“For Tom Fisher, On the Day of his Funeral” The sermon by Sam Laurent

The community gathered in the Advocate Chapel on Sunday, July 15, 2018,for the Burial Office for Tom Fisher.
Sam Laurent offered this sermon for Tom.

It’s there in the pictures. Looking at the photographs he took, the ones he exhibited, the ones he hung on his walls or that others of us have hung on our walls, you can see a bit of how Tom tried to see the world. It was a vision that didn’t come by accident. He cultivated it. Studied it. It ran deep in who he was, why we grieve him, and how we will know his presence again.

Street photography would be the name for the genre, and like many who were inspired by the french photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tom’s most creative work spurned grandeur and poses in favor of finding something beautiful in the mundane. A picture of someone doing their job. A picture of two people meeting on the street. Almost always, there were people.

So I asked him. Why these candid shots of people? In that way we had of giving his sophisticated wisdom a veneer of folksiness, Tom said “well, they’re a hell of a lot more interesting to take pictures of than rocks.”

And then he stared into the middle distance, lined up an imaginary shot in his mind and said “so there are two people coming together on the street. My job is to have my camera set up so that with minimal fussing with it, I can capture that moment. Just the encounter of two people is so fascinating. Maybe they know each other. Maybe they’re strangers. There is so much between them that I don’t know. I just want to capture the moment.”

The art in his images, then, was his reflexive attraction to wonder. Capture the moment, and you can return to it. You can imagine what was going on with the people in the picture and the space between them. But they remain mysteries. The photograph holds you in your unknowing, inviting you into a space of wonder.

And, well, so did Tom. As a financial planner, he made it his business to help people handle the uncertainty of life. His work helped people be able to turn their eyes from the nagging worries of the future and be attentive to the present.

Tom loved books. Specifically, he loved novels with the kind of characters you think about months later, characters that open up a space within you that you hadn’t known about before. Tom’s favorite characters felt compassion in their bones. They spoke to the beautiful experience of the unknowability of human life.

Tom loved live music. He and Candy travelled for concerts. He helped produce God only knows how many shows with the Forty Acres organization he cofounded. Those performances gathered people together to exalt in the creative potential of the moment.

Maybe all of this is why he was so captivated by this building. Probably he took more pictures of it than anything else that’s not a person. This chapel stood somewhere else for 120 years before we moved it here to Chapel Hill. It is a space consecrated over and over again by the gathering of generations of people we can’t know. These walls heard prayers and laments and hymns for decades before ours echoed through. This wood is seasoned like one of Tom’s old guitars, richer and warmer for the history that rippled through it, and drawing us into a present moment where the mystery of the past opens us to the mystery of the present, where our reality meets God’s.

God’s reality. That reality is particularly mysterious—acutely mysterious—to us today, and it was something that fascinated Tom throughout his life. The man who was known for being a terrific listener to his friends and family grounded himself in listening for God’s movement in the world. That mysterious depth that lies behind each person is a reflection of the primal mystery of the divine.

Divine mystery is an antagonist today. We always want to understand God. We want to say that everything that happens, even cancer, somehow has divine purpose behind it. But what we see, what we hear in the readings Tom chose for today, is that God’s power is manifest as love. Nothing, Romans says, including death, can separate us from the love of God.

A God of mystery who is insistently present with us in the form of love. I spent a lot of hours and drank more than a few pints of beer talking about this God with Tom. The conviction that divinity flows through each person and calls us to defend the dignity of each person… the conviction that the divine mystery calls us to listen steadfastly for God in our midst… this is the spirituality of Tom Fisher.

This was no accident. It was no affect that he put on. This was Tom. The man who worked for Civil Rights knew something of the sacred mystery of each person. The father of Morgan and Jess knew something of the beauty of possibility, the unfolding mystery of each child, and the love that allows them to thrive. The man who went to seminary before becoming a financial advisor knew something of the importance of letting each person decide who they are, of being prepared to act. The man who helped lead this church into existence knew something of patient listening and of the transfixing mystery that guides people of God. The photographs reflect the man who took them.

And so we are gutted today, because we have lost Tom. His steadiness, wisdom, and love were never more evident than in the months since his diagnosis, when Tom’s choices were guided by the value of the present, by his ability to find depth and love in a time freighted with the grim prospects of a dire disease.

More than anyone I’ve known, Tom led those he loved through the end of his life. He took care of us. He sat and talked frankly about the end of life. He told me stories of gratitude for time with Morgan and Jess and their families, of his delight in the people his children had become and the people they had married, stories of the magic of his grandchildren, of his sheer awe at the compassionate force of Candy’s love. Life, he knew, had been good.

