all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
Rm. 8:28

What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?

One of the themes that has emerged from our first listening session on July 12 is the importance and value of meaningful relationships. A sense of hospitality, community, and connection is a core part of who we are as St. Thomas More. A year ago, when I was assigned here, one thing I kept hearing was the hospitality of St. Thomas More. That description has proven to be true. The people of St. Thomas More place a very high value on our relationships and connections with one another. We work to build community by reaching out to each other beyond a friendly nod at Mass. We care for each other. We take the time to make our relationships a priority, even when it is difficult to do.

Relationships are complex, but I think that at St. Thomas More, meaningful relationships have the following characteristics:

  • They are rooted in a shared faith in Jesus Christ and a desire to follow him as his disciple.
  • They recognize the needs of others and strive to meet them in the best way possible.
  • They create intimacy through sharing life and stories.
  • They are built up over time.
  • They are a priority.

These relationships have been tested during the ongoing pandemic. We have not been able to gather in the ways we used to (e.g. limited Mass attendance, no large gatherings, etc… ). The ways we connect with one another have been challenged but these connections make up the heart of our community.

As we listen to our need for meaningful relationships dwelling at the center of our community how are we being called to respond?

There are no simple answers. Relationships take work and time. Jesus spent years with the disciples building relationships with them and bringing them into meaningful relationships with each other.

Looking ahead, the challenges the pandemic presents to our ability to form meaningful relationships are not going away. It is going to take hard work to overcome these challenges. The Reconnect groups are an initial step to help us renew these relationships, but we need to do more. As we plan for the coming months, we are developing ways to help us all grow in having deeper connections and meaningful relationships.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 7-19-2020

Deep Listening Part 2

“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Mt. 13:43

What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?

Last weekend we had our first listening session. We had 29 participants (6 in church and 23 online). It was a spirit filled time. Here are a few of many comments made by parishioners about what each person heard as we listened to God and one another.

“A continuing online presence moving forward is important to many people.”

“I struck by the need for our parish to be open to the changing world. Maybe we need to be open to how technology can improve our faith and participation.”

“I heard and felt a deep longing for a means to stay connected to the Mass, to the sacraments, and to fellow parishioners.”

“The strong sense of community of STM and the desire to build on that.”

“what I heard was the openness to new ideas and the feeling that we are working together to do the best we can in this troubled time and the future. I am pleased to be a member of this caring parish.”

“The importance of expanding our capacity to gather, in some manifestation, in the virtual world.”

“I heard that virtual connections are important to help people feel connected – and I think that goes beyond the situation of the pandemic. People to be connected and to feel involved in their parish and in their faith.”

“I heard from all the questions and responses….. All of us want to keep Christ alive in ourselves and our world.”

“Relationships and connectedness are very important for our community and that needs to be a central focus on what we do moving forward.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in this first listening session. We will be holding another listening session next month on Wednesday, August 19 at 6:30 pm. Keep praying and listening!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader