“The Call to Abraham,” Seiger Koder

As members of the Body of Christ, 

All Saints’ Parish participates in God’s mission 

of reconciling love for the world 

by striving for justice and peace among all people 

and respecting the dignity of every living being. 

Destination Unknown 

I never imagined being the rector of All Saints’ Parish in Saugatuck, Michigan. I didn’t even know this parish existed until I started investigating church positions around the Great Lakes region nearly five years ago. I was living in California at the time, which I also had never expected to do. Nearly every chapter in my life’s story has included surprises—some small and some large, some of them filled with delight and others with pain and sadness. So while I love to make lists and devise strategies, I’ve learned over the years to “expect the unexpected.” It’s always prudent and wise to make plans, of course, but then to hold them lightly; we simply can’t predict where the Holy Spirit will lead us next. Or in the parlance of today’s theories of organizational leadership, it’s important to stay “nimble.”

All of this came to mind when I noticed the familiar story from Genesis that we will hear this coming Sunday: God’s call to Abraham to leave his home country and journey to a strange and unknown land (12:1-9). Abraham was seventy-five years old when God called him to do this (three years older than the mandatory retirement age for clergy in the Episcopal Church!). Given the long life Abraham had already enjoyed with his wife Sarah, and all the prosperity they had already secured in their home country, God provides very little rationale for this enormous upheaval in their lives. “I will bless you,” God says, “so that you will be a blessing.” Remarkably, this was sufficient for Abraham to pull up long-established roots and set out for an unknown destination.

This story always reminds me that the best synonym for “faith” is not knowledge or certainty, but rather trust. With very few particular instructions or even a map (“go to the land I will show you” is all God says about the journey itself) Abraham and Sarah pack up their lives and move. St. Paul found this story so compelling that he features it in his letter to the Romans, from which we will also hear on Sunday. In the fourth chapter of that letter, Paul notes that God’s blessing was given to Abraham not because of his righteous deeds but only because of his faith, because of the trust he placed in God’s promise.

The vital significance of faith applies not only to individuals, but also to communities; Paul is writing, after all, to the church in Rome. We might also suppose he is writing to us. As a community of faith, we make plans, monitor budgets, and strategize ways to strengthen our life together while also reaching out to the wider world around us. We cannot know with any precision where all of this will lead us, just as Abraham and Sarah could not see exactly where their journey would take them. And so, like them, we step out in faith—with trust, that the God who blesses us on the journey will make from our lives a blessing for others.

Given that the life of faith necessarily involves risk and vulnerability, I’m grateful that this is a shared life, one in which we can support and encourage each other. As we journey into this long green season after Pentecost, let’s remind each other frequently of the promises of God!

Common Prayer and Shared Worship: Both newcomers to the Episcopal Church and lifelong Episcopalians are sometimes unclear about the patterns and rhythms of our liturgical life. Not long ago, for example, someone asked how I choose the readings for Sunday worship. Of course, I don’t; those readings come from the “lectionary,” which is shared by all the congregations of The Episcopal Church. And while I don’t compose our liturgical texts myself, I do sometimes revise portions of them for the sake of gender and other forms of inclusion. I want to be as transparent as possible about all of these sources for the prayer we offer in common, as a community, and the rationale for the decisions that I make regularly about our lives of shared worship. The occasional “Rector’s Forum” on a Sunday morning is just one venue for that kind of sharing. In addition, I will start including regular updates in a special section devoted to this purpose here, in Wednesday Words and Images. See the first such update below with some notes on the lectionary, our pattern for receiving Communion on Sunday mornings, and our two sanctuaries.

Dates and Notices:

  • Colonial Complexities: Modern Western history over the last three centuries is marked by a remarkable movement of missionary activity around the world. That mission work, however, was often intertwined with imperial colonialism. It’s a complex history with complicated religious and cultural consequences. Our Episcopal calendar of commemorations invites us to remember, for example, the “Martyrs of Uganda” this week, who were killed in the late nineteenth century for their refusal to renounce their Christian faith. Their martyrdom actually accelerated the expansion of Christian faith in parts of Africa, but at the expense of displacing indigenous cultural customs. The legacy of these complexities continues, and we will remember this prayerfully tonight during our midweek service of Evening Prayer. Click HERE for the liturgy leaflet for this post-Pentecost season and click HERE for the readings. To join this service on Zoom at 5:30pm (EDT), click HERE, or use meeting I.D. # 865 0306 1440 and passcode # 174179. We also stream this service on our Facebook page (click HERE for that page).
  • Pride Backlash: A number of companies (Anheuser-Busch, Target, Kohl, and North Face, for example) have been experiencing both financial and physical backlash because of their attempts to be inclusive of LGBT people. Sexuality and gender have always been sources of social anxiety, but we seem to be living through another period of increased violence. All the more reason for religious communities and people of faith to make our support for justice and safety visible. We did so as a parish last week at the Douglas Pride Festival and will do so again at the Holland Pride Festival on Saturday, June 24. As the volunteers last week discovered once again, lots of people find religious support so encouraging and even life-saving. Please consider signing up to help!
  • Lay Readers’ “Meet and Greet”: Nancy Winkler has been hard at work as the relatively new Coordinator of the Lay Readers here at All Saints’ Parish since roughly the beginning of the year. Lay Readers will soon hear from her about an opportunity to get together and “check in” about how things are going and how we might continue improve this vital ministry. If you’re a lay reader—or if you’re curious to learn more about being one!—mark your calendars for Sunday, June 25. More information will come soon!
  • Bi-Annual Parish Meeting: All Saints’ Parish gathers together to conduct important business twice each year—in January and July. The newly revised Parish By-Laws call for elections of all key leadership positions at the July meeting (members of the Vestry, Delegates to Diocesan Convention, Endowment Fund Trustees, and Nominating Committee Members). The nominees for these positions will soon be announced and the July Bi-Annual Meeting will take place on Sunday, July 23.
  • Living our Baptismal Covenant: The vows we make in Baptism include the commitment to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of all living beings. One of the ways we do this as a parish is to participate in the ongoing work of Interfaith Action of Southwest Michigan. This is a coalition of congregations and organizations from a range of religious traditions and who are seeking to collaborate for a better world. More detailed updates will be provided here in Wednesday Words and Images moving forward, but you can also sign up for their monthly newsletter by going to their website, which also has an archive of past issues (click HERE to sign up for the newsletter).

As you may recall, I have been serving on the Commission on Ministry for this diocese for the last couple of years. This past Saturday, I had the wonderful privilege of participating in the interviews of people currently in the process toward ordination. I find their stories so moving and compelling, including three men from Sudanese Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids. All three fled their home country of Sudan and have been living here for at least twenty years now. Their life circumstances, their faith, and their call to ministry all blend together in truly inspiring ways—yet more encouragement for the work we have been doing with Grace and St. Francis Churches in Holland to help a refugee family from Sudan resettle here. The work of the Gospel unfolds in so many countless and beautiful ways!

Fr. Jay 

Prayer Requests 

  • The United States of America, for a renewed commitment to the common good; for an end to systemic racism and violence; for social and economic justice; for a courageous engagement with ecological renewal and healing; and for effective gun safety measures and reduction in gun violence.
  • The people of Ukraine, for an end to violence and the renewal of peace.
  • In this Pride Month, for the physical and emotional well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who are facing increased threats of violence of exclusion in many different parts of the world, including here in the United States.
  • The mission and shared ministry of this parish, for pastoral insight and ministerial discernment for the clergy and lay leaders, especially the Vestry and our various Ministry Teams.
  • Denise, a friend of Marcy Elder’s, for healing and consolation.
  • Bob Johnson (Janice Williford’s brother) for healing and resilience.
  • Paul Messenger, for resilience and healing; Marcy Elder for resilience.
  • Bridget Shumm, Kevin and Stephanie Burt’s niece.
  • Rita, Sander Owens’ grandmother.
  • Rae Ann, a friend of Don Olendorf’s who is waiting for a lung transplant.
  • Christi Allen, for healing and resilience.

Special Occasions in June
Do we have your special occasions on file? Would you like to prayerfully celebrate your baptismal anniversary? Ordination anniversary? Let us know what you would like us to remember with you and we’ll post it! 

Birthdays – June

Bonnie VerWys 6/3, Don Olendorf 6/7, John Celletti 6/12, Eve Shetterly 6/15, Christi Allen 6/17, Malcolm Tripp 6/24, Marion Monique 6/28

Wedding Anniversaries – June

Win and Mary Ryder 6/1,  John and Cynthia Fulenwider 6/24, David and Margaret Mason 6/29 

Our All Saints’ Book Club will meet on Sunday, June 25, at 3PM at the Saugatuck Yacht Club.  We will be discussing “The Splendid and the Vile,” by Erik Larson, a book about Churchill and his family during World War II.

Our libraries can get this book for you.  Please contact Deborah at 248-910-6712 with any questions.  All are welcome and be ready for a lively discussion!

Father Jay is available by phone as well as email:

Please note that Father Jay takes Friday as his day off each week.  If you have a pastoral emergency on a Friday, please contact a member of the Pastoral Care Ministry Team: Margaret Mason (216-702-6040) or Deacon Francis (616-403-6556).