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    • Susan Flanders
    • Susan Flanders was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1985. She was baptized and raised as a Presbyterian but left the church for ten years, returning as an Episcopalian in 1975. She brought with her the skepticism of her youth and an appreciation of other faith traditions gleaned from two years spent in Laos in the mid-60’s. She loved the tolerance for ambiguity and questioning that she found in the Episcopal Church and soon moved from an unsatisfying stint as a real estate agent to a gradual process through seminary. Early on, her somewhat academic interest in Christianity changed into a lively sense of vocation and enthusiasm for parish ministry. She served as Associate Rector with Jim Adams at St. Mark’s, Capitol Hill in Washington, DC for eleven years. After his retirement, she spent a brief interim at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and then another eight months as interim in her small home parish in Fort Washington, MD. From there she was called as rector of St. John’s Norwood Parish in Chevy Chase, MD where she served until her retirement in 2008.

      Susan loves the challenge of engaging people in the issues and questions of faith and in helping to dispel the stumbling blocks so many find in the institutional church today. She is a progressive non-theist in her theology and believes passionately that the Christian Gospel has unique treasures to offer as a story of God’s incarnation in our humanity – that Jesus is someone to be followed rather than worshiped, meaning that we too are called to incarnate God’s love and presence in the world.

      Susan has developed several non-theistic liturgies and continues to feel that the words we sing and say in our worship should reflect what we actually believe. She holds this in tension with an appreciation, both pastoral and aesthetic, for the beauty and excellence of traditional words and music and the way they have shaped her own spirituality and continue to speak to so many. She and her husband have recently formed a small group called a progressive christianity forum in which they are exploring questions of faith and practice. Susan has also completed a memoir of her life in the church which she expects to be published in late 2014.

If I Ever Lose My Mind

With aid in dying becoming an increasingly available and legal option for the terminally ill, conversations and decisions about end-of-life choices are more frequently an essential part of our healthcare landscape. However, those with severe dementia are not yet legally eligible for such aid. By examining the moving stories of those who have faced the abyss of long-term dementia, the author, a retired Episcopal priest, makes the case that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients should also have legal access to aid in dying.

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A New Christianity is Being Born

Despite the mournful laments of many that Christianity is a dying faith, that churches are no longer relevant, and that religion is perceived as a destructive rather than redeeming exercise, I register my opposition to these claims. The core stories of Christianity are about birth. The Christmas story, with the babe in the manger, the shepherds and the animals, tells of a humble birth heralded by angels. The Easter story is one of new life born out of death.

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Going to Church

In an honest and often blunt assessment of the Church she loves and longs to move forward into the 21st century, Susan Flanders looks at Christianity and her Church through the background of her own life. In her own journey as priest, wife, and mother she reflects on the great challenges that the Church has faced and continues to face and she also poses some of the changes it must make if it is to be a relevant force in today’s world.

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Eucharistic Prayer

31 August 2014

Celebrant: God be with you
People: And also with you
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift our hearts to God

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Preaching

Preaching is a unique form of expression, probably more like a spoken op ed column than anything else. You get to speak, uninterrupted, for usually ten to twenty minutes, and it is your job to bring ancient scriptures alive in all their veiled, puzzling and even sometimes obnoxious voices. In the Episcopal and many other Christian denominations, there is a lectionary or schedule of selected Bible readings in a three year cycle. Each Sunday has its suggested texts, and you are to connect these readings with your own life and that of your hearers in a way that matters. A preacher must always face the “So what?” question about her work – why do people need to hear this? And finally, a sermon is supposed to be “good news” or Gospel in Christian terms. Underneath all that, at its best, our preaching should tell the truth about the way life really is, and where we all get caught, and how and why we need saving help. The task is daunting, and I love its fierce demands.

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Prayer in Sacred Community

Last month, when we focused on worship and prayer, we had a lot of debate about how we do this with non-traditional concepts of God, especially in church settings. Folks talked fairly easily about private prayer, usually meditative or contemplative, non-formulaic, very personal. They pray, and they find in varying degrees that their times of prayer feed their spirits, enrich their lives, and help shape their decisions and behavior.

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Eucharistic Prayer on Pentecost

Presider: God be with you
People: And also with you
Presider: Open your hearts
People: We open our hearts to God

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Progressive Christianity Forum – An Update on a Community Building Experiment

Last month I wrote at some length about a series of gatherings my husband and I are hosting called Progressive Christianity Forums. We launched the first one on February 18, and our second session was last night, March 18. So far, we are extremely pleased with this experiment.

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Eucharistic Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

Presider: God be with you.
People: And also with you.
Presider: Open your hearts.
People: We open our hearts to God.

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Progressive Christianity Forum – An Exploratory Workshop

For several years, and especially in the few years since I retired, Bill and I have talked about our frustration with most conventional worship services. We find the traditional language depicts a God in whom we cannot believe, and we find the whole enterprise of worship to carry too much emphasis on propitiation, guilt, and a sort of abject deferral to some being to whom we are supposed to owe praise and subservience. We have attended services in other traditions, read widely about variant understandings and experiences of God, but we’ve found little out there in books or practice that looks at worship in radically new ways.

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Transfiguration Eucharistic Prayer

Presider: God be with you
People: And also with you
Presider: Open your hearts
People: We open our hearts to God

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A Liturgy for Baptism

Wording is for more than one child

Dear Family and Friends, let us gather around for this celebration of Baptism.
Parents and God-Parents, who are you presenting for baptism?
Parents and Godparents: We present _________________ to be baptized.

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Advent Eucharistic Prayer

Presider: O come, Emanuel, into our longing hearts.
People: We lift our hearts to You
Presider: As we gather around this table
People: In expectation and hope.

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