From the Rector

Monthly thoughts from our Rector, Joel Miller.

From the Rector - Fall 2013

Dear Friends,

Diana Butler Bass insists there are two words to remember in any strategy for congregational growth, namely: "spiritual" and "community". Three years ago, 23 Calvary parishioners carpooled to St. Paul's Church in Salinas for a diocesan conference on congregational development and learned the importance of these two words. According to Dr. Bass, people who attend church today are seeking a substantive "spiritual" experience, and wanting to belong to a "community". Twenty-first century church-goers are not interested in the "institutional church," and they avoid the use of the word "religion" like the plague. In other words, post modern Christians are looking for "community," and they want something substantive for their "spiritual" lives.

Since the Diana Butler Bass conference, I have been listening for the words "spiritual" and "community" at Calvary. I don't recall hearing a new member of ever Calvary using the words "religious institution" over the past seven years. Many speak of their spiritual lives. "Community of faith" is commonplace language around Calvary. 


labyrinthWhen Bishop Mary visited last month, I was heartened by her recognizing the community building that goes on around here: She met a vestry and congregation during Coffee Hour working well together in committees. She was warmly received by a Calvary community that was keenly interested in the diocesan capital campaign this fall. But she was particularly glad  to learn of the ISSP shelter that has evolved into a self-managing, well-run community seven nights a week. Ian MacKay has done a salutary job as manager of the ISSP, creating a community of mostly seniors and one Latino family who cooks and organizes the shelter every night of the week. What is significant is that 15-20 shelter guests prepare a meal and coordinate their stay with little intervention from managers and church volunteers. In the morning, the participating churches are left clean and spotless. Our well run shelter is worthy of a video that gives tribute to our ISSP guests as a model community among the homeless. I'm working on this video. Expect to see it soon!


"Surely God is in this place..." These opening words of our Calvary mission statement are incarnated in the lives of those who come to Calvary where one can discover a community in which twenty-first century Christians can make a spiritual connection. 

Father Joel+

From the Rector - February 2013


Dear Friends of Calvary,


Recently a Calvary parishioner told me of a church that he and his wife had visited while on holiday. They were surprised that there were no announcements during the Sunday morning service. During coffee hour they asked why this was so, and were told: “There are no announcements because there is nothing to announce -- no activities; no events; no ministries. We just do Sunday mornings.” Puzzled and in disbelief, they left an otherwise pleasant parochial visit while on holiday.

Being busy isn’t necessarily a good thing. A church filled with frenetic activity is not a healthy church. But, we should acknowledge with pride that Calvary Church is not a church with nothing to announce. Ironically, the following week another parishioner commented, after reading our newly formatted Crossroads (thanks to the journalistic skills of Grace Davis Marcellino): “We do everything at Calvary. We are a complete church.”

1. We have an engaging adult education program: This year 40 parishioners participated in the seven week Christian education curriculum, “Living the Questions”. Additionally we have our weekly Rector’s Forum where we explore congregational growth and what makes a healthy, progressive, inclusive Christian community. 

2. We also have robust outreach into the community that has provided shelter for hundreds this year. We fed 8,000 individuals a hot meal on Monday nights and distributed over 50,000 pounds of groceries to those in need. 

3. We have youth activities with a regular Sunday School of 5-8 children, a ski trip with over 20 young people and their families last winter; and a Christmas pageant with choreography and music preformed by our own Calvary Youth Ministry. 

4. We have been in the news: On the front page of the Sentinel this past month, as well as being featured in the Good Times for our outreach ministries. 


5. We have traditional and innovative worship services and baptized 6 new members into our church and confirmed 8 new communicants in 2012. 

6. Our pledge drive grew with 12 new pledges, and we met our goal of $153,000 for the 2013 budget. The annual Crab Feed raised $6300 for outreach ministries and it looks like we have donations to nearly cover the cost for the new floor in the Parish Hall.

7. We have established strong ties to our city government and were mentioned in the inaugural speech by Mayor Don Lane. The candidates forum held in our church prior to the November election was the largest of nine forums in Santa Cruz. 


During the first part of my sabbatical, several Calvary parishioners joined me in visiting churches in the San Francisco Bay Area to consider how to make our life and worship together more engaging.

My sabbatical has been more than just a time for personal inspiration. Calvary parishioners also came back with new ideas for this year’s Christmas pageant and Emerging Sunday worship services.

Enthusiastically I look forward to the Jesus Seminar we will be hosting in part at Calvary Church, on February 8 and 9; the new “Living the Questions” curriculum that will be offered over Lent; and the Congregational Development workshop that will be held at Calvary on February 15-16. This is all happening because of a hard working vestry, creative ministries and competent and skilled parishioners. There is plenty to announce at Calvary Church. I am deeply grateful for you and the wonderful work you have done and are doing. 


Father Joel+


Last Updated on Monday, 11 February 2013 22:24
From the Rector - December 2012

Dear Friends,


“Stuff happens!”


In church I prefer using the euphemistic version of this well-known phrase. It was what my homily was about two weeks ago. It was also what Jesus’ penultimate discourse to his disciples was about before his fateful entry into Jerusalem. “Stuff happens” and “stuff” is going to happen:


“Not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down…nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Brother will betray brother and all will hate you on account of me.”


