Thursday, September 22, 2016

From Mother Vicki
22 September 2016
Collect for Saint Matthew
We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This Wednesday we celebrated the apostle and evangelist Matthew, a tax collector who was considered “unclean” by religious people.  Jesus had no interest in such categories.  He never treated anyone who was hungry for God as an outsider, as unworthy, or as “other.” Instead, he went to Matthew’s house, ate with Matthew and his friends, and called him to be a disciple.  We, too, as disciples of Christ, are called to spread the Gospel of Love to all people, a radical message especially in these days of fear and paranoia.  As Christians, we lead our lives based on faith, hope and love, not fear, anxiety and hatred. We have attached a powerful letter from our Diocesan Bishop Andrew Dietsche concerning the recent bombing attacks in NY and NJ.  He reminds us that no matter what happens “on Christ the Solid Rock we stand.”

This Sunday there will be a special presentation about Voter Registration given by Community Voices Heard after the Sunday Service at 11:30 a.m.  If you have not registered to vote or want further information about voting in the National Election on November 8, please be sure to come!  The election process is one of the greatest gifts of our democracy.

Classes have begun in preparation for Bishop Shin’s visit with us on October 16th.  Let me know if you are still interest in joining us for one of two courses being offered in preparation for Adult Baptism, Confirmation, Reception or Reaffirmation!

We will be celebrating Saint Francis with the Blessing of Animals (and their caretakers!) on Saturday, October 1 at noon in the Churchyard.  Please spread the word and join us with your pets!  All are welcome.

For those who are interested in becoming or who already are a lay Eucharistic Minister, we will be meeting on Wednesday, September 28th from 6:30 – 8 p.m. in the parish office for training, review and to be licensed by the Diocese. 

Further classes will be scheduled as necessary.  Please let me know if you wish to attend. Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me!”  Will you?

In Christ and with much love,
The Rev. Dr. Victoria R. Sirota

Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Getty Square
From Bishop Andrew Dietsche

On Christ the Solid Rock we Stand

September 20, 2016

My Brothers and Sisters,

I write you from the fall meeting of the House of Bishops in Detroit, where Bishops Shin and Glasspool and I have joined our colleagues from across the Episcopal Church, but we find that these are days when we very much want to be in New York.  The bombings that occurred in New York and New Jersey this weekend have quickened within us from afar our love for the Diocese of New York and its people, and for New York City, our see city. 

In the last two days have come the report of the bombing itself, the assessment of the terror threat, the identification of a suspect, and finally yesterday afternoon his arrest.  Even as we say our prayers for those wounded in the explosion of the bomb, we thank God that there has been no loss of life.  Even as we recoil in the horror that has visited New York we give thanks for the fast, measured, effective response of law enforcement. 

There are voices telling us now that the kinds of local attacks which we have seen in Boston and San Bernardino and Orlando; in London and Paris and Belgium; in Beirut and Istanbul and Ankara; in cities and cultures across the world, and which now have come to New York, are likely to continue a part of our lives into the future.  Since September 11 we have regularly been advised to adapt ourselves to "the new normal." 

Perhaps.  But our serenity and our confidence as Christians are not dependent on the external, changeable circumstances of either peace and security, or danger and fear.  Rather, it comes from the deep conviction within us that in every time and season - in every condition of life, when covered over with every blessing and when assaulted by every adversary - it is on Christ the solid rock we stand.  We live in the certainty and assurance that in an inconstant world it is the love of God and that only which endures and sustains; which gives strength to the fearful, solace to those who mourn, and humility to the victorious.  That indwelling love is the source of our brightest hopes and our profoundest consolation. 

The love to which we are called and invited is that of the Crucified and Risen One, which enfolds friend and adversary, neighbor and stranger; which opens the heart to see the possibilities in everyone, and despises no person.  All this is mystery to the world, but it is the very fabric of the divine reason.  So graced and inspired, and now in the shadow of Sunday's bombing, may God make us brave and strong and faithful to walk peacefully in the way of Jesus when we are on roads straight and smooth and especially on paths hard and rocky, that we may not lose our way, that we may be our best selves, and that we may be the miracle.  With every good wish I remain


The Right Reverend Andrew M.L. Dietsche

Bishop of New York

Thursday, September 15, 2016

From Mother Vicki

14 September 2016
Collect for Holy Cross Day
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Welcome Home!  This coming Sunday we celebrate the regathering of the congregation at Saint John’s Getty Square.  As your new Priest-in-Charge, I am so grateful for your welcome to me and my husband Bob over the past few months and for the amazing ways in which this already feels like home for us.  The word “home” refers to a dwelling place or residence.  It also reminds us of childhood memories of growing up that may be positive or negative depending on how much love was available to us.  One of the aspects of Christianity that I cherish the most is that around the altar we become one family, the children of God.  And in that family, there is more than enough love to go around.  God’s love for us is infinite.

This radical welcome is God’s gift to us.  As I write this on Holy Cross Day, I am reminded of Christ’s astonishing sacrifice for us, that in giving himself over to death on the cross, he broke through the bonds of death and gave us hope, joy and eternal life.  “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim.” (Hymnal 1982, # 473)

And so this Sunday, Homecoming Sunday, we welcome anew members who attend regularly, those who have not been here in a while, visitors and those people for whom this may well become their new parish.  For all of us this home in Christ is more real than any home we have ever had.  All are welcome into Christ’s loving arms.

After each service on Sunday, there will be an opportunity to rethink your commitments and service for the year with sign-up sheets available on the bulletin board in the hallway.  Members who are involved in each capacity will be available at coffee hour to talk to you about the kind of commitment you would be making.  If you have been a teacher and enjoy the gift of opening the minds of our young people to new ideas, would you like to teach Sunday School?  Are you ready to commit to serving God as a Eucharistic Minister or Lay Reader?  Do you enjoy ironing and quieter backstage service and would you care to be on our altar guild?  Would you like to greet people and hand out the bulletins on Sunday as an usher or greeter? Do you enjoy planning events and making this place feel like home for everyone who shows up with good food and loving care? Would you like to help with the Farmers Market on Thursdays or with other Events coming up?  We need volunteers in many different capacities. 

But beyond that, God may be calling you this year to try something new, to go beyond your own doubts and fears about yourself, and offer yourself in service to others.  What I can tell you is that this enlarging of your world view allows God to bless you in new ways that you would never have thought possible. 

During each service after the exchanging of the Peace and announcements, I will be asking everyone who has volunteered in service to Saint John’s Getty Square to come to the railing so that I can say pray over you and thank you for the gift of your service.  This sacrifice of your time and talent blesses us all.

On Sunday, October 16, Bishop Suffragan Allen Shin will be the Celebrant and Preacher, and will be here to confirm, receive or reaffirm people who are interested in renewing their Baptismal vows in a more formal way.  In preparation for this service, I will be teaching a class on “Christianity and the Episcopal Church” on Wednesdays, September 21, 28, October 5 and 12 from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. in the Guild Room. These four classes will review, renew, refresh and reenergize your faith with historical information as well as theological discussions and prayer. I will also be offering an evening class on “Christianity and the Episcopal Church” on Monday, Sept. 19, and October 3 and 10 from 6-7:30 p.m. in my office.  Please let me know if you would like to join us! These classes will prepare you for the rite of Reaffirmation with the laying on of hands by Bishop Shin in addition to being an opportunity to learn more about faith and life in Christ.
For those who are interested in becoming or who already are a lay Eucharistic Minister, we will be meeting on Wednesday, September 28th from 6:30 – 8 p.m. in the parish office for training, review and to be licensed by the Diocese.  Further classes will be scheduled as necessary.  Please let me know if you wish to attend.

I am so proud to be called your Priest.  May this year be filled with God’s richest blessings, and may God use us in ways we can’t imagine!

Welcome home!

In Christ and with much love,

The Rev. Dr. Victoria R. Sirota

Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Getty Square

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

From Mother Vicki

30 August 2016

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
 Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

It is the end of August and leaves are already beginning to turn. The stores are filled with reminders that school starts soon, and that summer is almost over. For many, this Labor Day Weekend is the last fling before getting back to work. First instituted as a federal holiday in 1894, Labor Day honors the American labor unions and the hard won social and economic achievements of working men and women. We are grateful to all of those over the years who have worked and who are working still towards issues of justice and equity in the workplace.

September is also a time for renewal and rethinking of our work habits and priorities. It is easy to get pulled back into old habits not just of what we do, but also of how we think about others and ourselves. Centering our lives in Christ, reminding ourselves that Christ is always present--in every transaction, every relationship, every activity, and every new challenge--can help us to enfold our lives in prayer and find deeper meaning in the simplest things. We are to love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This Gospel message can transform the drudgery of daily living into an opportunity to witness God's miracles and joy in our love for others and for ourselves.

I have been reading the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Dr. Atul Gawande. Dr. Gawande talks about nursing homes and what dreary places they can be for those in need of help with daily living and medical supervision. In describing more recent creative innovations in healthcare including Assisted Living, Dr. Gawande points out that people who have serious illnesses do not just want to prolong their lives. He quotes surveys that identify their top priorities as, "avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete." He points out that people who are attached to a ventilator to prolong their physical life miss the opportunity to say good-bye, to say that "It's okay," "I'm sorry" or "I love you." (p. 155)

This new academic year provides us with new opportunities to use the precious life that we have been given--in whatever mental, physical and emotional shape we are in--to say "I love you" to the people with whom we live, work and worship. We have the opportunity to embrace our relationship with Christ every day, and consequently to have no regrets about what we have or have not done with our lives.

I am so grateful to be your Priest at Saint John's Getty Square, and look forward to our work and ministry together this year. May we have the courage and strength to be open to the Holy Spirit and let Christ guide us in all we do. See you on Sunday!

In Christ and with love,

The Rev. Dr. Victoria R. Sirota
Priest-in-Charge, Saint John's Getty Square

Thursday, August 25, 2016

New priest finds calling at historic St. John’s Church in Yonkers

By Ernie Garcia

From the Journal News

Working in a famous cathedral might be an aspiration for some priests, but the Rev. Victoria Sirota felt another calling. Sirota left her position as the canon pastor and vicar of the congregation at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and became the new priest-in-charge at St. John's Episcopal Church in Yonkers on June 1.

"My heart is in urban ministry and I'm sort of happy getting back to being the priest in charge," said Sirota, who began her ministry at an urban church in Baltimore where she ministered to low-income people facing many inner-city challenges. "I actually asked the (Episcopal) diocese where they could use me," said Sirota, who is married with two children and close to retirement.
St. John's at 1 Hudson St. is near the end of a $1 million repair and renovation project after a 2015 fire at an adjacent business caused extensive smoke and water damage.St. John's is one of the oldest churches in New York and it was the congregation of many of Yonkers' most prominent residents in the early 20th and 19th centuries.
The bishop of the Episcopal diocese will come to St. John's on Nov. 12 for a 10 a.m. service celebrating Sirota's assignment and the church's renovation. Sirota replaces the Rev. John Hamilton, who left St. John's in the spring to move to Mississippi to be with his elderly parents.

Sirota's background is academic and she has a doctorate in music from Boston University. She assumed she would become a tenured music professor before receiving her calling to the priesthood. Sirota said her new, three-year mission in the restored church will be to figure out the needs of the surrounding community. Her challenge will also be recruiting new members, something she did while ministering 10 years in Baltimore.
"There were children in the neighborhood that were terribly at risk," Sirota said of her time in Baltimore. "They came to the free after-school program and they started coming on Sundays and they wanted to be baptized. I baptized 80 people over 10 years, mostly children."

Since her arrival on June 1, Sirota said she's done three funerals for former parishioners. Sirota said the funerals allowed her to meet families with lengthy ties to the church who have told her stories about the church's glory days and beloved former priests. "That's a huge commission to keep that going and to honor what's happened in the past," she said.

Check out the accompanying video on lohud.com

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Election Message

This November we will gather together as a nation to vote not only to elect a new president but to elect governmental leaders on a variety of levels.

We are blessed. We are blessed as a nation to be able to do so as citizens of this country. This is a right, an obligation, and a duty. And indeed the right and the privilege to be able to vote is something that was won through an American revolution. Something that was won even more through civil rights and women’s suffrage. A right and a privilege that was won for all. So I encourage you to please go and vote. Vote your conscience. Vote your perspective. But vote.

But it’s not just simply a civil obligation and duty. Voting and participation in our government is a way of participating in our common life. And that is a Christian obligation. Indeed, we who follow in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth are summoned to participate actively as reflections of our faith in the civil process.

In the thirteenth chapter of Romans, sometimes a chapter that is debated among scholars and among Christians, St. Paul reminds us that we have a duty and an obligation to participate in the process of government, “For that is how our common life is ordered and structured.” And at one point he actually says, “For the same reason,” going on, he’s expanding, he says, “For the same reason you also pay taxes for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with everything.” That’s probably very true. “Pay to all them that is due them. Taxes to whoever taxes are due. Revenue to who revenue is due. Respect to whoever respect is due.  Honor to whoever honor is due.” Now he’s talking about the role of government as helping to order our common life. But here’s what I want you to really hear. He continues and says:

“So owe no-one anything except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments ‘You shall not commit adultery’, ‘You shall not murder’, ‘You shall not steal’, ‘You shall not covet’, any other commandment, they are all summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

For St. Paul, the way of love, the love of neighbor, is the fulfilling not only of the moral law of God, but the way to fulfill the civil law.

Go and vote. Vote your conscience. Your conscience informed by what it means to love your neighbor. To participate in the process of seeking the common good. To participate in the process of making this a better world. However you vote, go and vote. And do that as a follower of Jesus.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

Episcopal Relief and Development needs our support
In mid-August, parts of the US Gulf Coast experienced historic levels of flooding, with at least seven dead, and tens of thousands unable to return to their homes. As of Monday, August 15, more than 40,000 homes and businesses remained without power, and over 10,000 homes were flooded. The National Weather Service has predicted more flooding to come and an expansion to surrounding regions along the Gulf Coast.

Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Team has been in close contact with dioceses in the region and is providing support for their local efforts. The immediate response will help provide basic necessities to those most impacted. Affected dioceses will then coordinate with Episcopal Relief & Development to meet needs in the coming months and years. Currently, the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, its churches and their ministries are reaching out to those in need of assistance, assessing what needs to be done and serving as best they can.

“In a disaster like this, we work closely with local church leaders to assess what is truly needed,” said Katie Mears, Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program. “We have begun to provide resources needed to assist those most vulnerable.” Your support of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Fund helps us respond to disasters. You can contribute online at

Thank you for your compassion and prayers. With your partnership, we are healing a hurting world.

A Prayer for First Responders
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. Adapted from the Book of Blessings, #587, by Diana Macalintal