So this hurts. And it will hurt. It is love’s dark insult to us. To love is to eventually be heartbroken. And Tom knew that love is simply the most important thing. He was right. So this hurts.

But those pictures…

The moments that Tom sought to capture are sacred, but they are not rare. Our days are infused with the potential for something new to happen, something more than we would imagine. This is the movement of the insistently loving God of mystery, the God who now bears Tom in the glory of divine memory and presence, working through the miracle of relationship to ensure that when we notice the depth of mystery in a seemingly ordinary moment, Tom will be with us. And we will feel gratitude, and we will feel pain. At the same time. There is no prescribed ratio of the two.

Those ordinary moments, when refracted through the prism of clear presence to the moment, are the kingdom of God. To be fully present in God’s creation, in this precise moment which is the only moment that is actually happening, is to see that the boundaries between us are not so clear. We will miss Tom, but we will feel Tom’s presence when we allow ourselves to be present, because Tom is, in a very real way, a part of us. All of this.. this life… is space held open by God so that we might intertwine in relationship, so that we might, acting from love, create beauty from the very possibilities that lie before us. I understand this better than I did before because I was given the tremendous gift of being Tom Fisher’s friend.

It is all a wildly improbable miracle, one in which we are now rightly grieving the loss of this man who was woven deeply into so many lives. Even in this painful moment, the beauty and mystery of Tom’s life draws us in like one of his pictures. We want to know more. We want another conversation. Another dinner.

This is the mark of a life well lived. Of a man who was deeply loved and who loved deeply. It is grace that intersected our lives with his, and it is grace that will allow us to know his presence in those future moments when the mysterious unknown of life speaks to us of something more. Something we can’t touch but can marvel at.

There is so much in those pictures. So much behind them. God knows we will miss Tom, and God knows we will feel him with us yet. It’s in the pictures.

AMEN

Summer Discussion on The Sermon on the Mount, Sundays at 10 AM

Through the summer, Sarah McGiverin and Paul Marvin will be leading a discussion of the Sermon on the Mount.  We will meet Sunday mornings before the Eucharist, 10:00 – 10:50.

Each week we’ll read a portion of the sermon and discuss it together.

Whether you’re an old pro at Bible studies or you’re brand new to the Sermon on the Mount, you are invited to join in the study.

Blue Grass Mass Sunday at 11 AM

IMG_5756Sing and stomp along as the Advocate Acoustics lead us in a Blue Grass Mass this Sunday.
Blue Grass music is indigenous to the southeastern united states. It’s popularity in our region is reflected in numbers festivals held each year, from MerleFest to the Union Grove Old Time Fiddlers Convention.  So twice a year or so The Advocate brings this musical style to our worship. Now part of our intended “Traditioned Innovation” liturgy, Sundays at 11 AM.

Songs to include:
Jesus is On The Mainline
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
Let The Mystery Be
Farther Along
I Have Found The Way

I’ll Fly Away

Sunday, June 17, at 11 AM.
Come on your own, or bring a friend!

 

Study of Hebrew Scripture Starting in September

Have you ever wanted to study the wonderful, diverse and rich Hebrew Scriptures more deeply, but you’ve found the cost  or time commitment of some programs prohibitive?  Beginning in September, the Rev. Lera Tyler is offering a nine-month study of the Hebrew Scripture, using as text: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible  (Fortress Press, Second Edition 2014) by John J. Collins.

Participants will meet at the Advocate weekly to study and reflect on the stories, poetry, and teachings of the Pentateuch, the Prophets, Psalms, Wisdom literature, and consider their relevance to us now.
If you are interested in exploring the possibility, please contact Lera Tyler. <lera.tyler@gmail.com>.

Reconstructing The Gospel: A Poor Peoples Campaign Conversation

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival begins 40 Days of Nonviolent Direct Action to stir the conscience of our country.

During these six weeks, The Advocate will offer a reading group for those interested in sustaining our analysis of whiteness and deepening our understanding of Christianity’s role in the history of American racism.

We will read local theologian Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book, Reconstructing The Gospel: Finding Freedom From Slaveholder Religion.

Two copies are available on loan from the Advocate library.
We will discuss the book on Wednesday nights from 7:15-8:15 (except June 13, which is. Reader’s Roundtable night). More info to come!

Seeing White: Teachable Moments in Eastertide

[A Teachable Moment takes place Sundays, 10:10 – 10:50 AM in The Advocate House.]
In this season of Easter, as we move within the extraordinary reality of resurrection, we will have a six-part series of Teachable Moments that we hope will renew our minds and inspire the work of our hands.
Many in our community hunger for a greater understanding of race as well as meaningful action toward racial equity. Mindful of this, a group of Advocates will be guiding us through a historical, political, and theological perspective on race, with a specific focus on the construction of whiteness. We will do so, in part, through listening to a podcast series entitled “Seeing White,” which is produced by Scene On Radio, a podcast from Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies.
Rather than attempt a reading group or a free-wheeling conversation on such a complex and sensitive topic, we will invite folks to listen to a specific episode of this series prior to the TM. These podcast episodes are short (usually about 30 minutes), and they provide excellent historical perspective alongside frank reflections and friendly conversations. We expect listening to this series will be a convenient and doable way for us all to share a frame of reference as we think together.
In addition to these TM’s, we are also planning informal dinners and movie screenings to offer more opportunities, and different spaces, for folks to talk and hang out.
Next Sunday (May 13th) we will be focusing our conversation on the final episode in the Scene On Radio podcast series ‘Seeing White.’ That is episode 14, ‘Transformation.’
You can access all episodes at the website http://podcast.cdsporch.org/seeing-white/ or through whatever podcast app you use. If there are any questions about how to access podcasts, please email CharlesRousseau10@gmail.com.
Thank you!

What Happens Easter “Day”?

What Happens Easter “Day”?  It begins Saturday after sunset….. 
[Holy Saturday at 10 AM, we gather in the chapel for a brief service of readings and prayers, to remember Jesus in the tomb and the Harrowing of Hell]
Saturday at 8 PM   The Paschal Fire and the Great Vigil of Easter (bring at bell or whistle)
Sunday at 9 AM      Easter Eucharist in the Chapel
Sunday at 10 AM    Festive Brunch and Easter Egg Hunt (Ham and rolls provided. As you are able, bring a dish to share. And if you want to collect hidden eggs, bring a basket!) 
Sunday at 11 AM    Easter Eucharist by the pond (bring a blanket or chair) 

According to our Gospel accounts, the resurrection took place in the dark of night with no witnesses. So for the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, we gather in the dark near the pond. We experience the excitement of the Light of Christ coming into the darkness as we light the Pashal fire, carry the Paschal candle in procession past kerosene soaked torches that burst into flame. Once in the Chapel, we hear the ancient Exultet chanted, and we keep vigil through the stories of creation and liberation. We remember our baptism through which we have been united with Christ, and we give the Paschal Shout, with bells and whistles, alleluias and a simple, celebratory dance.

Tradition has it, that the Eucharist of the Great Vigil of Easter is the principal Eucharist of the year, from which all the others are derived.
 
 Easter Morning, the celebration continues!

Easter Morning we celebrate the discovery of the resurrection – in the daylight — with beauty, joy, Eucharist. We’ve heard the story, now we live in the light of the resurrection. We cheer the ancient song: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb, bestowing life. And we dance.

Between the 9 AM and the 11 AM liturgies, we gather outside as the faithful community for fellowship and feast. Ham and rolls are provided. As you are able, please bring a festive dish to share. There will be an Easter egg hunt for the kids (yes, we know it is a pagan thing, but it sure is harmless and fun).
Please join us for any or all. You are very welcome at The Advocate!

What Happens Good Friday?

On Good Friday the Church re-members the day of the crucifixion of Jesus. At the Advocate we will do this with three distinct practices.

IMG_3090At noon we will walk the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross through the Town of Carrboro. The traditional 14 stations of the Way will be reinterpreted for our time and place, starting at the Carrboro Town Hall, where “Jesus is condemned to die” and ending in the old Carrboro Cemetery, where Jesus is laid in the tomb. Mindful of our neighbors whose first language is Spanish, and of the tradition of the Via Crucis in Central and South America, we will offer our prayers and meditations in English and in Spanish.

At 6 PM we will gather in the Advocate Chapel, 8410 Merin Road in north Chapel Hill, for the Good Friday Liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer, with prayers, a homily, and hymns.

Burial Icon, Good Friday
Burial Icon, Good Friday

From 7 PM to 9 PM, we will hold the Good Friday Wake in the Chapel gathering as the friends of Jesus, remembering the one who has died. The time is divided into 30 minute segments. At 7PM we will have a simple soup supper. In each of the half hours that follow, we will have a time of readings, a time of conversation about Jesus, and a time of silent meditation. People can come and go on the half hour throughout the evening.

 

What Happens Maundy Thursday?

