Deb Hay

Nov 022017

Coordinator for Children & Youth Ministries

St. James Episcopal Church, Amesbury, MA and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newburyport, MA seek a Coordinator for our Children and Youth Ministries which include our K-5 and middle school church school programs, teen and young adult programs, and related children-youth-family activities.  We seek a person who possesses an enthusiasm for the Christian education and spiritual formation of children and young people.  It is the aim of our youth programs to nurture and develop in our young people an ever growing awareness of their relationship with God in Christ and each other through worship, scripture, fellowship and service.

Duties and responsibilities will include, but will not necessarily be limited to:

  • Evaluate, supplement and implement current education programs in collaboration with trained volunteers at each church.  Each church uses different curriculums presently, but there is opportunity for these to be integrated and/or supplemented under a shared Coordinator.
  • Manage and coordinate programs for families with infants and young children including Cherub Church and pre-baptismal sessions.
  • Plan and coordinate programs for teens including strengthening connections to the Youth Leadership Academy and Diocesan Youth Council.
  • Create and manage a calendar of lessons and events for the program year.
  • Coordinate trainings for volunteer teachers and assistants.
  • Oversee church school registration and ongoing communications with parents and families.
  • Manage budget for Christian Education Program including maintenance and purchase of supplies.
  • Communicate regularly with Rector, Vestry and Parish Administrator.
  • Enroll and track Safe Church Training and CORI administration.


The ideal candidate will have:

  • An Associate’s degree or equivalent experience.
  • Experience with teaching, classroom management, and/or youth programs.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and rapport with children, youth and families.
  • Strong organizational and time management skills, with the ability to prioritize and delegate.
  • Strong communication and networking skills, especially with online communications.
  • Working knowledge of computer applications:  Spreadsheets, documents, e-mail, etc.
  • A commitment to the Christian faith and teaching, especially with children and youth. 
  • If not an Episcopalian, the candidate will be willing to support the basics of our tradition.
  • Certification in Godly Play and/or Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is preferred, but may be obtained later.
  • A CORI check and completion of Safe Church training will be required after hiring.

Time and Pay:                                                                         To Apply:

Up to 19 hours a week year round, (with significant                         Submit resume & references to: 

down time June-August).                                                       The Rev. Martha Hubbard,

$20 per hour, not to exceed $18,000 per year                             and

The Rev. John Satula,

 Position Available: Coordinator for Children & Youth Ministries  Posted by on Thu, 2-Nov-17 News Comments Off on Position Available: Coordinator for Children & Youth Ministries
Jul 052017


When I was a child I thought of sin in very concrete terms – sins were bad things that you did. My first memory of committing a sin is from age 4.  I took my sisters hair clip for my dresser drawer and then lied about it even though I was holding in my hand in plain view of my mother. 

As I grew my definition of sin deepened. I remember as a teenager reading the version of the confession in our prayer book service of compline, and thinking “yes, that is it!” It reads, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father: we have sinned against you through our own fault in thought, word and deed and in what we have left undone.” That last part is what got me- that sin includes not just my misdeeds, but also missed opportunities for good deeds too. (By the way compline is a wonderful way to end each day, and if you are not familiar with it check it out sometime on the Book of Common Prayer page 127.)

In my late 20s when I got to seminary and encountered St. Paul’s writings in-depth, my thinking on sin expanded further. In our lesson from the letter to the Romans this morning, Saint Paul talks about Sin, singular with a capital S, not sins, plural with a small s. Writing about St. Paul’s concept of sin in the letter to the Romans The Rev. Beverly Gaventa comments that:

 “Paul defines Sin as that universal and intractable refusal of human beings to acknowledge that God is God and that they are but the products of God’s hand (Rms. 1:18-23).” (From “The Christian Century Magazine, June 2-9, 1993, p.595).

So Paul’s Capital S Sin is not about action or in action, it is about how one grounds one’s life – on God or on self? Rev. Gaventa goes on to write:

“What antidote can there be for sin when it is understood in this way? Forgiveness works well enough as a cure for the sins of the small s – a vicious deed here and kindness withheld there can be forgiven. But Sin with a capital S which holds human life in a stranglehold cannot be shooed away by talk of forgiveness. Paul resorts to the more forceful language of new life and liberation.” (Ibid)

Many people in our day can  find Paul quite frustrating at this point because he does not go on to elucidate a list of what we are to do in response to this incredible new life and liberation from the strangle hold of Sin that he is speaking of.  In our world we are looking for the details of how to enact the changes we want.  We want to know, “what do we do to put this liberation and new life into motion?” Paul does not answer this question. Rather, Rev Gaventa writes: 

“He sketches our task in general terms. For example, he speaks of believers as ‘slaves to righteousness’ and urges transformation ‘by the renewing of your mind’ but offers little and way of a list of action steps or rules we crave.”

This reminds me of a dynamic that one often sees in those who come into the 12-step fellowship that exist as a way of healing for those suffering from addictions in their own life or the life of someone they love. Often people come to a 12 step meeting for the first time when the pain of life lived in the shadow of addiction becomes too much to bear and they have heard the good news that the 12 steps are away out. They arrive ready and motivated to make changes in their lives. Many start out by thinking that the 12 steps are something to be climbed through will power and stick- to- it -iveness. What we quickly learn is that the first step requires no forward moving action – rather it requires surrender.   The first of the 12 steps reads: “We admitted we were powerless over addictions and that our lives had become unmanageable.” So nothing to do but to admit how bad it is and how powerless we are over it.  Some then move quickly to step two, but that is not much more satisfying to those who crave activity. It reads “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Some wonder, “What are we supposed to do about that? “ Others may say, “Hey who are you calling insane? I may be living with addictions but I am not crazy – give me some tasks to do and I will show you.”

These first 2 steps can be uncomfortable if we are looking for some way to solve our problem through our own action.  It is only when we become willing to admit defeat that we become ready to receive the help the steps extend to us.  In his writing about sin in the letter to the Romans St. Paul calls us to the same place of surrender.  He calls us to admit just how bad the effects of Sin are in our lives and how insane we have become under its influence.  He then invites us to accept that it is only through God’s intervention, which we must willingly invite, that we will be restored to sanity.

If we reach that willingness, the third of the 12 steps invites us to complete the work of surrender – it reads “Made a decision to turn our will and our life over to the care of God as we understood God.”  We Christians understand God to be fully present to us in God’s son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  For me, Paul’s words about being “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and what the first three of the 12 steps are saying fit well together.  They both tell me that when I become willing to surrender my sinful approach to life – run on self-will, self-centeredness, and self-seeking behaviors- when I surrender that, I create an opening for God to enter and liberate me from bondage to self.

For some – like Paul on the Damascus Road – this liberation is a sudden all at once experience.  For many others this liberation into a new life is experienced more as a process. But the result in both cases is that our lives begins to take shape around God’s will, or plan, or purposes and not our own.  To be sure there are then actions to be taken by us – steps 4-9 of the 12 steps are full of faithful actions.  But these action steps can only be taken on the good foundation of surrender of self-will and acceptance of God’s will in our life. 

In his words to us in the Gospel Jesus also describes the marks of a life that is built such spiritual liberation. He speaks of someone who welcomes other people with open hearted and radical hospitality.  He describes someone who receives a prophet and a prophet’s message, even when it is not easy to hear.   He even points to the person who could go totally unnoticed – the one who is present to God and others in what might seem like inconsequential ways – one who extends a cup of cold water to a thirsty one – but who is nonetheless motivated by a sense of God’s purpose- one for whom no act for God’s sake is too small. All these Jesus says are disciples following in his way listening for his direction. And Jesus says that none who act on this premise – of listening for his guidance – “will lose their reward.”

And what is this reward Jesus speaks of? In my experience it is the reward of relaxing into a posture of trust that what I am going to be called to for God’s good ends will be revealed to me each step of the way.  It is the reward of not needing to burn precious energy struggling to figure out on my own what I am supposed to do. And when I am faced with uncertainty it is the reward of knowing that I can ask for that guidance and inspiration and the reward of finding that when I do this – and I do not do it perfectly – God never fails to show up and lead me to wonderful possibilities for service, giving and growth that are beyond my wildest imaginings.   I know many you receive this reward daily also – thanks be to God! 

My prayer is that liberation from the way of Sin may be ours and the reward of the new life of grace in Christ Jesus will continue to be seen to abound among us, one day at a time. 

In the name of our Great and Loving God.  Amen.


 Sermon for Sunday, July 2, 2017 – The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost  Posted by on Wed, 5-Jul-17 News Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday, July 2, 2017 – The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Dec 012016

The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, St. Paul’s Church, Newburyport and the Lower Merrimack Valley Episcopal Ministry Collaborative Invite you to an Advent Quiet Day led by the Rev. Martha Hubbard Saturday, December 10, 2016 10:00 a.m –  2:00 p.m.

“Advent Terrain: Strangers in a Strange Land” Martha will lead us in reflections that invite us to consider how Advent can be a time of holy disorientation, which can open our hearts to the experience of the growing number of people in the world who find themselves living as refugees, far from home, in need of welcome and companionship.

Hosted by St. Paul’s Church 166 High Street Newburyport, Massachusetts (Street parking available) There is no charge for this program. Lunch will be provided. Please register by Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Cal the church: (978) 465 5351 or use the sign-up sheet in the church. For more information email Louise Valleau at or call Clare Keller (978) 465 4483  

 Advent Quiet Day – December 10 at St. Paul’s  Posted by on Thu, 1-Dec-16 Events, News Comments Off on Advent Quiet Day – December 10 at St. Paul’s
Nov 132015


          Sometimes the Gospel can rattle us!  Over the last several Sundays this has been true for me.  Jesus has said some challenging things about the kingdom of God in our recent Gospel lessons.  For instance; “If anyone wants to be first they must be last of all and servant of all.” ; and “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it”; and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

These words have brought me up short.  They have reminded me that the ways this human world has taught me to survive are not the whole picture.  Jesus sayings bang up against human precepts and offer a different vision.  Like a new and stronger pair of glasses, my spiritual eyes don’t easily adjust to this new vision.

This morning’s Gospel lesson lets me know I am not alone.  The crowd who is with Jesus has also heard his teachings on servanthood, childlike trust and the worldly attachments of wealth, but apparently they did not easily see how to apply those teachings to their lives – they can’t see clearly with this new vision either.  This becomes clear as they approach Jericho and many in the crowd of followers sternly try to silence the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, as he called out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” What an embarrassment, that one such as this beggar should trouble this great man for his time.

Can we put ourselves in their place?  Can you think of times when you have been part of the crowd that does not understand what God is calling you to in Jesus?  I know I have stood in that crowd more often than I care to think about, and sometimes my lack of clarity has led me, if not to shush another who is crying out to God, at least to look askance because it seems so undignified.  At those times the sin of superiority might overtake us.  We might wonder, what nerve that other person has thinking God is going to take notice of them, and then we proceed to pick out some detail about the person to make our case. And maybe we just do it in our own hearts – we find a fault in the other person that we just can’t get past, and we think that means God will feel the same. So we stand in the crowd and in our blinding sin of superiority, we say – even if it is with our actions rather than our words – because most of us are too sophisticated or polite to speak it out right – we find a way to convey to that person this message– “be quiet – you are of no account to God!”

Or perhaps the sin that lands us in the crowd that is seeking to silence a brother or sister who is crying out for God’s mercy is the sin of believing in scarcity rather than abundance.  At those times our childlike capacity to trust is overridden and we come to the conclusion that if our brother or sister has God’s ear, then we ourselves won’t be heard.  And so we seek to silence that brother or sister.

Then there may be the times when the prayerful pleas of another remind us of how often we do the opposite.  We may try to keep our lives to ourselves rather than seek God’s presence in the midst of our pain and brokenness.  Perhaps because we fear being “out of control” or maybe because we are not quite sure God will show up for us if we did pray.  So we stand in the crowd and shush the one who is pouring out their pleas so unabashedly.

And then there are times, when hearing another cry out to God brings us face to face with a powerfully destructive illusion that plagues many of us in this culture;  the illusion that tries to convince us that because we are not perfect we are not worthy of God’s loving presence.  And so we look at the one who cries out to God and we say, “If I am not perfect neither are you, and so you best be quiet, my friend!”

          Thank goodness for the Gospel, because though it can rattle us, it also provides a light to our path and a lamp to our feet if we will stick with it.  In this morning’s passage the crowd does not have the last word.  Jesus tells the crowd that they should bring the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, to him.  Jesus recognized that the crowd, who had heard his words all along the road were still struggling to see him, while this man, Bartimaeus, who had no physical vision was the only one present with clear vision to recognize Jesus as the Son of King David; the long awaited messiah.  Not a political figure who was going to lead a political revolt, but the focused presence of an abundantly loving and compassionate God, who had time for the likes of a blind beggar on the roadside.  Bartimaeus saw Jesus, really saw him, cried out to him “Son of David, have mercy on me” and Jesus did.

The paradox of this Gospel story is that though the healing of Bartimaeus’s physical blindness was a great miracle in and of itself, it was equally important as a tool for the more far reaching healing that Jesus had been working on all along that road – the healing of spiritual blindness among those who were traveling with him– among his followers – among you and me.  There on the Jericho road Jesus embodied his teachings about the kingdom of God.  There Jesus rejected being first and instead became a servant.  He put aside adult dignity and with childlike compassion listened to the pleas of a man who by purely human standards had nothing, but by the standards of faith was rich indeed.  And the result was healing – abundant healing!

Our Lord has the same power to bring about immense healing in our lives no matter the nature of the problems that plague us.  Our part is to acknowledge our need, to trust in the abundance of his grace and to simply cry out to him.  Bartimaeus has given us the words; Son of David, have mercy on me!”

In his name and for his sake.  Amen+

 Sermon for Sunday October 25 2015 The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost  Posted by on Fri, 13-Nov-15 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday October 25 2015 The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Oct 202015


Audio Sermon

I have mentioned before in sermons that on my desk at home I have what I call my “God Box”.  It is a simple cardboard box that I use as a tangible way to turn people, places, things, events, worries, etc. over to God.  As I was scribbling some words on a piece of paper about a situation I was fretting over and then put that paper in my God Box I was suddenly struck with a new insight about what I was doing.  In that moment I realized that the situation I was fretting over was already in God’s hands, and my fretting was a symptom that I thought I was supposed to be the one in control – I was supposed to be the one to figure the situation out.  I was in some way supposed to be the authority on the matter with the full vision. But the reality that hit me in that moment was that what I needed to surrender to God what not the situation itself but this prideful illusion of my own place in the situation.  In short I needed a good dose of humility not unlike Job, in our first scripture lesson for and James and John, sons of Zebedee, in our Gospel lesson.

Humility is a virtue that has often been misunderstood and confused with humiliation.  Humiliation is not virtuous – it is an attack against our, or someone else’s self-esteem.  Humiliation is about belittling, discrediting and devaluing a person.  Humility is something quite different.

The great Anglican writer, C.S. Lewis, once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”  Another definition of humility I find useful is this – Humility is being teachable.

Both definitions of humility are in action in our lessons this morning.  Job has spent several chapters just before the passage that is our first lesson this morning railing against God about the situation of his life – he a righteous man has lost everything that he loves and he can make no sense of it.  And he pours out his desperation and despair to God – the ultimate God Box offering!  And then God speaks, not to humiliate Job, but rather to draw him past his limited perspective to the larger perspective – to the fullness of God’s vision.   God speaks to bring Job to a teachable place, where he will see that he fits into a greater picture, a larger context – one in which God is fully present.  Job is suffering, but he need not suffer alone, nor feel responsible for the situation.  God is there as the foundation of life and will act with power and in ways that are well beyond Job’s – and our understanding. Indeed the psalmist sings about this perspective too with eloquent words that illustrate God’s presence in and through all of reality.

Then there are the sons of Zebedee.  They have given up home and family to follow an itinerate rabbi who set their hearts on fire with his preaching about God’s love and God’s realm, and now he is predicting his own death and their suffering as his followers, and it is just too much for them.  They need to get control somehow – so they ask to be put in authority in the kingdom he keeps mentioning.  Like me at my “God Box” this week they are brought up short.  He reaffirms that they will suffer as he himself will, but he alludes to the saving grace in it all – that God is at work with a larger vision.  What looks like death will in fact break the power of death.  What looks like the end will be something startlingly new and amazing.  They can’t take it in now, but he urges them to trust him.  It is all being worked out in God’s way and time.  And then Jesus redirects them and us.  Here is how is words are translated in the translation of the Bible known as The Message.  Jesus told them:

“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads.  It’s not going to be that way with you.  Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served- and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”

Humanity is so easily held hostage by our limited perspective that tells us we are the masters of our own destinies and rulers of creation.  God longs to teach us otherwise.  Not to humiliate us, but to help us think of ourselves less and of God more. When we can surrender our illusion that we are in charge, or have to figure life out – when we can put that illusion in God’s hands – we find so much more that is good is poured down upon us.  When we affirm that all of life as we know it is gift from God, entrusted to us, then we can begin to trust more of life to God.  A simple discipline is to simply stop several times a day and pray – “God show me my next steps – what would you have me do?”  Then our hearts and minds are to God’s inspirations.  My experience is that when I stop and ask for Godly direction, if I am on the right track, I often feel a sense of peace and harmony.  If I am off track I often get a sense of how to move back toward God’s purposes.  Sometimes I don’t get a read on what to do or how to proceed – those moment have taught me patience, and I find that if I wait – God will speak in some way or another.  In all cases when I pray this way, I feel a deepened sense of God’s presence which makes my joys and triumphs sweeter, and my failures and losses more bearable. For what more could I ask?  There is not treasure of greater value. In the name of Christ.  Amen+

 Sermon for Sunday October 18 2015 The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost  Posted by on Tue, 20-Oct-15 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday October 18 2015 The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost