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Rector's Reflections

Thoughts from our Rector
Rev. Eric L. Miller

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Rector's Blog: Youth Sunday

April 19, 2024

I’m excited to share that Youth Sunday is coming up fast. Well, all right, I realize we have over a month, but still. We’re waiting to hear back from a few of our high school seniors, but we are excited for their big day. This year’s Youth Sunday is scheduled for May 12. A few of our high school seniors will preach for the 8:00 am and 10:00 am services. We will present each graduate with an excellent Study Bible, and we will offer prayers of blessing as they swing out to grab the next trapeze bar on their journey.

“Youth Sunday” is an intriguing idea because youth are always welcome to lead various parts of the liturgy every Sunday, anyway. Our youth do an excellent job serving as acolytes. Our younger ones, 4th grade and under, receive excellent formation during children’s Sunday school. I would love for the older youth present during worship to read the Sunday lessons, lead the Prayers of the People, serve as Eucharistic Ministers, sing in the choir, serve as ushers, and help the Altar Guild. Before the pandemic, we had youth serving as lectors and such. It is time for our youth to begin again if they so choose. All that’s needed is for the youth to reach out, letting me know they’d like to serve; I’ll gladly offer them training and have them added to the server schedule.

I recognize today’s youth are overprogrammed. Believe me, I get it. A&HT’s youth are fortunate, though, in that they are genuinely welcome to lead the different parts of worship listed above. The adults who lead and serve in the above worship ministries would love to assist our youth and be assisted by our youth. I’ve been present in other worship settings with rigid worship expectations, and thankfully, A&HT isn’t one of those places. Our people are loving and understanding and would cherish witnessing our youth serving alongside them.

One of my absolute greatest joys has been serving at the altar with my two sons. Nathaniel graduated high school a few years ago. I don’t like thinking about Lucas graduating high school and losing the opportunity to serve with him at the altar, too. I love that some of our parents teach Sunday School with their older children helping them teach the classes. When I was a youngster, I enjoyed helping my dad serve as usher. Parents, you might enjoy signing up for a new ministry and inviting your children to serve with you. Children, you might enjoy signing up for a new ministry and having your parents join you.

Ministry is much more enjoyable when it is lovingly shared. Thank you for all of the ministries you so graciously and faithfully lead with A&HT. You are a joy to serve alongside, and I am proud and grateful for you.

In God’s Grace,
Eric L. Miller+
Rector

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Rector's Blog: Eastertide

April 12, 2024


I pray you are experiencing a blessed and beautiful Eastertide. Recall with me that Easter isn’t simply one Sunday in spring but an entire fifty days to celebrate and rejoice in the gift of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. The “Great Fifty Days of Easter” culminate on Pentecost Sunday, when we rejoice over the gift of the Holy Spirit spread to all God’s people, beginning with the apostles. Pentecost means, “fiftieth,” ie., the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday.

You may have noticed we haven’t prayed “The Confession” thus far in Eastertide. The rationale for this omission is that Easter is the most joyous of all occasions, so we forgo that part of our liturgical practice. Please note that the Confession and the Absolution are still offered during Morning Prayer four days a week, and one can always make an appointment with me for private “Reconciliation of a Penitent.”

So, how are you spending these fifty days of Eastertide? One way to celebrate during Eastertide is through Evensong. This year, A&HT and Christ Church are teaming up to offer an Eastertide Evensong at Christ Church in Glendale on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 28 at 5:00 pm. Easter Evensong is a splendid way to live into the Fifty Days of Easter, and I know our Chancel Choir would love our support.

A&HT is blessed with Morning and Evening Prayer offered online most weekdays. I certainly experience resurrection through folks gathered online for prayer and Scripture reading. Our parish gardens are springing up with flowers and weeds. One could meditate and give thanks for new life and resurrection through weeding and tending to our expansive gardens. Spring is the time of the year when many high schoolers get all fancied up for prom. Might we choose to see resurrection in our high schoolers’ joy and energy as they celebrate the end of the school year with prom and other activities?  

We are blessed to spend this Easter together as faithful followers of the risen Christ. How will you allow everyday experiences to become resurrection moments you choose to share with others?

In God’s Grace,
Eric L. Miller+
Rector

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Rector's Blog: Juneteenth & PRIDE

June 27, 2023

The air was hot and humid. Finding parking was a challenge, and it was a great cause for celebration once parking was found. I was on foot with hundreds of others downtown for the annual PRIDE festival with parade and booth exhibits. We had a splendid time meeting folks from all walks of life on Saturday, June 24 at Sawyer Point. Ascension & Holy Trinity was blessed to have Sara Cahall and John Fitzwater carry our parish banner in the PRIDE parade. Libbie Crawford and I tended the Diocese of Southern Ohio’s PRIDE tent together. 

Countless individuals approached our diocesan booth asking what Episcopalians are about. “Are lesbians allowed into the church?” “Do you think I’m going to hell because I’m gay?” “There’s actually a church that accepts me and my friends?” 

The Episcopal Church, including Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, is all about Christ’s unconditional love. Libbie and I met people where they were, listened to them, and shared Jesus’ love through expressing God’s love for all creation, including the LGBTQ+ community, with no exceptions. While the reader may well realize God’s love extends to all, there are many in the LGBTQ+ community who don’t know God’s unconditional love, or that there’s a church that loves and embraces them as beloved.