903630_10100328975028214_779556457_oOn the Thursday of Holy Week, also called Maundy Thursday, the Church universal remembers Jesus’ “last supper” with his disciples. Scripture tells us that they gathered in an “upper room” for the passover meal.  They feasted and enjoyed one another’s fellowship. The frescos of Da Vinci at the Vatican and of Ben Long in Glendale Springs, NC, capture the intimacy and the complexity of that night.
Jesus surprised them all, first by washing their feet, then by his strange words about the bread and the wine. The former practice is remembered with varying degrees of symbolism and formality by many congregations. The latter practice evolved quickly as the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper. And on Maundy Thursday we re-member both events.
Another practice of Maundy Thursday is “the stripping of the altar”. In this, vessels and cloths, of books and of banners, are all removed from the altar and its surrounding space. And the processional cross is veiled in black. It is as though the resurrection never happened. Death is the end. We move toward Good Friday, woefully aware of the disciples’ abandonment, and even betrayal, of Jesus, saddened by our own “standing by” while that crucifixion continues in other forms today.
In the first ten years of the Advocate, we had neither land nor building of our own, and we developed our Holy Week liturgies in such a way as to allow us to enter into Jesus’ last week as a human being as best we could in our time and place. We said “Carrboro becomes Jerusalem”. And we rented the Fleming Lodge at Camp New Hope to be our “upper room”. Maundy Thursday at Camp New Hope quickly became a favorite event in the life of the Advocate.
Each year we gather in the lodge for a festive evening of Middle Eastern food. Fresh tulips on every table, with a chalice of wine. and a basket of pita. Vestry members and other lay leaders serve the tables, and after supper offer the foot washing. An acoustic band leads us in favorite songs: All Who Hunger Gather Gladly, The Servant Song, Ubi Caritas, and more. At the end of the evening we clear the table tops and then the room itself. The transition is made plain. And we gather in the dark on the porch to hear Psalm 22, stand in silence, then go our separate ways into the night.
It is a night of friendship and faith. It is also a night of hospitality. We encourage visitors and friends to come on over and join us.
6:30 – 8:30 PM. Fleming Lodge, Camp New Hope. (off highway 86, 3 miles north of the I40-86 interchange).
Please come and join us for an evening of food, song and prayer. All are welcome.

 

Holy Week and Easter at the Advocate

Come and walk the Way with us.

The Prequel: Saturday, March 24
9 AM – Noon   
Site Stewardship morning: Come help get our ground ready for Holy Week and Easter. Many hands make light work!

Palm Sunday, March 25
+ Procession with Palms and Holy Eucharist. Gather at the Advocate Pond at 10:00 AM for the blessing of the palms, and flowers or branches brought from home. Procession followed by Holy Eucharist in the Chapel.

Monday of Holy Week, March 26
+ Tenebrae at 7 PM. We move into Holy Week with this service of growing darkness, readings and song. Music led by a visiting schola from Raleigh.

Tuesday of Holy Week, March 27
+ Holy Eucharist at 5:30 PM

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 28
+ Holy Eucharist at 5:30 PM

Maundy Thursday, March 29
+ Dinner fellowship (food provided), Foot-washing and Table Eucharist. In the Fleming Lodge at Camp New Hope. 6:30 PM. (Camp New Hope is on NC86, 3 miles north of the I40 – NC86 interchange)

Good Friday, March 30
+ The Way of the Cross/ Via Dolorosa. In Spanish and English. Beginning at 12 noon. Acompáñenos en peregrinaje desde la Alcaldia de Carrboro hasta el Cementerio Viejo (Beginning at Carrboro Town Hall, winding through Carrboro, and ending at the Old Cemetery. Through downtown Carrboro. Meet at Carrboro Town Hall. (no dogs, please).
IMG_3090
+ The Good Friday Liturgy, with hymns, prayers, and the Passion from the Gospel of John. 6 PM in the Advocate Chapel.

+ The Wake. 7 PM – 9 PM. Gather with other friends of Jesus for a simple supper and to reminisce about his life and the experiences you have shared with him. Supper 7-7:30 PM. Each half hour, 7:30 – 9 PM will include readings, contemplative prayer, and shared reflection. Come on the hour or on the half hour and stay for any, or all, of the Wake.

Holy Saturday, March 31
+The Holy Saturday Liturgy at 10AM in the Advocate Chapel. Gather in the Chapel for this brief liturgy of readings, reflection and prayers.

10:30 AM   Rehearsal and preparations for The Great Vigil.

IMG_4811Saturday Night, March 31
+ The Great Vigil of Easter with Renewal of Baptismal Vows. This is our first liturgy of Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord in the darkness of night. (As you are able, please bring a bell, horn or whistle to accompany the Paschal Shout). In the Advocate Chapel. Starting at 8 PM.

Easter Day, April 1
+ 9 AM
         Holy Eucharist in the Chapel.

+ 10 AM        Festival Brunch (As you are able, bring a festive dish to share. Kids bring a basket for an Easter Egg hunt).

+ 11 AM        Holy Eucharist by the Pond. Bring your own chairs or blanket to sit upon.

Weather updates will be posted as needed.