Welcome to the St. John's Blog!

St. John's Episcopal Church is located on the northwest side of Chicago, in the Old Irving Park neighborhood. You can learn more about us at our official web site. We hope you'll join us!

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Harvest Festival


I've searched the month of October on my liturgical calendar, and searched it again. But I just can't seem to find Harvest Festival anywhere. I know it's somewhere between the 17th and 21st Sundays after Pentecost (or Whitsunday, according to our antique hymn board).


Happily, the Harvest Festival has become a St. John's institution, even if it hasn't knocked one of the venerable saints off the calendar. It's a fund-raiser, but this year it was a barn-raiser, too. Country was the name, square dancing was the game, with a lively musical group and a dance caller who knew how to teach a room full of greenhorns to dosy-doe with panache.

When the dancing began, 16 brave souls (8 couples) rose to the challenge, while the remainder (including yours truly) sat on the sidelines, ready to smirk if a smirking opportunity arose. It quickly became obvious that the 16 brave souls were having fun, while everyone else was – well, ... just watching.

By the second dance, additional tables had to be moved to the side to make room for the new dancers. The first round dancers refused to leave the floor.

Yee haw!

I have three versions of the next picture, and Emma is laughing her head off in every one!

Ken and Melissa watched from the liquid refreshments table. Melissa was Harvest Festival Queen this year (i.e., she headed up the wonderful, talented group that put the shindig all together). Thanks, Melissa! Thanks, wonderful, talented group!

There was more, besides. The dinner was catered by Smoque, a local barbeque joint whose reputation has spread near and far in the few short years it has been open.

And did I mention this was a fund-raiser? While all the eating and dancing was going on, partiers were making bids on everything from an ecclesiastical bird house to this diamond pendant, modeled by Madeleine:

Along one side of the room, tables were covered with bidding sheets for the items being offered.

It's amazing how quickly you forget how many bidding sheets you signed!

Ken knows.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dear Pope Benedict

Dear Pope Benedict,
This thank you note is long overdue, but the recent news that your church will be easing the way for disaffected Anglicans prompted me to finally say what I’ve been meaning to for years: thank you for all the wonderful Christians you have sent to my Episcopal Church. Its been happening for years of course, Roman Catholics marrying Methodists, and finding the Episcopal church the place that fits them both. And of course all the people who’ve been divorced and don’t want to try to prove that their first marriage didn’t happen who’ve found a home here. Can you believe the faith of people, who after the pain of divorce actually experience the gift of God, through the love of another person? It is a beautiful thing to see.

But recently the flow has been different, not so much a flood of gay and lesbian Roman Catholics “switching,” no, we have GLBT folks in our pews like everyone else, because they were born here, married in, still found Christ here even after being condemned, marginalized, ignored. No my new members come for exactly the same reason as disaffected Anglicans are looking to Rome. The Sunday after your election a young couple came to worship with a nine-month old boy. “We just couldn’t stay in the Roman Catholic church anymore. The election of the pope opened our eyes to the way it is going. We just can’t raise our boy in a church that condemns others.” Then there is the couple with daughters, who after their first communion started wondering why they couldn’t be priests; then came the Sunday when a pastoral letter about the sexual abuse in the church was read. The mother walked out and never went back, she just couldn’t be part of the cover-up and denial anymore. In my recent Inquirer’s class I had a young man who had grown up in a wonderful Roman Catholic parish (not in pre-Vatican II horrors people write musicals about). He was active in church even in college but moving here he found in our little parish the Christian community he had been taught to look for, a community that welcomes everyone and lives what they believe as best they can.

Not all of these people will even officially become Episcopalians/Anglicans, because I mean it when I say that Jesus doesn’t care much about brand names. They are welcome to be part as long as they are fed and challenged here. We’ve been a separate structure allowing Roman Catholics to keep their traditions but think for themselves for almost 500 years. We certainly don’t have all the right answers, but we try to glorify God and live the good news despite the murky nature of real life. It seems to be working o.k., at least in my little parish, because the strange thing is, at a time when mainline Protestant churches are dying, and 80% of Americans have something better to do on Sunday morning, our little church is growing. And I have you, partially, to thank for that.

So thank you for sending me so many wonderful people who have expanded my understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ in this world. And thank you for opening your church to all the Anglicans who feel angry and unhappy. I am glad they will have somewhere to go because in my experience it is when we are most hurt and unloved that Jesus opens his arms the widest.

God’s Blessings,
The Rev. Kara Wagner Sherer, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Chicago, IL.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

St. John's Earth Festival

At the end of September, the Genesis Group hosted an Earth Festival in the garden. {Thank you Tim & Holt for the poster design.}

It was a casual gathering on a cool and cloudy day. Luckily, there was no area-wide flooding like last year's festival- ha! Our goal was to make green products available to our neighbors, educate people on environmental issues, and have a good time.

Our CSA farmer graciously donated the tasty fruits and vegetables & colorful gladiolus. {Thank you Vicki} A neighborhood cat joined in on the festivities and at one point, decided the CSA box looked cozy.

Part of the funds raised at the Earth Festival will go to buying organic vegetable shares for our local CEDA/WIC office, which provides assistance for needy families and nutritional education.


Susan (a St. John's parishioner) set up an informative table showcasing her EarthBox. It seemed to be a nice tie-in to St. John's compost bin and rain barrel (not pictured). Thank you, Sarah, for coordinating the live folk music. It was a nice group gathered beneath the towering cottonwood tree.


The festival food was delicious; we had some wonderful vendors. First Slice pies and salads...

Homemade tamales...
Gelato & apple cider sorbet from Black Dog Gelato...
Even "Photographer Bob" sampled some gelato- as did the soccer boys.

The Genesis Group sold beverages and other "green" items at the welcome table. The apple cider from Seedling and hot, Bishops Blend coffee seemed to be hit! {Thanks to everyone that helped coordinate the drinks- buying, selling and biodegradable cups purchase}

The eco-bags in the trees are supposed to be "green" festival balloons/ hanging lanterns.

St. John's Episcopal Church is a member congregation with the organization Faith In Place. We greatly appreciated their participation!


The Genesis Group was fortunate enough to gather several talented vendors. My apologies for not getting photographs of everyone. Thank you for participating in our Earth Festival!

Revamped & upcycled housewares from Revamp Boutique...

Eco-friendly candle products from Bright Endeavors...

Patrick's inventive artwork (St. John's parishioner)...

Leslye's handmade jewelry (St. John's parishioner). All proceeds went to our church partnership in SE Mexico...

In addition to the food, music and products for sale, we also held a bike drive in partnership with the Working Bikes Cooperative.


Thank you to those that helped with planning, set-up, clean-up, advertising, etc. and for supporting St. John's. And I'd like to extend an extra special THANK YOU!! to the Genesis Group- some of whom are pictured below.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pet Blessing


Yesterday was the Feast of St. Francis, or – as it's known in the latest liturgical re-write, soon to hit the shelves of seminary bookstores everywhere – Pet Blessing Sunday!


Just kidding. (Good thing for me Kara has a sense of humor.)

Actually, the Pet Blessing came between services this year, in the garden. The 8:00 service was a pet-free zone, but anyone who brought a pet with them for the blessing was welcome to bring the pet along to the 10:30 service.

This is the leaflet cover for the blessing:

And that's the only cat we saw at the service, which is probably a good thing, considering the number, sizes, and enthusiasm of the dogs that attended.

We gathered in a circle and offered prayers of thanks for what our pets add to our lives, and petitions for their health. The readings were Genesis 1:20-25, Psalm 148:1-13, and The Prayer of St. Francis.



After which each pet received a special blessing.

Two Bears fans:




The newest addition to a St. John's family, Bella:

Bella is a Golden Doodle.

Finally, Kara offered special treats to the assembled canines.

And to the photographer ...


... who was never happier to be on a low-carb diet.