June is an important month for me. First, Juneteenth is remembered and celebrated on and around June 19 commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The earliest Juneteenth celebrations go back to 1866, involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas. Today, communities all over the United States celebrate Juneteenth with a plethora of activities. Our very own Wyoming, Ohio celebrated Juneteenth on Friday, June 16 this year. Wyoming Community In Action did an extraordinary job with all sorts of vendors present, drumming circles, artwork for children, spoken word, and more. 

PRIDE month is equally important for me. PRIDE month is celebrated each June and honors LGBTQ+ Rights and LGBTQ+ Culture. PRIDE month all started with the Stonewall riots, a series of riots for gay liberation for several days in June of 1969. Today, PRIDE is celebrated with parades, concerts, rainbow flags, and much more.

Why are Juneteenth and PRIDE important to me? I believe that God loves every single one of us unconditionally. I believe that Christ is the great liberator of all that oppresses, those who oppress People of Color, and those who oppress LGBTQ+. While we have made many strides toward honoring the dignity of every human being, we still have quite a ways to go for full inclusion. 

For me, acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is not enough. My prayer is for the Church to fully engage and love PRIDE. Over the centuries the Church has done much emotional damage to the PRIDE Community through exclusion, hurtful rhetoric, and hateful actions.

Some in the Church today grow weary and frustrated whenever PRIDE or Juneteenth are mentioned. Some feel Juneteenth and PRIDE shouldn’t have attention drawn to them. Jesus’ liberating love is too important to omit remembering our past and honoring our present Way of Love. There is still discrimination and oppression today. 

The Good News is there are also many today standing in love and solidarity against racism and discrimination against LGBTQ+. The Good News is that A&HT tripled our number of participants in Cincinnati’s PRIDE presence from 2022 to 2023. The Good News is people who understand Christ as extraordinary inclusive love are speaking up today. Yes, we have a long way to go, and we are still committed to loving one another and standing up for love.

I hope you’ll join me next year in a Juneteenth event and a PRIDE event. Together, we’ll recognize inclusive and roomy love, dignity, and compassion shared with all.

In God’s Grace,
Eric L. Miller+
Rector
rector@ascesnionholytrinity.com

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Funeral Planning

How well do you function when under stress? How clear is your thought process when experiencing emotional pain? We can give ourselves and our loved ones a gift by planning our funeral. Yes, I realize this topic is a bit morose, but my boys are correct when they joke, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” The fact is that every single one of us will die one day. There isn’t any way to cheat death. Indeed, we celebrate the resurrection and eternal life, and death is part of that process. 

So, have you planned your funeral? If so, have you spoken with your loved ones about your wishes? Does your parish priest (me) know what you want? Ascension & Holy Trinity has a wonderful funeral planning form you can obtain from our parish administrator by emailing office@ascensionholytrinity.com. My ask is for you to read over the form, look through it with your loved ones, ask me any questions you may have, and share a copy of it with the church office and your children. I recently sent the form to my parents asking the same of them. 

Why is it important to have your funeral planning form complete and on file? Well, there are a few different reasons. First, I want your funeral to be what you hope it to be. As much as I like to think I know my parishioners, there isn’t any way I can accurately guess what you might want. There are all sorts of choices, and I want you to be the one to choose for yourself. 

Second, having your funeral plans prepared is a gift to those left behind. Both of my parents are alive and healthy. It’ll be awful when I lose them. I’ll need to contact their parish priest. I'll need to work with my brother on their funeral and many other things. I don’t always see eye to eye with my brother theologically or liturgically. I don’t want to have to guess what my parents want, which brings me to my third point.

We need to grieve when our loved ones die. We use all sorts of phrases like “passing on” and “going to a better place.” It is ok to say “death,” “dying,” “dead,” and “deceased.” Death is a reality, and it is harder the closer we are to those who’ve died. Having the funeral already planned is one less detail your family needs to focus on and provides more mental and emotional space to grieve. 

Something else to consider is what kind of legacy you’ll leave behind. How you live today makes a vast difference in what your family and friends remember about you when you are gone from this earth. Do we want to be remembered for our loving and esteem-able actions? Then, we need to do loving and esteem-able things. Do we want to be known and remembered for how wonderful of a chef we were, but we really aren’t all that great at cooking today? Then, it would be a wise idea to enroll in a cooking class.

Another helpful idea is to remember the church in your will. Yes, I’m asking you to remember A&HT in your will. Several of you significantly help to balance our budgetary needs. I recognize our families are extremely important to us, believe me, I get that. Wouldn’t it be nice to remember the people who’ve given so much to your faith formation over the course of life? A&HT has a small endowment fund designated for building & grounds, as well as outreach ministries. You can put A&HT’s Endowment Fund in your will, or you can simply leave A&HT in your will. Churches love gifts without any strings attached. Imagine, if you will, giving a young artist the gift of all the sports equipment they could ever use. Um...they aren’t interested in sports; their passion is art. You could give them a gift of paintbrushes, but what happens down the line when they decide that painting isn’t their medium, and they begin working with clay? Trust me, the Vestry would love the gift of receiving a bequest without any strings attached. I assure you, Vestry is up to the challenge. 

We are here to help. I am happy to meet with you before your death to help plan your funeral. Our finance team is happy to hear about your financial plans and answer questions. It is never too early to get these important items in place, and I’m grateful for your consideration.

In God’s Grace,
Rev. Eric L. Miller+
Rector

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