Week of September 20, 2020

Welcome to 
The Church of St. Paul and Incarnation!

An Episcopal / Anglican Parish
in the Heart of Jersey City

“Mystics in the World” 

During these difficult days, when I catch myself thinking about all of the people and events that are being missed, and the hardships we are enduring, I try to bend my thoughts toward the many blessings that we are still receiving, the grace keeping us going, despite it all. For many of us, our daily “Church By Phone” services have been a holy lifeline, holding us together while we are apart. As I’ve written before, I love hearing all of your voices as we exchange greetings and offer prayers. I’ve also appreciated sharing so much scripture, including much that we never hear on Sundays. And, it’s been wonderful to honor the “saint of the day,” to remember the holy women and men who serve as examples of faith and courage, especially in times of trouble. 

In seminary, one of my professors encouraged us to get to know the saints, making them our friends. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to do that exactly, but I try to learn about them, hoping to learn from them. On Thursday, the church celebrated Hildegard of Bingen, born in 1098 in the Rhineland Valley. Apparently, from a very early age Hildegard began having mystical experiences. As the tenth child in her family, she was tithed to the church (it was a very different time, indeed). Eventually, Hildegard and some other women formed a convent. Her visions continued, but Hildegard was understandably reluctant to share them with others until the age of 43, when a voice told her, “See and speak! Hear and write!” And so she compiled descriptions of her visions along with her interpretations in three books. 

Then, as now, the church hierarchy was skeptical of those claiming mystical experiences. Hildegard, however, had a powerful patron in another holy person, Bernard of Clairvaux, who, it just so happens, had the ear of the pope. So, Hildegard’s mystical writings received approval from the highest level, and Hildegard and her work became famous across Europe. She conducted four preaching tours and offered her advice and direction to the political and religious leaders. She practiced medicine with a particular focus on women’s health. She wrote about natural science and philosophy. In her spare time, she wrote a liturgical drama, The Play of Virtues, in which women sing the parts of the virtues, and the lone man in the cast plays the part of the devil (who, by the way, is unable to sing). And, she composed large amounts of otherworldly and gorgeous music. 

After her death in 1179, there was a movement to canonize her, using the Roman church’s newly created procedure to make new saints, but it never quite came together. Then, this remarkable holy woman was forgotten, until the 1970s when thanks to the new interest in the great Christian women, the world rediscovered and celebrated Hildegard (especially her music). Finally, in 2012, her sainthood was made official. 

It’s quite a story, but I wonder about Hildegard the mystic. And, I wonder about mystical experiences, about seeing visions and hearing voices. What are we modern Christians to make of all this? Should we just dismiss it all as mental illness or overactive imaginations? Do mystics past and present have anything of value to say to us? Can we be mystics? In the Christian tradition, mystical experiences are not given for our enjoyment or edification, but instead, they call us to action right here in our flesh and blood world. The Jesuit scholar Robert J. Eagan notes that mystical experiences are liberating – they remind us that things do not have to be this way. Being a mystic doesn’t mean going off on a mountain to spend a lifetime lost in prayer. Instead, it means translating the mystical vision into a physical reality. Jesus offers us a mystical vision of the downside-up Kingdom, where it’s the poor and the mournful who are truly blessed, where the last come first. And Jesus calls us to live in a way that makes that Kingdom a reality. Just a few decades ago, the 20th Century mystic Martin Luther King shared his dream, a mystical vision of a world where Black and white children grew up loving one another, where people are judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. And, then Dr. King called us to live in a way that makes that dream a reality. 

In the Christian tradition, mysticism calls us to action in the world. And this connection is obvious in the visions of Hildegard. For all their mystery and power, her visions usually have a very concrete, here and now, message. 

For example, there is Hildegard’s vision of God enthroned. She writes: “I saw a great mountain of the color of iron, and enthroned on it One of such great glory that it blinded my sight.” And then God speaks to Hildegard and says: “O human, who are fragile dust of the earth and ashes of ashes! Cry out and speak of the origin of pure salvation until those people are instructed, who, though they see the inmost contents of the Scriptures, do not wish to tell them or preach them, because they are lukewarm and sluggish in serving God’s justice. Unlock for them the enclosure of mysteries that they, timid as they are, conceal in a hidden and fruitless field. Burst forth into a fountain of abundance and overflow with mystical knowledge, until they who now think you contemptible because of Eve’s transgression are stirred up by the flood of your irrigation. And then the voice of God concludes: “Arise, therefore, cry out and tell what is shown to you by the strong power of God’s help, for He who rules every creature in might and kindness floods those who fear him and serve him in sweet love and humility with the glory of heavenly enlightenment and leads those who persevere in the ways of justice to the joys of the eternal vision.” 

The mystics – and you and I – are called to arise and cry out. Mystical experiences, maybe even something as seemingly simple as a vision of unity and love we experience when we pray together on the phone, are not given for our own enjoyment or spiritual enrichment, but rather to provide us with the strength and courage to speak out, to stand up for the oppressed, to speak truth to power. Hildegard bravely involved herself in the world – challenging those in authority, a medieval woman emboldened by her mystical experience. 

So, we give thanks for Hildegard, whose mysticism gave her the confidence and the courage to live and proclaim the Christian faith. May we be open to the reality that God continues to speak to us. May we take the time and establish the quiet so we might have our own mystical experiences. And, in our way, in this troubled time and place, like Hildegard and so many other holy women and men, let us be mystics in the world. 

Prayers and Thanksgivings: 

Please pray for: 

All those on our parish prayer list, especially Jean, Andy, Kit, Julio, and Bill. 

Students and teachers, as they try to learn and teach under very difficult circumstances. 

All of those in harm’s way because of wildfires and hurricanes. 

Please also remember in your prayers those who have died, and those who grieve their loss: 

Robert Kent Anderson, father of Gina Anderson 
Bill McGuire 
Eric Bonney 
All of those who have died as a result of Covid -19 

Calendar Highlights: 

Sunday, September 27: Bishop’s Visit, 10:00 AM, followed by coffee hour, and vestry meeting 
Saturday, October 3: Church Leader University, 9:00 AM 
Sunday, October 4: Blessing of the Animals, 3:00 PM (Churchyard) 
Sunday, October 4: Parish Meeting Especially for Parents, 1:00 PM 
Saturday, October 17: Quiet Day with Lorna Woodham 

Supporting Our Church: 

We are aware that, unfortunately, some parishioners have been laid off or furloughed and others are in danger of losing their jobs. Please know that you are in our prayers and we are here to help any way we can. In these extremely challenging economic times, we are especially grateful to those of you who have been able to keep up with your pledges. You can still mail checks to the church or you can use online giving. Visit stpaulsjc.org and click on "Online Giving." We also have a Venmo account. Call the office or email me for more information. 

Worship Schedule: 

Monday through Friday: "Church By Phone" 
Morning Prayer, 7:30 
Noonday Prayer, 12:00 
Evening Prayer, 5:30 

Call: 201-433-4922 for more information. 

Sunday at 10:00am Join us on Facebook Live for a celebration of Holy Eucharist www.facebook.com/StPaulsJC 

From the Diocese: 

Read The Voice Online for all the latest news, including a message from Bishop Hughes on praying for our country and information about Church Leader University: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/The-VOICE-Online--Bishop-Hughes-on-praying-for-our-country.html?soid=1102692382496&aid=Taqho7ePtkE 

The Bishop’s Visit 

The Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes, the 11th Bishop of Newark, will make her official visit (via Zoom) with us on Sunday, September 27 during the 10:00am Service and “Coffee Hour.” Bulletins are being mailed home to you. Stay tuned for more information about this joyful event! 

Praying for Our Country 

Bishop Hughes has called on our diocese to pray the following prayers in the days leading to the election: 

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

New Jersey Together:

After NJT’s statewide event several weeks ago, learn more about next steps here: https://www.njtogether.org/fall2020 

North Porch at Triangle Park Community Center:

As many of you know, North Porch offers diapers, formula, and other assistance to families with infants and young children. Since the need continues to grow, North Porch is asking for financial donations through a GoFundMe campaign. Please consider supporting this beautiful ministry: https://www.gofundme.com/f/north-porch-mom-amp-infant-program?utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&fbclid=IwAR2tibm9cDTU2k9BqFh-dtWMCn77qrsNaNBpNeMh7gcaW_M_reC03IdJpi4 

DJ’s Free Market:

Subscribe to the DJ’s Newsletter to stay informed about this exciting new ministry led by Deacon Jill: https://mailchi.mp/bba528aa62bb/subscribe-to-djs-newsletter 

The Arts at St. Paul & Incarnation: 


Visit our virtual gallery to see our latest exhibit: 

NJ Voter Registration:

Register to vote (or confirm your registration) here: https://nj.gov/state/elections 

Help for Renters and Homeowners: 

There is help available for renters and homeowners suffering because of the pandemic. One is the website for the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency: www.njhousing.gov. You can also call 1-800-NJ-HOUSE (1-800-654-6873). 

Helpful Resources: 

State of New Jersey Covid-19 Information Hub: 

The Diocese of Newark posts Covid-19 resources here: 

You can subscribe to diocesan newsletters here: 

The Episcopal Church has collected Covid-19 resources here: 

"Habits of Grace," weekly reflections from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: https://episcopalchurch.org/habits-of-grace 

The Church of England has some wonderful prayers and other materials here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-liturgy-and-prayer-resources 

Fr. Tom’s sermons can be found here: