Sunday, June 4, 2023

A Homily with San Francisco House Church; Friday, June 2, 2023 ~ Elaine Pfaff ARCWP

Homily: Elaine Pfaff ARCWP

It was in the early 70's, shortly after a spiritual breakthrough along with its distressing impact, that I awoke with a mysterious word clearly spoken in my mind ---> Ecclesiasticus, the word said.  I would later discover that Ecclesiasticus is another name for the Book of Sirach from which our first reading is taken following the Lectionary for today.  Quite a serendipity for me and for us (!) I think.  I believe we, who usually live 3,000 miles apart, are being personally addressed in this moment.

This particular passage presents us with the spiritual legacy of our ancestors in faith and  family.  We are being invited to open to spiritual presence of our ancestors in what we traditionally call the Communion of Saints.  Whether or not they always demonstrated saintly behavior – we have only to look to the ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth for encouragement of all kinds of branches in the family tree!  We who are their progeny are heirs and beneficiaries of their human love as well as the whole Love that goes beyond us all.

Ecclesiasticus was written originally in Hebrew in the second century BCE and was translated into Greek by the author's grandson.  It is a deuterocanonical work, that is, it is accepted in the Roman Catholic canon but it remains noncanonical for Jews and Protestants. The Book of Sirach, Ecclesiasticus, appears in the Hebrew Scriptures (a preferred term for Old Testament) and is in the genre of Wisdom Literature.  It is a collection of moral teachings based in partriarchy and the dualism of Greek thought, that is a separation of mind and body that appeals to a hierarchy of being.  Here it's helpful to think of the etymology of the word hierarchy, which in its purest sense means assuring co-operation through all its parts.   

I love the opportunity to tease it out the purest and widest meanings in our inherited language for a feminist interpretation, an  important work of our time in ecclesial circles.  Ecclesiasticus, means – literally -  Book of the Church.  And so, we can ask ourselves, who is left out of that Church book – then and now?   And why?  And we can say with courage and conviction – that's why we're here, with a prophetic vision of an all inclusive church that correctly identifies all of us.

So, let's go on to the Gospel today with its pressing demands that are most baffling on the surface --->  that of including nature in expectations of  fig trees to bloom out of season in time for breakfast and commanding mountains to jump into the sea.  What really are we given here, other than the injunction to expect miracles outside the laws of nature?  

Along with these questions, I like to think of the writings that may have been recorded as early as  the Gospel of Mark, which is the earliest of the canonicaal Gospels, as you know.  What was the wider witness of those people who were left out of the Canon?   One of those witnessing groups, most likely in modern day Turkey, left us a Coptic language manuscript  called  The Acts of Paul and Thecla.  It was practically unknown until its publication in 1906.  Now here's a clear example of erasing women from the scene and attempting to leave us out of the “church book.”


Thecla, a young woman who counter-culturally claims her own autonomy -  refusing a marriage that was threatening to be oppressive, receives Paul's witness, and subsequently acts independently to heal and perform miracles. She baptizes herself.  We're told she miraculously survives a pyre in which she was bound for her execution by fire.  She faces wild beasts, and,  bound to the lioness, who licks her feet, again foils her would-be executioners. With very little life expectancy in her society, Thecla lives on to old age, despite her standing up to government authorities and overcoming Paul's negligence as an ally and mentor.  

We're brought to a rich interpretation of these fantastic stories as we approach them non literally as beacons to truth.  That we can in deed expect that we will be fed as we release (“forgive”) others to mutually include them in Earth's harvest.  That we can be present to one another even through time and space.  That our problems can shift from mountains to streams flowing when we're opened to grace.  And that we'll survive and flourish even when we feel surrounded by the wildest of beasts.  

For reflection & homily sharing

How are you aware of your ancestors?  What are the times in your life that you received their help from beyond?

What is your reaction to Thecla's story?

How does Jesus' curse of the fig tree affect you?

How is Thecla a Christ figure?

Readings and Homily 

Readings: Sirach 44: 1, 2, 4, 8, 11; Psalm composed with words by Linda Hogan,; Mark 11: 12-26

Readings for Eucharistic Liturgy ~ Friday June 2, 2023

House Church in San Francisco

Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

                                A Reading from the Book of Sirach {44: 1, 2, 4, 8, 11}

 Now we will praise our great heroes and heroines, the ancestors of our people from times long past.  Our God gave them greatness of honor, they too reflected to greatness of God in ancient times. Some led the people through their wisdom … teaching … from their wealth of understanding.  Some left behind them renown, and their stories are told to this day.  They passed down their treasures to their descendants, their inheritance to future generations.  Their progeny will last for all time and respect for their names will never die.  Their bodies are at peace [and] their names will continue forever.

Inspired words ~    {RAmen; Let it be so !


Our Psalm today is a quote by Linda Hogan and the Response is God delights in us 

Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me

{RGod delights in us !

Be still, they say

{RGod delights in us !

Watch and listen

{RGod delights in us ! 

You are the result of the love of thousands  

{RGod delights in us !  

The Gospel is from Mark 11: 12-26, partially *paraphrased from The Message translation

*As Jesus and the followers left Bethany where Mary lived, they approached a fig tree in full leaf but before the season for figs.  The disciples heard Jesus curse the fig tree for not yielding them fruit when they were hungry.  The tree did, in fact, wither and die.

They arrived at Jerusalem.  Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone who had set up shop there, buying and selling.  He kicked over the tables 

of the bankers and the stalls of the pigeon merchants. .. and then he taught them, quoting this text: 'My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations.  You've turned it into a hang-out for thieves!”

The high priests ad religious scholars heard what was going on and plotted how they might get rid of him.  They panicked, for the entire crowd was carried away by his teaching.

*The next morning, while walking along the road they saw the cursed fig tree shriveled up to a stick.

Jesus was matter-of-fact and said, “Embrace this God-life.  Really embrace it and nothing will be too much for you … You can even tell this mountain to go jump in the lake … and it's as good as done.  That's why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything … as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get God's everything.  

*And when you pray, forgive those who have hurt you.

Inspired words ~     {R}  Amen ! Let it be so!  

What is the “mountain” in your life now?  How do you wish to respond to its challenge?

In what ways do you present as Christ figure? 


Monday, May 29, 2023

Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community Pentecost 2023

       Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community

     Pentecost 2023 



Welcome and Our Birthday Story

Maureen: Welcome dear friends we are happy you are here with us to celebrate two significant events; our tenth birthday and the feast of Pentecost.  

We at Free Spirit have been building a new, more inclusive universal church as it was meant to be. 

Let us take a brief walk down memory lane.  It started in 2012,  when Ann was the celebrant for the memorial service for Dennis,   a dear friend of Ann and Mark’s. She heard a call or a whisper, to the Catholic priesthood.  As Ann was sharing her reflection at the service, she heard with the ears of her heart, “You can do this, you can be a Catholic priest.  There are people who need your priestly healing gifts.” 

 Ann says, “I wanted to be like some of the compassionate priests I had met. But I knew I would bring a new, more accessible priesthood into being. I could mirror God as a woman with unique experiences of marriage and motherhood.  I sensed a God who wanted to reveal Her vulnerability and presence in the everyday, both the joys and the sorrows.  In my struggles with depression, I experienced death and resurrection.  I wanted to proclaim that God can and does heal and liberate. I wanted to help people open their eyes to their belovedness.  I wanted to break down the barriers that prevented God from being with God’s people.  I wanted to bring celebration to the center of the worship experience.  I was experiencing the God of Abundant Love and wanted to share that with others.”

She processed this experience with her spiritual director and applied to the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests in the Fall of 2012.

After Ann was received into the program of priestly formation with ARCWP in early 2013.  Ann’s enthusiasm for inclusive community led her to celebrate Free Spirit’s first Eucharist on May 18, 2013, Pentecost- one year and two months before Ann’s priestly ordination.  With guidance from Margaret Thurston, a woman she met through her regular retreat work at Margaret’s house, Ann began to ask other women who might also be hearing this call to help in forming a Eucharistic faith community.  Among those answering that call were Lynn Caverly, Liza Hardy-Braz and Christina Logan, Angie McMillen, and Carol Clawson Williams.  A Founders Circle was formed and first met on November 9, 2013.  

The name emerged as Ann was driving in Pitt County around that time and noticed a small church called “Free Spirit”. Since that resonated well with the Founders Circle, they unanimously embraced it for their own. 

Then in 2014, Ann made contact with Sister Mary Ann Czaja of Tarboro.  Sister Mary Ann invited Ann to preach the Gospel with the people of Tarboro Community Outreach, a mission to the needy. Each week for nearly 10 years, Ann has facilitated a variety of prayer experiences for this beloved community. 

Each month on the fourth Sunday Free Spirit celebrated Eucharist at Greenville’s Unitarian Church followed by delicious pot luck suppers.   Eventually we also celebrated Eucharist on second Sundays at Ann and Mark’s house combining it with a planning meeting. Gradually, our circle enlarged. In March of 2021 we began our celebrations on Zoom and our community grew to include folks many miles away. Today we rejoice that you are here with us to celebrate our tenth birthday.