Ironically, I have been visiting churches trying to learn something about congregational development during my sabbatical. I assure you I have not been reflecting upon how places of worship will be destroyed and communities of faith will dissipate and disintegrate. The questions that I have been asking are: How do we build community? How do we make the best use of our church and parish hall? How do we become a place of grace so when others come to Calvary they find themselves echoing our mission statement: “Surely God is in this place!” But because of Jesus’ foreboding words, I’ve been thinking about congregational growth and vitality in the context of challenges. There wasn’t one congregation that I visited that didn’t have challenges.


It has been a long time since I have been in a parish community anonymously and interacted with the congregation as a visitor. I saw many things that inspired me. I was mostly inspired that Calvary parishioners were able to be with me for some of my time visiting churches in the Bay Area.


Grace and George Marcellino were able to join me at Christ Church Portola Valley and see an engaged active children’s ministry, warmly embraced by an older congregation.


At St James/Santiago in Oakland, Al and Sonja Reetz and Dana Bagshaw participated in an improvisational Christmas Pageant workshop. Upon my return to Calvary I was delighted to see them planning with the Sunday School teachers for our own Christmas Pageant.


At Transfiguration Church in San Mateo Christina, Rebecca and Tobias joined me for worship. We saw first hand the beautiful hickory wood floors in their church, the movable pews and a “Godly Play” corner in the nave so children could be with their parents during worship.


I was also able to have coffee with John Buenz and Donald Schell, two priests who know a lot about congregational development, and was able glean wisdom from their experienced observations and reflections. My hope is that others can be a part of such conversations and visit the churches that I plan on seeing in the coming months. I will complete my final two months of sabbatical in 2013.  Certainly I was grateful for the good job that Father Rob did in my absence. Peggy Bryan and Father John Buenz made their usual salutary contribution in preaching and leading the liturgy. But, now Advent is here and Christmas beckons. These dates serve as a reminder that God became incarnate in a messy world, full of “stuff” to build community – a place where the people of God would one day say, “Surely God is in this place.” 


Wishing you all a blessed and holy Christmas.

Father Joel+

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 December 2012 22:44
From the Rector - March 2012

Dear Friends,

For the past several months I have been trying to appreciate the value of compromise. Compromise is not a word that easily finds its place on my moral compass. I associate compromise with lots of bad stuff: compromised bridges, compromised structures, compromised morals, compromised values and compromised politicians. The idea of a compromised church sounds like something to avoid. However, despite my negative association with compromise, I have seen first hand the value of godly compromise at Calvary Church. 

Last summer we received leadership training and teaching about compromise from COPA in preparation for our house meetings last fall. COPA teaches that there are two kinds of compromise: Solomon's famous compromise with the two women who come to him to resolve a dispute regarding motherhood, and the compromise of negotiating the propriety of a loaf of bread. Two women come to Solomon, the King of Israel, to resolve a disputed claim of motherhood, each woman claiming to be the biological mother (I Kings 3). Solomon gives the order: "Bring me a sword." Each of you shall receive half of a child. One  woman, out of love for the child, relinquishes all claim of motherhood: Let the other woman have an un-severed "living child;" she is the true mother. Solomon adjudicates: The woman who truly cared for the welfare of the child and did not allow me to cut him in two "is the true mother," This woman is the one who goes home with the child. Solomon hand was forced. He had to adjudicate the dispute in terms of black or white. One woman would get the child she cherished and loved; the other would get nothing. 

Justice does not usually require the sacrifice of a life in order to be served. Consider this. If Solomon had been asked to resolve a dispute over the ownership of a loaf of bread, instead of motherhood, the outcome might have been quite different. "Bring me a Sword. Cut the bread in two. Each will receive half." In this hypothetical disagreement, each person received bread. Solomon could be certain that he was at least partially right. The legitimate owner of the bread got bread. Perhaps in the biblical account Solomon was mistaken in his forensic assessment of the biological mother. The one who has relinquished claim of the child may only been more compassionate, or more clever in her impromptu response before a king. Maybe she wasn't in fact the real mother. The hypothetical compromise of bread may be wiser than Solomon's compromise. 


Calvary Church has been exemplary in its capacity to resolve difference and maintain respect. The impassioned and at times uncomfortable conversations that we have had about our "rich" and "diverse" Episcopal traditions; the planning of the Pilot Shelter Program; and the agreements made by the Worship Committee regarding "Emergent Sundays" and "Traditional Sundays" demonstrate a remarkable skill in our parish family to reach wise and godly compromise. No baby was sacrificed. All points of view were heard and respected. I am convinced that the Adult Forums that we are now having about our future this Lent are grounding us in hope and pointing us in a direction in which we will thrive. 


We can't please everyone all the time, and we may displease some people some of the time. But we can and are making compromises for which Calvary can be proud. I like to think that Calvary Church exemplifies a book that I recently recommended by the Reverend Peter Steinke: A Door Set Open – Grounding Change in Mission and Hope. From all  appearances, we are moving through an open door into hope and a clearer sense of our mission. 


With prayers for a blessed Lent,

Father Joel


From the Rector - June 2011

Dear Friends,


There has been some recurring vocabulary in committee conversations at Calvary Church the past several months with regards to ongoing questions: Who are we, and who we are becoming as a community of faith?  Allow me to list some of the more featured words in recent conversations at Calvary Church

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 September 2011 13:01
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