With the help of God, we will continue to grow.  Let us rejoice in the gift that we are for each other as we weave our gifts together to bring forth a stronger community. 

To our virtual friends we invite you to bring bread and wine/juice/water to your table as we prepare for our celebration, led by our founding priest, Ann. 

Invocation by Christopher Grundy 


Lynn: Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon her people. It is the birthday of the Christian church. The Holy Spirit’s Greek name is Sophia. Wisdom is her English name; Chokmah is her Hebrew name; Sapientia is her Latin name.

Divine Wisdom, Sophia-Spirit, calls for the liberation of all from patriarchy and kyriarchy. This is what we celebrate today.

Opening Prayer: adapted from Dianne L Neu (co-founder Water:  Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics & Ritual) 

  Sister Mary Margaret: Blessed are you, Womb of All Creation, Spirit-Sophia. With joy we give you thanks and praise for creating a diverse world, and for creating women and men in your image.

Margaret All:    Come, Sophia-Spirit, come.


Sister Mary Ann: Blessed are you, God of our Mothers and Fathers, Spirit-Sophia.  You call diverse women and men to participate in salvation history: Eve, Adam, Lilith, Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Miriam, Moses, Aaron, Naomi, Ruth, David, Mary, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Thecla, Paul, Phoebe, Hildegard of Bingen, John of the Cross, Sister Thea Bowman, Sojourner Truth, Mother Theodore Guerin, Oscar Romero, Joseph Bernardin, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and countless others.

Margaret:    Come, Sophia-Spirit, come.

  Alice Whyte: Blessed are you, Womb of All Creation, Spirit-Sophia. With joy we give you thanks and praise for creating a diverse world, and for creating women in your image.

Margaret:        Come, Sophia-Spirit, come.  


Opening Song: The Spirit Is A-Movin’ 

The Spirit is a-movin all over, all over, this land

  1. 1. People are gatherin’, the church is born,
    The Spirit is a blowin’ on a world reborn.
  2. 2. Old ones are dreaming dreams,
    and young men and women see the light.
  3. 3. Old walls are falling down,
    and people all over are speaking with each other.

Ann: We gather here today to celebrate how a dream of God incarnated in us, the Free Spirit Community.  We ask you O Creator God, to expand the horizons of our limited imaginations and awaken in our souls, dangerous dreams for a new tomorrow and enkindle in us the Fire of Your Love.  ALL: Amen  


                      Liturgy of the Word

Margaret Thurston: A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles  2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout people from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the marvels of God.

These are the words of the Acts of the Apostles and the community affirms them with, AMEN!

Responsorial: slide show Companions on the Journey


Liz: Second Reading: from Jan Richardson

When We Breathe Together

This is the blessing we cannot speak by ourselves.               

This is the blessing we cannot summon by our own devices,                        cannot shape to our own purposes,                                                              cannot bend to our own will.  

This is the blessing that comes when we leave behind our aloneness, when we gather together,                                                           when we turn toward one another,

This is the blessing that blazes among us,

when we speak the words, strange to our ears,

when we finally listen into the chaos,

when we breathe together at last.                                                                      (pause)                                                                                                       

 Gospel Acclamation  


Spirit of the Living God                                                          Fall fresh on us

Melt us, mold us, (light fire here)

Fill us, use us,

Spirit of the Living God

Fall fresh on us


Gary: A Reading from the Gospel of John 20: 19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities, Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Jesus, who said to them again, “Peace be with you. As Abba God has sent me, so I’m sending you.”

After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven.  If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

These are the inspired words from the anonymous storyteller known as John and the community affirms them by saying, AMEN!



 Barbara: Ann delivers today’s homily.  She will conclude in song and then there will be a few moments of silence to gather our thoughts and then the community will take turns unmuting and filling in the blank:

My birthday wish for Free Spirit is………  


Patty All: Statement of Faith: 

We are not alone, we live in God’s world.

 We believe in God:
    who has created and is creating,
    who has come in Jesus,
       the Word made flesh,
       to reconcile and make new,
    who works in us and others
       by the Spirit.

We trust in God. 

We are called to be Church:
    to celebrate God’s presence,
    to live with respect in Creation,
    to love and serve others,
    to seek justice and resist evil,

to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
       our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
    God is with us and in us, and around us.
We are not alone.

    Thanks be to God.  (United Church of Canada Statement of Faith)

Jan: Prayers of the Community

* {A gong is sounded after each petition}

We pray for ourselves, that we embrace health and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit


We pray for Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community on this joyful occasion of our 10th Anniversary, that we might grow in love and remain a Divine Presence in our families and groups wherever we are


We pray for the Roman Catholic Church to transform toward inclusion, justice, and equality among women and men



We pray for our beloveds who have gone before us {Unmute & invite online Community + In the Room Community to speak names aloud all at once}


 And for those who are sick and in need of healing and support:             {as above, Unmute -etc.} 


We pray that we might continue to work with courage for human rights in our Country and our World


We pray for peace among nations and for the hard work for  necessary systematic change 

 for the common good


And we remain attentive, in silence to these prayers and the unspoken prayers in our hearts




  Ann: Please join in the praying of our Eucharistic Prayer with raised hands: 

Mark: Blessed are you, Creator of all seasons and all peoples, Spirit-Sophia. You call us to be prophets, teachers, house church leaders, ministers, saints, and to image your loving and challenging presence.

Julie: Come, Sophia-Spirit, come.

Lynn: Blessed are you, Companion on the Journey, Spirit-Sophia. In your abundant love you welcome all to come and dine. You proclaim from the rooftops, “Come and eat my bread, drink the wine which I have drawn.”

Julie: Come, Sophia-Spirit, come.

Liza: Come, Holy Sister, Spirit-Sophia, upon this bread, wine, juice, and food. Come as breath and breathe your life anew into our aching bones. Come as wind and refresh our weary souls. Come as fire and purge us and our communities of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, and all evils.

Julie: Come, Sophia-Spirit, come.

Barbara: We lift up our hearts to you and with thanks and praise we sing: 

Holy, Holy, Holy: Here in this Place by Christopher Grundy

Ann: Please raise your hands in blessing:

 Liza: Ever gentle God, as co-creators, we offer up bread, grown from seed and harvested from soil gifted to us through your Creation. We offer wine, grown from grapes blessed in the sunlight of your radiant Creation. We offer up our lives in loving gratitude and covenant. We celebrate our oneness with all creatures and living things, great and small in your precious family.  

Liz: We thank you for our brother, Jesus, who showed us so simply, so tenderly, how the world is in our hands. His faith in us, his ability to connect with our best selves remains a shining gift. He had nothing in this world but your love, companions on the journey, and his very self. Together, that was more than enough, and that remains our clarity in the midst of confusion: the miracle of healing, new hope, nurturance, nourishment, liberation and life. 


 Lynn: On the night before he died, Jesus gathered with friends, followers and those closest to him to celebrate a meal. Afterwards, he showed how to humbly love and serve one another by washing the feet of his followers. 

         All lift bread

Ann: Back at the table, he took the bread, spoke the grace, broke the bread and offered it to them saying, 

“Take and eat, this is my very self.”

       All lift the cup

 Ann: Then he took the cup of blessing, spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying,

“Take and drink of the covenant

Made new again through my life in you.

Whenever you remember me like this,

I am among you.”


Barbara: What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives: as we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.

Ann: Remember you are beauty, you are love, you are part of Great Mystery!

As you receive communion please say, “I Rise with Christ”!

Communion Meditation: All That We Have by Gary Ault 

Communion Song:    Send Down The Fire by Marty Haugen 


Patty: Please extend your hands in blessing and pray together: 

Julie: May Sophia-Spirit rise within us like a rushing wind. May Sophia-Spirit spark the churches like a revolutionary fire. May Sophia-Spirit flow through the world like a life-giving breath.

All: Amen. Blessed be. May it be so.

Closing Song: Celebrate Good Times (dancing highly encouraged) 


Appeal for my neighbors from Columbia:

Barbara and Jan do you want to receive the sacrament of healing this week?

Received a letter from Roy this week, check out his interview on The Chris Hedges Report 

One of the original Danube 7, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger has co-founded a personal prelature called St. Christopher Prelature with an Austrian RC priest.  Personal prelature is a canonical structure of the Catholic Church which comprises a prelate, clergy and laity who undertake “a pastoral service that dioceses find difficult to provide. The twentieth century contained a boom of new institutions in the Church. In addition, new pastoral needs arose, due to social changes. To give them stability, the Vatican created new legal framework, including the “personal prelature.”

This decision to found a new personal prelature for women priests is a strategic step to move the institutional Church closer to the full equality of women in the Church.  This is the path Opus Dei took. Founded on Oct. 2, 1928, Opus Dei was officially declared a Personal Prelature in the RC Church by Pope John Paul 11 in 1982.